Taylor Swift conspiracy theory suggests she’s a government psyop and we are so confused

Taylor Swift wears a sparkly outfit as she poses with her arms out during a concert

Fox News host Jesse Watters has peddled a conspiracy theory that Taylor Swift isn’t just a musician, but a government covert agent for psychological operations.

Even by Watters’ standards, this is truly bizarre. 

During his show on Tuesday (9 January), he questioned why the singer’s popularity “blew up”. Of course, it couldn’t be that people like her music and that she’s cultivated a dedicated fan base over the years. 

No, Watters suggested that Swift’s success and status is because the US government recruited her to be a psyop – an “asset’ who is part of military operations to convey selected information, such as propaganda, to influence audience motives, behaviour and thinking.

“Around four years ago, the Pentagon psychological operations unit floated turning Taylor Swift into an asset during a NATO meeting,” Watters told viewers. “What kind of asset? A psyop for combatting online misinformation.”

Why does Jesse Watters think Taylor Swift is working for the government?

Taylor Swift wears a sparkly outfit as she poses with her arms out during a concert
Taylor Swift is a government agent – if you believe Jesse Watters’s latest madcap theory. (Getty)

Watters’ supposed proof comes from a heavily edited clip that has been shared around right-wing spaces and purports to show that the “Pentagon psyop unit pitched NATO on turning Taylor Swift into an asset for combating misinformation online”. 

In the clip, an academic speaks about the power of influencers with large followings to “encourage or promote behaviour change”. This could be a “peaceful information operation”, she says, and mentions Swift because she’s a “fairly influential online person”. 

Watters, who took over the slot when Tucker Carlson left Fox News abruptly in April, and who is no stranger to sharing conspiracy theories, claimed that the clip was “real” proof. He then alleged other musicians – including Louis Armstrong, Nina Simone, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson – had also been government assets. 

Watters admitted that he “obviously has no evidence” that Swift is “a front for a covert political agenda”. But that didn’t stop him from sharing the theory because he was “curious”. 

But, what Watters didn’t tell his audience is that the clip is an excerpt from an international cyber security conference organised by NATO in 2019. 

The speaker in the clip is Alicia Marie Bargar, a research engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Her presentation, which is available free in its entirety online, is about hypothetical scenarios on how information can be manipulated. 

The academic used Swift as an example because she’s one of the biggest pop stars and has a large following online. 

Watters suggested that the clip was evidence of Swift’s connection to the US government. 

He didn’t stop there, bringing on former FBI agent Stuart Kaplan to elaborate on hypothetical ways in which Swift could influence young people to vote for president Joe Biden. 

Where does the conspiracy theory that Taylor Swift is a psyop come from?

Singer Taylor Swift wears a frilly light purple outfit as she stands in front of a dark blue background
The conspiracy theory that Taylor Swift is a psyop has been floating around right-wing circles for years. (Getty)

If you’ve been on the internet long enough, you will have heard something about the right-wing claiming the “Lavender Haze” singer was “weaponising” her dedicated fandom to some end or another. 

The claims have increased since 2018, when Swift became much more politically active. 

When Time magazine named her person of the year in December, conspiracy theorists claimed the only explanation was that the star was a government psyop. 

On X/Twitter, the right-wing End Wokeness account alleged the “regime” planned to “weaponise” Swift “just in time for 2024”, adding that if people didn’t find this plausible “you clearly have not been paying attention”. 

At the same time, former Trump White House advisor Stephen Miller claimed “what’s happening with Taylor Swift is not organic”. Right-wing commentator and former naval intelligence officer Jack Posobiec wrote online that Swift’s “girlboss psyop has been fully activated” by the Time feature, and on Monday, Mike Benz, a State Department official under Trump, shared a clip from the same 2019 cyber security conference on X/Twitter that Watters referred to in his segment.

Benz claimed Bargar was a “rep from the Pentagon’s psychological operations research firm” who “pitched ‘NATO’s military psyops centre on turning Taylor Swift into an asset for the Western military alliance to stop ‘disinformation’ on the internet”. 

Taylor Swift isn’t a government psyop, but she is very passionate about politics 

Singer Taylor Swift wears a sequined outfit as she stands in front of stripped background
Taylor Swift is politically active and has urged her fans to register to vote. (Getty)

Watters highlighted that the singer has supported president Joe Biden in the past and had encouraged her fans to register to vote. 

Both of those things are true, although hardly sinister.

 In 2018, Swift endorsed two Democratic candidates in her adopted home state of Tennessee: former governor Phil Bredesen, who lost the race for the senate to Republican Marsh Blackburn, and Jim Cooper, who was elected to the House of Representatives.

Swift kicked off Pride month in 2019 by releasing an open letter to one of her senators in support of the Equality Act and rejecting Trump’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights

Later that month, she dropped “You Need To Calm Down”, which celebrates the LGBTQ+ community and opposes homophobia. The single was released on Trump’s birthday

And in the 2020 Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, Swift bemoaned the fact that she didn’t speak out against Trump during the 2016 presidential race.

She never hid that she was voting for Biden in the 2020 election and told V Magazine that she thought America would have a “chance to start the healing process it so desperately needs” under the democrat. 

In the years since she started voicing her political views, Swift has encouraged fans to vote early. And when Swift has asked something, her fans – often called Swifties – always answer in droves. 

In September, she posted an Instagram story directing them to vote.org, a not-for-profit organisation offering voter registration services. The website then recorded more than 35,000 new registrations