Tuesday, January 30, 2024


A.B. Stoddard of The Bulwark calls it TDS -- Taylor Derangement Syndrome. I call it Tay-Anon.

Stoddard writes:
Addled Trumpers are sounding the alarm. They’re not just warning that [Taylor] Swift is out to brainwash America’s youth into liberalism or theorizing that she and Travis Kelce [of the Kansas City Chiefs] are in a fake relationship. Now they’re telling us that the Super Bowl is going to be fixed....
You may have seen the tweets:

(Kelce is "Mr. Pfizer" because he appeared in an ad for Pfizer's COVID vaccine.)

A writer for Laura Loomer's site takes it a step further:
Super Bowl LVIII’s Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Francisco 49ers match-up is a globalist dream come true as California Governor Gavin Newsom and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce’s girlfriend Taylor Swift can take center stage in American politics and culture for the next two weeks.... 2024 DNC Convention rules allow for loopholes to make Newsom the Democrat Party’s nominee as long as Biden steps down before the DNC Convention in August.
And as Stoddard notes, the movie Barbie is part of the conspiracy as well:
[Jack] Posobiec, commenting on a video of Kelce, wrote: “Kelce is as trash as his regime-appointed girlfriend. What a beta.” But it’s not just Swift and Kelce he has groused about—he’s also has deep thoughts about Swift and ... Barbie: “These are mascots for the establishment. High level ops used as info warfare tools of statecraft for the regime.”
The rage and derangement here are very gendered. There's obvious frustration because the massive commercial success of Swift and the Barbie movie refutes one of the right's favorite slogans, "Get Woke, Go Broke." But there's also rage because Swift and Barbie are girl culture. It's particularly galling that Swift is canoodling with a football player (and a pro-vaccine football player at that), because right-wingers tell themselves that they have a monopoly on masculinity, and that men who hang out with liberals and feminists are beta males and soy boys. Kelce's Chiefs can't possibly have made it to the Super Bowl on their own merit. Swift's music and the Barbie movie can't possibly be the cultural phenomena that they are because millions of people worldwide happily and voluntarily joined the fan base. Some psyop must be involved. The globalists have stabbed true masculinity in the back.

And please note something else about this craziness: It's not coming from Donald Trump.

Stoddard ascribes it to "addled Trumpers," and, yes, the people peddling this nonsense support Trump. But there are many, many centers of craziness and extremism on the right, and most of them would exist even if Trump had dropped dead on the back nine at Mar-a-Lago years ago and Ron DeSantis were on his way to wrapping up the nomination.

The Guardian published a story yesterday about fake-grassroots protests against support for gay and trans students in public schools. It mentions Trump only in passing, but it's a reminder that trans-bashing is an issue on which Trump is a follower, not a leader. In 2016, Trump literally waved a Pride flag at one rally and said he'd let Caitlyn Jenner use the bathroom of her choice at Trump Tower. Now he advocates laws defining gender as fixed at birth and promises to terminate “programs that promote the concept of sex and gender transition at any age.” On immigration, Trump makes other Republicans more extreme -- but on LGBTQ rights, other extremists make him more extreme. (A new Politico story suggests that anti-abortion extremists hope to pull Trump even further to the right on that issue as well, with the aim of banning all abortions nationwide.)

Whether it's extremism or conspiratorialism, the right seems to be led not by Trump exclusively, but by whoever is the edgiest edgelord. Often it's a group of edgelords -- for instance, there's no single leader of the COVID denialist movement, but it drives Republican thinking on the virus, in defiance of Trump's continued support for vaccination. Trump echoed QAnon for a while, but he wasn't its leader, or even one of its main propagandists. And now we have Tay-Anon, which is independent of Trump.

Last fall, I published a post titled "It's a Cult, but Is It a Trump Cult?" In that post, I wrote:
... is the MAGA cult strictly a Trump cult, with Donald Trump as the stereotypical cult leader, or is it a cult of rightism, with multiple leaders, and in some ways leaderless?

... the Trump cult might die but the right-wing cult might live on, led by some combination of Steve Bannon and Christopher Rufo and Jack Posobiec and Marjorie Taylor Greene and Candace Owens and Elon Musk and Andrew Tate and Moms for Liberty and dozens of other people who aren't Trump.

I'm reminded of our discovery, sometime during the post-9/11 era, that terrorism was being inspired not directly by charismatic leaders of Al-Qaeda or ISIS, but more immediately by lesser-known online influencers. The behavior of the followers was cult-like, but it seemed like cultural worship of certain ideas (and violent tactics) rather than worship of Osama bin Laden or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. That, in a somewhat less violent form, is what we've had on the American right for years, even if it looks like a personality cult now. When Trump is gone, I think rightism will revert to being the kind of non-personality cult it used to be, with a wide range of gurus taking Trump's place. It might not be the MAGA cult, but it will still be dangerous.
Future cult activities will look like Tay-Anon, or the CRT scare, or the trans-teenager scare, or the border scare. Trump might be gone, but this cult activity won't rely on him, because, on the right, crazy always wins.

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