Is The Tide Turning Against Taylor Swift? – Forbes

Taylor Swift. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
The unstoppable rise of superstar Taylor Swift seems to have hit a patch of turbulence, after Swift’s heavy use of pollution-spewing private jets prompted online backlash and mockery.
Swift has never been a particularly controversial pop star and can seem almost immune to criticism, with her loyal army of Swifties always on guard to push back against detractors.
However, the singer’s private jet controversy sparked widespread criticism, even within her fanbase.
Swift’s team threatened legal action against college student Jack Sweeney, who runs several social media accounts that monitor private jet usage among the wealthy, including Swift, some of which also analyze the carbon emissions spewed by the planes.
Sweeney uses public data from the Federal Aviation Administration and relies on a network of volunteers to help run the accounts; he previously came under fire from Elon Musk, who described the tracking of his jets as “assassination coordinates.”
Swift’s attorney wrote Sweeney a cease-and-desist letter saying Swift would “have no choice but to pursue any and all legal remedies” if Sweeney did not stop his “stalking and harassing behavior.” The letter asserts that there is “no legitimate interest in or public need for this information, other than to stalk, harass, and exert dominion and control.”
Bizarrely, the letter also cites anonymous Instagram comments from Swifties, describing Sweeney’s jet tracking as “pathetic” and “weird.”
The letter wasn’t a good look for Swift; a billionaire targeting a college student for exposing her carbon emissions through publicly available data didn’t garner the sympathy of online commentators.
Threatening legal action against a college student even raised eyebrows within Swift’s fanbase. Reddit’s largest Swiftie subreddit, r/TaylorSwift (with more than 1.6 million members), featured the story on the front page, and the thread was filled with disappointed commentators criticizing the pop star.
One commentator described the letter as a “cruel move.” Another emphasized the importance of criticizing Swift from within the fandom, writing: “I love her. I love her work. I love her music. But these are all just facts. We are fans…not members of a cult.”
The mods ended up locking the thread, but the criticism spread far beyond Reddit, and became something of a meme.

Soon, commentators began posting clips of rocket ships and helicopters, jokingly comparing them to Swift’s travels.

Swift has been criticized for excessive use of private jets before, after topping a 2022 list of celebrities ranked by their private jet emissions — quite a feat, considering Swift wasn’t even on tour that year.
At the time, a spokesperson for Swift said: “Taylor’s jet is loaned out regularly to other individuals. To attribute most or all of these trips to her is blatantly incorrect.”
At a time of increased environmental awareness, especially among Gen Z, the carbon-costly excesses of the rich and famous are stoking public resentment. What’s the point in stressing about recycling, paper straws and individual carbon footprints when the skies are being poisoned by the fumes of private jets?
Swift isn’t the only environmental offender — far from it — but private jets don’t seem to be as much of a PR issue for other high-flying celebrities. Kylie Jenner’s penchant for flying private sparked similar criticism, but the discourse didn’t really stick, partly because the Kardashian/Jenner brand is rooted in excess and luxury.
Swift’s personal brand is more wholesome and folksy; threatening to sue a student risks tarnishing that carefully cultivated image.
Swift savvily presents herself as a girl-next-door from a small town, but in reality, she is ruthlessly entrepreneurial — one doesn’t become a billionaire by accident.
The power of Swift’s brand has been attributed to her supposed relatability, honesty and empathy.
For any celebrity or influencer, maintaining a wholesome facade is a constant struggle — the YouTube video essay “Manufacturing Authenticity” by cultural critic Lindsay Ellis takes an unusually honest approach, exploring how relatability can be a heavy burden.
For Swift, the wealth and lifestyle gap between her and the Swifties is something of an inconvenient truth.
Probably not, unless Sweeney is targeted by Swift’s legal team again. Otherwise, the private jets story is likely to fade as the news cycle moves on to juicier scandals.
Recently, Swift has drawn negative commentary from conservative influencers who have taken offense to the handful of times she has spoken out politically, mostly against culture war issues spearheaded by Republicans.
Some commentators even created an elaborate conspiracy theory, proposing that the pop star’s success is artificial, and that the NFL is rigged in Swift’s boyfriend’s favor (Swift is currently dating Travis Kelce, tight end to the Kansas City Chiefs).
The bizarre conspiracy theory is niche, and unlikely to overshadow the excitement of Swift attending the Super Bowl; even the private jets story will be blown away by the media frenzy.
Swift’s presence at the big game is fueling something of a branding orgy, as Swift’s fanbase has developed an interest in the NFL; the opportunity for teenage Swifties to bond with their football-watching dads is the dominant narrative.
Dads and daughters enjoying an all-American sport together is exactly the kind of heart-warming story that works in Swift’s favor, even if her private plane has to fly across the world to get there.

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