TAYLOR Swift is undoubtedly one of the most influential people of all time – there is no arguing with it, even if I wanted to. Which I don’t, really.

The US Travel Association estimated that the overall economic impact of Swift’s “Eras Tour”, or “Swiftonomics” as Northeastern University has affectionately penned it, exceeds an extraordinary $10 billion.

Not only are fans buying her tickets, they’re forking out for hotels, transport, merchandise, food and even specific clothes to wear to the event. The day following the first time she turned up to support her now-boyfriend Travis Kelce at a Kansas City Chiefs game, sales of her beau’s football jersey spiked 400%, and NFL viewer ratings skyrocketed to levels on par with Super Bowl Sunday. Following a two-night stint in Seattle, the “Swifties” generated seismic activity equivalent to that of a 2.3 magnitude earthquake.

It’s been a journey, not without its controversies and public spats with fellow A-list celebrities – looking at Kim Kardashian in particular. But it seems this era of Taylor Swift was crafted in the eye of a truly perfect storm. Between her undeniable talent as a performer and businesswoman, and the TikTok-ification of all culture, in a somewhat over-saturated market, she has become the influencer of all influencers. What she says, goes.

She can set a worldwide trend just by turning up. From her clothes, to her politics, to who she chooses to associate with, Swift has the monopoly on setting the global standard. Without even needing to do specific marketing of her own. Her infamously dedicated fans follow her lead, they share it on TikTok and then they tell the rest in a sort of influencer dominoes.

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Say what you want about her, she is famous to an extreme interpretation of the word and her influence is, quite literally, seismic. But Time magazine’s Person of the Year? That’s what Swift has now been named – but I’d argue she isn’t even close.

For someone who is very aware of the power she has to shift focus and to inspire change, I often find myself disappointed by her inaction. And conflicted, given that when she does use her voice, she fights for marginalised groups and comes from a place of genuineness and kindness that is sorely missing from political discourse.

She was previously known to deliberately avoid any kind of political discussion in order to protect her career, not unrelated I’m sure to the fact that the roots of her fanbase derive from the most republican areas of America and her commercial success depended on her silence. She openly admitted to this when she eventually did come out in support of two democratic candidates, with a source confirming “Taylor finally decided to share her political opinion because she realises that she’s at the peak of her career and doesn’t care about the haters at this point”.

Which, roughly translated, points to Swift only eventually leveraging her power when it was no longer threatening to her finances or social standing. Though in the 24 hours following her new-found political activism, more than 65,000 people registered to vote. So when she does employ it, she really does have the power to create major societal change.

While her somewhat late interventions have been welcome, they lack substance when her own interests have been more important for the majority of her career.

The National: Palestinians look at the destruction by the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Rafah, Monday, Dec. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)Palestinians look at the destruction by the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Rafah, Monday, Dec. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali) (Image: (AP Photo/Hatem Ali))

Despite earlier disappointments, I will admit that I fully climbed aboard the Swift train in 2023. Between finding her voice for human rights, the injustice she suffered as a female musician and the exceptionality of her talent, I’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid as much as the next person. She is fantastic at what she does, and her success in 2023 has been extraordinary. But I now find myself, once again, sorely disappointed.

Anyone with eyes can see what is unfolding in Palestine. Men, women and children are being slaughtered in the tens of thousands by a government with genocidal intent. We’re witnessing a genocide, taking place in the birthplace of Jesus Christ, as we prepare to celebrate Christmas. A reality so sick and unforgivable that I hope history forever envelopes this moment in time in the disgrace that it deserves.

And once again, as with events gone by, our Time Person of the Year is silent. She has not so much as uttered a word – I’m sure warned against it by whoever is advising her.

However, as a strong woman who has proven she will act according to her own convictions when it suits her, she has no excuse to be sitting on her hands. She is richer and more famous than she has ever been, and speaking out would be of virtually no consequence to her. Even if it would, the people perishing as the world stands idly by are more important than Taylor Swift’s enduring world dominance.

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Whatever her persuasion on the topic – and I would like to assume that she is avidly against it – if she can’t use her platform and influence for an issue of this magnitude, what exactly is the point of her having it? Influence of this level is not just an empty notion, it comes with great responsibility that she, time and time again, abandons.

Might I suggest the team at Time magazine refocus their efforts on those actually utilising the influence that they have? Being influential means nothing in itself, if that influence is wasted.

For example, Motaz Azaiza, a 24-year-old Palestinian journalist who, alongside a small group of his peers, is shouldering the entire responsibility of documenting this genocide for the rest of the world. Every day, he risks his life and puts a target on his back to bring the truth to us all; all the while, his people are being murdered in their thousands before his eyes, and his home, culture and entire identity are being razed to the ground.

The National: Taylor Swift

In the 60 days since the intense bombardment of Gaza began, Motaz has not stopped to grieve, or rest, or process. He is not spending what could be his last moments with his family and loved ones – he is on the destroyed streets of Gaza, taking his camera to the epicentre of the horror unfolding and documenting it in real time. He has shown a bravery and determination that any of the frontrunners for this year’s Time Person of the Year would be lucky to even remotely relate to. That is real influence.

Swift might be a singer, and her world might seem light-years away from the topics I want her to address, but arguably the most influential person in the world has a responsibility to speak on the biggest issues facing that world.

Influencing the end of a genocide is a much more impressive accomplishment than influencing the latest fashion trend or number-one hit. Motaz Azaiza is my person of the year, and my biggest wish this Christmas is that he survives – and finds the peace and security he deserves.