I said, breakdowns come and breakdowns go
So what are you going to do about it
That’s what I’d like to know…
–Paul Simon, “Gumboots”
“Jim, can you breakdown something for me?”
That’s how a good friend of mine often initiates conversations, and I like it when he does, because I know I’m in for a thoughtful, rational, stimulating and philosophic discussion that’s often accompanied by a great soundtrack and even greater wine. Hey, if you have a friend like this, consider yourself extremely fortunate.
The first “breakdown” my friend asked me to deliver was, not surprisingly as he is a Kansas City Chiefs fan, my take on the whole Taylor Swift/Travis Kelce “thing” and all of the attention it’s capturing by the media.
My first thought was that it is no surprise whatsoever that the media loves human interest stories, and especially stories that involve celebrity romances. I mean, entertainment journalism is one of the most popular subspecialties of that industry, as people love reading about the lives of rich, beautiful and famous people. We always have, and we always will. So, is it really that much of a surprise that the biggest pop star in the world is getting outsized media attention when she attends her superstar athlete boyfriend’s games?
The real head-scratcher would be if Taylor Swift didn’t get outsized media attention, and that the media (both sports media, entertainment media and mainstream media) willfully ignored her high-profile romance with Travis Kelce.
Then there’s what I call the “cray-cray” element at work here.
For those who aren’t up on the latest youth lingo, “cray cray” is another way of saying “crazy,” and here, the real cray cray is what some conspiracy theorists are saying about Taylor Swift, Travis Kelce, President Biden and the Super Bowl.
In case you haven’t heard, there’s been multiple media commentators out there saying that Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift are a “psyop” designed to re-elect Joe Biden.
A “psyop” is intelligence community lingo for a “psychological operation,” one that’s designed to persuade a populace of a specific set of ideas. Here’s the essence of the Kelce-Swift psyop thesis according to the cray cray:
The Super Bowl will be “rigged” so that the Kansas City Chiefs will win. Travis Kelce will bring Taylor Swift onto the field, drop to one knee, and propose. Their engagement will then somehow make the pop superstar, already one of the most famous and influential people on the planet, even more popular and more influential. So much so that when she endorses President Biden, that will be what gets him re-elected.
Oh, and this psyop also is one designed by a Trump-hating cabal of Pentagon elites who will do anything to prevent the former president from once again occupying the White House.
Now, I could just stop here, as rational readers will no doubt sense the ludicrous nature of this psyop thesis, as it is one that really needs no further elucidation.
However, this is The Deep Woods, and it is my job here to further expound on good ideas, bad ideas and even cray-cray ideas, so let’s do that now.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
First, let’s give the Devil his due here and acknowledge up front that the idea that the intelligence community can, and has, used psyops before cannot be denied. In fact, the idea of a psyop goes all the way back to the greatest military strategist of all time, Sun Tzu, in his seminal, “The Art of War.” A psyop can be very effective in winning “hearts and minds,” which is where every victory ultimately should be won, if you want that victory to last.
Indeed, there is ample history of the U.S. government enlisting popular actors, musicians, journalists, etc., to help promote our interests. It happened during World War II, the Vietnam War, the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and, particularly, in the Cold War fight against communism. The United States had its psyop warriors, and the Soviet Union and communism had its psyops soldiers.
Yet, in the case of Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift, here one has to apply the principle known as “Occam’s razor,” to the psyop “thesis” (I use the term thesis loosely). I mean, what is more likely, that the Pentagon is going to engineer the outcome of a football game to help thwart a Trump victory, or that a liberal-minded musician with an established penchant for voter activism might be inclined to endorse the current Democratic president for re-election?
If I were a political activist and I was seeking endorsement for my cause from one of the most popular and influential cultural icons in the world, I would just go to her and ask her for the endorsement. I wouldn’t need a team of clandestine psyop warriors to help engineer my cause.
Now, aside from the psyop cray cray, another, and in my view more pernicious, strain of thought out there when people think about Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift is one that I call, “hatred of the good for being the good.”
This isn’t my original concept, although I would love to claim credit for it. This is a concept I first read about from novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand.
In an essay titled, “The Age of Envy,” Rand explains that “Envy is regarded by most people as a petty, superficial emotion and, therefore, it serves as a semi-human cover for so inhuman an emotion that those who feel it seldom dare admit it even to themselves… That emotion is: hatred of the good for being the good.”
Rand continues, “This hatred is not resentment against some prescribed view of the good with which one does not agree… Hatred of the good for being the good means hatred of that which one regards as good by one’s own (conscious or subconscious) judgment. It means hatred of a person for possessing a value or virtue one regards as desirable.”
A more popular “meme” version of this idea can be expressed as: “Haters gonna hate.” Ironically, the lyric “haters gonna hate” can be found in the Taylor Swift mega-hit, “Shake It Off.”
There’s a much abused and I think misplaced cliché designed to denigrate educators that goes: “Those who can’t do, teach.”
Well, in the case of Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift, I think this adage can be modified to: “Those who can’t do, hate.”
You see, Kelce and Swift are arguably the two best humans at their respective chosen professions. And while fans of NFL teams other than the Chiefs aren’t rooting for Travis Kelce to keep catching touchdowns, there is no denying his greatness.
As for Taylor Swift, you don’t have to like her music (I am not really a fan, although as someone who has written many songs and performed live many times, I have no problem acknowledging her genius as a songwriter and as a performer). Of course, there also is no denying her brilliant commercial success, as that success is one of the greatest achievements in entertainment history.
Herein lies the real ugliness present when it comes to Kelce and Swift. People are simply jealous of their respective greatness, although people wish they were as great as these two. And to put another layer on it, people also appear to be jealous of two beautiful people publicly displaying their love and affection for one another. I think everyone wants this kind of exciting romance, but sadly, few fail to achieve it.
So, to put a final bow on this Travis Kelce/Taylor Swift breakdown, I think people need to A) Not be surprised or bemoan the fact that these outlier achievers are getting so much attention, B) Reject the silly, cray-cray conspiratorial notion that this whole things is a psyop and C) Not fall in line with the haters who feel compelled to hate these two people because of their virtues, their remarkable achievements in life and the way they choose to celebrate their lives together.
Life is short, and the world is full of wonder. Concentrate more on achieving your own happiness and maximizing your own well-being, and reject harboring the hatred of the good for being the good. Much more happiness, beauty and truth will come to you that way.
Heart’s Too Heavy
Well these angels in my eardrums, they can’t tell bad from good
I lived inside these melodies just to make sure I still could
Then I cried all night even though I’m grown
Said, honey hold me close, make it feel like home
Cause your love’s bright enough to burn all night
Sometimes love is a losing fight
–John Moreland, “Hearts Too Heavy”
A losing fight. It’s something we are born into as sentient creatures who reside on earth. And while we all know that life is finite, to me, that’s what makes it meaningful. I mean, if we lived forever, what would impel us to do good for ourselves and our world? So, as the great John Moreland writes, “Sometimes love is a losing fight.” And while love, and life, may be a losing fight — both are fights we are born into, and I intend to fight like an enraged wolverine in defense of both.
Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote that you’d like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my newsletters, seminars or anything else. Click here to ask Jim.
In the name of the best within us,