And their right-wing media ecosystem.
What I’m about to say may seem controversial. But hear me out.
Kanye is not the problem.
By now you’ve probably seen videos and social media posts of Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, spouting hateful anti-Semitic rhetoric. The messages he’s sharing are not benign. Spreading these images can and will cause real harm to the Jewish community. Folks raising the alarm are not blowing things out of proportion. Anyone who follows the history of white supremacy knows the surge in anti-Semitic rhetoric is a telltale sign that fascism is becoming more and more mainstream. Which should concern all of us.
But the focus on Kanye is taking our attention away from the people bankrolling the rise in hate speech we are seeing on all platforms.
The problem isn’t Kanye, it’s the Koch Donor network and their right-wing media ecosystem.
Before I get to recent events, if you are not familiar with the Koch brothers, you should take some time to get to know them. They have been working to manipulate public policy for many decades now. One of their greatest achievements was winning a legal precedent with the Citizens United case at SCOTUS, which allows dark money donors to give freely, and anonymously to political organizations under the guise of corporations having “free speech” rights. This CNN article is a good primer:
“Rather than throwing their considerable wealth — they are both billionaires — at fly-by-night political operations, they built their own from scratch, with an eye not toward short-term gains but to affecting longer-term changes in the culture.”
These investments took the form of a whole networked infrastructure of quasi-political organizations including right-wing think tanks, media conglomerates, and astroturf organizations.
But getting back to Ye…
The story behind the story
In this interview on Media Matters, Matt Gertz explains the story behind the story. In it, he shares how Tucker Carlson did an extensive interview with Ye earlier this fall. He says, “Carlson wanted to fit him into a very particular picture as a right-wing hero. And so that was — that’s what he did.”
Here is an excerpt:
You know, suddenly it was a big story that Kanye West was an anti-Semite. But of course, Fox already knew that because, as Vice subsequently revealed — they got a hold of stuff that had been left on the cutting room floor from this interview — and it’s him saying horrible things about Jewish people. And, you know, Tucker Carlson decided not to air that. Fox News decided not to air that. And, you know, that was a huge scoop that they could have had, that that Kanye West was an anti-Semite, but they didn’t want to talk about Kanye West as an anti-Semite. They want to talk about him as a right-wing hero. And so that’s what they did.”
For the record, Tucker Carlson is the founder of the Koch-funded Daily Caller. In 2016, the two Koch nonprofits and the Trump campaign provided 97.5 percent of the Daily Caller News Foundation’s revenue.
Let’s be real clear. Black republicans are not a thing.
According to a Pew Research Center survey in October, “only 4% of Black registered voters said they would vote for the Republican candidate for the U.S. House seat in their district, while 69% said they would back the Democratic candidate.”
So, ask yourself, “Who benefits from lifting up these narratives? Who has something to gain?”
Who benefits when Tucker Carlson selectively edits an interview with Kanye to elevate him as a right-wing hero? Whoever it is, it definitely isn’t Jewish or Black people.
Folks following the Kanye story know he first started blowing up on social media after his fashion week publicity stunt with Candace Owens where they both showed up wearing “White Lives Matter T-Shirts”.
Don’t get me wrong. Folks like Kanye and Candace are definitely a problem. But they are just political props in a huge game of monopoly being played by Mr. Burns wannabes, PayPal Mafia tech bros, and their GamerGate goons.
Let’s talk about Candace
You may not know it if you don’t follow conservative media. But, Candace has been touring with Charlie Kirk’s GOP roadshow for a while now.
Kirk’s Turning Point USA is aright-wing youth leadership astroturf organization funded by the Koch donor network. TPUSA is focused on recruiting the next generation of conservatives with chapters in high schools and universities across the country. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Kirk’s organization has a history of “boosting numbers with racists & nazi sympathizers.” Their website also hosts a School Board Watchlist that targets district leaders.
If you are wondering how “crackpots” who don’t have kids in your district are getting their disinformed talking points, along with details on when and where to attend the next school board meeting, this could be your answer. Turning Point also targets university professors who talk about race.
Ye’s comments were shocking, but who’s handing him the mic?
While it was shocking just how blatantly anti-Semitic Kanye’s statements were, no one was surprised that he held these views. He had expressed anti-Black sentiments years before.
Kanye’s comments were disgusting. But, our outrage about them should also extend to the men platforming his bigotry—the ones giving him the mic. Tucker intentionally elevated an anti-Semite and cast him as a hero. Where is the outrage for that?
And this pattern continued. Weeks after Ye’s appearance on Carlson’s show, Alex Jones platformed him along with Nick Fuentes, a white nationalist livestreamer and “stop the steal” proponent. In this interview, Ye went on an unhinged rant proclaiming his admiration for Hitler.
Ye should unquestionably be held accountable for making these statements. This article does a good job of explaining why no self-respecting Black person (or anyone else for that matter) should be making excuses for Ye after all he has said and done. As the article states: “Kanye is not a brother, he’s a brand.” There is no excuse for profiting off of anti-Blackness, anti-Semitism, and bigotry.
But, condemnation and accountability shouldn’t stop there. Folks should also be rightfully outraged about the fact that Jones chose to give Ye a very large platform on his Infowars show.
It is no coincidence that Jones chose to interview Kanye shortly after news erupted that a Texas judge ruled against him in a defamation case filed by Sandy Hook parents. What better way to distract from the over $1.5 billion he owes as a result of their lawsuit, than using a Black megastar as a prop to perform anti-Semitic hate speech on your show!
Who’s got the mic?
Instead of fueling the social media mayhem, we need to practice some Critical Race Theory and ask ourselves, “Who’s giving these clowns the mic? Who benefits from these narratives? Which communities are being harmed?”
White supremacists can use the statements of a famous Black rapper to justify their anti-Semitic hate. While GOP political operatives can use Ye’s persecution by “woke” liberals to claim Black republicans face “reverse racism”, “cancel culture” and “discrimination” for their views. All of them get more ratings, publicity, and engagement. While online and IRL hate against the Jewish community escalates.
Kanye and Candace are definitely a problem. But the reality is, they are performing anti-Semitism and bigotry like minstrels on a stage. Whether or not they are finally “canceled”, history has shown us there are no doubt understudies, waiting in the wings to take their place.
Instead of focusing our outrage on celebrities, we should demand accountability from the people manufacturing these harmful spectacles. The people platforming bigots may find all this conflict entertaining, but they are causing real harm.
Instead of focusing our outrage on celebrities, we should demand accountability from the media moguls manufacturing these harmful spectacles. The people platforming bigots may find this racist song and dance entertaining, but they are causing real harm to all our communities.