Singer Taylor Swift [Source: AP News]
Some of Taylor Swift’s fans want you to know three things: They’re not still 16, they have careers and resources and, right now, they’re angry. That’s a powerful political motivator, researchers say.
Look what Ticketmaster made them do.
It started Nov. 15, when millions crowded a presale for Swift’s long-awaited Eras Tour, resulting in crashes, prolonged waits and frantic purchases. By Thursday, Ticketmaster had cancelled the general sale, citing insufficient remaining tickets and inciting a firestorm of outrage from fans. Swift herself said the ordeal “really pisses me off.”
Ticketmaster apologized but the bad blood had already been sowed. And now fans — and politicians — have started acting on it.
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez directed Swifties to where they could make U.S. Department of Justice complaints. Multiple state attorneys general — including in Pennsylvania and Tennessee, key states in Swift’s origin story — have announced investigations.
Stephanie Aly, a New York-based professional who has worked on community organizing for progressive politics, for years has thought mobilizing fandoms for social progress could be beneficial.
“Fandoms are natural organizers,” said the 33-year-old Swiftie. “If you find the right issues and you activate them and engage them then you can effect real change.”
In 2020, for instance, K-pop fans organized to back the Black Lives Matter movement and sought to inflate registration for a Donald Trump rally. Aly and Swifties from different industries — law, public relations, cybersecurity and more — have joined forces to create Vigilante Legal, a group lobbying to create policy change around Ticketmaster and organize the Swifties, while creating email templates to petition attorneys general and providing antitrust information. Thousands have expressed interest in helping or learning more.
In one way, said Sinzdak, this is giving Swift’s large following of younger people a direct line to seeing how policy takes shape. It’s also targeting a demographic that is seldom courted by politicians during election season.
Fan culture and community has boosted that tendency toward mobilization. Nisbett was studying parasocial relationships — when fans have strong one-way relationships with celebrities — in 2018, when the previously apolitical Swift posted an endorsement of Democratic candidates to social media. Nisbett found that while such posts may not determine fans’ votes, they still led to the increased likelihood fans would look for more information about voting — and actually vote.