Opinion | Kanye isn’t a ‘free thinker.’ He’s a mouthpiece.


Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File

Kanye West arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Feb. 9, 2020, in Beverly Hills, Calif.

By Paul Beer, Staff Columnist

Kanye West recently came under fire for antisemitic remarks on Twitter, leading to his ban from the platform the day after getting restricted on Instagram. 

The now infamous statement includes a threat to go “death con 3 on Jewish people,” referencing the DEFCON readiness scale. Though it is unclear what he actually meant by the tweet, further comments and interviews seem to point at his discontentment with mainstream media and record label executives. 

The portrayal of Jewish people as having too much “Jewish influence” on any one industry dates back to before Hitler’s rise in power. West also made additional comments that tie back to his recent spotlight friendships with conservative propagandist stars Candace Owens and Tucker Carlson. This is the crux of West’s new tirade — he lacks originality. 

West is not the “free thinker” that many on the right proclaim. He’s simply a mouthpiece for white-nationalism, antisemitism and right-wing propaganda. Everything he’s said has been said before. 

In the past, West’s oddball comments were largely one off spectacles or promotions for his failed 2020 presidential campaign. In 2018, he infamously said slavery was “a choice,” leading to stark criticism. This was the public’s first hint at West’s prejudices. Funnily enough, Owens has parroted similar rhetoric before, insisting on multiple occasions that the “true history” of slavery consisted of Africans capturing and selling other Africans to white imperialists and reminding us all that white people “freed the slaves” through the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War.

Recently, West and Owens sported matching “white lives matter” t-shirts — a slogan used to disavow the Black Lives Matter movement as exclusionary and unnecessary. After this stunt failed to sell merchandise, West and Ian Connor, his stylist and an accused serial rapist, distributed the shirts to the homeless population of Los Angeles. Once again, he subscribes to the existing tenets of white supremacy and therefore West fails to provide any substantive ideas to the conversation of Black empowerment. He is simply restating hateful rhetoric that only propagates more racism in America.

Similarly, when questioned on the comments surrounding Jewish people on Twitter and other social media platforms, West stood firm. He labeled Piers Morgan a “Karen” for calling on him to apologize and then refused to rescind the comments. With Chris Cuomo, West claimed he was being targeted by the “Jewish underground media mafia,” a misnomer for all mainstream media. It seems this version of West is here to stay, for now.

However, this all begs the question — why?

Some conservative propagandists in the business turn a quick profit on the uninformed and ignorant. Those who pay attention to law know that Carlson’s show is all a ruse. His own legal team said in a defamation lawsuit that Carlson does not always state “actual facts,” but instead provides a “non-literal” commentary on American politics. His goal, very evidently, is achieving money and fame. 

We know too, that Owens is deceiving her fanbase for money as well. In a 2007 lawsuit with Stamford public schools, Owens won an anti-discrimination case with the NAACP on her side. Now, she claims racism doesn’t really even exist anymore and disavows the NAACP to draw in a racist conservative base. Furthermore, West’s endeavor to purchase Parler, a right-wing Twitter clone, from Owens’ husband proves that she has West right where she needs him to ensure a profit. 

But, what could motivate West to increase his propagandist language? Already a “self-made” billionaire, public icon and a prolific musical artist with some of the best modern hip-hop music in his catalog, what is pushing West in this direction? It likely is not money, as his merchandise stunt failed and the social media platform endeavor is not destined for profit. If anything, this stunt is working to undo the money he makes on streaming too, as boycotts of his music begin. 

It is not purely “mental illness” either, as West has repeatedly talked about his bipolar disorder. Though the intimate and crushingly negative attention from the media may spur him on, mental illness does not spontaneously transform someone into an antisemite or white nationalist. Instead, bipolar disorder in the presence of public spotlight may make these already-present biases harder to manage publicly. 

Perhaps West wants power, as he eyes a future presidential candidacy once again. Time will tell if his stunts are powerful enough to draw in a new audience of white nationalists, or if he even wants that base by his side.

Paul Beer writes about political affairs and reads too many album reviews. Write back to him (or send music recommendations) at [email protected].