The Washington Post published an opinion piece today under the headline “Kanye West, alt-right darling.” The news hook for the entire piece is that Kanye retweeted a couple of pro-Trump conservatives over the weekend, causing people on the left to freak out as they are prone to do when anyone dares to disagree with them. The Post piece isn’t quite as focused on the right as the headline suggests. In fact, it actually makes the point that the left is overreacting but only after two paragraphs wondering what is wrong with West that he would side with the right:
It’s easy to cast West as just another lost man seduced by the far right’s promise to provide a sense of purpose. All that pseudo-philosophy does suggest a preoccupation with the sort of existential problems figures such as psychologist Jordan Peterson, who has become a surprise lifestyle guru, claim they can solve. It’s also possible to connect West’s eccentric behavior on Twitter — this isn’t the first time his forays into politics have discomfited some fans — to the mental-health struggles that led to his 2017 hospitalization.
Or it could just be that West is cloistered in a world of wealth, away from the realities of racism that motivated incidents like his declaration on live television after Hurricane Katrina that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” He may be too preoccupied with his image of himself as a truth-teller to recognize that the unconventional communication style he finds so attractive in Trump is just a way to cover up lies.
So the options for explaining Kanye’s kind words for people on the right include the following:
- He’s a clueless dupe
- He’s desperate for purpose.
- He’s preoccupied with the big picture and a dupe.
- He has mental health problems
- He’s so rich he’s out of touch with reality.
Let me just say that I don’t care one way or the other about Kanye West. I have no interest in him or his music. So it’s possible that one or all of these explanations are accurate. But I don’t remember anyone caring until he said something positive about someone on the right. Then suddenly there is a whole list of reasons why he may have lost his senses. There are literally dozens upon dozens of far-left nutjobs spouting off on Twitter every day. When does the Post devote pixels to diagnosing their possible mental problems? I won’t hold my breath waiting.
Eventually, the author does get around to acknowledging that the left freaked out over this though that clearly doesn’t interest her as much as the right’s reaction:
Progressives, West’s more typical fan base, greeted his return to Twitter with breathless engagement. (Apparently, they’d forgotten about West’s onstage announcement last summer that he’d have voted for Trump had he voted at all, and his post-election visit to Trump Tower.) But the moment West expressed his approval of Owens, liberals recoiled. Eager to signal their lefty credentials, they withdrew their support the moment West went against the party line.
Then there’s the right, alt and otherwise. Most conservatives had less interest in West’s work, and they certainly didn’t like it when he condemned Bush. But now, a lineup of luminaries on the right has assembled to defend West against the liberal hordes. Where Alex Jones once called West “a microcosm of America’s degeneration,” he now praises his “bold moves against the thought police.” Where Bill O’Reilly once described West as a “disease,” the former Fox host on Sunday decried the “attack” against him by “American Stalinists.”
These reactions typify the left and right’s relationship to celebrities. Progressives can easily pivot away from any public figure who makes him or herself toxic, like West and country artist Shania Twain. After all, plenty of other popular personalities do align with their politics. It’s not as if progressives are wanting for representatives among the culturally influential.
The Shania Twain story also gets a passing mention but not in any detail. That was another left-wing freak out over a mildly positive comment about Trump at the tail end of a longer story about Twain. Twain apologized within hours after the lefty Twitter mob went on the attack.
Somehow, all the author of this piece comes away with is that the right is desperate for celebrity approval and that the left “can easily pivot away.” That’s one way to put it. Another, more accurate way would be that on the rare occasion when someone with cultural power says something positive about the right, even in passing, the left-wing mob does its best to shame them back into line. They don’t pivot away, they pull out the long knives and begin calling the apostate celebrity stupid or crazy or some combination of the two until they recant in fear for their future. This article manages to recycle all those left-wing attacks on West even as it makes the right’s reaction the main focus.
The Post piece concludes, “Liberals have shown off their willingness to enforce ideological purity, no matter who the offender is. And the far right has demonstrated, once again, that they’re willing to flip-flop at the slightest sign that they might be able to land a mainstream celebrity recruit.” Both sides flip-flopped on West. One side (the right) is getting dinged for their hypocrisy by the Post while the other side (the left) is getting their views amplified and approved in the same piece. That’s what cultural power looks like.