Taylor Swift is Time Magazine’s person of the year, a choice that makes perfect sense. Swift’s Eras Tour is on track to break global records for tour earnings. A concert film also smashed records for that genre and provided the AMC movie theater chain with its highest single-day ticket sales ever. She was Spotify's most-streamed artist globally for 2023, following three years in which Bad Bunny took that title. Swift’s romance with NFL player Travis Kelce has increased ratings for Kansas City Chiefs football games while sales of his jersey spiked by 400%. She is as dominant a figure as they come these days—exactly what Time’s person of the year is supposed to recognize.
Prominent far-right influencers are very unhappy. “And just like clockwork, @taylorswift13 (as I warned you all about) is being further activated by the media and the Democrats to interfere in the 2024 election,” Laura Loomer tweeted, tying it back to her earlier just-asking-questions conspiracy theory: “Has @taylorswift13 made a deal with George Soros and Alex Soros to get the rights to her music back in exchange for getting Zoomers registered to vote Democrat against President Trump ahead of the 2024 Presidential election?” (This is a particularly odd theory given that Swift has spent years rerecording her early albums to reclaim ownership.)
Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec also weighed in. “The Taylor Swift girlboss psyop has been fully activated. From her hand-selected vaccine shill boyfriend to her DINK lifestyle to her upcoming 2024 voter operation for Democrats on abortion rights,” he tweeted. “It’s all coming.”
Posobiec also offered up the Soros conspiracy theory: “Thinking about when Taylor Swift called out the Soros family in 2019 for buying the rights to her music and then how she came out a super liberal in 2020.”
Time’s person of the year interview with Swift makes clear just how ridiculous this idea is of her as a Soros puppet—or anyone’s puppet. Swift is forceful and direct. She is very much a person who knows her own mind and is charting her own course. Again, this is someone who responded to the loss of control of her artistic product by rerecording it over a period of years while continuing to put out new music and then launching one of the biggest, if not the biggest, tours of all time.
In the interview, Swift models support for other highly successful women in entertainment, refusing to be drawn into competition. She described her tour, Beyoncé’s tour, and Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” movie as ”a three-part summer of feminine extravaganza.” She praises both Gerwig and Beyoncé, in particular the latter:
“She’s the most precious gem of a person—warm and open and funny,” Swift says. “And she’s such a great disrupter of music-industry norms. She taught every artist how to flip the table and challenge archaic business practices.” That her tour and Beyoncé’s were frequently juxtaposed is vexing. “There were so many stadium tours this summer, but the only ones that were compared were me and Beyoncé,” she says. “Clearly it’s very lucrative for the media and stan culture to pit two women against each other, even when those two artists in question refuse to participate in that discussion.”
Swift even offered an analysis of how gender is at play in the economics of popular culture. This is not some blank slate being “activated” by the media/Democrats/Soros. She’s not just a singer and performer: She’s a songwriter and a major entrepreneur. At just 33 years old, she’s been navigating fame for more than 15 years. In that time has she learned an enormous amount about how the public responds to what she says and does.
Take her relationship with Kelce, another target of right-wing rage. Before the relationship went public, she told Time, “we actually had a significant amount of time that no one knew, which I’m grateful for, because we got to get to know each other. By the time I went to that first game, we were a couple. I think some people think that they saw our first date at that game? We would never be psychotic enough to hard launch a first date.” This is someone who has from a very early age had to see every detail of her life through the filter of how it might be reported and how her fans and haters might react. If she didn’t have an enormous amount of self-knowledge, she would not be the star she is, because she would have crashed and burned.
People like Posobiec and Loomer, who look at everything as a conspiracy, look at Swift and see only a conventionally attractive young woman and pop star and simply cannot wrap their heads around any of that. But even if you’re not especially a Swift fan (here I raise my hand), any assessment of her that’s grounded in reality has to acknowledge her intelligence and independence.