Taylor Swift was never really cancelled, but she likes to pretend she was
No one wants nice songs anymore. They want a persona they can emulate, a life they can fantasize about living within, and most of all, they want a redemption story. The story of Taylor Swift, Kanye West, and Kim Kardashian’s social media altercation played out in real-time. Fans and haters alike (is there much difference between the two?) were able to have a very, virtual impact on the perception and fall out between the three celebs. Swift suffered the most hate, but her emergence from “cancel culture” gives fans exactly what they want.
Taylor Swift had a rough time back in 2016. She went through that very 21st-century experience that so many of us have gone through, that of being cancelled. In Swift’s case, it was the result of pop culture faction warfare. She went up against the phenomenon then known as Kimye—Kanye West and Kim Kardashian—and lost. Their fans against her fans, he said she said, a war over who knew what when about what Kanye was going to sing in his song “Famous.” In the track, he references Swift, muses on the likelihood of them ever having sex, and also calls her a bitch.
The issue wasn’t whether or not West should have so poetically pontificated on the possibility of potential procreation with Swift, because Swift knew about that, and had given her consent to the lyric, in friendship. What she wasn’t cool with was the B-word, and she made that plain on social media. Kimye balked, said she knew about it, and in general this whole beef is old news. Except that in the fallout, Swift took some serious fire from fans. She opened up about what it meant to her to get so much social media hate in a recent issue with Vogue:
“When you’re going through loss or embarrassment or shame, it’s a grieving process with so many micro emotions in a day. One of the reasons why I didn’t do interviews for Reputation was that I couldn’t figure out how I felt hour to hour. Sometimes I felt like: All these things taught me something that I never could have learned in a way that didn’t hurt as much. Five minutes later, I’d feel like: That was horrible. Why did that have to happen? What am I supposed to take from this other than mass amounts of humiliation? And then five minutes later I’d think: I think I might be happier than I’ve ever been.”
These are brave, wise words from an artist who went up against a coupled pop icon and lost. As anyone who has been cancelled can tell you, the emotions can get a little crazy. Sometimes you wonder if there’s a way to reverse the whole thing, other times you know there isn’t and you feel villainized, other times justified, and still at other points you want to crawl under a rock and live out your days eating blind beetles. Swift, at least, has a loft in Tribeca from which to contemplate her fate.
She lost face, but in real terms, she didn’t lose that much. Her career is intact, her fans still love her, and she’s making a bigger splash than before in terms of speaking her mind on political and social issues. Whereas she wouldn’t come out in support of Hillary Clinton, she is now loudly advocating for LGBTQ rights with both voice and dollar. She is open about her open-mindedness and is determined not to shy away from verbalizing her views.
What happened between Kim K, Kanye, and Taylor Swift is almost mind-numbingly stupid. The lyric in question was uninspired, and the insult banal and kind of impersonal given how much the B-word is tossed around in popular music. Despite all this, the disagreement over whether or not Swift was made hip to the lyric was enough to cause some controversy and ire. The result of this attack on Swift was that after a period of confusion and uncertainty, she’s back with a new record, and more willing than ever to speak up for what she believes in.
There’s only one little snag, and that’s that Taylor Swift was never really cancelled. Keeping your agent and your record deal and your fan base isn’t what cancellation looks like. No doubt she was mobbed, she was harassed, she got heaps of hate. But she wasn’t cancelled. What happens when you are cancelled is that you lose everything, whether through a fault of your own, a false allegation, or your own unwillingness to shut up about your controversial opinions.
Swift’s fans kept with her, even as her haters slid under her fingernails like so many toothpicks pointed for torture. But in a real way, this whole thing provided some drama for a nail-biting audience. Fans want more than cheap tunes and scintillating thrills, more than auto-tune and illicit B words. They want a story that plays out between celebs. They want to see the beef so they know that even the big shots got more problems, that’s what comes with more money, after all.
This cancellation is part of Swift’s redemption narrative, and it doesn’t matter if it was real or concocted, or who was right. The story of her innocence now has a classic fall-from-grace element, and she has been able to transform from little girl pop star into serious, adult artist, and she didn’t even have to twerk at the VMA’s like Miley Cyrus, either. This narrative worked for her, and being pitted against the force that is Kim K and Kanye was effective in her emergence from the chrysalis of girlhood.
Despite songs about her relationships and her experiences, Swift was perceived as somewhat of a good girl. Once Kanye called her a bitch, and talked about their potential affair, that persona was done away with. Swift’s was not a cancellation, but a tweaking of her narrative, a reimagining of her brand, and an opportunity for a second chance without really having to admit to having been at fault for anything. Swift gives the appearance of having walked through hell, when really she was just on an afternoon bus tour.
Actor Laurence Fox says that “the wokist is a fundamentally racist bunch.” On BBC’s Question Time, he said that the backlash against Meghan Markle was not racist, and called a woman of colour racist for suggesting that his identity means he can’t discern racism.
“The problem we’ve got with this is that Meghan has agreed to be Harry’s wife,” a woman spoke up from the audience, “and the press has torn her to pieces, and let’s be really clear about what this is, let’s call it by its name: it’s racism.”
He decried her view, saying “It’s not racism, we’re the most tolerant lovely country in Europe.”
“Says a white privileged man,” she shot back.
“It’s so easy to throw the charge of racism at everybody,” Fox replied, “and it’s really starting to get boring.”
“What worries me about your comment,” she said, “is you’re a white privileged male.” A round of audience boos rose up.
Fox was clearly annoyed by her comment. “I can’t help what I am, I was born like this,” he said, “it’s an immutable characteristic, so to call me a white privileged male is to be racist. You’re being racist.”
For this, he was skewered in the press and received death threats. Even after “Equity’s minority ethnic members committee… called on fellow actors to ‘unequivocally denounce’ Laurence Fox for comments he made during an appearance on BBC1’s Question Time,” author Shappi Khorsandi spoke against that denunciation.
And Fox wouldn’t back down. Instead, he took to the airwaves with Julia Hartley-Brewer on Talk Radio’s Breakfast Show this morning to expand upon his views.
It was in talking with Hartley-Brewer that he said “I think there’s racism everywhere but I don’t think we’re a systemically racist country. I don’t see a lot of racism, but then I’m a straight white male.” He went on to say that “identity politics is fundamentally racist as well,” because “it’s about silencing opinion,” and “seeing colour everywhere.”
Fox gave voice to what many people have been thinking, that the language of racism and accusations of bias have jumped the shark. Racism had been a charge that could only be levelled by minority racial groups against dominant racial groups. It was a scourge that needed to be rooted out at the highest levels of power to prevent systemic inequity. This project was undertaken by Civil Rights activists, and that work has continued in all of us. As Fox notes, there is still racism.
But the way to fix that racism is not by categorizing everyone into their own little identity boxes and determining what they are allowed to say or think based on the rights and privileges of that identity. The thing to do is to treat everyone like a human being, capable of having their own thoughts and ideas. People must look for the best in one another, not the worst, and not seek out every opportunity to be offended.
Calling someone a privileged white male, said Fox, is a way of “silencing opinion,” saying “you’re not allowed an opinion, mate, you’re white.” Fox has had enough of it, as have so many people.
There are no identity factors that make someone a bad person. Identity factors, such as race, sex, ethnicity, or sexual orientation should not have value judgements associated with them. For one hot minute, we used to know this. The goal was to look at each other and not parse up individuals into their requisite labels, to not use a person’s external characteristics to determine the worth of their ideas or their rights under the law.
That all turned around with concepts like “valuing differences,” wherein we were supposed to look at the ways in which we were different first, dissect and acknowledge those, before seeking for the ways in which we were the same. How much better it is to find kinship with one another first, before sorting all the ways in which we are different.
Fox’s perspective on racism and identity will most likely continue to be discredited because his identity factors are deemed more essential than his actual perspective. His views are taken with large grains of white cis het male privileged salt. But it’s time to start realizing that the brilliant Civil Rights movement, which told us not to judge someone on the basis of their physical characteristics, has been co-opted by haters who would have us do that very same thing. It doesn’t matter who is being boxed by immutable identity factors and judged by them, it matters that it’s being done at all, and it must stop.
Some stories do have happy endings. Yesterday, we reported on journalist David Leavitt’s mean spirited attempt to shame an innocent Target employee over a mislabelled toothbrush. He even went so far as to call the police because the electric toothbrush wasn’t $0.01.
Well, shortly after the viral moment, Twitter user and notorious meme-maker @CarpeDonktum decided to set up a GoFundMe page to give the Target employee, Tori, a much-needed vacation.
Today, we’ve learned that the fundraising endeavour was a massive success, with over $19,500 raised for Tori to take a break and put this nasty incident behind her.
@CarpeDonktum tweeted today: “I have made contact with #TargetTori, she has received authorization to release 2 photos to verify that we are in contact. I need a representative from @gofundme to contact me to arrange the transfer of control of the account to Tori.”
GoFundMe has arranged the transfer of the funds to Tori and now the story is complete. Happy ending achieved!
David Leavitt, an award-winning multimedia journalist who has worked for CBS, AXS, Yahoo, and others just tried to shame a Target employee over a toothbrush.
Leavitt spotted an Oral-B electric toothbrush that was incorrectly labelled at a list price of $0.01.
When Target manager Tori did not honour the “price,” Leavitt thought it would be a good idea to a) call the police, b) tweet a photo of the manager in an attempt to shame her, c) announces his intentions to sue the company.
“I just had to call the police because @target refused to sell me the toothbrush,” he tweeted.
“I have not been able to afford to go to a dentist in over three years. So yes I wanted a good toothbrush and was thrilled to see such an amazing prize on an @OralB but @target refused to honor it and now I have to take them to court,” he said in a follow-up tweet.
Twitter was quick to respond, defending the Target employee, who was clearly just doing her job. “Dude, please take her photo down. In what universe do you think it’s ok to shame a woman working at @Target because she didn’t sell you a toothbrush for 1cent? Calling the cops was bizarre, too. It’s an obvious labelling error, she did her job.” said Sky News’ Rita Panahi
“Leave the girl out of this and take down her picture. You’re a bad person for doing this to her,” Bridget Phetasy added.
Popular Twitter personality Imam of Peace was not impressed, and exposed that Leavitt was lying about not seeing a dentist in three years:
This isn’t Leavitt’s first attempt to shame an employee at a retail store. In December 2018, he pulled a similar stunt by targeting a Wal-Mart Assistant Manager.
It’s also not Leavitt’s first experience being ratioed. In 2017, Leavitt tweeted a truly tasteless joke about the Manchester terrorist bombing that killed 22 people.
This most recent bizarre Twitter outburst has led many to ponder what one Twitter user put quite succinctly: “WTF is wrong with David Leavitt?”
Yet another woke record store has decided to ban British pop icon Morrissey from its shelves. This time, the Glasgow Evening Times reports that Glasgow’s “Monorail Music said it would continue to sell records by the Smiths but ‘like many of our colleagues’ would not be selling the singer’s 13th studio album, ‘I am not a dog on a chain.’”
This follows last year’s indie music store ban on Morrissey’s last album, “California Son.” Cardiff’s Spillers, which calls itself “the oldest record shop in the world,” declined to carry the record in retaliation for Morrissey’s political views. These views include support for Brexit, saying that the word “racist” is meaningless because it’s used so liberally, and that crime in London cannot be properly dealt with if the perpetrators are viewed as victims.
Morrissey responded to the last round of smears and bans by saying, “I straighten up, and my position is one of hope. The march backwards is over, and life has begun again. With voice extended to breaking point, I call for the prosperity of free speech; the eradication of totalitarian control; I call for diversity of opinion; I call for the total abolition of the abattoir; I call for peace, above all; I call for civil society; I call for a so-far unknowable end to brutalities; ‘No’ to Soviet Britain.”
Of course, the bans and smears don’t work. These kinds of actions will not stop Morrissey’s fans from buying the new album. The Guardian has consistently tried to smear Morrissey, and in response, Morrissey wore a t-shirt reading “Fuck The Guardian.” Fans know that Morrissey being able to speak his mind means that they are free to speak theirs, to hold opposing views, and to still listen to the new tracks Morrissey releases with consistent quality year after year.
Bookshops and record stores are not required to carry anything that they don’t wish to, obviously, but there is something sinister in the refusal to carry selections by such a popular, long-standing pop star, whose music on last year’s “California Son” was not political, and who lifts other artists through collaboration, simply because he’s not afraid to speak his mind.
Writer Fiona Dodwell responded to the ridiculous ban by tweeting: “How about businesses stock and store products and let customers choose what they want? This achieves nothing, Morrissey will still sell albums—with or without your company “banning” his records. People simply go elsewhere (and learn where NOT to shop next time!)”
How many pop stars have heterodox views but don’t say them out of fear of retaliation? Probably plenty, they just don’t say it, because they don’t want their work to suffer the same fate of being banned by distributors.
Morrissey has made his entire career out of being an iconoclast who “will not change and will not be nice.” So much the better for his fans, who strive to lead lives according to their own value systems, and not those imposed by a hypocritical society hell-bent on squashing free thought and individuality while claiming to uphold those very qualities they persistently deride.
When the new album drops on March 20, it will be interesting to see which other shops signal their virtue by refusing to carry it, and which ones instead cater to consumers and offer it for sale. Not carrying “I am not a dog on a chain” has more to do with the owner’s false sense of righteousness than punishing Morrissey. Time and time again, Morrissey has shown that he can’t be shelved and forgotten. His work is too essential and beautiful for that.