Every demographic chooses a pop icon. Gay men worship Cher, black women love Beyoncé, and neo-Nazis worship Taylor Swift, a skinny, blonde Pennsylvania girl that they have labeled an "Aryan Goddess." Nazis and members of the "alt right"—an Internet subculture that is best described as the venn diagram of hipster culture and white supremacy—have been spreading a conspiracy theory that Swift is a covert Nazi. They claim Swift's songs "red pilled" America into believing a conservative, racist agenda. (Taylor Swift's representative, a publicist named Tree Paine, did not return Broadly's request for comment.)
"Firstly, Taylor Swift is a pure Aryan goddess, like something out of classical Greek poetry. Athena reborn. That's the most important thing," explains Andre Anglin, the writer of the white supremacist blog the Daily Stormer. "It is also an established fact that Taylor Swift is secretly a Nazi and is simply waiting for the time when Donald Trump makes it safe for her to come out and announce her Aryan agenda to the world. Probably, she will be betrothed to Trump's son, and they will be crowned American royalty." (Swift is notoriously private about her political leanings, although, after Obama was elected, she told Rolling Stone, "I've never seen this country so happy about a political decision in my entire time of being alive. I'm so glad this was my first election.")
It's unclear when the white supremacists started writing blog posts about their Taylor Swift fandom. Anglin believes Swift Nazi memes may have existed since her "Teardrops on My Guitar" days. "Some believe it was meme magic that made her famous—though no one can be certain," he says. "We are certain that as soon as Nazis saw her, they were magnetically drawn to her sculpted Aryan form and angelic demeanor."
Breitbart columnist Milo Yiannopoulos believes the memes may have originated with a Pinterest user named @poopcutie, which was helmed by a teenage girl named Emily Pattinson. In 2013, she started pining memes attributing Adolf Hitler quotes to Swift to spoof memes that falsely attributed inspiring quotes to Marilyn Monroe. Pattinson emblazoned an image of Swift in a ball gown walking past trees with the Hitler quote: "As in everything, NATURE is the best instruction." BuzzFeed aggregated her posts without asking Pattinson for comment, and then Pattinson went viral. "Everyone wants to go viral," she says. She soon learned that short-lived Internet fame isn't what it's cracked up to be, when Swift's lawyer, J Douglas Baldridge, sent Pinterest a threatening letter, which Pattinson provided to Broadly. Part of the letter read as follows:
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.
Citing parody laws, Pinterest refused to take down the Hitler/Swift memes. "I didn't continue making the quote images, but I didn't delete my board either," Pattinson tells Broadly. In her wake, other Hitler/Swift meme accounts have popped up.
On Facebook, a group called Taylor Swift for Fascist Europe has over 18,000 likes. The group's community manager—who remains anonymous— tells Broadly in an email that he wishes "to preserve Europe" through fascism. "Not only has fascism traditionally opposed Marxism, rather than simple opposition to Communism in the spirit of many traditional conservative ideologies, but anti-Marxist principles are at the core of its ideology," he writes. "Only through the destruction of Marxism can Europe be restored to its former glory, and only fascism can ensure this destruction." Although he doesn't believe Swift is "red pilling" the masses, he says he believes that she embodies the Aryan "spirit."
"Being Aryan is not simply a matter of blood, but it is also a matter of spirit," the community manager writes in an email to Broadly. "Take Kim Kardashian or Miley Cyrus as examples of this: both began their lives with the same Nordic blood that Swift did, but what makes these two degenerates unfit for consideration as fascist icons? It is because, although Aryan in blood, the two are not Aryan in spirit. To be Aryan in spirit is what completes the fascist."
Now, actual fascists adore Swift. The Daily Stormer has published 24 posts about Swift, including "Aryan Goddess Taylor Swift Accused of Racism for Behaving Like an Ape in a Music Video" and "Memification: Top Feminist Calls Taylor Swift a Nazi." As Yiannopoulos points out, blogger Michael Collins worries that Swift has "succumbed" to the "Merchant," which is Nazi code for "Jewish."
"It's incredible really that she's surrounded by these filthy, perverted Jews, and yet she remains capable of exuding 1950s purity, femininity and innocence," Anglin says. "She is the anti-Miley. While Miley is out having gang-bangs with colored gentlemen, she is at home with her cat reading Jane Austen."
Yiannopoulos writes that Swift works as an avatar for the ultra right because she comes across as a born conservative but also keeps politics out of her public identity. The blonde, pale star grew up in Pennsylvania, one of the original 13 colonies, while her father worked as a wealth manager and senior vice president of Merrill Lynch. She originally sang country music, the genre beloved by the same people who voted twice for George W. Bush.
Some of the alt-right's defenders argue that memes just exist to rankle and troll people—the "Taylor Swift for Fascist Europe" page, for example, is listed as a comedian on Facebook. Perhaps, but racist jokes often come out of racists' mouths. Nevertheless, Anglin's commitment to Swift's ascendance into the role of figurehead in the coming white supremacist uprising remains steadfast. "The entire alt-right patiently awaits the day when we can lay down our swords and kneel before her throne," Anglin says, "as she commands us to go forth and slaughter the subhuman enemies of the Aryan race."