This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
April 2 is a wack time of the year. Everyone is still dealing with the residual psychological effects of getting clowned on April Fool’s Day. It’s the day where people are trying to decipher the difference between reality and jokes, so it’s even harder to believe the things you see online. Is our boy Kirby really a cube now? No. Did Elon Musk actually make such an outdated, trash song that nobody wanted to hear? Yes.
It got even more bizarre when a Taylor Swift stan account made a powerful series of tweets and delivered them with such a nonchalant cadence that made everyone deeply curious.
A Twitter user responded to the tweet with “omg why,” to which @LegitTayUpdates replied “💬| I refused to join the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) lmao.” An answer that raised so many more questions. Soon after, other accounts were posting their own screenshots of the interaction, and the tweet proceeded to pop off.
Since going viral, the account has dedicated a lot of it’s platform to spreading awareness about the Israel-Palestine conflict and has started a donation campaign so people can donate to help Palestinian children. It’s raised more than $1,700 in two days.
We had a chance to talk with the 19-year-old Israeli person who runs @LegitTayUpdates to get a vivid picture of everything they’ve experienced over the past few months. Our conversation deals with what it’s like to transition from a fan to a stan, how to be funny on Twitter, and the Israel-Palestine conflict. To assure their safety, we have made the decision not to include their name or specifics about their legal process in this article.
VICE: Where did your passion for Taylor come from? Do you remember the first time you heard one of her tracks?
@LegitTayUpdates Account Runner: I was six years old. It was her very first album. My mom went to visit some relatives in Tennessee and she saw this album that she thought I’d like because of the pretty cover! So she brought it home and I listened to it. Even though I didn’t understand any of the words or lyrics, at the time, I really loved it.
I like that you didn’t even know what she was saying, but you were still bumping it. Was there anyone you were stanning for before? Why Taylor?
Well, not really. Like I was a fan of a lot of people, but stanning? Not until Taylor and not until I first went on Twitter and found out what a stan was. I’ve loved her since I was six, but it was only after I saw a whole community obsessed with her that I realized this was a thing.
I know you probably live off Taylor’s tunes, but what else do you listen to?
I’ve liked music my whole life—my dad would play Fleetwood Mac and stuff when I was growing up. Pre-2000s music is so good. I love Louis Armstrong. My music taste is basically all old music and Taylor Swift. I don’t really listen to any pop or country, Taylor’s the exception. Kacey Musgraves is pretty good, though, I like her stuff even if I don’t stan for her.
When did you start your Twitter account and how did you end up running the Taylor Swift Updates account?
I joined Twitter at the end of 2017. I wanted to talk about Taylor but all of my friends were saying that she wasn't cool anymore. We all liked her when we were like 13, but then there was the whole Kanye thing. She got overexposed and people started hating her. You know how it happens—it’s happening right now with Ariana Grande as well. When female artists get super successful people start to nitpick, and sometimes they’re right—the stuff is a little iffy, but often times it’s just hate for no reason. I don’t see that with male artists. There are so many negative jokes about Taylor’s ex-boyfriends. I mean, they really think that they’re doing something with them. It’s really sad! Yes, she has dated hot men, what is your problem? After a year and a half I’d already made friends and my own little Twitter community. One day, I was super bored so I changed my profile picture to a pic of Taylor and changed my display name to “Taylor Swift Updates” and then started making jokes I thought were funny.
Your account is setup very convincingly, but it’s full of satire. Could you explain your style of comedy?
My updates are all fake. Like pretty obviously fake. One time, I tweeted that Taylor Swift was going to buy all of Spain next year. But, like, she is not going to do that and everyone knows it! I don’t make any updates that harm her or frame her as a bad person. Generally, it’s just stuff that’s ridiculous, weird, or just not possible. It’s just a funny joke that people believe for half a second and then realize that it's stupid and couldn’t actually be happening.
You’re straight up a trickster! How does it feel running such a successful fan account?
I just really like it when people laugh. I think that little pranks are funny as long as they don’t hurt anyone. Making other people laugh is a good way to spend time on Twitter. Some stan accounts are just rude. I aim to be a bit more positive. After I went viral, I tried not to tweet bad things about people unless they’ve done really bad things.
Moving on to some less funny stuff—did you always know you had the potential to get enlisted?
Oh yes, it is the reality in Israel. Since I was 12, I knew was going to be enlisted into the IDF. And I didn’t care because in my schools they always taught history as “[Israel] is always being attacked. We are always the victim. We are just protecting ourselves which is why we need you to serve in the army.” I just believed that because I was, you know, 12. A lot of kids I speak to don’t want to enlist for different reasons: Some don’t like fighting, some don’t want to waste three years of their lives, but everyone knows. When you come to Israel as a parent you know your young child will join the military someday.
If you weren’t being taught about the other side of the conflict in school, how did you educate yourself?
I started my enlistment process when I was 16 and I was already online looking at things. I saw that there were stories that I didn’t hear about in the Israeli media. That’s when I started to question it. That summer, I met actual Palestinians at a school program, they told me so many sad things about their lives that I didn’t think could happen to someone on the same land as me. I had a friend who hasn’t seen her uncle in years because he lives in Gaza and she lives on the West Bank. She can’t leave without getting a whole bunch of special permissions; there are some people who will never be able to leave the West Bank. One time, I was visiting London and I saw a newspaper talking about bombings in Gaza, that’s when I decided I just couldn’t be a part of the IDF.
What was that refusal process like?
They tried to make me talk to a mental health officer, then eventually I was put on trial and sentenced to prison. It wasn’t that dramatic. So many people have gone through much, much worse. I’m one of the lucky ones.
You run a page that a lot of people interact with regularly, so what was going through your mind about your Twitter account during the days before you went to jail?
I honestly didn’t think that they’d care that I was gone for a while! I didn’t expect that viral reaction at all—it was so out of the blue.
I saw pictures of what looked like your writing on some graph paper? How were you managing to stay up to date with Taylor news while still delivering spicy takes on your account?
First of all, I wrote way more notes than what is posted on social media. I was always bored so I was always writing. I specifically gave my notes to a friend who was allowed visitation and I told her to pick a page to post. She couldn’t post all of them because there were so many, but she picked the ones she thought were funniest. She would also be the one updating me with what’s happening with Taylor and all of my Twitter followers.
You didn’t have Taylor’s songs or the direct feed of the internet to stay up to date on her, yet you were still so passionate about her throughout your experience in jail. Why do you think your love for her never waned?
She’s basically owned my soul since I was six. It’s going to take something longer than that jail sentence to get me to stop liking her. Or like she’d have to do something really bad to make me be like “Oh, no. This is no good.”
Wow. So what would you do if Taylor fucked up?
It depends on what it is. There are things that you can do that are insensitive or ignorant that I don’t think are evil. That’s different than doing something hateful on purpose. If she did something hateful on purpose I would not be able to forgive that. It depends on severity.
It’s good to know that you’ve set your limits for her. I feel like some stan accounts would gladly go down with their problematic ship.
Well yes, of course. We can’t just expect anyone to be flawless. Not even Beyoncé is flawless, and she’s the closest thing we have to perfection! I don’t know what her flaws are yet, but I know they exist.
It’s super weird but your situation has unexpectedly raised a lot of younger people’s awareness to the Israel-Palestine conflict. People who were just looking for funny Taylor Swift tweets now are exposed to and are engaging in the discussion. What are some things you’d like people to take away from this story and your experience?
I’d first like people to be aware that the conflict isn’t equal. Palestine is not as strong as Israel; Israel isn’t full of only good Samaritans—there are bad people in every community and I don’t think people should ignore that. I think people should know that when Israel does an attack, they do it in a way where they don’t care about what comes in their way, so they hurt civilians. I’m against civilians getting harmed, and most of the time it’s the Palestinians who are getting harmed.
How do you think the average Twitter youth could help?
Get engaged in the conversation, and tell people. Call your representative or someone in the UN in your country and ask them to talk more about the conflict. If you could even donate a dollar or anything at all to organizations like the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund that would be a lot of help. The best tool to deal with this kind of conflict is knowledge. If you know what’s going on, and you’re informed, that’s the best weapon you can have. You won’t fall for propaganda if you know what’s happening.
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