Celebrity Salary or Tax Evasion

Touting The Weatlhy and Hiding Corruption in The Age of Junk Food News

Written by Scott Clanton (California State University, Maritime Academy)

Faculty Evaluator: Nolan Higdon (California State University, East Bay)

In April of 2016 the corporate news media outlets reported that “Taylor Swift has the highest celebrity salary this year.” At the same time independent media news outlets reported   “World Leaders from Iceland to Argentina Exposed in Massive Tax Evasion Scheme”.  The Swift Story is junk food news, a newsworthy story, because it appeals to the narcissistic interests of the reader with no components important to news consumers. Furthermore, the story easily separates the reader from reality by inviting them into a fantasy where they can imagine what it would be like to be in the wealthy world of the celebrity.

“Taylor Swift Has Highest Celebrity Salary This Year, Beating Leonardo DiCaprio, Jay Z” , first appeared in US Weekly. The article revealed how pop star Taylor Swift is now making 80 million dollars a year, more than any other celebrity.  Compared to other celebrities the talented singer has made over 30 million dollars more than Lady Gaga, Jay Z & Leonardo DiCaprio combined.  She was able to accomplish this “amazing” feat with her sold out World Tour, not to mention earning her third Grammy award. The corporate media dedicated a massive amount of coverage to this story.

While the corporate media covered the junk food news story  “Taylor Swift Has Highest Celebrity Salary This Year”,  the independent outlet  Democracy Now covered  “Panama Papers: World Leaders from Iceland to Argentina Exposed in Massive Tax Evasion Scheme.”   In April of 2016 Amy Goodman, writing for Democracy Now uncovered the details behind the Panama tax evasion scandal.   The article revealed how 11.5 million files were leaked from one of the world’s most secretive offshore companies.  These files date from 1977 to the present day, and exposed how political leaders would invest into offshore secret companies allowing them to avoid taxation for their investments.  On the other hand, the Independent News article exposed some questionable financial activities by a multitude of high ranking elected leaders and politicians around the world.  One such person, Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson was caught secretly putting large amounts of money into an offshore company to avoid personal taxes.  This raises many ethical questions by the reader, the kind that make people think about their elected representatives and how their behavior can affect the lives of the electorate.

The topic of The Panama Papers is newsworthy because it exposes the political if not ethical corruption of many of the world’s leaders, resulting in a call to action by the people.   For example, the citizens of Iceland have begun to protest outside the Prime Minister’s office demanding that he step down from his position.   It has become one of the largest rallies in Iceland’s history and for good reason.  The Prime Minister and his wife had been secretly putting millions of dollars of the nation’s money into one of their own private companies.

The Panama Papers article however, is a critical thinking piece of news that gives us reason to demand that government provide a more transparent system of checks and balances when it comes to managing public spending.    Taylor Swift’s salary has no real impact on society, yet it is entertaining and appeals to the vanity and in all of us.  The news that came out in the Panama Papers will have a lasting impact on the way we function as a society.


  1. “Taylor Swift Net Worth.” RSS. N.p., 12 Nov. 2009. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <http://www.celebritynetworth.com/richest-celebrities/singers/taylor-swift-net-worth/>.
  2. “Does Taylor Swift, Leonardo DiCaprio Or Jay Z Have the Highest Celeb Salary?” Us Weekly. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/taylor-swift-has-hollywoods-highest-celebrity-salary-beating-leonardo-dicaprio-jay-z-w202068>.
  3. “Taylor Swift Becomes Highest-Earning Musician In 2015, With Over $1 Million A Day Income.” International Business Times. N.p., 18 Oct. 2015. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <http://www.ibtimes.com/taylor-swift-becomes-highest-earning-musician-2015-over-1-million-day-income-2145740>.
  4. “Bad Blood? Taylor Swift & Calvin Harris’ ‘Awkward’ & ‘Cold’ Date Night Exposed.” Radar Online. N.p., 04 Apr. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <http://radaronline.com/photos/taylor-swift-calvin-harris-breakup-rumors-akward-iheart-radio-awards/photo/1278865/>.
  5. “Panama Papers: World Leaders from Iceland to Argentina Exposed in Massive Tax Evasion Scheme.” Democracy Now! N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <http://www.democracynow.org/2016/4/5/panama_papers_world_leaders_rich_criminals>.


Corporate Media IssuesNewsPop Culture and Social Movements

Nolan Higdon is a professor of English, Communication, and History of the US and Latin America in the San Francisco Bay Area. His academic work focuses on nationalism, propaganda, and critical media literacy education. He sits on the boards of the Media Freedom Foundation, Sacred Heart University's Media Literacy and Digital Culture Graduate Program, the Union for Democratic Communications Steering Committee, and the Northwest Alliance For Alternative Media And Education. Higdon is ta co-founder for the Global Critical Media Literacy Project. He has contributed chapters to Censored 2013-2017 as well as Stephen Lendman’s Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks World War III (2014). He has published articles on media and propaganda including “Disinfo Wars: Alex Jones War on Your Mind (2013),” “Millennial Media Revolution (2014),” and “Justice For Sale (2015).” He has been a guest on national radio and television programs.
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