On Oct. 25, Swift’s lawyer, William J. Briggs II, sent PopFront’s executive editor, Meghan Herning, a cease and desist letter for a post she wrote titled, Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation.
The cease and desist letter called the article a “defamatory story,” and threatened legal action unless the website pulled the post and issued a retraction.
“The story is replete with demonstrable and offensive falsehoods which bear no relation to reality or the truth about Ms. Swift,” the letter read. “It appears to be a malicious attack against Ms. Swift that goes to great lengths to portray Ms. Swift as some sort of white supremacist figurehead, which is a baseless fiction masquerading as fact and completely misrepresents Ms. Swift.”
The story in questions links Swift’s music to ideals promoted by white supremacists, analyzing Swift’s song Look What You Made Me Do as having “dog whistles to white supremacy” in her lyrics.
“Many on the alt-right see the song as part of a ‘re-awakening,’ in line with Trump’s rise,” the blog claims. “At one point in the accompanying music video, Taylor lords over an army of models from a podium, akin to what Hitler had in Nazi Germany. The similarities are uncanny and unsettling.”
In response to the cease and desist letter, Herning has teamed up with the Northern California wing of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU ), which has released its own statement on the matter.
“Intimidation tactics like these are unacceptable,” ACLU lawyer Matt Cagle wrote in a Nov. 6 press release. “Not in her wildest dreams can Ms. Swift use copyright law to suppress this exposure of a threat to constitutionally protected speech.”
“This is a completely unsupported attempt to suppress constitutionally protected speech,” ACLU of Northern California lawyer Michael Risher said of Swift’s move.
“As your client knows all too well, celebrity is a double-edged sword,” the ACLU said. “It also may bring close scrutiny that can lead to adverse as well as favourable comment.” Because PopFront‘s article remains in the region of opinion without asserting facts, Swift and her lawyer have no case, the ACLU argued.
Herning published her own response on PopFront, writing, “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.”
Swift’s lawyer has previously argued against attempts to link the singer to white nationalists after a meme circulated on the internet. “The association of Ms. Swift with Adolf Hitler undisputedly is ‘harmful,’ ‘abusive,’ ‘ethnically offensive,’ ‘humiliating to other people,’ ‘libelous,’ and no doubt ‘otherwise objectionable.’ It is of no import that Ms. Swift may be a public figure or that Pinterest conveniently now argues that the Offending Material is mere satire or parody. Public figures have rights. And, there are certain historical figures, such as Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson and the like, who are universally identified in the case law and popular culture as lightning rods for emotional and negative reaction.”
According to the ACLU’s press release, the organization has requested a response from Swift and her lawyer by Nov. 13 confirming that they will not pursue a lawsuit.
Swift’s representatives have not commented on the ACLU’s involvement as of this writing.