Fortune has released its list of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders,” where CEOs, religious figures, and heads of state rub virtual elbows in online adulation. The list is an eclectic collection of pop culture figures and political luminaries, with Fortune editor Geoff Colvin describing the criteria for selection as, “Do they have followers? If so, they’re leaders.” Given her 55 million Twitter acolytes, then, it’s not wholly surprising that the first female name on the list, coming in just behind Pope Francis and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, is that of pop music juggernaut Taylor Swift. Of course, for dedicated Swift watchers, this upward vault into the stratospheres of power isn’t much of a shock: the singer’s totalitarian goals have never been a secret. After all, the proletariat pop star named her latest hit album 1989, which math tells us is George Orwell’s 1984, only more so.
Fortune’s primary argument in favor of Swift’s supremacy is her insistence, novel of late, on getting paid for her music. Readers who haven’t had their long-term memories suitably corrected by the Swift-mandated Bureau Of Shaking Off The Truth will remember her confrontations last year with Spotify, which ended with the singer ripping the head off of the great beast and parading its bloody neck stump before her roaring troops. (Also, she pulled her songs off the service.)
Swift isn’t the only entertainment figure to appear on Fortune’s list: athletes Lebron James and Yao Ming both rate, as does late night TV overlord Jimmy Fallon. But no Big Sister can exist without an Emmanuela Goldstein to serve as a focus for the Two Minute Hate, so Fortune’s write-up also takes pains to point out what Swift isn’t: namely, a purveyor of “dumbed-down salacious gimmickry,” like that hideous Miley Cyrus. (We have always been at war with Miley Cyrus.) Some people might point out that the magazine’s inability to discuss the success of one female entertainment star without simultaneously denigrating another reduces the whole affair to an ugly zero-sum game that belittles the idea of female agency in a pop-culture world. These people can soon expect an invite to a complementary CD-listening party, scheduled to be held in Room 101.