An Interview With the Taylor Swift Stan Who Went to Prison for Refusing to Join the IDF

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Online fan forums are many things to many people. They’re ever-evolving monuments. They’re earnest expressions of devotion (often even amid irony and self-detachment). They’re a place to obsesses. They’re a battleground for conspiracy theorists. They’re where people go to make connections and wage war. Occasionally, they’re other things entirely—like on Tuesday, when the Taylor Swift fan account @LegitTayUpdates became a surprising setting for a discussion on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

It all began when a few accounts started posting screenshots of an exchange between @LegitTayUpdates and a follower.

As you can imagine, the tweets soon went viral, but before we go any further, some context on @LegitTayUpdates: The account chronicles all things Taylor in a way that’s both deeply serious in its fandom but not at all self-serious—the bio reads in part, “Only reliable and true updates here! (but like this is a parody account obviously).”

Whew! Other internet fandoms, for the love of god, take note!! Here’s an example of the general tone:

For the most part @LegitTayUpdates consists of photos, news, fan theories, and jokes. It’s far from explicitly political, but it also doesn’t exactly shy away from political content or opinions. That said, nothing on the feed is quite like what was posted on Feb. 1:

Or Feb. 25:

Or on Tuesday, following the viral screenshots.

As the tweets spread, the conversation around @LegitTayUpdates and her defection (the Israel Defense Forces requires enlistment by law) exploded. She was bombarded with attention, and understandably, expressed hesitation about it all, tweeting, “I feel really weird doing interviews about this because it didn’t seem like a big deal to me, but I’m also aware I just received the awesome opportunity to educate, so if any pro-Palestine jornos see this, reply below and I’ll try and get back to you!”

We reached out and chatted with @LegitTayUpdates via Twitter DM from her home in Israel, covering everything from her imprisonment, to the reaction she’s getting online, to Taylor goss, and what she wants people to know about the situation in Palestine. We’re not sharing her name to protect her identity.

This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

To start, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and about what led to you to start the Taylor Swift Updates account?

I live in Southern Israel, I’m 19, I’m a Jewish left-wing person, and I started my parody Taylor Swift update account for the laughs. Pretending to be an update account was funny because it takes very little to seem believable (a profile pic and name change), and it was a funny way to make little jokes and pranks about Taylor-related news.

You’re a true Taylor fan though, right? Or is it totally a joke?

Yes of course! I’ve been a fan since I was six and my mom bought Taylor’s debut while visiting relatives because she thought I’d like the pretty cover.

Haha, aw, that’s sweet. I want to get back to Taylor in a bit, but first I want to talk about your recent release. For those who don’t know, why did you go to prison in the first place?

Anyone who doesn’t go to the IDF and wasn’t discharged is committing a crime. My options were either to enlist or go to prison, and the choice for me was obvious. I don’t agree with the IDF and the government’s actions in Palestine, so it was a pretty easy choice.

Were you nervous about going? What was your experience like?

Of course I was nervous. It’s prison. I was terrified. But I shouldn’t have worried, prison was fairly easy—if boring. We had hours and hours of just sitting in our cells or out in the yard and talking. They counted us a lot. Like seven times a day. We had some entertainment there but nothing really substantial. Looking back, while long and incredibly exhausting, it was mostly an alright experience. I think mostly due to the other prisoners.

Were there other prisoners with you who also refused to join the IDF? If so, were you able to talk with them about it?

There were other objectors who chose to go to prison. Some more prepared than others. We talked about it and encouraged each other and were just there for each other as emotional support. That’s something I really needed.

You touched on it before, but can you talk a little bit more about what motivated your decision? As a young Israeli, what do you want people to know about the situation in Palestine and Benjamin Netanyahu’s actions as prime minister?

What I want people to know about the situation in Palestine is that not many major media sites get the full story. All we see is numbers of casualties, occasionally a piece about a specific person, but rarely things about day-to-day life in Palestine. From what I understand and see, living in Gaza is hell on earth. The socio-economic situation and the security situation in Gaza and the West Bank keeps deteriorating, and not enough people are speaking about it. I think most Israelis don’t even know how many Palestinians actually live in Palestine (spoiler: over 4.5 million Palestinians live in Gaza and the West Bank, and an additional million—at least—live in Israel itself). I think an important educational tool for someone willing to take a day to learn about this situation would be the UN Secretary-General reports about Palestine. They’re both horrific and fascinating to read, and they’re available in Chinese, Arabic, French, Russian, and Spanish!

As for Benjamin Netanyahu, I don’t have much to say other than he’s the one in charge, and if you read about everything happening in Israel and Palestine, you can bet he had an involvement with all military action there. Additionally, he likes to stir up trouble in Palestine often when he’s under interrogation or facing re-election. He doesn’t care about the Palestinians.

All of that, and what I read about Palestine from foreign news coverage (since Palestine isn’t really in the news unless forces there attacked us), is why I didn’t join the IDF.

How has the response been since all this craziness started? It seems like there’s been a ton of support, but also some hate coming your way too.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive! I obviously get nasty comments from people, especially Israelis currently in the IDF, but it’s alright with me as long as others see the message and get educated. I recently looked at my analytics and was absolutely shocked. I can’t thank people enough for the massive amounts of love and support the Palestinian people and I have gotten!

What’s next for you? Will this change anything about how you run your account?

Once everything dies down a bit, I’ll go back to posting Taylor Swift updates. I don’t know what people expect of me, but that’s the plan. I’ll speak up if anyone talks about me directly, but on the update account things will remain as they were. Hopefully that isn’t disappointing. On this account I plan to be more vocal, now that I know that using your voice can be an extremely powerful tool online. But I’ve also been tweeting regular things as well. It’s a bit weird to get 100+ likes on every single tweet (even ones where I complain about my brother not getting me green pitted olives with peppers in the middle lol), but I don’t plan to change, really.

What are you most excited about for Taylor in 2019?

I’m excited for her next album which will hopefully drop soon, and I’m excited for her to keep thriving and being happy. Also I hope she posts more on Instagram and gets to do things she’s passionate about. As for her private life, I don’t know what’s going on there. She’s definitely in love though, which makes me so happy. Whatever happens next to her, I hope she does good and succeeds. And if there’s one thing I could urge her to do is to continue speaking up about what she believes in, because she can reach so many people.

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