Have you heard the claim that music star Taylor Swift is a secret “psych-op” used by the Pentagon to influence public opinion? The claim was largely made by conspiracy theorists on X, formerly known as Twitter, before Jesse Waters did a segment about the idea on Fox News on Tuesday. But a Fox News segment takes a viral video out of context.
Waters played a clip of the NATO conference, but did not give his viewers any necessary context about what they were watching.
“Well, about four years ago, the Pentagon Psychological Operations Unit planned to turn Taylor Swift into an asset during a NATO meeting. What type of property? A psychologist dealing with online misinformation, Waters told viewers in a segment marked by Mediaite on Tuesday night.
“Yes this is true. The Pentagon psy-op unit criticized NATO for turning Taylor Swift into an asset, Waters continued.
But what’s really going on here? Much more subtle and less sensational than what Waters is telling his audience.
The woman in the clip, Alicia Marie Barger, was giving a presentation about research she conducted with her team at Johns Hopkins University into how information spreads online. Barger was presenting at the 11th International Conference on Cyber Conflict hosted by NATO in 2019, although she is a civilian and has no known contracts or ties to the US military. Barger is an academic who was presenting her research at a conference on how information spreads through social media.
The entire 2019 presentation is available on YouTube and from the introduction it is clear that Barger’s presentation is about hypothetical scenarios of how information can be manipulated. Barger obviously uses Taylor Swift as an example because she’s the biggest pop star in the world right now, something that becomes even more obvious when she jokes that you’ve probably heard of Swift. .
“The first, and most common [example of influence], working with famous people or influential people to share information about a particular message. I include Taylor Swift here because she’s a pretty influential person online, I don’t know if you’ve heard of her,” Barger joked.
Barger points out that Swift was standing next to a sign promoting voting in the most casual way possible. The presentation image is a screenshot of an Instagram post where Swift showed herself waiting in line to vote in 2016.
“Celebrities, at least in the US, will regularly post photos of themselves to encourage people to vote and it has a measurable effect on voter turnout,” Barger said in his 2019 presentation.
That’s it. Barger wasn’t saying that anyone should use Swift as a way to influence public opinion on any topic, just that she was an example of a famous person of influence who once gave her fans a message on Instagram. Gave the usual “go vote” message.
And watching the entire presentation you can see how Waters removed all the nuance and context his audience was looking for, instead presenting a very distorted and intellectually dishonest argument. The way Waters tells it, it was a NATO “meeting” where people were just brainstorming about how to turn Taylor Swift into a tool for propaganda against the American public.
In fact, it was a conference where an academic presented research about the flow of information and gave Swift as an example of an influential person because she is literally the biggest musician on the planet right now. There is absolutely no evidence that the US government or anyone else is using Swift as a tool to spread misinformation, as Waters repeatedly suggested on Tuesday.
However, Waters didn’t stop there. Fox News host brought Stuart KaplanSwift, a former FBI agent, details all the scary hypotheticals about how she will inspire the country’s youth to vote for Joe Biden.
Again, this is all speculation and not based on anything reality. The video of Barger’s full presentation is quite interesting, showing how researchers are able to identify various threats, such as social media accounts linked to the terrorist group ISIS. Barger also noted during his presentation that their influence operations are often inspired by how public health messages are conducted, a topic that was apparently less controversial in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Become a political football.
However, the specifics of that research clearly do not interest Waters. As for Waters, she is more concerned with the idea that major music figures may be trying to brainwash children.
Swift has long been considered a psyop by relatively fringe elements. after Time The magazine named Swift Person of the Year at the end of 2023, sparking discussion about how Swift would be “weaponized” ahead of the 2024 presidential election, with accusations that Swift’s fans are zombies that will kill her. Can’t think about.
“Taylor Swift has a cult-like following that will drink the poisonous Kool-Aid for her. The media knows this and is encouraging it,” the One month ago,
“Music. Entertainment. Sports. Now they crowned him Person of the Year. Next steps? Politics. If you don’t think the regime has a plan to weaponize him just in time for 2024, you clearly haven’t been paying attention. Giving,” the account continued.
EndWokeness may be viewed as a fringe voice online, but none other than X owner Elon Musk is frequently linked to the account’s content. And that’s how many of the stranger conspiracy theories online are now finding their way into public discussion, eventually landing on mainstream channels like Fox News.
Call me crazy, but if I were going to run a psychological influence operation with a major celebrity, I probably wouldn’t make a video about that exact possibility. But this very obvious fact will not discourage online conspiracy theorists. Well, conspiracy theorist and Jesse Waters, who is rapidly transforming Fox News to compete with the conspiracy-obsessed media empire of Alex Jones and Infowars.