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Is Taylor Swift a ‘psy-op’? Why right-wing commentators want you to think so

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Right-wing commentators are calling Taylor Swift a psy-op, a move experts say can be considered a psy-op in itself.

For U.S. president Joe Biden‘s supposed deep-state operatives, the plan couldn’t be simpler.

First, recruit somewhat-popular country singer Taylor Swift as an “election interference psy-op” and over several years — using the pentagon’s vast musical expertise — turn her into perhaps the most famous pop star (if not person) in the world. Next, arrange her romance with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, so when the Chiefs inevitably win the (fixed) Super Bowl next Sunday, Kelce would have a reason to bring the superstar onto the field.

With the world’s eyes fixed upon them, Kelce would drop to one knee and propose. Swift, sneaking a knowing look to the media, will then take the opportunity to endorse Biden as president — an apparently crushing blow to Republican front-runner Donald Trump in the 2024 presidential election.

At least, that’s the plan according to an online conspiracy theory spotlighted by mainstream right-wing commentators, influential far-right voices and even former Republican presidential candidates — ironically pushing a narrative that can be considered a psy-op in itself, experts tell the Star.

Is there any truth to this theory? Why is it spreading now? And what even is a “psy-op?” We asked a panel of experts to break it down; here’s what they said.

Why do people think Taylor Swift is a Pentagon psy-op?

In recent days, a number of influential right-wing voices spread the theory that Swift is a Biden psy-op intended to influence voters, after Fox News host Jesse Watters first brought the idea to the mainstream on his prime time show last month.

“Have you ever wondered why or how (Swift) blew up like this?” Watters asked on Jan. 10. “Well, around four years ago, the Pentagon psychological operations unit floated turning Taylor Swift into an asset during a NATO meeting. What kind of asset? A psy-op for combating online misinformation.”

He then aired a heavily edited clip of Johns Hopkins professor Alicia Marie Bargar (who has no known association with the Pentagon) at a 2019 NATO cyber conflict conference, where she noted that when Swift speaks, her fans tend to listen.

This was apparently enough evidence for a flood of influential voices, from alt-right conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec to failed Republican presidential nominee Vivek Ramaswamy, to share the idea on their own platforms.

“I wonder if there’s a major presidential endorsement coming from an artificially culturally propped-up couple this fall,” Ramaswamy recently wrote on X. “Just some wild speculation over here, let’s see how it ages over the next 8 months.”

Notably, while Taylor Swift has encouraged her fans to vote in the past, she’s remained largely non-partisan and has not directly endorsed a party.

Why is Taylor Swift being targeted by the far-right?

Experts believe something else is going on. “The theory doesn’t seem likely to me,” said Jeffrey Dvorkin, a senior fellow at the University of Toronto’s Massey College and author of book “Trusting the News in a Digital Age.”

“There’s always been a tendency for people on the extreme right to question the motivations of cultural figures, whether it’s Elvis Presley or any other artist who (is perceived to be) expressing their art in order to undermine cultural or moral values,” he told the Star. “… It seems likely there are people who are so disturbed by her popularity and the image that she has for young women, they want to undermine her influence for their own reasons.”

As for why the theory is catching on now, Dvorkin pointed to the widespread anxiety over the coming election: “When the world gets complicated, people look for simple explanations,” he said.

Alistair Edgar, an associate professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University, noted that the right-wing push to brand Swift as a Democrat agent can itself be considered a psy-op. But first, here’s what the term actually means.

What even is a psy-op?

Short for psychological operation, the term psy-op can broadly refer to any sort of project designed to deliberately provoke a response or sway the thinking of people or a populace, according to Edgar and David Welch, the university research chair and professor of political science at the University of Waterloo.

Perhaps the most elaborate historical example occurred in World War II, Welch explained, when allied forces convinced the Nazis their invasion of France would come at Calais — and built an entire fake army, complete with inflatable tanks and fake radio chatter, to pull off the ruse.

“Social media, chat rooms, and other online (forums) make it easy for both state and nonstate actors to conduct psy-ops,” he said. “QAnon is a great recent example. Conspiracy theories thrive in the modern communications ecosystem.”

Edgar added that psy-ops are essentially “anything that’s designed to create an emotional or psychological response in an audience… and although he probably doesn’t understand the irony, what Jesse (Watters) was pushing is a psy-op.

“He’s trying to get an emotional response from his viewers to jump up and down and say, this is all a Democratic plot that connects Taylor Swift and the Democratic Party and the National Football League. He’s trying to get that response out of people, and what he’s doing in that sense is a psy-op,” Edgar explained. “It’s also just trying to boost his numbers.”

The incident is just the latest example of a concerning phenomenon where media personalities on both sides of the political spectrum share unfounded theories cooked up online, which have been offered unprecedented reach by the power of social media, Dvorkin added.

“Now, with AI looming on the horizon, we’re starting to ask, well, is this real (information), or is this created by AI?” he continued. “We’re stuck in this kind of no-person’s land of myth and mythology, and nobody knows what the hell is real anymore.”

Credit belongs to : www.thestar.com

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