BreakPoint: Who Cares How Taylor Swift Votes?

Our Silly Obsession with Pop Stars’ Politics

I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d talk about Taylor Swift on BreakPoint. Just look what you made me do.

It’s not exactly a secret where the entertainment industry stands on conservative politics, especially President Trump. With few exceptions, this president has only intensified the full opposition by actors, producers, singers, and performers of all stripes to the GOP. But one pop singer—the world’s most successful pop singer, in fact—has remained strangely quiet.

A recent editorial in The Guardian called Taylor Swift an “envoy for [Donald] Trump’s values,” not because she’s ever expressed public support for the president, but because she hasn’t said much of anything about him at all. Swift, you see, isn’t much for politics. She hasn’t joined other entertainers in denouncing Trump with sufficient enthusiasm. And so that’s gotten her in trouble.

Her critic in The Guardian writes that “[Swift’s] silence is striking, highlighting the parallels between the singer and the president: their adept use of social media to foster a diehard support base; their solipsism; their laser focus on the bottom line; their support among the ‘alt-right.’”

This is just the latest in a drumbeat of demands that the 27-year-old singer take a side in this current political scrum. Some have gone much further, suggesting that she’s a secret admirer not only of President Trump, but of the less savory among his supporters. Reports surfaced last year that Neo-Nazis and other racist groups have adopted the tall, blonde pop artist as an unofficial mascot. Some even called her an “Aryan goddess,” and claim that she has secret Nazi sympathies—a charge she has flatly denied.

Still, with no college education and no political experience, this young woman is expected—purely because of her fame—to tell her millions of fans not only how to vote, but which side of the political aisle are the good guys and which are the bad.

Swift, for her part, has consistently refused. “I chose to do music,” she’s said before. Last year before the election, Swift clarified, “I don’t talk about politics because it might influence other people. And I don’t think that I know enough yet in life to be telling other people who to vote for.”

Well, good for her!

But the burning question through all of this is why on earth we should care about Taylor Swift’s political views! It’s ridiculous that so many people are obsessed with getting celebrities to take sides on candidates and policies. But we’ve got to move beyond this.

First, celebrities aren’t specially endowed with insights into good government. They have the right to express their views like everyone else. But the idea that somehow what they say matters more—well that just proves Neil Postman was right, we are amused to death.

So our celebrities have become our experts and our heroes. That’s a bad idea.

Also this unrealistic expectation of celebrities reveals our culture’s terrible spiritual thirst. Particularly its lack of religious and moral authority. Celebrities are, for too many, the closest things we have to gods.  They are idols, pure and simple.

But there’s still another, and yet more practical reason why setting our political and social compasses by the opinions of entertainers is a bad idea: It poisons entertainment itself. There must be a space that exists outside of politics if our culture is to remain sane—a place where we can set aside our debates and just live together as human beings.

I’m no fan of most pop music, but we do need cultural places where we can live together civilly in our society that are not dominated by political rancor. If everything becomes just another place for a party power struggle, we’ll stop seeing each other first as friends, neighbors and fellow citizens, and only look at one another instead as members of opposing armies.

If we can’t figure out a better source for political insights than Taylor Swift or the other celebrities that we already pay too much attention to, we’re in trouble, trouble, trouble. See what I did there?!

 

Who Cares How Taylor Swift Votes?: Our Silly Obsession with Pop Stars’ Politics

As John has pointed out, our culture’s obsession with celebrities betrays a spiritual hunger that only Christ can quench. Why not talk about that, winsomely, in one of your conversations with family, friends, or neighbors?

 

 

Resources

The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It
  • Os Guinness | HarperOne Publishers | January 2008
Time for Truth: Living Free in a World of Lies, Hype & Spin
  • Os Guinness | Baker Books | February 2002
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
  • Neil Postman | Penguin Books Publisher | December 2005

Comment Policy: Commenters are welcome to argue all points of view, but they are asked to do it civilly and respectfully. Comments that call names, insult other people or groups, use profanity or obscenity, repeat the same points over and over, or make personal remarks about other commenters will be deleted. After multiple infractions, commenters may be banned.

  • Phoenix1977

    “But the burning question through all of this is why on earth we should care about Taylor Swift’s political views!”
    That question is so easy to answer I refuse to believe you don’t know the answer yourself.
    You already said it: Taylor Swift has a very large fan base who follow her wherever she leads. If Taylor Swift decides to support a Republican a large part of her fan base will do the same. If she decides to vote Democrat her followers will follow. And if she decides to not vote at all there will be a serious dent in the polls because her fan base will stay home on election day as well.

    “Celebrities are, for too many, the closest things we have to gods.”
    Indeed they are. And for good reason. Celebrities like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Tom Holland and Scarlett Johanson are far more glamorous than anything you hear about in church. Who wants to be like Jesus if you can be like Captain America (Chris Evans)? Who wants to read about breaking bread and fish on a mountain when you can read about the Christmas diner Selena Gomez has planned? Taking a selfie in church is nowhere near as exiting on social media as taking a selfie with Tom Holland at the red carpet at the premiere of Spider-man: Homecoming. And the list of examples goes on and on.

    Now I agree with John Stonestreet on one thing in this article: we are in trouble. I don’t have children (and don’t want them either) but I would be terrified my son would mirror himself to Justin Bieber or my daughter to Britney Spears. And I am terrified what his star status will do to a nice guy like Tom Holland. After all, we have seen so many examples of young actors and singers who went off the deep end (Drew Barrymore, Macaulay Culkin, Lindsey Lohan, to name a few) and the fans who followed them into the abyss.
    That being said I would be equally alarmed if my child showed a deep interest in the church because recent scandals have proven churches not to be the safest places for our children either.
    So I think parents and teachers should pay close attention to children and point out the people they look up to are just that: people. They are not great role models and do not deserve blind devotion. Nor does the church, the bible or any other religion. Children need to be taught how to think, live and act independently, without being led by other to futures that are not their best interests. Without too much influence of pop culture and without any influence of religion.

    • jason taylor

      “Who wants to read about breaking bread and fish on a mountain when you can read about the Christmas diner Selena Gomez has planned?”

      Funny I would rather read about Sigurd slaying Fafnir then reading about breaking bread and fish on a mountain and I do not consider that a reason to refrain from reading about breaking bread and fish on a mountain nor does it make me think Sigurd the Volsung is a viable guide to my political let alone my theological opinions.

      On the other hand I do not care in the least what Christmas diner Selena Gomez has planned. Nor do I wish particularly to bother her about mine for that matter.

    • There is one person to whom we can look as our supreme example, our flawless standard, by which all else is measured. That person is Jesus. Many who have lived on our privileged planet have attained some measure of His perfection by surrendering their allegiance to, and living in obedience to, Him. It would behoove those younger, unlearned among us to reject the spiritual acumen necessary to follow in their refined footsteps.

      • Phoenix1977

        No, thanks. As a gay man I have endured quite a bit of how these obedient followers deal with people they have a problem with. And I have the scars to prove it.

        • fred2

          I wouldn’t get self-righteous in light of how many gay sexual predators like Kevin Spacey use their sexuality to shield themselves from criticism and legal action.

          • Phoenix1977

            There is no way I will ever get as self-rightous as the average Christian. And again, I have the scars to prove that.
            Please enlighten me, by the way, how many “gay sexual predators” are there out there? So far I only know about Kevin Spacey and, so far, he has been neither accused nor convicted of anything. His affair with Anthony Rapp can’t be prosecuted anymore but if the stories about his misconduct on the set of “House of Cards” are true those are well within the statute of limitation. So why is he not indicted yet?

          • Tom

            Your first paragraph belies itself.

          • Tyler

            I really feel terrible for the abuses you’ve experienced at the hands of those associated with the church, as I don’t think anyone should encounter the body of Christ and leave without being uplifted in some way, so this is a tragedy, and a black eye for the Gospel itself. Jesus made no bones about sin, particularly self-righteousness and hypocrisy, so I have to validate everything you say about self-righteous religious people, as a follower of Christ, there is nothing uglier to me, and if I’m honest with myself and you, there’s nothing uglier in myself than when this shows up in my own life as well. However I will say this: I happen to go to a church that is at times almost too hard on ourselves for our sin. We believe (wholeheartedly) that man is totally unable to do anything to save ourselves from our own sin, we must rely completely on the perfect love and grace of Jesus Christ. It’ll take a lot of working out over generations to sort this out, but the church stands on moral standards (which we believe to be universally true), it’s just such a shame when certain sins are demonized and re-categorized in a way that ostracizes people and results in abuse.

          • Phoenix1977

            “I really feel terrible for the abuses you’ve experienced at the hands of those associated with the church”
            Please realize that still happens. It’s not something from the past. In 44 states parents can send their gay children away to bible camps where reparative therapy is being performed on them, including negative conditioning due to electroshock therapy. In 18 states gay men and women can be fired from their job for no other reason than being gay, while gay teenagers can be expelled from their schools for exactly the same reason. Another possibility is those schools performing reparative therapy on gay students, even without their parents’ consent. In 7 states it’s still not illegal to disown your child if he or she proves to be gay and parents in those states cannot be prosecuted if they kick out their children out of their homes, even if they are minors.
            If you really want to lose your lunch you should watch a documentary from Brian Ross for ABC News from March of this year. Unfortunately I cannot link to it since we cannot view full versions from the ABC websites in Europe. But especially gruesome is a court testimony of a now 26 or 27 year old gay man who was sent to one of those bible camps by his parents. As part of negative conditioning he was stripped naked daily with electrodes to his genitals and was then exposed to gay porn. As soon as he would get aroused they would shock him. As he stated himself in court: “”It didn’t turn me straight but I cannot have a gratifying sexual experience if there is no electricity involved”.

            “We believe (wholeheartedly) that man is totally unable to do anything to save ourselves from our own sin, we must rely completely on the perfect love and grace of Jesus Christ.”
            Which only applies as long as you believe in Jesus.
            The moment I came to the conclusion there is no god, no Jesus and therefor no sin I felt so liberated. Like I could breath freely for the first time in forever. The weight that was lifted from my shoulders was indescribable. I never looked back and I never, ever, missed Christianity, the church, it’s teachings or even the people.
            I chose freedom over religion any day.

          • Tyler

            I shouldn’t even address the first paragraph simply because it’s so wrong (the behavior itself and likely the data), I happen to work in public education in the US and I don’t think any of that is true, we are honestly SO strict about harassment and bullying that this would never fly at an administrative level. As far as those laws are concerned, yeah they might still be allowed to do that, and if it’s done it’s done so very quietly, but it would be shut down immediately when the media got a hold of it, there’s nothing more powerful in the US than the news media, which leans pretty heavily toward the Left.

            When you say “which only applies if you believe in Jesus,” I would have two responses: 1) Yes, that’s the worldview I (and those at the Colson center) start from, so you can pre-suppose that’s what I mean, but 2) that’s actually false. It actually applies if it is objectively true, not based on whether you believe it or not. By way of example, I heard Dr. Michael Vanlaninham say recently that it doesn’t matter what a particular passage of Scripture means to us, it matters what it means if we never existed to interpret it. Truth is true regardless of its interpreter. I was simply stating my belief (which is pretty orthodox within all of Christianity) knowing full well that you would disagree, and that’s okay. But simply saying “well that’s what you believe,” isn’t a very good counterargument.

          • Phoenix1977

            “ I happen to work in public education in the US and I don’t think any of that is true”
            Of course you don’t believe it’s true. Because believing my statements (which are very easy to verify, by the way) would mean you would have to questiob your world view. And if there’s one thing I have found religious conservatives (all of them, not only Christians) unable to do is questioning their own world view.
            So I take it you didn’t look up the documentary from ABC News or any other documentary in reparative therapy made in recent years.
            It doesn’t matter if you believe me. It tells quite a bit about a person when they have more faith in their view of the world than in cold, hard facts. It also means I’m ending this discussion with you because I have nothing to discuss with someone who refuses to accept facts.

          • Tyler

            I’m certainly not saying I that I refuse to believe those things happen or that those laws are on the books, what I am saying is that based on personal experience in my work and personal life, these things are squashed immediately when they are brought to light, even reparative therapy. When it becomes publicly known that these things are going on, it’s only a matter of time before they are shut down completely, mostly due to social pressure. So I flat out reject your claim that I am not questioning my worldview, reparative therapy (especially when forced) isn’t even within the scope of my worldview (meaning, I think it’s wrong and nothing necessitates is based on my beliefs), you’re just making a snap judgement about a statement I just made about my experiences, not my worldview.

  • desertdaniel

    David Kupelian covered the addiction to fame that many “stars” suffer from. I don’t know if it was Lenin or someone else who coined the term “useful idiots”, but it describes what many artists and performers do when they shill for repressive regimes. Your take on idolatry is apt; people need Jesus in their lives, not Taylor Swift. I hope she is Christian–and I have enjoyed some of her songs.