Lessons from the Kanye West debacle for the Left and the Right

West & Trump In The White House
American rapper and producer Kanye West embraces real estate developer and US President Donald Trump in the White House’s Oval Office, Washington DC, October 11, 2018. Ron Sachs/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images

Lessons from the Kanye West debacle for the Left and the Right

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Ye, the rapper previously known as Kanye West, went off the deep end this week, as anyone with an internet connection is by now aware, in a series of bizarre rants about Jews and the “dissing” of Nazis that at times appeared too unhinged even for interviewer Alex Jones.

Believe it or not, the rapper’s descent into deranged antisemitism contains valuable lessons for people across the political spectrum.

For the Left, his comments should be a cautionary tale that the most fashionable progressive theories about racism are, at best, incomplete and, at worst, wrong.

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Critical race theory, intersectionality, and commercialized HR department shakedown wokeness are often criticized for being collectivist and overly deterministic, as well as historically inaccurate.

But while the professional worriers about whiteness will surely be able to explain how Ye’s utterances are somehow related to white fragility, their frameworks aren’t really built for a black man who expresses even a qualified admiration for Adolf Hitler.

In Ye’s case, there’s an undeniable mental health component to his recent comments. At the same time, he is hardly alone among black celebrities in espousing Louis Farrakhanite views on these matters or becoming enmeshed in controversies involving antisemitism.

Ye and his new friends tilt rightward, but in recent years, we have heard progressives (who are up to date on the latest multiculturalist trends) slip easily into casual negative stereotyping of Jews.

People cannot be neatly separated into victim and oppressor categories based on their ancestry, and sadly, racial animus can exist for all kinds of reasons. A generalized opposition to racial biases and hatreds is more valuable than an alleged anti-racism that doesn’t reflect these realities.

Institutional power can make racism more socially consequential, but it is not a prerequisite for its existence. Much of what is done by the Ku Klux Klan, the white nationalists who went marauding in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, or in the attacks on Asian Americans in broad daylight on city streets requires little to no institutional power.

The same is true of repeating the things Ye said to Alex Jones, with such views technologically easier to disseminate than ever before. And sometimes groups are hated because they are perceived to have too much institutional power, a characteristic of many anti-Jewish conspiracy theories.

Certainly, some of the concepts progressives draw on are useful in describing inescapable parts of U.S. history, such as the practice of slavery. But they aren’t necessarily an exhaustive explanation of racism as it exists near the end of 2022 or why someone like Ye would be palling around with the likes of Nick Fuentes in the first place.

There are lessons for the Right, too. For all the conservative denunciations of the Hollywood Left — Laura Ingraham’s Shut Up and Sing is typical of the genre — there is an all-too-eager embrace of celebrities with conservative views.

While there are many more left-wing entertainers, the Right’s celebrities have more often made it into public office, with mixed results.

This sometimes leads to people being built up into major political spokesmen before their views are fully formed or with insufficient vetting of what they truly believe.

It also makes conservatives easy marks for grifters and opportunists seeking a second act on the Republican entertainment circuit. Boycott Barbra Streisand and get a soon-to-be-canceled rap star in return.

Embrace Ye for his incisive commentary about the impact of mass abortion on the black community, but if you elevate him too much, you cannot easily disentangle yourself from his insane soliloquies about Nazi Germany.

This is how you end up with racist provocateurs sharing a meal with a once and perhaps future president of the United States, who is himself an extension of the Right’s celebrity fetish.

Another problem is that some corners of the Right are too quick to defend fellow travelers from accusations of racism and bigotry on the grounds that such allegations from the Left are often false, even in situations where the evidence is rapidly accumulating that this is an exception to that rule.

The alt-Right in particular uses this tendency, in addition to the longing for a stronger resistance to the woke Left, to make inroads among normal conservatives.

There were flashing warning lights about Ye long before he descended into defending Hitler. Instead of hitting the brakes, some conservatives floored the gas pedal.

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Making the talented but troubled rapper a symbol of a new multiracial conservatism was indeed attractive — until there emerged red flags of multiple forms of racism.

Put not your trust in princes, nor pop stars.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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