No, Taylor Swift is not a Pentagon PsyOp

Responding to the claim, the Pentagon said it was going to "shake it off."
Patty Nieberg Avatar
Taylor Swift pentagon psyop
Pentagon officials responded to a claim by Fox News that Taylor Swift is a U.S. government's psychological operation or PsyOp. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

No, Taylor Swift is not a Pentagon PsyOp. But she is a mastermind.

“No one wanted to play with me as a little kid, so I’ve been scheming like a criminal ever since, to make them love me and make it seem effortless,” she sings in her song “Mastermind.”

And now, for the millionth time in her career, Swift has to defend her success because of a man. 

“I’m so sick of running as fast as I can, wondering if I’d get there faster if I were a man,” Swift sings in her song “The Man.”

Earlier this week, Fox News host Jesse Watters played a video that he said showed a Department of Defense official suggesting Taylor Swift could be part of a federal psychological operation.

“She’s all right, but I mean, have you ever wondered why or how she blew up like this?” Watters said Tuesday during his primetime Fox News television slot. “Well, around four years ago, the Pentagon psychological operations unit floated turning Taylor Swift into an asset during a NATO meeting. What kind of asset? A PsyOp for combatting online misinformation.”

In the words of Swift herself: “We see you over there on the internet, comparing all the girls who are killing it. But we figured you out, we all know now, we all got crowns. You need to calm down.”

His statement was not completely accurate.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

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The clip that Waters referred to was from a 2019 conference in Estonia which was organized by a multinational and interdisciplinary NATO cyber defense group. The speaker, Alicia Marie Bargar, a research engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, mentioned the singer as an example of the power of influence online.

“You came in here wanting to understand how you just go out there and counter in that information operation,” she tells the audience. “But the idea is that social influence can help encourage or promote behavior change.” 

Bargar went on to describe her power as a “fairly influential online person” as useful for “a peaceful information operation.”

Waters thinks she did it. But he just can’t prove it.

“I have no connection to the Pentagon,” Bargar told Task & Purpose. “Taylor Swift was an incidental example of a famous person to explain a social network analysis concept to the audience.”

The Army referred Task & Purpose to the Pentagon.

“As for this conspiracy theory, we are going to shake it off,” said Sabrina Singh. “But that does highlight that we still need Congress to approve our supplemental budget request as Swift-ly as possible so we can be out of the woods with potential fiscal concerns.”

Though there is no evidence Swift is a state actor, her success in 2023 has been compared to actual states. The economic impact of her “Eras Tour” topped the GDP of about $5 billion was larger than close to 50 countries, including Fiji, Aruba and Djbouti. During her concert in Seattle, fans caused a 2.3 magnitude earthquake. Her concerts across the country even revived the post-pandemic economies of several U.S. cities.

If we are to talk about Swift and psychological operations, the billion-dollar pop star’s use of psyops on her fanbase might be worth investigating for national security inspiration. Known as “easter eggs” to Swifties and fans alike, she is known to drop clues or hints about her music through the content she posts, the cryptic things she says, or the clothing she wears.

Watters also notes the use of musicians in the past to drive political agendas like Elvis Presley’s outreach to President Richard Nixon to help with the war on drugs and President Ronald Reagan’s deployment of Michael Jackson as a campaign spokesperson against teen drinking and driving. 

“Is Swift a front for a covert political agenda?” Waters said, adding that her relationship with NFL star Travis Kelce has brought in “a whole new demographic” to the sport.

He also noted Swift’s influence on voting registration, which saw 35,000 new voters after posting the link to her Instagram story. 

During the 2018 congressional election in Tennessee, Swift broke her political silence when she endorsed Democratic Senate candidate, Phil Bredesen, who ran against Republican incumbent  Sen. Marsha Blackburn. Swift was also credited with increased voter registration in the state.

It is generally illegal to perform psychological operations domestically that involve U.S. citizens. However, one of the greatest examples of illegal government operations was the CIA’s MK Ultra study which performed nonconsensual experiments on U.S. citizens. Researchers wanted to identify drugs that could be used to force confessions from Soviet bloc enemies during the Cold War through brainwashing and psychological torture.

Beyond the speculation and claims, Swift does have actual military connections. Her grandfathers served in the military during World War II in the Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard. A former security guard of Swift’s recently went back to Israel to join the IDF’s reserves as war broke out between Israel and Hamas.

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