Saturday, December 3, 2022

How Liberals and Conservatives Got Kanye All Wrong

 (By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
I remember when Kanye West was all the rage among liberals. Remember when he stood next to Mike Meyers in the summer of 2005 and blurted out, "George Bush doesn't care about black people"? Meyers, trying to keep a straight face, had no choice but to stand there while looking as if he wanted to sink into the floor and not stop until he reached Beijing. Those of us who don't have goldfish memories will remember that West said that in response to Bush's non-response to the devastation wrought on the Gulf Coast, particularly New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina.
   You would also remember the countless horrors that the Bush administration inflicted on New Orleans' population, then 66% African American before gentrification began in earnest. By the next Mardi Gras just the year after, the French Quarter that had the previous summer seen alligators and rotting, half-eaten corpses floating through the streets started looking a whole lot whiter.
    We saw on TV and in videos on the internet Bush pantomiming consolation as black people cried to him what they needed and he tried to direct them to food tables they didn't need. Then, when Bush and his very temporary charges (Read: human scenery for world-class Republican scene-chewing) were out of camera range, a German film crew noted the food tables were immediately broken down. We saw an aid station that was shut down for eight hours so Laura Bush, the First Lady of Xanax, could have her picture taken handing a single loaf of a bread to someone.
     We saw all that and much, much more. So when West stammered that George Bush didn't care about black people, we liberals thought he was the greatest thing since Martin Luther King. Forget that a blind troglodyte could see that Bush didn't give a shit about African Americans. In fact, he'd told Matt Lauer five years later that the lowest point of his so-called presidency was when West called him a racist. Not the fact that a major American city was under 20-25 feet of filthy water or that 1800 people, mostly African American, had died. He was pissed that West rightly called him out for being a racist.
     But West was preaching to the choir, the choir in this case a liberal punditocracy known as bloggers who were just getting their feet wet that same year. And I was one of them cheering on Kanye West. I'll admit it. There was never such a thing as Charles Krauthammer's "Bush Derangement Syndrome" but many of us hated George W. Bush so much, and still do, that we were willing to use any cudgel with which to beat him over the head.
     Right wingers, especially the racist ones like Bush, went apeshit. Kanye was the Devil incarnate, he was a black radical for simply pointing out in his peculiarly inarticulate way, that Bush's casual racism resulted in lives lost while he had photo ops with that bumbling buffoon Michael Brown, then Director of FEMA, while search and rescue helicopters were grounded and seen in the background when they should've been in the air searching for and rescuing survivors writing panicked SOS messages on their roofs.
     So how did we liberals get it so wrong? Well, at the time, no one knew that Kanye West was a cryptofascist who, like Donald Trump, was a fan of Adolf Hitler. Conservatives similarly got West all wrong when, 13 years later, Kanye West was standing behind the Resolute Desk glad-handing that same Donald Trump while wearing a MAGA hat. And Kanye West was fully rehabilitated and in good standing with the right wing.

It Can't Did Happen Here
So, the years rolled by. Kanye released the occasional album, married a Kardashian, signed some very lucrative endorsement deals and gained wealth like Republicans gain weight. He became a billionaire and went to Cody, Wyoming, to make overpriced sneakers. Then 2020 rolled along and Kanye decided that he wanted to directly challenge the guy he'd visited in the Oval Office two years before. It was dismissed by the left wing that had lionized him 15 years before as a publicity stunt or one designed to poach black votes from Joe Biden. And maybe it was both.

   West launched his clownish campaign in a now-infamous presser in which he showed up wearing, presumably, a bulletproof vest and almost immediately began crying and screaming about... something because this is exactly a quality you want in a president. A segment of the right wing continued embracing him because Trump still liked him, therefore he was a black man in good standing because he thought like them. And that equally misguided right wing never once realized that Kanye West was a seriously mentally ill man who desperately needed therapy and was not someone who should be exploited for political gain.
     Then 2022 rolled around. He was like the 1994 Tim Allen, who had the top-ranked book, TV series and movie in the country, only in reverse. Because this was the year that West lost everything. He lost his marriage to Kim Kardashian, he lost his family, he lost endorsement deals with clothing and fashion giants. He lost much of his fortune and now he's not even a billionaire, any more. Why?
     Well, as we all know, he began openly embracing Hitler and Nazism. He posted death threats against Jews and was promptly kicked off Twitter. Then Elon Musk bought Twitter and eventually reinstated his account. Then he was kicked off Twitter yet again. Last Thursday alone, he appeared on Alex Jones' show looking exactly like an overinflated al Qaeda terrorist with gaudy fashion sense, wearing black gloves and a black mask that covered his entire head. He said, “I like Hitler. I love Jewish people, but I also love Nazis.”
    That would be the same Jews he wanted to kill just last month.
    To his dubious credit, after nervously laughing at West's outrageous comments, Jones tried to give him a way out. by saying, "You're not a Nazi." But West, of course, wouldn't take the easy out. He insisted he saw things in Hitler that he liked. Later that day, he posted swastikas on his Twitter account and was booted by Elon Musk, the Transvaal version of Goebbels.
     It doesn't help his reputation that his new running buddy is fellow Neo Nazi and antisemite Nick Fuentes, whom he'd brought to Mar a Lago to have dinner with Trump. After the scandal broke, Milo Yiannopoulos (who, if the universe is governed by a sane and fair deity, already has a monogrammed straitjacket waiting for him somewhere) said it was, as if he needs any help, a setup to make Trump look bad.
     As if unnecessarily proving he's about four cans short of a six pack, West then enraged Trump by announcing he was challenging him in 2024 and, despite announcing first, West asked him if he'd like to be his vice presidential running mate. Trump reportedly went off on West, especially after getting a phone call from an aide who told him West was running for the presidency. Trump and people like him take that as another example of a black person trying to take away something he owns.
     And still, while Trump hasn't said much about the dinner, neither did he ever denounce Kanye West or Nick Fuentes, a guy who's become so toxic that even Marjorie Taylor-Greene, who'd attended one of his white power conferences during CPAC, has denounced him.

From Jesse Owens to Candace Owens
If Candace Owens had been around during the 1936 Berlin Olympics, she would've been in the stands rooting for Jesse Owens' German opponents. You know she would have. After all, it was just four years ago when Owens infamously stated, “If Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well — OK, fine.” It didn't seem to matter to her that Hitler did not confine his activities to Nazi Germany and masterminded a years-long plan to exterminate 6,000,000 innocent Jews across Eastern Europe.
     So it hardly raised an eyebrow when Owens showed up at Paris Fashion Week earlier this year with Kanye West with both wearing "White Lives Matter" tee shirts in what had to be the most pitiful and notorious self-loathing in modern history. It was obviously another puerile attempt by the right wing to "trigger the libs" and, to their dubious credit, it worked.
    But then West started saying the quiet parts out loud. Endorsement deals fell to the wayside like dominoes. And yet, West hasn't been pushed to that wayside like we had George Lincoln Rockwell and Lyndon LaRouche in previous decades, men whose intolerable and ultra-extreme views would fit perfectly in the Republican mainstream today. Instead, Kanye has achieved a dubious kind of infamy that his fashion apparel or music never quite got for him.
    As with Trump, West and his daily brain seizures make great copy, boosts circulations, generates millions of link clicks and the Donald Trump/Kanye West psychological sideshow is a booming concern with no end in sight. Right wing crazy is de rigueur these days. Who cares how powerfully and quickly it normalizes fascist and anti-semitic thinking?
    And that accounts for the right wing silence on Kanye and Fuentes, starting with Trump. They're saying the quiet parts out loud and it's a sad state of affairs when a Dollar General Eva Braun like Marjorie Taylor-Greene is the sole major figure on the right wing who's actually denouncing Fuentes. But not because she disagrees with his antediluvian positions but because he's saying the quiet parts out loud.
    West proves once again that when cultural icons like him espouse ridiculous, cruel sentiments, they will eventually become mainstream thought, especially when they're supported in word, deed or silence by elected officials and breathlessly repeated ad nauseam by the mainstream media. This is why we have something in political science named Overton's Window, or when extreme positions eventually become mainstream thought through repetition and, eventually, acceptance.
     The United States and the UK had a brief flirtation with Nazism in the 1930s and early 1940s but in neither country did it ever become mainstream. There was a tipping point in both countries in which people like Lindbergh and the British aristocracy realized Hitler represented a bridge too far. But when a concerned American sees and hears West's or Trump's latest outrage get endlessly amplified, it makes one wonder if that tipping point that prevents outright fascism will ever arrive.


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