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On Topic: Abducting Europa

That theory? We are going to shake it off

Republican conspiracy theories were wrong after all. Yes, the Chiefs won the Super Bowl. Yes, that was incredibly exciting. But no, Taylor Swift did not use her friend Travis Kelce’s party to express support for Joe Biden. Rumors about this have become increasingly crazy lately.  

Swift just waited patiently for her turn before congratulating Kelce. Only after he had claimed victory with the Lombardi trophy in his hands did she work her way through the crowd towards him to fall into his arms. The budding love between the pop icon and the football star meant extra attention for the NFL this season. The singer’s presence at Kelce’s matches led to growing interest in the sport, additional ticket sales and worldwide media attention. 

In recent weeks, however, fears have grown among Trump supporters that Swift and Kelce would use the attention to boost Joe Biden’s re-election campaign. Swift had spoken out for the Democrat in his fight against Trump in 2020. Such a declaration of support would be a big boost for Biden: a call on Swift’s Instagram to vote led to 35,000 people registering as voters in September.

The fear among Republicans led to bizarre accusations on the internet and in the media. The Pentagon would play psychological tricks. The entire romance is said to be a premeditated plan to attract attention. Even the outcome of the Super Bowl would be a foregone conclusion, as Kelce’s Chiefs would have to win for the plan to succeed. 

Ultimately, the NFL felt compelled to contradict the rumors. “The idea that this is a pre-scripted thing, that this is planned, is complete nonsense,” said NFL CEO Roger Goodell. “Taylor is a great artist and her impact on the sport has been nothing but positive. She and Travis seem very happy.” 

The Pentagon had previously taken a tongue-in-cheek distance in a statement full of references to Swift’s song titles. “That theory? We are going to shake it off.”

Not only America’s but also Europe’s contemporary political imaginary is permeated with metaphors of struggle. Responding to global crises by promoting ancient myths, new reactionary movements traffic in dreams of ethnic rebirth and exploit fears of an existential enemy at the Gates of Fortress Europe—or even lurking within. Paradoxically, some of these very movements feel most at home in fringe online communities, which seem to provide a fertile soil for ideological radicalisation and conspiracy theorising to take root. 

Beneath the slick surfaces of social media platforms, it appears as though the political consensus of the twentieth century is collapsing. Emerging from the wreckage are expressions of political collectivity that many considered relegated to the dustbin of history. Affording ever more radical expressions of tribal identity, social media platforms are now feeding the raw material of youth culture directly into the nationalist populist insurgency that is currently sweeping across the planet. The works weave together a network of autonomous aesthetic zones that recuperate the power of storytelling from movements preoccupied with an exclusionary image of the national past as a “Golden Age.”

Abducting Europa is part of the IMPAKT series: The Grand Narrative, which explores the productive potential of universalist narratives, while deconstructing their troublesome presuppositions. 

The webproject Abducting Europa is an online exhibition of videos, docu-fiction and installation art which explores elements of fringe internet culture, (post)national symbolism and various altered states of historical consciousness from a moment when the future seems unwelcoming to many.

Watch it here


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