- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Taylor Swift has been chastised by a chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union for sending a left-wing website a cease-and-desist letter for suggesting the pop star’s lyrics were “dog whistles” to encourage white supremacists, USA Today reported Monday.

Writing on behalf of the left-wing website PopFront.us, ACLU of Northern California attorney Michael Risher said his client “will not in any way accede to your attempt to suppress their constitutionally protected speech,” USA Today reported.

“The blog post is a mix of core political speech and critical commentary; it discusses current politics in this country, the recent rise of white supremacy, and the fact that some white supremacists have embraced Ms. Swift,” Mr. Risher said.

The article in question — a Sept. 5 blog post by PopFront.us titled “Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation” — blasted the 27-year-old country singer-turned-pop star by picking apart lyrics from a hit single off the artist’s new album, “Reputation,” as well as visual elements of the song’s corresponding music video.

“Taylor’s lyrics in ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ seem to play to the same subtle, quiet white support of a racial hierarchy. Many on the alt-right see the song as part of a ‘re-awakening,’ in line with [President Donald] Trump’s rise,” PopFront explained.

“At one point in the accompanying music video, Taylor lords over an army of models from a podium, akin to what Hitler had in Nazis Germany. The similarities are uncanny and unsettling.”

“It is hard to believe that Taylor had no idea that the lyrics of her latest single read like a defense of white privilege and white anger — specifically, white people who feel that they are being left behind as other races and groups start to receive dignity and legally recognized rights,” PopFront said, adding that “… [T]here is no way to know for sure if Taylor is a Trump supporter or identifies with the white nationalist message, but her silence has not gone unnoticed.”

Miss Swift, while friends with liberal entertainers  — such as actress and screenwriter Lena Dunham — who endorsed and/or campaigned for Hillary Clinton, did not speak out in 2016 on the general election. That silence was also cited in the PopFront story as further evidence of Miss Swift’s alleged indifference to the political rise of the so-called “alt-right.”

For its part, Miss Swift’s legal team believes it has solid grounds to take PopFront to court for defamation, and win, saying the website was maliciously tearing down Miss Swift, not simply offering social commentary.

“PopFront’s story is a classic example of defamation per se,” Miss Swift’s litigation counsel William J. Briggs II wrote in his letter, made available online by the ACLU’s Northern California chapter.

“Statements are defamatory per se if the allegations have a tendency to injure another in her business or profession…. This story, which associates Ms. Swift with the vile white supremacist movement and its abhorrent views, certainly has a tendency to injure Ms. Swift by damaging her reputation with her fans. The false statements about Ms. Swift are defamatory per se and harmful to Ms. Swift, thus in a potential lawsuit against PopFront, Ms. Swift would not have to show any damages to recover.”

Mr. Briggs went on to chastise PopFront for failing to do its due diligence as a journalistic enterprise, saying a simple internet search produced evidence to counter the site’s claims about Miss Swift being an alt-right sympathizer.

“PopFront has an independent and non-delegable duty to conduct a reasonable investigation of the information it publishes and disseminates and the failure to do so is a violation of law and the rights of those targeted by such unfounded allegations,” he wrote. “Indeed, even a small amount of research shows that the notion that Ms. Swift either belongs to or silently supports such an infamous and reprehensible group is a fabrication. It is clear that, in publishing this story, you utterly failed to maintain any journalistic responsibility.”

PopFront, however, remains unapologetic.

“At a time when the press is under constant attack from the highest branches of government, this cease and desist letter is far more insidious than Swift and her lawyer may understand,” the website said in a Nov. 6 posting.

“The press should not be bullied by legal action nor frightened into submission from covering any subject it chooses. Swift’s scare tactics may have worked in the past, but PopFront refuses to back down because we believe the First Amendment is more important than preserving a celebrity’s public image.”

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