Home USA News Taylor Swift ticket issues could spur political activism

Taylor Swift ticket issues could spur political activism


Some Taylor Swift fans want you to know three things: They’re under 16, they have careers and resources, and they’re angry right now. This is a powerful political motivator, researchers say.

Look what Ticketmaster made them do.

It began on Tuesday when millions of people flocked to the pre-sale of the highly anticipated Swift Eras Tour, leading to disruptions, long waits and frenzied shopping. By Thursday, Ticketmaster had canceled the general sale, citing insufficient tickets left and sparking a storm of outrage from fans. Swift herself said the ordeal “really makes her angry.”

The master apologized, but the bad blood had already been sown. And now fans — and politicians — have started to act on it.

US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez directed Swifties to where they could file complaints with the US Department of Justice. Attorneys general of several states — including Pennsylvania and Tennessee, key states in Swift’s history — have announced investigations.

Stephanie Ely, a New York-based specialist who has spent many years working on community organizing for progressive politics, believes that mobilizing fans for social progress can be useful.

“Fandoms are natural organizers,” said Swifty, 33. “If you find the right issues, activate them and engage them, you can make real change happen.”

For example, in 2020, K-pop fans organized in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and tried to increase registrations for a Donald Trump rally. Aly and Swifties from various industries—law, public relations, cybersecurity, and more—joined forces to form Vigilante Legal, a group targeting Ticketmaster by creating email templates for appeals to attorneys general and providing antitrust information. Thousands expressed a desire to help or learn more.

“The level of anger you’ve just seen in the country around this issue is staggering,” said Jean Sinzdak, associate director of the Center on American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “People are really sharing their feelings about it and creating a movement about it online, which I think is really exciting. It is certainly an opportunity to engage people politically. It’s hard to say whether that will continue, but it certainly seems like a real possibility.”

For one thing, Sinzdak said, it gives young people a first-hand opportunity to see Swift’s politics take shape. It also targets a demographic that politicians rarely court during elections.

“No one is going out and thinking, ‘Let’s target young women,'” said Gwen Nisbet, a professor at the University of North Texas who studies the relationship between political activism and pop culture. “Whether it’s abortion or student loans, this age group is very mobilized, and young women are very mobilized.”

Fan culture and community have reinforced this tendency to mobilize. In 2018, Nisbet explored parasocial relationships — where fans have strong one-way relationships with celebrities — when the previously apolitical Swift posted her support for Democratic candidates on social media. Nisbett found that while such messages may not determine fan votes, they still make it more likely that fans will seek out more information about voting — and actually vote.

For the record: AP VoteCast, a broad survey of the U.S. electorate, found that about a third of Tennessee voters in 2018 said they had a favorable opinion of Swift, and among them a large majority — about 7 in 10 — supported Democrat Phil Bredesen in the contest Senate. That was a stark contrast to roughly a third of voters, who had an unfavorable opinion of Swift and overwhelmingly supported Republican Marsha Blackburn.

For Swifties, the anger at Ticketmaster isn’t just about the ticket: “It’s the fact that you can’t participate in your community and your fandom, and it’s part of your identity,” Nisbet said.

This isn’t even the first time a fandom or artist has targeted Ticketmaster. Pearl Jam targeted the company in 1994, though the Justice Department ultimately declined to pursue the case. More recently, Bruce Springsteen fans have been angered by high ticket prices due to the platform’s dynamic pricing system.

“It’s not just about getting revenge on the Swifties. It’s not about getting an extra million tickets for Taylor Swift fans or for us all to go to a secret session,” said Jordan Berger, 28, who is using his background as a lawyer to help the cause. “We are talking about fundamental equality. And when you have a monopolist like that, it’s very representative of the class structure of society, where there’s no more equality, there’s no justice.”

The sheer power and size of Swift’s fandom has fueled conversations about the economic inequality that Ticketmaster is a symbol of.

Ali noted that quite a few members of the group did get tickets; The problem is bigger than Ticketmaster, she said.

“We got feedback that ‘this is too big, let the government handle it.’ Have you seen the US government? The government functions only when the people push it and when the people demand that it function and the people participate in it,” she said. “Even when something seems too big to fail or too powerful to fail, there is always enough of us to make a difference. Your involvement may be what pushes it over the edge that forces the government to act.”

Ali says that many adult Swifties have a 10-15 year experience of being bullied for liking the singer, but what the fans have in mind may be better than revenge.

“We have thick skin and nothing to lose,” Ali said.


Associated Press reporter Hannah Fingerhut contributed to this report from Washington. Brooke Schultz is a staff member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Reporting for America is a nonprofit national outreach program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover underreported issues.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.

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