The Taylor Swift effect: debunking the political influence of celebrities

Within the last month, US republicans have been taking to social media creating the conspiracy theory that Taylor Swift has the power to influence the US vote and block Trump from re-entering the white house. These conspiracy theorists have dubbed Swift as being a ‘pentagon asset.’ Indeed, many celebrities have endorsed certain politicians such as Oprah Winfrey supporting Obama, but should they be able to use their platform to promote a certain political agenda?


We all have the right to the freedom of speech, and this extends to the plain of social media therefore creating the argument that celebrities can express their political opinion as publicly as they desire. Furthermore, whilst few celebrities have the influencing power of Swift (in terms of the sheer volume of their fan base) all celebrities do have the capacity to influence. This is essentially what makes a modern-day celebrity. This influence is also determined by the public, if public support for a celebrity diminishes, so too does their influence. Therefore, the conspiracy theory blaming Taylor Swift for manipulating voters into voting a certain way should be blaming the public for enabling her influence to mean anything. As voters, we have the capacity to both allow a celebrity’s political opinion to have the power to influence our individual vote, and to prevent it from having any power at all. This highlights a fundamental flaw in the republican theory. In a democracy, citizens have freedom of thought and the freedom to vote for their preferred candidate. Everyone has some form of epistemic power, just at different degrees of successful influence. The public believe that these celebrities are credible and give them the attention, so it could be concluded that the public are equally to blame. This conspiracy theory essentially is creating the picture that democrats can be easily manipulated and lack the self-awareness to vote for themselves. Whilst there are celebrities who are very open about being affiliated with the democrat party, there are also those who publicly support the republican party such as Ye (Kanye West).


Whether you disagree with celebrities being able to ‘manipulate’ the public into voting in a certain way, they can use their power to promote good. For example, in September 2023, Taylor Swift posted an Instagram story with a link to the US voting registry, urging her followers to register to vote. This led to 35,000 people registering which is an incredible feat. There are also nuances in how celebrities choose to display their political opinions. For example, there are political advocates such as Greta Thunberg who use their platform to support larger political caused such as climate change. Other examples of this are Mila Kunis speaking out about Ukraine and the Hadid’s supporting Palestine, which has helped raise both awareness and financial aid for great causes. If the far-right republicans want celebrities to step away from the sphere of politics, then a celebrity using their influence to gain power is a direct contradiction of these wishes. Donald Trump was a celebrity before he became president, yet he used his platform to enhance his presidential campaign.


So where can the line be drawn? As a society, we live in the age of the celebrity and the age of social media. Not only do these public figures have influence, but they also have the capacity to reach millions in a single post. If people want to undermine an entire political campaign by suggesting that they lost due to a post on Instagram, then let them. Everyone has their own individual agency to decide how they vote and if they want to be influenced by Taylor Swift then that it their own choice, not hers or anyone else’s.


Image by Aaron Kittredge on Pexels 

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