ACLU Steps in After Taylor Swift Threatens to Sue Blogger
The American Civil Liberties Union has intervened after Taylor Swift threatened legal action over a blog post that aligns her music with white supremacists.
In a press release on Tuesday (Nov. 6), the organization revealed that the ACLU of Northern California fired off a letter to the country-turned-pop superstar and her attorney, "refuting their meritless legal defamation threats against a local blogger."
The item that drew Swift's ire was an unusual blog post titled “Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation," which editor Meghan Herning posted to PopFront on Sept. 5. The lengthy post claims Swift gave a mainstream face to a narrative of "a black man taking away a white woman's power" when Kanye West famously interrupted her acceptance for Best Female Video speech at the 2009 Video Music Awards.
The article alleges Swift "has been playing off that narrative ever since, while America has embraced the notion of white victimhood — despite the reality." It goes on to claim that Swift has been adopted by elements of the white nationalist alt-right, calling out what the writer terms the "dog whistles to white supremacy in the lyrics of her latest single." The post calls for Swift to personally denounce white supremacy, saying, "silence in the face of injustice means support for the oppressor."
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Herning received a letter from Swift and her attorney on Oct. 25, calling the story defamatory. The letter threatened a lawsuit if Herning did not issue a retraction, remove the story from all media sources, and cease and desist. She contacted the ACLU, and lawyers for the organization determined the blog post is opinion protected by the First Amendment and Swift's legal claims were not supported. The ACLU responded with a letter of its own to Swift and her attorney, requested a response by Nov. 13 confirming that they will not pursue a lawsuit.
"Intimidation tactics like these are unacceptable," ACLU attorney Matt Cagle states. "Not in her wildest dreams can Ms. Swift use copyright law to suppress this exposure of a threat to constitutionally protected speech."
"The press should not be bullied by high-paid lawyers or frightened into submission by legal jargon," Herning adds. "These scare tactics may have worked for Taylor in the past, but I am not backing down."
It's not clear what the ACLU's next steps would be if Swift's attorney does not comply with their request.
The news comes during a week when freedom of the press has already been under scrutiny in country music. On Thursday morning (Nov. 2), the CMA issued red carpet guidelines to journalists covering the CMA Awards in 2017 that restricted them from asking questions about the mass shooting that took place in Las Vegas in October, gun control or political affiliations, and threatening to yank their credentials if they did not comply.
The organization backed down and apologized the following day after a public outcry that was capped off by artists including Cam and Maren Morris weighing in. Brad Paisley is co-hosting the CMA Awards with Carrie Underwood for the tenth time in 2017, and he called the guidelines "ridiculous and unfair" in a tweet just one hour before the CMA reversed its decision.
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