What in the world is going on with Kanye West?
The rapper and fashion designer who now goes by “Ye” has been caught in an ever-worsening storm of self-inflicted controversy for his repeated spreading of disinformation and anti-Semitic statements.
Though Ye has long been a controversial figure in the media, his actions this past month have been especially unhinged. He was seen publicly wearing a “White Lives Matter” shirt in October and was suspended from both Instagram and Twitter for remarks claiming that “Jewish media” fueled the backlash against him and that he was going to go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.”
More recently, Ye promoted the discredited claim that George Floyd died of a Fentanyl overdose, in addition to announcing plans to purchase the right-wing alternative media site Parler.
The fallout from Ye’s comments has been swift and ongoing. Adidas and Gap, which have worked with Ye in the past, severed ties; a recently completed documentary about the rapper was shelved; and athletes Aaron Donald and Jaylen Brown, who associated with Ye’s Donda Sports, cut ties with him.
Ye’s music remains available on major streaming platforms, but many of his most lucrative business partnerships and connections have been poisoned by his hateful speech.
While many questions remain about Ye’s future financial status and cultural legacy, it is essential to look at the outsized roles that international celebrities like him have in dictating the focus of public conversation and the bounds of social acceptability.
Widely influential and recognizable figures like Ye need to act with a more significant level of caution and intention when posting to social media than those who do not have similar levels of reach.
Ye is one of the most decorated artists in modern music. With that success comes many fans who now have to decide if they will continue to support him.
In response to major scandals, it has become common for fans to attempt to separate the art from the artist. Even so, many of Ye’s fans have grouped him and his words together, defending his speech in order to defend his work.
This support manifests in some ways as a cosigning of the anti-Semitic remarks made by Ye, with many Twitter users responding to Brown’s statement leaving Donda Sports with claims that Ye was “just speaking the truth.”
In addition to inciting hate speech from those who respect him as a musical artist, Ye’s statements have also led to a normalization of anti-Semitism that has galvanized extremists to perform public acts of hate.
Members of a white supremacist group displayed a sign over a busy Los Angeles highway two weeks ago that read “Kanye was right about the Jews” while posing in a Nazi salute, while another group displayed a sign with the same message outside a University of Florida football game in Jacksonville.
These hateful acts are a chilling reminder that anti-Semitism still has an audience in America. Ye’s actions both reinforce these dangerous beliefs and provide a pathway for them to make their way back into mainstream society.
But alarmingly, Ye isn’t the only person of influence currently promoting anti-Semitism.
Recently, Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving posted a Twitter link to a 2018 documentary that made claims of a Jewish secret society known as the “New World Order,” which wishes to enslave society.
Irving has made headlines in the past for his belief that the world is flat and his refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but this most recent post, in tandem with Ye’s actions, is emblematic of resurging anti-Semitism within the conspiratorial right.
At the risk of sounding redundant, in the face of this bigotry, our determination is the same as other recent editorials: Educate yourself and try to seek a path away from hate.