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Why the Right fears Taylor Swift Will the girlies swarm for Biden?

Is this the face of a Democrat media-manipulator? (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Is this the face of a Democrat media-manipulator? (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)


January 31, 2024   5 mins

In pop music, one of the most time-honoured devices for upping the emotional ante is known colloquially as the “Truck Driver’s Gear Change”. In it, the melody stays the same, but is modulated up a whole note, with the effect of raising the emotional pitch. It’s a common device, but my (and my daughter’s) favourite modern example comes from Taylor Swift.

Released in 2008, Swift’s “Love Story” recounts the frustrations of a young “Juliet” kept away from her “Romeo” but longing for him to carry her away. In the final stanza, the song’s “Romeo” unexpectedly kneels and — cue Truck Driver’s Gear Change — proposes marriage. It’s hugely satisfying, emotionally powerful — and, in a way Swift has always instinctively grasped, it’s a story drawn straight from the collective female unconscious.

The central trope in “Love Story” is that of most romance novels: true love whose course doesn’t run smooth, but which ends Happily Ever After. It is, perhaps, the most conservative of all plot lines. So why, amid rumours that Swift’s own much-publicised romance with American football star Travis Kelce may be on the brink of its own emotional gear change, do conservatives seem to be furious with the real-life “Love Story” heroine, Taylor Swift?

The hate is not exactly new. Last year, MAGA activist Laura Loomer posted a long and impressively swivel-eyed X screed about how the Soros family has induced Taylor Swift to help the Democrats manipulate the media, in exchange for re-acquiring the rights to her own music catalogue. But the incipient lunacy of the 2024 US election cycle, plus Biden calling on Swift for an endorsement, seem to have inflamed the hatred to fresh levels. Presidential also-ran Vivek Ramaswamy, for example, has popped up with a nudge-nudge about the Superbowl being rigged for Kelce’s team.

So, is Swift a Democrat media-manipulation asset? I doubt it. But if we view conspiracies poetically rather than literally, we might say a deeper intuition is at work: a sense that the cultural force embodied by Swift is both a political loose cannon, and one that has very little to do with traditional democratic politics. And, worse (from the perspective of Loomer and her like), it’s a force the Right neither understands well, nor has much prospect of turning to their advantage.

The force in question is internet-enabled swarms. There are a great many instances of this phenomenon, but Taylor Swift’s collective fandom — or “Swifties”, as they are known — represent perhaps the largest and most well-known. They can also, occasionally, have startling effects in the real world. In 2022, for example, after Ticketmaster crashed during a surge of unprecedented demand for tickets to the singer’s Eras tour, Swifties enraged by the ticketing firm’s dodgy practices mobilised to break up the company: a campaign that is now bearing fruit. And just last week, after obscene AI deepfakes of Swift were released, the Swifties swarmed again, drowning out the fake images and prompting calls in Congress for greater regulation on such tools.

And perhaps here we can grasp the contours of what the conspiracy-theorists are gesturing at, however clumsily, when they claim that “Taylor Swift is a psyop”. When public discourse comprises a host of overlapping swarms, of which Swifties are only one of the better-known and more prominent ones, politics simply doesn’t work the way it used to. Just recently, the think-pieces and polls have woken up to this — speculating on whether, or how, Taylor Swift might shift the upcoming US election.

And if there’s a weirdly misogynistic edge to the boos and “empty egg carton” jokes (referring to 34-year-old Swift’s supposedly diminished fertility) prompted by media images of Swift doing girlfriend stuff, this is less for who she is than what she represents. For this isn’t just “popular music women really like” but something far more insidious and wide-ranging: her role as metonym for the female-coded phenomenon of swarmism.

Infectious emotions are not uniquely female, but studies suggest women are more prone to them. Anyone who has ever observed a group of teenage girls will recognise the way, whether in real life or via internet channels, emotions felt by one member of the group refract and are amplified by others. This process is, in turn, linked to the well-documented prevalence of conversion symptoms and social contagion among adolescent girls, such as the pandemic-era outbreak of “TikTok tics” among a predominantly teenage female cohort — or, more darkly still, the teenage girls’ Instagram suicide group uncovered by police in 2021.

In other words: swarmism can harm, or even kill. It’s also radically intensified by the internet. Part of the joy of fandoms and online subcultures is the sheer pleasure of getting caught up in its contagions. The kind of high-intensity stampede common on social media is also, now, a potent political force. It was at least partly the power of online swarm consensus that powered the duration and intensity of Covid measures, while punishing dissent using (again, very feminine) sanctions such as social ostracism and character assassination.

Now, as we roll into a crunch election year across numerous very online democratic nations including Britain, Germany and the United States, it seems more than likely that swarmism will play a crucial role. And this perhaps explains the Right-wing panic over Swift. For many conservatives — especially older conservatives — simply do not understand how swarm politics works, or how to exploit it for political advantage.

Conservatives are also, by and large, fairly inept at mobilising female-dominated swarms. And the genius of Swift lies in her capacity to render, musically, the emotional landscapes of young women; it’s no surprise that her internet-enabled fandom should be among the largest, most emotionally labile, and most female in existence. Given the now widely-noted global phenomenon of sex-divided political fandoms, in which the Left leans female and the Right male, it’s therefore reasonable to assume that Swifties are likely to be structurally Left-wing.

To the misogynistic subtext of Swift hate, we can perhaps add a side order of resentment that the Left possess such a potent and well-organised potential swarm ally — even if that swarm’s figurehead seems currently mostly occupied with falling in love and doing silly dances at NFL games. Swarms can be dangerous; but they can also tip the scales for your side. For conservatives — and especially those conservatives who still believe in pre-internet stuff like facts and logic — the mechanisms whereby a swarm can be persuaded to do so are largely mysterious. And under it all lurks the suspicion that there’s just something girly and therefore low-status about the whole business.

But despite this ineptitude, they are going to have to learn. For while swarmism may be female-coded, not all swarms are female-dominated, and nor is the phenomenon likely to disappear any time soon. Arguably the American Right-winger who grasps this most instinctively is Donald Trump, who has sailed serenely through his party’s primaries without participating in a single debate — and who is nonetheless already being hailed as the likely next POTUS even by the Davos elite.

Trump instinctively grasps internet demagoguery. But I can see how, for less adept conservative internet denizens, the femaleness of Swifties and Swift herself, plus women’s broader tilt away from Right-coded fandoms might make the emerging power of swarm politics look, in aggregate, like a sinister girly plot against the Right. So, when the stakes are this high, it’s probably too much to hope that anyone might see a successful young woman enjoying the third-stanza emotional gear-change in her own personal Love Story, wish her well, and leave it at that. For the swarm significance of Taylor Swift is simply too vast for her to be left in peace. No matter how resentfully the pre-internet Right may barrack her for it, the truth is that with or without her, the internet’s meme polities are not going back into their box.

This bodes ill for representative democracy on the pre-internet model. The emotional contagions of the networked world are transnational, near-instantaneous, and as emotionally changeable as adolescent girls, but with vastly greater power to affect policy or even take lives. But it also stands as a warning to the Right: future shots at power will stand or fall on conservatives’ willingness to make peace with the swarm.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
5 months ago

Who, in heaven’s name, would ever be persuaded to change their mind on a political question – simply because it was the preferred outcome of someone famous? Is anyone really that shallow?
ï»żI believe wholeheartedly in universal suffrage.
When people bemoan the ignorance of individual voters, I counter that with the collective wisdom of the electorate as a whole.
But I have to say that nothing undermines my confidence and trust in the electorate more than the idea that a celebrity endorsement could move the needle one iota in support for a candidate or party.
Though it’s been heartening to see just how much “celebrity endorsement” has damaged any recent UK political campaign that has tried to rely on it.
Every single one of the labour candidates that Hugh Grant canvassed for, went on to lose their seat.
Steve Coogan threw his support behind the Lib Dems, and watched their vote collapse .
Seeing Emma Thompson bravely manning the barricades at the XR carnival of no-marks (fresh off a 1st-class transatlantic flight) made me want to go and burn tyres just to annoy her.
Coogan, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson and a whole host of other “cherished British celebrities” still haven’t connected the dots to realise that every time they espouse a cause or political party, they act as a recruiting sergeant for the other side.
If only Labour could be persuaded to appoint Suzy Izzard as their leader they’d consign themselves to opposition for a generation.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
5 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

I share the concerns you’ve expressed and have an equal abhorrence of celebrity culture and “influencers”.
Going back to your first paragraph though; i don’t think it’s about anyone being “persuaded to change their mind” as much as having an unformed mind made up for them. In other words, no change needed; in fact, no real thought process needed, just a “vibe” transmitted via what MH describes as “swarms”.
That such a phenomenon is dangerous to democracy isn’t even in question, since it’s predicated on sentient adults being able to follow arguments from different groups in society. Remove the need to think and what remains is the ability of elites to manipulate the nation states in which they seek power to their advantage. That appears to be precisely what’s happening.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

IDK. I agree with what you’re saying, and the influence Swift has on her fans, but it’s not like she and swarms are convincing a bunch of independent voters to shift leftward. Most of these young girls won’t even bother to vote, and 95% of them would vote Dem anyway. Same with boy band fans 10 years ago. I don’t think any of it moves the needle.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

They’ll only do it once. Because once they put the left in, they’ll redefine in law what a woman/girl is and that will be the Liberals equivalent to the Taliban. Then no doubt their women’s vote will disappear along with a lot of other things that women currently take for granted.

John Croteau
John Croteau
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

The “unformed minds” of swifties have been influenced long ago by a myriad of other far-left activists. Anyone who is weak-minded enough to follow her endorsement has already been swept up by other progressive causes. After all, they are going to save the world 😉

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
5 months ago
Reply to  John Croteau

Exactly. Single women have been voting ‘left’ for quite some time driven more by their ‘feelings’ than by pragmatism. They are tend to vote for what ‘their friends’ been having’. As women marry and the stakes get higher ie. when children come along, they veer rightward. The thing about today is that an unusual number of women are remaining unmarried and childless. Taylor Swift is now 34 and no doubt her biological clock is telling her to get serious about landing a guy rather than writing songs about all her loves gone wrong which has fired up her music to date.

BradK
BradK
5 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

That’s a great point about childless woman (and men, if they choose to marry). It allows for a protracted adolescence and delayed reckoning which family formation — or even the achievement of emotional maturity — brings.
Unless of course one or both parents are academics, in which case the epiphany of adulthood will never arrive.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
5 months ago
Reply to  BradK

Perhaps if conservatives wanted people to grow up and their political views shift rightward they should have actually helped them to do so and given them something to conserve.
Saddling the young with mountains of student debt, insecure poorly paid employment, ruinously expensive childcare and locking them out of homeownership (whilst awarding themselves soaring pensions despite the poor economic conditions) isn’t the way to achieve this

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
5 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Yes, but I don’t know if corporate executives, or the haute bourgeoise elites that run regulatory agencies, are conservatives in any real sense. American elites are overwhelmingly liberal Democrats or progressive leftists.
Very few executives I know personally would donate to Republican causes, but they will contribute large amounts to Democrats.
Similarly, confirmation hearings of Biden or Obama appointees display an endless parade of Ivy League or selective college grads, generally of the “diverse” persuasion. No Republican, and far fewer non-diverse males, would ever be appointed by the Clinton, Obama, or Biden administration, nor hired by most media organizations.
And it’s they who make the rules, not middle and working class Republicans.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
5 months ago
Reply to  BradK

I’m a childless man, college educated, but not remotely progressive, but I’ve always had contrarian tendencies, or perhaps my being poor is the deciding factor putting me against all the nonsense of the left. I simply can’t afford their expensive nonsense, from organic non-GMO foods to climate friendly cars.

BradK
BradK
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

No book, teacher, or school can replace the education and wisdom imparted by life in the real world. Which is why academia needs to own young impressionable minds before they can begin to think for themselves. Heaven forbid.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
5 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

I wonder if single women know if the hostility and impediments single men face in establishing their careers, and in turn their ability to support a family, are largely the fault of those in the political party that Biden represents.
The boys’ education crisis is very real, and most educators are loyal Democrats, convinced that white males are oppressors, and should therefore be stymied as soon as possible. In university admissions, corporate hiring, and workplace promotions, most men can only advance if there are practically no qualified women available at all, at least in “blue” areas, where most US elites live.
High taxes, endless rules, and a presumption of guilt, along with very unfair divorce and custody rules, keep many men away from marriage.
These are also the direct result of policies Democrats lobbied for and enacted.
Are single women aware of this at all, or in any numbers large enough to vote differently?
Married women often vote VERY differently than single women. My own wife was instantly converted to the Republican party after viewing our tax return.
Are single, younger women at all aware that the party that swears to their allegiance also harms, to a very significant degree, their chances of finding a husband?
It’s difficult to place oneself in another’s shoes. And most people are solipsistic, tribal, and not particularly thoughtful, so I personally have no idea. A fair amount of young women today seem to think that men are born with a magic lamp that contains a privilege genie.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
5 months ago
Reply to  John Croteau

But come election day, when a warm bed has to be swapped for a trip to the polling station (assuming of course their votes haven’t been ‘harvested’ by post) they’ll roll over, listen to another track and say to themselves “There’s always next time.”

J Guy
J Guy
5 months ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

That’s why the US Democrats made such an effort in 2020 to do away with the traditional absentee ballot process and spread universal no-excuse mail-in voting. Worked like a charm, and now there’s no more local scrutiny or accountability (at least in my state) to spot irregularities. The Republicans still haven’t learned how to exploit the indolence of the masses and will continue to lose elections as a result


Stevie K
Stevie K
5 months ago
Reply to  J Guy

Love your elegant and perennially acurate phrase ‘indolence of the masses”

Jim C
Jim C
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

It’s not so much that swarm mentality is a danger to democracy, as it is a danger OF democracy.

One Conservative concern about extending the franchise to women is that they seem – broadly speaking – innately collectivist.

If you view collectivism as a form of slavery (or, at least, serfdom), then giving women the vote is a bit like enabling the majority of the electorate to vote themselves – and everyone else – into slavery.

By 21st century Western standards that might seem to be a rather misogynistic worldview… but much of the planet do not view the world with a 21st century Western viewpoint.

N T
N T
5 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

it’s not that someone will change their mind, but that they will be more motivated to show up and vote. i would also be concerned that younger people, still unsure of who they want to be will choose the side of the person they admire/idolize.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Swifties are millions of young voters so underestimate their impact.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
5 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

At the moment, people under 35 are surprisingly polling more for Trump than Biden.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Source? I read a lot of polls, and I have not read one poll that showed under 35’s polling for trump.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
5 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Are 14 year olds allowed to vote in the US? It appears that Germany and Europe are very much opposed to letting anyone under the age of 21 behind the wheel of an HGV. In fact there are those who are saying it should be 25. Yet the left want to lower the voting age? I also wait with interest the day when our Generals demand that no one under the age of 21 be allowed anywhere near the military because 18 year olds realised that ‘conscription’ means ‘them’ and Taylor’s opinions would carry no weight whatsoever on the politicians they elected if it was to send troops to a ‘just war’ – like say, against Russia?

PS We should be making peace with Russia, the morons who effectively drove them into the arms of the Chinese over the years need their heads examining. But then as I said earlier, looking at the US from the outside, I’m thinking at least half the US needs their head examining.
And just to show our US friends I’m not picking on them for being American, The vast majority of our MPs need their heads (or bank balances) examining too.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
5 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Agreed. But I suspect that young voters are still affected as much by fashion as we were when I was young. If you have no adult responsibilities and don’t pay tax then why not vote the way your pop culture hero tells you to? Being ‘cool’ is more important than anything else.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
5 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

This largely explains how a one term Senator and part time law professor was elected to the American Presidency in his early 40s, not so long ago.
He was deemed “cool.”

Mike Bell
Mike Bell
5 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

You asked:

“Who, in heaven’s name, would ever be persuaded to change their mind on a political question – simply because it was the preferred outcome of someone famous?”

Answer: millions of people. It should be considered the norm for large groups of people.
Most people do not do sufficient research etc to be making anything other than an emotional-response vote.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
5 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Is anyone really that shallow? — you’d be surprised by the shallowness of the American voter. We have people who still believe the Russian collusion hoax, that masks work, and that Trump told people to drink bleach. It’s not pretty and it’s not confined to loony leftists. There are those who still believe that the GOP stands for smaller govt.

Dave Smith
Dave Smith
5 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

She is a media creation that is all .Here we have one as well. They fill column inches and are clickbait items .Guess who ours is ? Same hair colour.
They are all about money as usual.

Brad Sealand
Brad Sealand
5 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Swift is in an entirely different social media universe than Grant and Thompson. Thompson, for instance, has 32 thousand Instagram followers. SWIFT HAS 280 MILLION IG FOLLOWERS. You ignore the main point of this article: social media “swarms” can move the political needle. Look at the whole GameStop buying binge organized on Reddit that brought down entire hedge funds.

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
5 months ago
Reply to  Brad Sealand

“brought down entire hedge funds.” So, a good thing then…

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
5 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Yea, my parcels depot is overrun with drivers just desperate to know who Taylor wants us to vote for so they can get out of bed early to vote before their very early start to the day OR perhaps put off tea for a while on a cold wet night to get a vote in for Taylor”s recommended politician of the day. I presume Mary gets paid by the word and needs the money if this is anything to go by. Unless of course this is accurate for the US market AND the US truly is as insane on the inside as it look like from the outside.

Mike Bell
Mike Bell
5 months ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

The effect is not conscious – it’s like advertising etc, it ‘seeps in’.

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
5 months ago
Reply to  Mike Bell

ie its a name they remember.

Kevin Ludbrook
Kevin Ludbrook
5 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

The thing is, as someone who follows politics, I don’t know what I’m voting for so it’s easy to be influenced. And we all follow this stuff whatever we think otherwise advertising would not work and it’s certainly not a charity. We read this article.

BradK
BradK
5 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Have you ever talked with someone under 30? You would be shocked at both the profound ignorance and the vulnerability to pop culture manipulation. Voting for the “cool” people or party (and the acclaim and social acceptance which comes with it) is far more critical to them than securing their futures, let alone the future of their nation or indeed the world.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
5 months ago
Reply to  BradK

Same can be said for retirees though, they still think the world faces the same financial challenges as they did when they were 20. Mention the housing crisis and they think the young just need to pull their socks up because they still believe you can buy a house on a single median wage like they used to. They’re oblivious to the fact many struggle with two full time salaries (which then means you have to throw expensive childcare into the mix and two cars to get to work).
The young will vote as they see fit, if they’re leaning left then that’s the fault of the right for not making their policies appealing. Blaming the electorate for being lazy, gullible or voting the wrong way (ironically labels regularly thrown at those that voted for Trump or Brexit by left wingers) is simply nonsense

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
5 months ago
Reply to  BradK

This is largely true, but I’ve met numerous people well over 40 who are astoundingly ignorant about the world outside of their city.
I remember telling one woman in her 50s that the wealthiest counties by income (at the time) were McLean and Arlington counties, which are the bedroom communities of Washington, DC.
She was equally astonished to hear that the residents of those two counties are about 60% Democrat.
And she was a political science major, albeit decades out of undergrad, and a long time NYC resident.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
5 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Yes, many are that shallow. Trump’s whole 2016 candidacy was founded on a form of celebrity, first as someone “publicly rich and loud”, then as the star of a successful reality show called “The Apprentice”. Here in California, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s successful 2003 run for governor, as a Republican in an increasingly Democrat-identified California, was pulled right off the movie screen into the ballot box. By the way, he did a good job on the whole too, in my opinion. Not an extremist or source of pointless division. Former middling actor Ronald Reagan was an earlier example when he won the 1966 California governor’s race. I thin the phenomenon is silly too, and I’m not defending it. But it is not new here in these yoo-nited states.
A related issue is the fact that nearly all “cultural products” emerge from non-conservative artists, and always have, with notable exceptions such as Plato, Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, Richard Wagner, Zora Neale Hurston, and Salvador Dali. Not too many will be espouse, let alone be outspoken in favor of conservative or traditional values. It would be great if fewer felt the need to announce their sense of moral or political virtue, but instead let their stories, songs, or sculptures do the talking.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
5 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

I love it when they out themselves as expert political decision makers. Especially when they explain their choices.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
5 months ago

We have too much time on our hands.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
5 months ago

This is the truth.

ChilblainEdwardOlmos
ChilblainEdwardOlmos
5 months ago

Great, now I have that crappy song as an earworm. I guess it could be worse


Kevin Ludbrook
Kevin Ludbrook
5 months ago

Yep, it could be ‘Bad Blood’.

Teresa Baker
Teresa Baker
5 months ago

Fortunately I have not heard even one TS song so can’t happen to me!

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
5 months ago

By writing that, you have basically proven Mary’s case. From your handle and the general demographic of the Unherd comments section, I guess you are one of the older conservatives she writes of who struggle to understand why something as irrational and vacuous as a popstar’s legion of infatuated female fans might hold such power that the POTUS, the most powerful person in the world, literally grovels for an endorsement.
You can look down your nose at the fact of this pop-political-power, pooh-pooh it (wow, going for the alliteration this morning!) or call thinking about it a waste of time, but it doesn’t stop it being a thing and that is the point of the article.
If Mary Harrington picks up the issue, you can more or less rely on it being relevant and worth reading and thinking about.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
5 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

You are right in that most of us on here are “conservatives who still believe in pre-internet stuff like facts and logic” and as such may be appalled, amazed or in denial about the power of adolescent female irrationality.

On the other hand, as Mary often points out, she is one of the terminally online. Researching this stuff is her job. Most people, including girls, still have jobs and a social life and the voting age is still 18. How much political impact this kind of thing has is arguable on the subconscious level Mary is talking about.

If TS starts actively campaigning for one side or the other that might be different. She has a massive platform and leadership matters.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
5 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

I’m guessing TS wouldn’t do anything to muck up her footballer romance and I’m also guessing he veers right and or many of his friends do.

Jae
Jae
5 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Erm, except big Pharma are paying him millions to promote vaccines.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
5 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Swift got stung some years ago for not full throatedly endorsing modern feminism, but instead professing that she (like most of the sane) endorse equal legal rights.
She then got stung in the media for not NOT endorsing feminism. I expect these events are still fresh in either her or her publicist’s minds.
The recent Bud Light transformer debacle and the “boys will be boys, they’re terrible” campaign Gillette inexplicably rolled out during the pound me too years, are also fairly recent memories. As are the plummetting ratings that hit professional sports and ESPN immediately after they pledged their allegiance to Buy Large Mansions.
So my guess is that Swift – a former country music star and clearly astute entertainer and entrepreneur – will assiduously avoid political controversies.
I certainly would, were I in the public eye, as should anyone.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Exactly, well said.

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
5 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

“[A] popstar’s legion of infatuated female fans might hold such power that the POTUS, the most powerful person in the world, literally grovels for an endorsement.”

“Literally” grovels, eh?
That’s Democrats for you.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
5 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Potus hardly knows his own name . The people around him are desperate .

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
5 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Not even slightly pompous and patronising. Well done!

Richard C
Richard C
5 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Mary’s case is one that is made by a journalist and not someone who has actually had to win votes as a candidate or campaign professional. If she had been either of those she might, just might, be able to make a useful contribution.

John Croteau
John Croteau
5 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Infatuated female fans are already voting for Biden, if they vote at all. Nothing is going to sway the masses of male and female voters who are ostensibly poorer and disaffected than they were four years ago. It might be different if it was a toss-up, but it’s not. All we need now is for a war with Iran and Texas seceding from the Union to top off the worst presidency in the history of the United States.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
5 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I understand completely why “something as irrational and vacuous as a popstar’s legion of infatuated female fans might hold such power that the POTUS, the most powerful person in the world, literally grovels for an endorsement.” I consider it a matter of deep concern. My point is that if it is, in fact, true, then we as a society have too much time on our hands. A society in which pop starlets can make or unmake presidencies is fundamentally a frivolous society.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago

Speak for yourself.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
5 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

How did you find the time to post that? 😉

GuĂ°ni Goldstein
GuĂ°ni Goldstein
5 months ago

We must. I don’t think any Article by Mary Harrington should be marked as a 5 minute read.

N T
N T
5 months ago

there is a difference between fear and loathing.
loathing is the feeling that we get when someone is overexposed, constantly being force-fed to you, because they have become popular. take football games. as fans, do we wish to see ms. swift, in the box? no, we don’t. but, because there are non-fans, who now watch games because she is there, so they can catch a glimpse of her, the television broadcasts make sure that they show her, a few times per game.
if ms. swift stays away from this years’ races, i believe that more people will respect her more for recognizing that she has power over a portion of the electorate, but choosing not to use it. if, on the other hand, she chooses to wield that power (we presume to promote the left), then that loathing will only grow.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago
Reply to  N T

No it won’t.

Johan Coen
Johan Coen
5 months ago

So the MAGA folks believe the Superbowl is rigged so that Kansas City Chiefs will win, propelling Kelce and Swift into super stardom.

Surely they’ll be at the bookmakers putting everything they have on that. Ultimately, they don’t really believe it themselves. They are just happy to go with the lie. 2+2=5.

Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago
Reply to  Johan Coen

Johan,

You are mistaken. It is the hard, progressive left, that thinks 2+2=5. Math is racist after all and there are no truths but your truth.

Johan Coen
Johan Coen
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

I never mentioned the left at any point. I only mentioned the MAGA supporters.

What did I say that you feel is a mistake?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  Johan Coen

Criticising Trump/MAGA/the Right is a mistake on here.
They’ve missed the Orwell reference and hit back with some anti-woke BS and watch the upvotes fly in.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

“They” = one comment that said something accurate. Come on, man.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

The right don’t bother me, the left do.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Commissar says gruel is steak, so rejoice, all have steak tonight.

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
5 months ago
Reply to  Johan Coen

Of course, the referees not calling pass interference after Chamarri Connor knocked over Isaiah Likely was just one of those mistakes which happen, and which led to the Chiefs winning.
Nothing to see here….

Suspicious Video Has Baltimore Ravens Fans Claim NFL ‘Rigged” Kansas City Chiefs Win’

can't buy my vote
can't buy my vote
5 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

So the NFL somehow got Lamar to tank the game. Did they threaten his family?

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
5 months ago

As an Englishman, I’ve never figured out how anyone wins at American football but one thing that I still remember about Association Football was about a rigged game.
When I was a youth in the 1960’s Liverpool FC under manager Shankly were creating the legends that now make them one of the greatest clubs on the planet. Their first real chance of a European Cup looked to be progressing nicely. The tie against Inter Milan signed and sealed after they took a 3-1 lead to the San Siro. In one of the strangest refereed games I saw, Inter won 3-0 and before the teams had left the pitch the thoughts of ‘rigging’ were circulating. It took decades before the referee involved confessed it was true.
The world today is far worse than the one I grew up in for corruption, so who knows whether they did or not, BUT I wouldn’t be so blase about the possibility.
https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/liverpool-inter-milan-cheated-european-18238423

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
5 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

At best, that was a marginal call. The Ravens need look no further than mirror to see a team too undisciplined and too stupid to play in the Super Bowl. Multiple brain cramp moments that resulted in penalty yards, one of which probably cost them a score.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
5 months ago
Reply to  Johan Coen

To refer to an historical equivalent statement about an American who, for the record, provided the following response.
The report of my death was an exaggeration.

Albert McGloan
Albert McGloan
5 months ago
Reply to  Johan Coen

This is MAGA country, varmint.

Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago

What makes Taylor Swift SO broadly popular, at least in part, is that she is NOT overtly political.

The minute she decides to jump in on something like politics she loses a large part of her fan base.

She is not an idiot by and stretch.

Then, to top it off……the fact is that her base is young women. Largely young single women in their teens and twenties. These are already part of the democratic base.

As a side note, I have 3 young women between 18 and 24 in my life, all of whom are insisting they are going to vote 3rd party. Not sure which yet, Jill Stein or RFK I expect but not for either Biden or Trump. They tell me that their friends in college are all thinking the same thing.

JJ Barnett
JJ Barnett
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Taylor stumped for Hilary, and then for Biden (see: her famous Biden baked cookies, which she shared to her socials, and her fandom took that message as ‘instructions received!’).

Taylor may not yap about politics 24/7, but she does make her choices known to her fans, and the nature of teeny-girl fandom is to hysterically follow along with the leader. You could say, Taylor’s fans reside in the “Longhouse”, so what they fear most is being ostracised from that group, and they will perform desperate and ridiculous ‘conformity rituals’ in order to maintain and move up their status. Think: Salem witch trials type memetic-conformity

I think there is a misperception that this only applies to teen girls of 11-14 or so, and therefore no worries, they can’t vote. Two flaws in this thinking:

For one, yes, some of Taylors fans are 11-14 and therefore can’t vote. But many of her fans were 11-14 back when she started her career, and are now in their 30s and they’re still swarmy Swifties. Her fandom is ground zero for the white middle class girls who never really grew up, and in their 30s they are busy occupying themselves with all kinds of woke, performative silliness, because they didn’t marry and settle down (and have kids etc to pull them out of that life).

The second issue is that the younger ones may not be able to vote, but their swarm behaviour is influencing politics, profoundly. When Greta Thunberg was being photographed with celebs left and right, suddenly swarms of girls were taking to the streets in major cities to “demand” Net Zero and more extreme action on climate change (as just one example). Powerful and well funded activist groups stoke and amplify this, and then politicians actually respond to it as though it’s broad-based public-fervour… as opposed to simply the activity of the week for 14yr old girls.

I think young peoples, and particularly young girls, are very easily ‘whipped’, especially by those they idolise. And swarm culture is already having a profound impact in the real world, and has led to things like DEI and climate extremism being pushed into every institution much faster than it could have without these Longhouse swarms. And I would argue that this feminisation of society (with respect to how we communicate and mediate conflict) has been terrible, and is leading us to destruction. The kids being ‘whipped’ are too young / naive to grasp that the problem with progressivism is that the idea of progress has no limiting principle. You never arrive, you just keep going – to the gates of Hell if nothing stops you. That’s pretty much where we are now, imo.

Tony Price
Tony Price
5 months ago
Reply to  JJ Barnett

Oh dear, the “feminisation of society ….. is leading us to destruction” eh! Not all those (older) men starting wars and killing and maiming each other (or rather younger men) and women & children then. And all those (older) male financiers crashing the financial system (2008 etc) for no punishment and accruing ridiculous wealth. I think that we would all be way better off with less testosterone around and if women ran the world.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
5 months ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Hilary is a woman. Kamala Harris is a woman AND Victoria Nuland, (instigator, arguably, of the Ukraine/Russian war) is a woman – all Democrats too!
Although according to the Democrats I could be a woman too if I said I was. 😉
All those Swifty’s will only once vote the Left into power, because the Left in power (certainly in the UK) are almost certain to ensure that there is no such thing as ‘a woman’ except in the head and that is going to be a very rude awakening for many biological women swifties when they discover how many very peculiar in the head men, become women and share in their experiences.

JJ Barnett
JJ Barnett
5 months ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Tony, I’m referring to the famous ‘Longhouse’ essay by pseudonymous writer Lomez, that was widely discussed by writer’s including Mary.
A good catch up on what is posited by this writer would be this article by Rod Dreher, covering what Lomez posits, and people’s reactions to the essay.
In short, the thesis is not “men good > women bad”. It is: as women start to become the ones that run society (and the fiefdoms like HR, and ‘compliance’ and other such power bases) there are changes that take place in the social culture because of the very different ways in which men and women communicate, and approach conflict.

I really recommend reading the article before dismissing it out of hand. It’s interesting. It also dovetails nicely into Chris Rufo’s observations about the rise of the “Cluster B Society”.

JJ Barnett
JJ Barnett
5 months ago
Reply to  JJ Barnett

I feel as though I should mention that I am a woman…

I’m not sure why that would be relevant to the specific points I made, but perhaps it would at least clarify that I’m not being an anti-woman lout, I’m simply saying that I think the feminisation of society + the rise of ‘online’ is radically altering the world, and perhaps not for the better.

Much of public discourse now seems more like the display of hysteria & emotions, rather than thinking & debating ideas.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
5 months ago
Reply to  Tony Price

That women hold a monopoly on kindness and caring is a complete and utter myth.

Tony Price
Tony Price
5 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

That’s a very strange myth as I can’t believe that anyone in the world thinks so; perhaps you could tell me who does?

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
5 months ago
Reply to  JJ Barnett

How many of her 11-14 year old fans swim with Swim Ontario? If you wonder why I ask that, then look it up and ask, “Would they vote for more of the same?”

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
5 months ago

So she gets millions of swifties to vote for Biden , and he wins . What then ? She’s hated by the half of the US electorate who voted for Trump , and then , when the Swifties who voted Trump mature and change their politics they hate her too. She isn’t stupid and , for all we know , votes republican anyway .

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

Good grief what strange thinking.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
5 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

But self-identification ISN’T strange thinking? Really? Why do you think there isn’t uproar over Trans ‘women’ ie women claiming to be men? Women have everything to lose, men don’t.
As I said before, look to Canada and see what the left is going to bring to the table AND it will be the young swifty’s who reap any whirlwind if Taylor suggests they sow the wind and ‘swarm left’.

JJ Barnett
JJ Barnett
5 months ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

She doesn’t vote Republican, she stumped for both Hilary, and then for Biden.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
5 months ago

Right wing panic? Over TS? If that is so, I must not be on the right. She sings about the impossibility of love in this twisted modern world of ours. My heart goes out to her. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone, right or left, hating her for singing about such things.

T Bone
T Bone
5 months ago

Mary makes no mention of Taylor’s boyfriend Travis Kelce, who Former Liberal Establishment hero, Aaron Rodgers describes as “Mr. Pfizer.”  Let’s not ignore the duopoly if you’re going to assess it. The question is not whether those two are intentionally promoting a state sponsored political movement but whether they’re being pointed that direction.

Taylor is not a “Leftist.”  True Leftism aka Marxism abhors earned greatness, which is only possible in a Capitalist Society.

Marxism is antithetical to Liberalism because Liberalism doesn’t reject Capitalism.  The American Left is split between resentful Poverty Affirming Marxists and State Capitalist “Allies” that act like resentful Poverty Affirming Marxists. The State Capitalist “Allies” are normal people that repeat the Marxist catechisms either because they’re bleeding hearts or want to capitalize.  They don’t necessarily want to conform…its just easier to conform.  Taylor is a bleeding heart liberal, not a Marxist.

Taylor Swift isn’t at fault for the coverage she’s getting.  She earned her fame just as the Beatles did. But the Allied Marxist-adjacent media is choosing to treat her and Kelce like they treat the Crown family.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
5 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

MH makes clear mention of her current boyfriend, even as far as suggesting an imminent marriage proposal.

T Bone
T Bone
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I should have edited to “little mention.” You’re right. Commentariat made me pay for that error.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Isn’t ‘Marriage’ deemed a right wing construct by the left?

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
5 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

The Beatles were from Liverpool in fact from South Liverpool , around Allerton and as the Quarrymen at Quarry Bank where not unknown to a sibling of mine, we living in Allerton. They were never ‘Tory’ BUT try their anthem to the Taxman on the Revolver album. Mr Wilson and Labour couldn’t rely on their loyalty simply because of their leaning. So Taylor’s fans may vote once for Biden BUT if the identarian left get their way, Taylor and her fans may, like the Beatles take their revenge later on, possibly because
“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”
and self-identifying doesn’t make you a woman, but it sure does present major issues for women and girls and I doubt they are going to like it very much.

Juan Manuel PĂ©rez PorrĂșa
Juan Manuel PĂ©rez PorrĂșa
5 months ago

I cannot remember a time when, not only popular so-called culture in general, but even the majority if its over-rated representatives has been favorably disposed towards right-wing or conservative political movements of their own time. There are and have been exceptions to this, but they have been rather notorious by their rarity (that’s why they stand out) or cases of mistaking yesterday’s liberalism for today’s conservatism (not an uncommon phenomenon, and not always unjustified). Nor are complaints coming from the right-wing of the political spectrum about this vague ideological bias in mass popular culture wholly new, either.

The combination of Miss Swift’s rather openly and acceptably left-wing political opinions and her popularity is the problem conservatives have with her. What worries conservatives about this, and about the pernicious influence of popular culture on the masses, is that by adopting conservative political positions, they will lose or fail to gain the mass popular support that is required by our mass majoritarian political systems actually to be able to exercise power. Not a wholly unreasonable fear, I’m afraid. There are solutions to this, solutions to limiting the influence of popular so-called culture, but they involve policies and measures now deemed unacceptable (for no good reason, as far I can tell) by modern conservatism, namely legally restricting the license of expression on the part of entertainers, or restricting the the franchiseand for the masses that these entertainers influence (and their political significance). Sic transit gloria mundi.

T Bone
T Bone
5 months ago

Do you write things just to think through your thoughts or are you trying to provoke a response? This just reads like “class consciousness” nonsense. The problem with Marxism is everything reads like a diabolical plot.  What does a Marxist even mean by “Democracy.” 

Most people think of Representative Democracy as the act of voting for the best candidate…not a method of vote maximization through whatever means possible.  Most people would prefer elections are won through persuasion not gimmicks.  But since the Left is committed to gimmicks not persuasion it shouldn’t be surprised the Right is running the ultimate Gimmic Populist.  If you all on the Left ever want to debate the merits of supply side vs State command economics, please do.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

There aren’t many people on the left in the Unherd comments. It takes a brave soul to persevere here.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Where have you been Ms Knight?
‘We’ have missed your pithy comments.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
5 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Given the views of the Left I’d say it isn’t only on unherd comments it takes a brave soul to preserve. So tell us are you a ‘biological female’ or a ‘self-identified’ one? Because IF the Swifty’s are biological females – then they’ll only vote for the Left once, as the consequences for them are Talibanesque. IF there is such a word.

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
5 months ago

Should 16 year olds be able to vote?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

If they can breed can they vote?
In England in the ‘good old days* you could hanged at 18 as well as conscripted to fight, but NOT vote until you were 21.
However in answer to your question

NO!

(* Pre 1969.)

Muiris de Bhulbh
Muiris de Bhulbh
5 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

No taxation without representation, & no representation without taxation.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago

Teens can pay tax in the UK. Thought very likely to earn below the personal allowance NICs are due at 16. They also pay VAT which is one of the chunky taxes for HMRC.
They may well also find themselves being of working age and very taxable within a 5 year government. If you’re 16 on polling day you’ll be 21 by the time the next vote comes around – you could have a full time job.
Also – Should we retract the vote from retirees then?

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I’m retired, and I’m paying income tax on a small pension! In fact everyone pays tax, VAT for a start.

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
5 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

No! Not actually convinved that 18 year olds should be allowed to either. How about voting age equal to end of compulsory education plus three years?

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
5 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Surely voting is more dangerous than driving an HGV. An HGV badly handled may kill a number of people, a Government can kill millions.
In Germany and the EU the lack of HGV drivers* has employer organisations wanting the 21 age limit reduced. The politicians want it raised to 25 according to one article, because of the dangers. So what’s more dangerous, a 16 year old behind the wheel or one wielding a vote?

*I blame Brexit – well, everyone seems to blame it for the lack of drivers here. Though there’d be one more IF employers would be more flexible over hours.

William Shaw
William Shaw
5 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Didn’t Scotland allow 16 olds to vote for independence
 brainwash them in school, give them free university education, then expect a little something in return.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
5 months ago

Swift might have the power to set off one of these swarms, but revolutions do have the nasty habit of eating their own children.
Like it or not, celebrity today is the new royalty. And the new power players in town might take a hint from the ones who’ve been around for a while and understand that your best chance of long term survival is to keep your mouth shut when it comes to politics.
You might still become a lightening rod for the burning issue of the day, but if you keep schtum, things do eventually calm down and you move on, unscathed. It’s a lesson which the Princess of Wales, for example, has internalised and now practices to perfection.
Maybe too late for Swift to adopt the silent approach. I’m not familiar with her, but I hear she does make political statements in public and so has already voluntarily entered the fray. Even so, endorsing Biden in an election would be a remarkably risky thing to do. The reasons underlying modern celebrity political power strike at the heart of disagreements in world view between left and right and about the nature of democracy in the online era. In a country already massively polarised, stirring that hornet’s nest could unleash forces that end up wiping her out.
She’d be best advised to carry on what she does best: singing girly songs and engaging in public romances that keep gossip magazines in business.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Perhaps she’s ready to cut back get married and start a family. Either way, I don’t think she has much to lose by endorsing Biden. and she strikes me as being rather fearless.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
5 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

If she intends forming a normal family and becoming a mother, I’d suggest that has a great deal to fear from the Left. Look to Canada for where the left will take Women.

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
5 months ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

Please explain – about the Canada bit.

Caty Gonzales
Caty Gonzales
5 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Swift endorsed Biden in 2020, along with multiple other celebrities. In general, the Democrats like to show how ‘cool’ they are by trotting out a bunch of celebrity endorsements. I think this has generally been the case for leftwing politicians since I was a young ‘un and we had Cool Britannia #2 with Oasis etc lining up to visit Tony Blair and endorse New Labour, but no doubt prior to that as well.
Barack Obama had oodles of singers lining up to be seen alongside him. Bruce Springsteen is famous for his outspoken Democrat politics. Green Day are an embarrassment with their politics.
Even with RFK Jr, when I read his endorsements list, there go a bunch of old rockers.
I think it follows this general rule: young people are generally left wing. Actors and popular musicians like to underline their yoof appeal and cool by association with left wing ideas and sometimes left wing politicians.
That said, I do agree with your final statement! As Michael Jordan said. ‘Republicans buy sneakers too’.

R Wright
R Wright
5 months ago

Swift’s popularity comes her from apolitics. She has a whole bunch of ‘Alt-Right’ skeletons from the mid 2010s that would pop out of the cupboard if she picked a side.

Terry M
Terry M
5 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Alt-Right’ skeletons from the mid 2010s
Please inform us.

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
5 months ago

So young girls swarm for Biden?
I’m sure the feeling is reciprocated.

Howard S.
Howard S.
5 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

My nieces not yet in their teens – Joe’s preferred demographic – are more into Disney’s “Frozen”, “the Little Mermaid”, and”Beauty and the Beast”. I don’t know whether Taylor Swift appeals to them.

Gordon Arta
Gordon Arta
5 months ago
Reply to  Howard S.

‘My nieces not yet in their teens – Joe’s preferred demographic’. Hmmm. He’s keeping that very quiet.  

Howard S.
Howard S.
5 months ago
Reply to  Gordon Arta

No, Joe is not keeping “it” quiet. The news media is.

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
5 months ago

It’s all very well to be “down with the kids”, but I’m a Bach and Purcell man myself.
If they insist on being modern and trendy, there’s Cliff Richard or Tom Jones.

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
5 months ago

Ms. Harrington can write
 As sure as the sun will come up tomorrow, Ms. Harrington can string two words together.

I did not want to read this as Taylor Swift is pleasant enough and knows her craft such as it is, but enough already. But I had to read it because Marry wrote it and of course it was excellent and insightful and frightening


Heaven help us


Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
5 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

Remember the Beatles?
Find their Revolver album as listen to ‘Tax Man’ – once Taylor and her fan’s discover what they voted for they’ll not worry the right again, but they’ll terrify the left – assuming of course they survive what the left has planned for the female of the species.

Richard C
Richard C
5 months ago

Shouldn’t junk like this article be in the Sun or the Mirror?

To say that it was deeply unserious would be an understatement.

Sophie Duggan
Sophie Duggan
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard C

It’s an attempt to groom the readership into thinking that women are too emotional to be trusted with the vote. Republican stew, served up in hippie tableware. Yuk.

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
5 months ago
Reply to  Sophie Duggan

If you read Mary regularly you surely know that is not her intent. However, I can understand you reaching that conclusion – my first reaction (since banished from thought) was that maybe the 19th amendment (US) wasn’t such a good idea. :}

Sophie Duggan
Sophie Duggan
5 months ago

QED

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
5 months ago
Reply to  Sophie Duggan

Except for the “attempt to groom”. NQED

Sophie Duggan
Sophie Duggan
5 months ago

Have you heard any interviews with her? She’s anti birth control, anti women going online (irony?), anti mothers working outside the home (more irony), and anti women being able to obtain a divorce. I infer intent from what she calls for, not from what she professes.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
5 months ago

Mary’s just addressing the ‘fashionable’ issue. There’s another similar article on the topic in Spectator and many others. It’s all a bit tedious.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
5 months ago
Reply to  Sophie Duggan

Looking at the performance of Women in power in the UK, I’m not sure any grooming is needed. Considering the ratio of women to men in positions of power, the ones over here have been stunningly dangerous with many of their decisions and policies. It’s now NIcola’s turn to explain why the delete button seems to have been her favourite on the keyboard.

Sophie Duggan
Sophie Duggan
5 months ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

Who is “NIcola?” Is she a Woman (bizarrely capitalised)? Run along to typing school eh – you might even catch yourself a rich husband 😉

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard C

That’s one of the most asinine comments i’ve read in Unherd, and that’s saying something!

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard C

This is about the impact of celebrity status in the age of ‘X’. Hollywood has been trying to do this for decades with limited success, but social media followers brings a whole new dimension to the subject, as MH rightly alludes.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
5 months ago

Hatred and fear are a bit on the overheated side. I’m sure she could have some influence among the more addle-minded who want to be told what to do, but I really doubt “the right” is quaking in its establishment shoes over it. If people really want more of the same, which is what Team Biden would provide, that’s a level of stupid that cannot be blamed on Swift or anyone but the people making that decision.
This bodes ill for representative democracy on the pre-internet model. — It’s not faring too well in the post-Internet model, either, what with open efforts to disqualify a rival, the use of govt agencies to go after political opponents, the govt-sponsored crackdown on free speech, and so forth. What democracy there is exists in name only, and besides, the country is a republic, a distinction that still matters though the DC cartel will come for that, too, eventually.

M To the Tea
M To the Tea
5 months ago

This whole thing is manufactured story!

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
5 months ago

“For conservatives — and especially those conservatives who still believe in pre-internet stuff like facts and logic ”
I missed the funeral for these life-long friends. This may be why I have difficulty understanding the political motivations and actions of younger generations.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
5 months ago

There was no funeral, as yet no sign of bodies. Rather like under Gordon (Crash) Brown here in the UK Prudence just disappeared. So far there is no evidence as to her fate. Unlike the “Golden Rule” which also disappeared, though it is believed to have been melted down and sold. No doubt at some point in time, work on renovating the treasury will turn up some remains and speculation will be they belong to Prudence.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
5 months ago

“When it comes time to vote, people don’t choose with their heads, they choose with their guts” (David Brooks). There is a great profusion of instinctual/sub-concious influences involved. So it follows that something like a fan swarm might have a profound effect on a close election. Fasten your seatbelts and raise your tray tables. It’s gonna be a bumpy flight.

John Croteau
John Croteau
5 months ago

Swifties would never vote for Trump anyway. If anything, her endorsement will only mobilize their conservative-leaning male counterparts.

Bob Ewald
Bob Ewald
5 months ago

It is a sad day. Liberals, who have spent decades eliminating classical education to dumb down future voters, are succeeding. Lets check our rational brain cells at the door and mindlessly follow a pop icon when we vote.

james elliott
james elliott
5 months ago

The Right ‘fears’ Taylor Swift?

Uhm…..

No.

No more than we ‘feared’ Brittney Spears, Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry, Samantha Mumba, S Club 7, or Adele.

What is this nonsense?

Jae
Jae
5 months ago

As far as I can tell voters don’t listen to Pop culture or Hollywood for their political stance. Otherwise how did we get Donald Trump in the first place? And if they are, they shouldn’t vote, it’s too stupid. Not sure what Mary Harrington is thinking with this stuff, maybe she’s right.

It should be noted though that Swift’s boyfriend is in bed with Big Pharma, he keeps telling everyone to get the Covid vaccine on TV advertising, likely earning him millions. The right could have a field day with that, Ms Harrington. Also he’s getting old, his star as a player will be on the wane.

But if Taylor Swift and Kelce who are approaching their mid thirties and acting like their fifteen can swing an election to the Democrats we were already doomed. The “Stupid” win.

Here’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the dangers of that:

“Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed – in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

Duane M
Duane M
5 months ago
Reply to  Jae

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.”
Frank Zappa

Jae
Jae
5 months ago

Democrats are desperate right now, the “Economy Stupid” thing isn’t quite cutting it. They don’t have much except abortion, and possibly Swift according to Harrington. What an ugly world we live in politically.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago

Who is this Harpy?

Sisyphus Jones
Sisyphus Jones
5 months ago

I don’t think “the Right” is a monolith capable of fearing Taylor Swift. Nevertheless, I think Taylor Swift is very careful to lean politically in a direction that best suits her business. (Maybe that’s why Libertarians are underrepresented among Swifties.) She’s made some pretty obtuse, woke-ish comments which makes total sense to me. I met her in ’07. Two of my friends were in her first touring band. She seemed like a nice kid. My friends told me she was quite generous to her band. She and I are in the same industry in the same town. My theory, which is based on some insider information, is that her meteoric success was inspired by an embarrassing duet with Stevie Nicks on the 2010 (I think) Grammy awards show. She was mocked horribly and I think she made a decision to take over the world, quite literally, after overcoming a period of humiliation and depression. If you’re going to take over a world dominated culturally by the dull and artless platitudes of progressivism then you’re gonna have be well versed in the medium. So here she is in 2024, selling her brand from the sky box at NFL football games and everywhere else the camera is pointed and doing it with just the right tinge of implied Leftist vacuity. Good for her. She’s transformed herself from an embarrassed 21 year old into a 34 year old billionare. Good work, Taylor. Hendersonville, Tennessee is proud of you.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
5 months ago
Reply to  Sisyphus Jones

When the Chiefs won the NFC Championship, she was a model of a player partner – she showed up, gave him a kiss, and left. No hot-dogging. No limelighting. She seems like a good person to me. From what I have heard, she is VERY generous to those who work with her. I wish her nothing but good things.

Stephen Wright
Stephen Wright
5 months ago

Stop the press: Popular person might influence others. Thats all there really is to this, and the US Right are cross she’s not on their side so are generating unhinged narratives.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
5 months ago

It’s a shame that it took the advent of the Internet for this author, and I’m suspecting a lot of others, to realize the extent to which human beings are driven by what she calls ‘swarmism’. Having been born with Asperger’s syndrome and a diminished capacity, capability, and desire for socialization, I have been acutely aware of ‘swarmism’, and hated it, since I was old enough to think for myself. I had my own less than complimentary names for it. I can testify that it predates the Internet, as I myself do. The Internet simply offers another means for the trends, the imitation, the conformity, the cults of personality, etc. to spread across society quickly and, through anonymity and mob psychology, brings out the worst, most vicious, aspects of this so called ‘swarmism’.
If you’ve ever wondered where utterly irrational nonsense like apocalyptic climate alarmism, transgender activism, apologies for Hamas, and renewed antisemitism comes from, look no further. Before the mass media era, news, culture, and trends spread at the speed of a horse and buggy, passing from one person to the next in conversations. Enter radio and television, and suddenly news could travel at the speed of light. Far more than automobiles, railroads, and airplanes, telecommunications dramatically downsized the world, not in physical terms, but in our minds, which has always been the decisive venue. Still, mass media were guarded by gatekeepers who while still serving the interests of elites, tended to filter out a lot of the worst nonsense. It took centuries for antisemitism to take hold in Europe and result in the Holocaust. It took much less time for the pendulum to swing back towards sympathy for Jews when the true extent of the Holocaust was realized. It’s only gotten faster since. Now almost anything, from cat videos to conspiracy theories, can go from nonexistent to national and international awareness literally overnight (see the George Floyd riots).
Our present ruling class are mostly old men clinging to the dying remains of Enlightenment based western civilization, trying to find solid ground upon which to stand even as the quicksand spreads farther and farther around them. Their increasingly desperate and futile attempts to control information and regulate speech and ‘misinformation’ on the Internet are one aspect of this. Throwing their money at younger people (Soros to Swift) who can use the power of the swarms on the Internet, whether they’re political or not, is another. What they don’t understand is that it will never work. They still seem to think with the right scheme of laws and regulations or by recruiting the right celebrities to their cause, they can stuff the genie back in the bottle, but it’s far too late for that.
Their problem is that they proceed from false assumptions. They seem to think the Internet changed something about humanity, society, or culture. It didn’t. The nonsense was always there, limited by the lack of mass media and then the gatekeepers of said media. What’s changed is that the barriers that limited the worst aspects of swarmism are simply gone, allowing the state of our common culture and media environment to better reflect human nature, making human society look like what it always has been, that is a bunch of apes, well, aping one another for basically no reason at all. Having no particular inclination nor ability to ‘fit in’ or mold myself to fit the expectations of others, I was uniquely able to see how people change when you put a lot of them together, and how the more there are, the worse it gets. The swarm, the herd, whatever you call it, limits perceptions, limits alternatives, and winnows down possibilities until everyone is marching along a set path. That’s what the elites seem to be obsessed with; establishing and enforcing a relatively narrow set of assumptions upon everybody in order to achieve the ends they deem worthy. Were they more competent, I would fear them more. As things stand, it’s painfully obvious they don’t understand these forces. Like most aristocratic classes, they’re sheltered, soft, and predictable, ruled by their own set of invisible guides, guides that are all the stronger for being reinforced by affluence and the arrogance that only comes from the casual exercise of power.
Fortunately, the laws of nature and nature’s God are not one sided. Like all things, they balance, and balanced against conformity is another human trait, the tendency to fight each other, to struggle for dominance, to argue, to vie for power, and so on. So long as freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and as broad a freedom of action as possible can be preserved, the tendencies of people to conform will be limited by a tendency towards conflict. We must embrace, rather than seek to eliminate, this conflict. While a society that embraces the notion of social conflict seems counterintuitive, it isn’t, at least not in the world as it is today. Economic conflict certainly isn’t. It’s competition that allows the invisible hand to work its magic. Just as economic competition drives down prices and leads to efficiency, so too does ideological competition drive true diversity, diversity of ideas, thoughts, and culture, and leads ultimately to creativity, innovation, and open-mindedness. Conflict need not be violent. It works best when it isn’t. Unfortunately, we’re in a period where elites seem determined to eliminate ideological competition and establish a set of enforced common assumptions on a global scale. Fortunately, the human tendency for conflict is rising against it. It certainly isn’t over. There’s plenty of nations and organizations that are far too large to be anything other than agents of bland conformity. To me, the solutions to our current predicaments lie in embracing this fracturing conflict, breaking up large groups (nations or corporations) into smaller independent groups thereby limiting the power of any one to influence all the others. Just as in economic competition, any organization large enough to control a significant percentage of the market can distort competition and increase its own profits at the expense of others.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Brilliant comment, Steve Jolly. I enjoyed reading it.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

The part of the Enlightenment that remains centuries later is not dying, let alone conclusively dead, but moribund. To what other movement do you attribute “freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and as broad a freedom of action as possible can be preserved”?
Of course the extreme optimism and social engineering overreach of that were concentrated in 1650-1850 period broadly labeled the Scientific Revolution & Enlightenment need to be tempered, countered, and rounded out–like any revolution or transformative trend. But let’s not discard the baby while rinsing out the tub.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Freedom of speech is gone when college professors lose their jobs for politely and thoughtfully expressing heterodox opinions. Freedom of speech is gone when obstetricians and nurses are not allowed to use the term “mother” in addressing patients and must use the phrase “pregnant person” because some “pregnant people” gender-identify as men. Freedom of speech is gone when research scientists refrain from publishing data that does not support Progressive viewpoints out of fear of losing grant money or professional advancement. Freedom of speech is gone when any student taking tentative steps into respectful discussions about race, gender or sexual orientation lead to predictable accusations of hate speech and risk of being expelled from their school at worst and at a minimum reprimanded. None of these examples are anomalous. Everyone self-censors now.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

It’s threatened not gone. Real freedoms have always been hard-won and hard-kept. Your examples may be all too widespread but I don’t see that they are the norm in any country. Are they?
Observe proportion and degree, please. I’ll try to afford you the like courtesy–anomalies and all.
*Even if it is “gone” according to some method of measurement, that needn’t be permanent. Lamentation without hope or proposed remedy is toxic, and way too easy.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
5 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Those very simple tenets can’t be repeated often enough.
There’s no such thing as “gone” – except the individual that espouses it.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Oh, please, that’s just a silly platitude.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I didn’t intend, nor do I think I was, discourteous. Yes, they are the norm in the US for every venue that matters. The argument for “proportion and degree” has less significance when the momentum is so obviously in the wrong direction and accelerating. I don’t know your age but, if you are over 60, keep in mind that when the Boomer generation passes a huge chunk of Enlightenment-based liberality will pass with it, to be replaced by generations who have been steeped in Post-modernism and a brand of radical relativism that does not care a whit about preserving the rights of their opponents to free speech. Oh, and I refer you to another article in UnHerd from 31 January that notes 85% of US colleges limit free speech: https://unherd.com/thepost/us-colleges-universities-free-speech-codes/

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I didn’t say, think, or imply that you were discourteous, Ms. Reader. I’m saying you are sometimes immoderate, occasionally unhinged* in your frequent but mostly reasonable remarks.
“The argument for ‘proportion and degree’ has less significance when the momentum is so obviously in the wrong direction and accelerating”. I believe this to be exactly backwards. You are not creating any useful contrary momentum among the extremists you join forces with when you abandon all sense of proportion and historical perspective. Just more chaos and division. And it is a familiar and convenient excuse: “Balance and level-headedness are for another day” or “that’s in the past old man” or “they started it!”.
I’m a shade over 50, part of so-called Generation X. How old are you?
*I am too, I admit
**By the way, there are many related articles these days at the NYT, and most of the commenters there agree, broadly speaking, with the prevailing view here. There is major pushback against woke excess and Newspeak from the center and non-insane left too. All is not lost, nor do we need to burn it all down to “save” it.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You have an odd sense of courtesy. “Unhinged” is an epithet hurled by those who really have no argument. I am not an “extremist” by any means in either direction, left or right, I am registered to vote as independent, hold views that are sometimes liberal, sometimes conservative, and always open to revision as new experiences and information present. I have certainly not “joined forces” with anyone. Who said anything about “burning it all down”? It seems to me that you are the one with a proclivity to extremes and a lack of ability to consider any proposition other than your own rigid platitudes. Have you ever considered taking a grammar and composition course?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

So do you. “Oh, please, that’s just a silly platitude”
How is that courteous or conducive to any worthwhile exchange? Still, I chose not to focus on that, but to call you out on the way you rant, which you do frequently. We’re both a bit too fond of the sound of our “typewritten voices”, but I think you have a particular problem with that, ma’am. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I’m certainly entitled to respond to your thousands of daily words here.
What particular fault do you find with my writing or grammar? Not that I am therefore a good writer, but I suppose as someone qualified to teach English at the college level that I’ve taken several composition and grammar courses. Have you*, or does your natural genius render that unnecessary? (Is this grammatical: “I didn’t intend, nor do I think I was, discourteous”. Your opening sentence. I’m glad you didn’t intend discourteous. Bit of a cheap shot though, isn’t it?).
My views are not rigid at all. I don’t like absolute claims and wild hyperbole– unless I am joking or detect a comical-ironic design in my interlocutor. When I succumb to such tactics myself, in any serious attempt, I’m usually quite willing to admit it once I’ve cooled down. Are you?
I guess I’ll continue to read the portion of your remarks that I have time and energy for, and respect the quite-high percentage of your comments that I’m able to respect, ignoring the rest. You seem unwilling to engage in a substantive exchange with me, or imagine that I’m not capable of one in the first place. You do you.
*You likely have, but you don’t reveal much about yourself one way or the other, do you–even when your own questions are indulged?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I just realized that you are not aware that my posts appear under the generic moniker “UnHerd Reader”, which is the default for all UnHerd posters who choose not to list a name. Some of your comments do refer to my posts but some do not. In any case I’m “tapping out” of this weird interaction.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

How convenient. Did you used to go by Aphrodite Rises here? Oh, that’s right: You just ask questions–mostly insincere ones–but never respond.
In any case, your self-serving use of the term “argument” in reference to your own opinionated assertions reminds me of that prickly and prolific commenter.
I never said you weren’t intelligent, idiosyncratic, and hard to pin down. Yet you are more allied with unbalanced views than you’ll allow, in my informed assessment. I think whoever you are behind that moniker is far-and-away the primary person using the UnHerd Reader screenname. Don’t you?

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
5 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I would not attribute ideas of freedom to the Enlightenment. Just because two things occur together does not mean they are derived from the same source or are related to one another at all. The ideals of human freedom are based in human fallibility. Because we are fallible, because we are capable of being wrong, none should be able to impose their views on all. I would argue that notions of freedom are as much attributable to Christian traditions and the notion of humility before God, and to a pragmatic desire for different ideological groups to live peaceably together in the aftermath of the religious conflicts of the Reformation. Freedom, wherever it has come to exist, has been a bottom up process, demanded by people, only tolerated by elites and intellectuals. I regard the Enlightenment as the opposite a top-down elite driven phenomenon that sought to establish a codifiable, enforceable truth that justifies top down rule. It’s purpose in part was always to establish a justification for the absolute rule of the most educated and most ‘intelligent’, to replace religious dogma with other dogmas, who rule by virtue of the ‘reason’ that they possess, but others do not. Hobbes embodies the Enlightenment. John Locke, who argued that rule should be based upon the consent of the governed, was something else entirely, not nearly so well regarded then or now. To me, it’s no accident that many of the principles of science and the philosophies that came out of the Enlightenment are easily used by technocrats to justify turning democratic power over to rule by ‘experts’ and limit freedom.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

In what world is John Locke not well regarded? Surely not among those, like you and me, who’ve actually read some of his work. Nor John Stuart Mill.
You damn the Enlightenment with all the contemporaneous developments that were excessive or misplaced and deny to it all that was wholesome. That isn’t fair or correct. Do you think the Renaissance ought to have been skipped too?
The American Constitution was, above all, a product of the Enlightenment. And have you read the Federalist Papers, particularly the numbers contributed by James Madison? An attempt to use Reason and the lessons of history to institute–or reengineer–a better government among men. And not with any built-in disregard for Providence.
Are you under the impression that the Catholic Church, C of E, or an unchecked monarchy had a less “top-down” ruling structure than a fledgling representative democracy? I’m not saying that utopianism of the Enlightenment made sense in the long run, but the emphasis on improvement and reform in this world that began with Christian Humanism (circa 1475) and continued into the early-19th century is not some cheap or unrelated fruit.
*If Hobbes, the apologist for absolute monarchy, is a key part of the Enlightenment–I don’t agree that he is, but that doesn’t make me correct–then we must accord a prominent place to Newton (probably autistic), Locke, Voltaire, Hume, Kant, Thomas Paine, and J.S. Mill too. Otherwise it’s cherrypicking run amok.
I do agree that we should not fold all coeval events into a single “ism” or historical movement. We are taking in broad generalities here. Have you read much Mill?

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
5 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Not a fan of Mill. In terms of pure theory, utilitarianism sounds like a good philosophy. The application is where things become more difficult. The concept of utility is inherently subjective, relative to the time, culture, place, and individual.. Invariably, what is good for some will not be good for others when accounting for those factors that can’t be measured. Yet, the only practical way for a government to implement utilitarian concepts is to make reductive materialistic assumptions about what is the greatest
good for the greatest number. Human thriving is reduced to measurable factors like per capita income, productivity, GDP, etc. Western civilization has maximized such factors to an extreme degree, yet for all that, who can say whether westerners are as content or satisfied as some poor fisherman on some isolated Pacific island? Crime rates and drug use, which reflect human emotional states as well as anything that can be measured, would argue the opposite. Poorer, more rural cultures, particularly in non-western countries almost invariably have lower crime rates. Using something like crime rates or drug use as measuring sticks, however indirect those measures may be, paints a far different picture. To some extent, this is exactly the point I have been making about reductive materialism. I realize Mill himself didn’t intend this to be the result, but neither did Marx envision the government of Stalin when he wrote of socialism. A logically sound philosophy can nevertheless produce all sorts of unintended negative consequences.
As far as the rest of it, I concede to being as biased by my own personal background and education as any of us. What I learned in college when I studied such things is that in philosophy, Hobbes was considered foundational to western civilization, and Locke was far less so. I recall learning that Locke was regarded as a fringe thinker, somewhat controversial during his day, and that his influence was most profound because he was popular among the American founding fathers and because America’s influence has been so pervasive since. I am open to other interpretations of history. To some extent, our debate is one of semantics. If the Enlightenment is so broad as to encompass obviously contradictory viewpoints, it makes less sense to attribute underlying themes to it. Moreover, if it could be said that we are debating different schools of thought that emerged from the Enlightenment, but the actual argument doesn’t change much.

I’m not suggesting we should all abandon technology and go live in the woods like Kingsnorth regularly does, but I think its fair to question whether some aspects of the underlying philosophies that drive government policy like economic growth, productivity, employment, and so on, have been emphasized to such an extreme degree that they are now trampling over every other human concern to our considerable detriment. This is exactly my point really, and why I consider freedom and smaller, more localized authority so critical.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Have you actually read Mill though? He is not correctly reduced to a term like libertarianism or utilitarianism, though associated with both. His genius and worth, in my amateur understanding, consists far more in his insight into political, social and intellectual fairness, a well and his forward-thinking advocacy for the rights of women and other at-the-time disenfranchised groups. There is a great deal more than abstract analysis there. Everyone should read On Liberty, in my opinion.
“What I learned in college when I studied such things is that in philosophy, Hobbes was considered foundational to western civilization, and Locke was far less so. I recall learning that Locke was regarded as a fringe thinker, somewhat controversial during his day”.
I didn’t encounter this view at all during my ten years of university, nor in my own (uneven) reading. Locke was respected and influential during his lifetime and in the generations afterward and in fact much of the language of the Declaration of Independence is lifted directly from Locke, with very few words changed, which nowadays would be considered plagiarism, but then was closer to “free borrowing”. Locke influenced politics in England during his own lifetime too. Really not as true of Hobbes, who was advocating a lost cause of absolute monarchy. Admittedly, his pessimism about human life in a state of Nature–“solitary, poor nasty, brutish, and short”–has caught on big time.
I agree our society is too materialistic and too focused on growth at any cost–except at any substantial risk to those who already hold great wealth and power. I’m actually sympathetic to parts of Kingsnorth’s anti-progress manifestos here. But I’m keeping my car and internet access for now.
We need more balance. Didn’t mean to present an oversimplified view of your remarks, nor to open another speculative can of worms. I guess we could argue the ups and downs of, for instance, Enlightenment or Industrialization. I’ll take a convenient short-cut and say that I think both are decidedly mixed bags. Thanks for the thoughtful and substantive–if not-so-specific–exchange, sir.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
5 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I did read “On Liberty” but it was many many years ago. You are undoubtedly more schooled than myself so on the whole, I’ll defer to you. I’m certainly not trying to attack Mill’s intentions anyway, just pointing out that utilitarianism carried to an extreme can be problematic. That could be said of most philosophies. From what I recall, Mill himself was fairly guarded about applying his own philosophy toward governance as such and very cognizant of the limitations and problems of his philosophy. Alas, it’s the doom of every philosopher, prophet, and religious figure to have their ideas misused by somebody or a lot of somebodies somewhere down the line. I’m pretty sure Jesus wouldn’t have approved of the crusades, for example. I thank you as well for the discussion.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Agree with all of that, except to point out that I respect your learning, intellect, and fresh perspective too. I’m reminded of the saying: “Jesus, protect me from your followers!”. Or self-proclaimed followers. See you on the next board.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago

One need only review old films of Elvis concerts in the 1950’s to recognize the nascent swarm. It was also decidedly female and enabled by the then brand-new technology of television. At the time conservatives were threatened by the phenomenon, reacted against it, and lost the battle. Each successive wave–the Beatles, Lady Diana, Madonna, etc–brought it ever closer to the swarm Harrington describes. This is not something that will go away and history may someday conclude it to be an unavoidable product of the volatile combination of information technology and democracy. If you are old like I am, take solace that, whatever comes to pass, our time is short. If you are young, thoughtful and wise, God help you.

Robert Thiesen
Robert Thiesen
5 months ago

It would be worth watching Pierre Poilievre in Canada as a potentially healthier and more principled conservative who can wield internet’s swarm culture for right wing causes. Opinion polls show that he has successfully wrested Justin Trudeau’s female swarm over to his side, and he has also generated a truly conservative swarm around basically Reaganite ideas that many even in right-wing movements assumed were dead.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
5 months ago
Reply to  Robert Thiesen

Trudeau is such a looooooser, wearing a family matching outfit in India. His pushing of the trannie agenda in Canada is shocking in its brazen denial of normalcy. I think he’s gone. I am hoping for a conservative tidal wave in Canada.

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
5 months ago

My daughters love Swift. They’re also pro-life, fairly conservative, think the gender indoctrination in schools is bonkers (and quite irritating). Sadly it won’t be Swift, but Obama who will put off the day of reckoning for another 4 years. The longer the pendulum swings, the greater the arc of the return. It’s going to be pretty

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
5 months ago

I love Taylor and Kelce. So cute. She’s a normal billionaire girl in that owner’s box, screaming like everyone else up there.
The GOP has lost the 20-35 female cohort, due to stupidity on abortion, and just cluelessness. Swift is just the cherry on the sundae.

Alan Gore
Alan Gore
5 months ago

Taylor Swift has made a billion dollars displaying her talents to willing fans. How much more capitalistic can she get? MAGAs be crazy…

Mark Royster
Mark Royster
5 months ago

There is something scripted about the whole phenom with TS and now her omnipresence in the NFL and all other media. There are so many ways for her and all in her orbit to be “news” 24/7. I’m sure the safest bet for Super Bowl is indeed KC. She’s not going to be associated with a loser. Just no way for that to play and too much has been invested for this to take a wrong turn. For the last year this battery has been charging up. Huge power now exists in it. How will it be used? We are definitely in the “nothing by chance or accident” zone.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
5 months ago

Seeing as she’s dating a football player, maybe the progressives should fear her?

philip kern
philip kern
5 months ago

More evidence that I’m out of touch. I have three sons (two of whom are very conservative) who have all been huge Taylor Swift fans since her early days. Never knew her audience was as female-based as this article repeatedly states.

William Shaw
William Shaw
5 months ago

Does Mary really consider young women so shallow, mindless and easily manipulated?

Brian Matthews
Brian Matthews
5 months ago

I think the word ‘hate’ is being used incorrectly here. If they have their knickers in a twist over this theory or that theory, the word is concern or delusion. Not hate.

But I guess that’s the go to word these days. Seems pretty sloppy for Mary though.

Will K
Will K
5 months ago

Everyone should fear entertainers influencing voters. Only the media should influence voters.

Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
5 months ago

IMHO MAGA swarmies are considerably more mindless than. Swifties. At least Swift did not have to spend $50 million on legal fees

leonard o'reilly
leonard o'reilly
5 months ago

On the subject of Taylor Swift: As T.S.Elliot didn’t say, I had not thought the sensibilities of 13-year old girls had undone so many.
To the sometimes interesting and always honest Mary Harrington: What is the difference between swarms and dependably periodic irruptions of herd behaviour?
A more interesting topic for her, if I may be so bold, would be to nail down the psychic change in the body politic now that people of a very different psychological temperament exercise a very nearly equal share of power. The past 70 or so years in the West may be seen as a gigantic social experiment with no thought given to this cautionary note: You can’t change the sensibility of those exercising power without changing the nature of that power and the ends to which it is exercised.
As Old Possum also didn’t say: I had such a vision of power as power itself doesn’t understand.
An example might be the fact that the emotional temperament of 13-year old girls exerts a gravitational contagion inversely proportional to its gravitas.
Greta Thunberg, the little scold, might be another.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago

What is this woman blathering on about?
I think she gives a pop grifter too much cred by half.
Oh and less of the “swivel eyed loons” thank you madam. Their fears have at least a sixty percent chance of being confirmed and possibly more, if we were ever allowed access to all the information.
Taylor Swift is just another albeit more sophisticated version of the Monteceto
Two.
Anyone who can be influenced by her or any other “entertainment “ person into changing sides, does not deserve the vote.

James Jenkin
James Jenkin
5 months ago

Funnily, in my 1985 Year 12 politics class (at a boys’ school), we were told women are naturally more conservative because they’re concerned about protecting babies, and men are more progressive because they’re thinkers. Or something like that.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
5 months ago

People get the government they deserve. Solzhenitsyn said if 10% of the population had taken one and defeated the KBG, there would have been no mass slaughter. Germany voted for Hitler. France in the 1930s was practically in a civil war between Roman Catholic Conservatives and atheistic Communist which is why it collapsed in 1940.
Britain had civil war between Parliament and Charles I over the Divine Right of Kings. Perhaps 10% of the male population of fighting age was killed but few women , children or elderly were killed and few women raped. The King was executed after a trial and died with dignity The Queen was not executed or royal children murdered. In French and Russian Revolutions the royal families were murdered and there was mass slaughter.
Orwell said Britain had remarkably peaceful civilisation where change occurred with minimal violence. In the Peasants Revolt of 1381 perhaps 250 were killed whereas in the Jaquerie’s  Revolt there was mass slaughter of the
aristocracy including cannibalism. In the German Peasants Revolt , perhaps 120,000 peasants were slaughtered after the rulers won.
After Charles II returned to the throne in 1660 there was little revenge on Parliamentarians and much was forgot   by 1700. In Spain, 83 years after the Civil War is still enmity between factions.
There is no magic money tree. There are nasty people in the World who enjoy murder, torture and rape. If people do not want to wade in sewage; sewers and sewage works have to be designed, built and maintained. Power stations built to provide electricity; cement produced to make concrete and metal refined. All these jobs require a high degree of maths, physics, chemistry; willingness to work to high levels of precision and accuracy and undertake hazardous  work in dirty, dangerous environment and uncomfortable weather.
So people can vote for politicians  who promise paradise: a life of comfort and security without hard work and courage but do not complain if they deliver violence, misery and squalor. The freedom, security and comfort we enjoy in the Anglophone World was built on the blood, sweat and bones of our ancestors.