In the music video for her most recent single, “You Need to Calm Down,” Taylor Swift portrays religious Americans as toothless, hateful know-nothings who irrationally oppose the fun and individual autonomy enjoyed by the liberated gay community.
Sunshine on the street at the parade
But you would rather be in the dark age
Just making that sign…
We figured you out
We all know now
We all got crowns
You need to calm down.
In her video, Swift reclines in a colorful lawn chair as a crowd of religious bigots scream at her from the other side of a drag queen’s fabulous runway. At the end of the video, Swift asks her fans to sign a petition to put a bill before congress that would legislate against the rights of Christian businessowners, non-profits, and churches.
This kind of derision – bold political action packaged as light entertainment – is a common technique used by the propaganda ministries of totalitarian regimes. Just as totalitarian regimes manufacture fake news, they also promote fake satire.
The Soviets had a state-sanctioned “satire” magazine called Krokodil that was the comedic branch of the state’s newspaper, the Worker’s Gazette. Krokodil smeared ethnic groups that allegedly did not support the communist regime. Like the Worker’s Gazette, the Krokodil never criticized the Soviet regime itself, which is typically the subject of comedy in a free society. Instead, Krokodil aimed its jokes, humor, and entertainment at those backward groups throughout the Soviet empire rumored to not have fully supported the Revolution.
The point of the Krokodil magazine was not to illicit genuine laughs, it was to intimidate and instill fear. Krokodil emphasized the idea that those who opposed the regime were too weak to resist for long. This kind of propaganda plays to the masses’ cowardice and herd mentality. Most men take the path of least resistance and would rather stand behind the schoolyard bully as he mocks the weak than resist him. A schoolyard bully is often followed by a cowardly entourage that will laugh compulsively at his jokes.
You might think that comparing pop music videos and American pulp media to the Soviet regime is a bit much, but it makes perfect sense when we acquaint ourselves with the concept of Cultural Marxism – a postmodern branch of communist theory that calls for a revolt against the traditional moral norms of Western Civilization. Cultural Marxism essentially holds that sexual repression is a class issue, and in order to make everyone equal, the masses of misfits must smash the patriarchy and every one of its rigid and repressive rules.
This is clearly the underlying message of Taylor Swift’s video. This isn’t satire about religious Americans. This is an effort to marginalize them as an “other.”
Swift’s “satirical” video stands in sharp contrast to earlier portrayals of Christians in American satire. Take the Evangelical “Ned Flanders” character from “The Simpsons” as an example.
Matt Groening portrays Flanders as dorky, a bit out of touch, and perhaps a bit overzealous from time to time. However, Groening gives Flanders credit for being moral and upright in a culture of moral anomie. For every dozen dorky Christian jokes, Flanders has a moment or two of moral insight and demonstrates his compassion.
Real satire is marked by its capacity and eagerness to critique the existing regime and culture. The Simpsons portrayed Christian conservatives as an integral part of American society. Swift’s video portrays religious Americans as a backward minority, a group of outsiders that “we” ought to legislate against.
Entertainment that dares not critique the the status quo and instead targets groups that don’t fit in is top-down bullying. When this type of crocodile humor is bound up with political action, as in the music video, “You Need to Calm Down,” it’s quite obvious that the goal is not to critique but to bully and affect political action and cultural revolution.
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