Elon Musk Sent Up A Bat Signal To Every Kind Of Racist That Twitter Was Open For Business
Maybe Ye Isn't The Only Crackpot Celebrity Around
One lesson Trump learned early on from his mentor, Roy Cohn, is that any publicity is good publicity, even negative publicity. Ye operates on a similar wavelength. Psychologically, he craves attention and his little Nazi stunt yesterday is just the latest example of craving it and getting it. His world is in shambles but he seems to just keep digging. Last night he was even suspended from Twitter (again) by self-proclaimed free speech absolutist Elon Musk (a ban personally approved by Musk). Even for a right-winger like Musk, overt and repeated anti-Semitism is a danger he’s not ready to confront at this point. Ye tweeted a swastika inside a state of David. That was enough for the free speech guy.
CNBC reported this morning that “Ye’s tweet came after he made anti-semitic comments in an interview with the controversial radio host Alex Jones on Thursday. Ye referred to ‘the Jewish media’ and said he saw ‘good things about Hitler’ in an hourlong conversation with the conspiracy theorist. In October, Twitter locked Ye’s account for an unspecified amount of time following a string of antisemitic remarks which escalated into threatening and hateful comments about Jewish people. He returned to Twitter in November. After his suspension in October, Ye agreed to buy conservative social media company Parler. ‘In a world where conservative opinions are considered to be controversial we have to make sure we have the right to freely express ourselves,’ he said in a statement released by Parler at the time. But on Thursday, Parler said its deal to be bought by Ye has been called off.”
As Ye was being banned by Twitter, Trump was expressing solidarity with the violent, treasonous insurrectionists who have become a real cause célèbre on the far right fringes (AKA- the slightly right of center wing of House Republican Conference). Last night, reported John Wagner, Trump sent a video supporting a fundraising event for the fascist Patriot Freedom Project hosted by extremist allies of his like Marjorie Traitor Greene (Q-GA), Troy Nehls (R-TX) and Neo-Nazi ideologue Steve Bannon.
Referring to the insurrectionists who have been found guilty, Trump said “People have been treated unconstitutionally, in my opinion, and very, very unfairly, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it. It’s the weaponization of the Department of Justice, and we can’t let this happen in our country.” He warned that the country “is going communist.” As Peter Baker reported for the NY Times last night, “Trump once again made clear on Thursday night exactly where he stands in the conflict between the American justice system and the mob that ransacked the Capitol to stop the peaceful transfer of power nearly two years ago. He stands with the mob… The video underscored just how much the former president has aligned himself with forces that used to be outside the mainstream of American politics as he seeks to reclaim the White House through a rematch with President Biden in 2024. With the Justice Department targeting him as well as some of his violent allies, Trump’s antigovernment jeremiads lately sound like those once relegated to the outer edges of the political spectrum. He has embraced extremist elements in American society even more unabashedly than in the past… Trump’s acceptance, if not outright courtship, of the militant right comes as the Republican establishment blames him for the party’s failure to do better during the November midterm elections.”
“Trump is doubling down on his extremist and cult leader profile,” said Ruth Ben-Ghiat, author of Strongmen: From Mussolini to the Present and a history professor at New York University. “For someone of Trump’s temperament, being humiliated by people turning away from him will only make him more desperate and more inclined to support and associate with the most extremist elements of society. There is no other option for him.”
This morning, National Review writer Jim Geraghty admitted that on the right “a lot of people wanted to convince you that Kanye West wasn’t nuts. But now it’s indisputable that Kanye West is nuts.” Geraghty found Ye’s comments to right-wing crackpot Alex Jones noteworthy:
“Watching an ongoing train wreck of a man revel in saying the most abhorrent things he could imagine,” wrote Geraghty, “is spectacularly sad, but I won’t lie: I was genuinely amused by the sight of the legendarily unhinged conspiracy theorist Jones suddenly realizing that he was the sane one in the conversation… Stand next to Kanye West long enough, and eventually he’ll say something you feel a need to disassociate yourself from, lest he destroy your reputation by mere proximity… Back on October 6 Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, the most-watched prime-time cable-news host in the country, looked into the camera and told his viewers that Kanye West was being unfairly smeared as insane, and that, while West could be jarring and emotional, he believed West was not crazy… It was later revealed that during his interview with Carlson, Kanye West said a lot of things that made him sound crazy. ‘I prefer my kids knew Hanukkah than Kwanzaa. At least it will come with some financial engineering.’ ‘I have visions that God gives me, just over and over, on community building and how to build these free energy, kinetic, fully kinetic energy communities.’ ‘We’re not building the new New York skyline cockfight. That we are humble in the way that we present ourselves. We’ve got to rethink who we are as a species.’ Carlson and his producers chose to leave those parts of the interview on the cutting-room floor. That’s not being honest with your audience. That’s going out of your way to obscure the truth from your audience, because you want them to believe something that isn’t true: that Kanye West is just ‘a man speaking honestly and so movingly about what he believes.’”
Geraghty also noted that “that dinner at Mar-a-Lago with former president Trump, West, Nick Fuentes, and Milo Yiannopoulos sounds like a pit of vipers. One of the harshest things you can say about everyone at that dinner is that they all deserve each other. But we’re now left with the fact that the most recent former president invited a man to dinner who had already pledged to go ‘Death Con 3’ on the Jews, and who subsequently went on a program and told everyone how he loved Nazis, the Holocaust didn’t happen, and Hitler had a lot of redeeming qualities. If the accounts of the dinner are correct, the only thing that West and Fuentes said that offended Trump was the declaration that West would run for president in 2024 and that Trump should be his running mate… [W]hat we’ve seen, time and again, is that Trump has absolutely no problem hanging around with other people who are genuine antisemites or Holocaust deniers, as long as they praise Trump and stroke his ego. The problem with Trump is not that he buys into the evil beliefs of these repugnant hatemongers, it’s that he does not care that these repugnant hatemongers have evil beliefs and are trying to spread them. Trump still hasn’t denounced Fuentes, and he may never do so. The ‘I didn’t know who that guy was’ excuse doesn’t get Trump off the hook. Donald Trump is okay with evil, as long as evil says nice things about him."
Kanye West’s career has always run on shock value— posing as Jesus on the cover of Rolling Stone, running up on stage and grabbing the microphone out of Taylor Swift’s hands, contending that Bill Cosby is innocent, contending that slavery was a choice, etc. A musical celebrity’s career runs on doing new and surprising things to stay relevant, and that professional need to shock and surprise people— and the belief that half of what West did was likely a manufactured publicity stunt— offered a lot of cover for what is indisputably serious mental illness.
The standard comment in a situation like this is that, “That guy needs some serious help,” but one of the tragic ironies of mental illness is that its effects often make those suffering from it push away those who want to help them. It’s been easy to make jokes about West’s failed marriage to Kim Kardashian, but if there’s any family in the world that has figured out how to function while choosing to live in the relentless spotlight of being celebrities, it is the Kardashians. For a while there, West was surrounded by in-laws who understood what it was like to have the paparazzi tracking your every move and to have every aspect of your life obsessively dissected on social media; if anybody could relate to his problems, it was them. And apparently, that support network wasn’t enough to make a difference.
In fact, as West drifted away from the Kardashians, he drifted more and more into a circle that seemed to want him to position himself as an outspoken ideological figure and a leader (and financier) of a MAGA-aligned political movement. And once that happened, a lot of people wanted to believe that Kanye West was sane, well, and even wise because somewhere in the middle of his outlandish diatribes, he had said something political that they agreed with and wanted to promote.
Most celebrities are progressive, liberal, on the left, or outspoken Democrats, and it’s not surprising that some conservatives hunger to have a celebrity of their own to express their views in the public square. You could argue that that was at the heart of Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency. But what’s right and what’s wrong doesn’t change based upon a celebrity endorsement; a public policy doesn’t become any more effective or ineffective if a famous person tweets about it. Celebrities aren’t any better than you and me, they’re not necessarily any smarter or wiser. In fact, they may well be dumber. Celebrity status often brings accompaniments of money, yes-men, groupies, and both physical and psychological walls from the rest of society, which likely creates a reality-distortion field that makes it harder for them to differentiate fantasy from reality.
If you did choose to pretend that Kanye West was sane, wise, and someone worth listening to, and if you averted your eyes from the increasing mountain of evidence that West is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs and not worth listening to on anything . . .
. . . forget Kanye for a moment. What’s wrong with you?
So what about Elon? Is he sane? Insane? He’s certainly responsible for the proliferation a lot more hate speech than Ye will ever be! This morning, Sheera Frankel and Kate Conger wrote that “Before Elon Musk bought Twitter, slurs against Black Americans showed up on the social media service an average of 1,282 times a day. After the billionaire became Twitter’s owner, they jumped to 3,876 times a day. Slurs against gay men appeared on Twitter 2,506 times a day on average before Musk took over. Afterward, their use rose to 3,964 times a day. And antisemitic posts referring to Jews or Judaism soared more than 61 percent in the two weeks after Musk acquired the site. These findings— from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the Anti-Defamation League and other groups that study online platforms— provide the most comprehensive picture to date of how conversations on Twitter have changed since Musk completed his $44 billion deal for the company in late October. While the numbers are relatively small, researchers said the increases were atypically high.”
The shift in speech is just the tip of a set of changes on the service under Musk. Accounts that Twitter used to regularly remove— such as those that identify as part of the Islamic State, which were banned after the U.S. government classified ISIS as a terror group— have come roaring back. Accounts associated with QAnon, a vast far-right conspiracy theory, have paid for and received verified status on Twitter, giving them a sheen of legitimacy.
These changes are alarming, researchers said, adding that they had never seen such a sharp increase in hate speech, problematic content and formerly banned accounts in such a short period on a mainstream social media platform.
“Elon Musk sent up the Bat Signal to every kind of racist, misogynist and homophobe that Twitter was open for business,” said Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate. “They have reacted accordingly.”