Jews and Progressives Cancelled Kanye West for Different Reasons
Weaponizing charges of antisemitism won’t make it disappear.
By Lawrence Solomon
“It’s like you cannot even say the word ‘Jewish’ without people getting upset,” said black conservative Candace Owens, in commenting on a head-scratching tweet by Ye (aka Kanye West), a rapper and fashion designer.
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“I’m going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE,” he tweeted. “The funny thing is I actually can’t be Anti Semitic because black people are actually Jew also You guys have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda.”
Ye’s wide-ranging tweets and often cryptic comments on recent media appearances led both progressives and Jews to call him an antisemite, and to his cancellation by social media and his bank. His cancellation was a gain for progressives, who see MAGA-hat-wearing Ye with his 31 million Twitter followers as undermining their hold on power in the coming Congressional elections. But it was a loss for Jews, who fail to realize that antisemitism won’t be eradicated by cancel culture. Cancel culture’s intolerance for differences and antisemitism’s intolerance for Jews are two sides of the same coin.
The social-media lynching of Ye occurred despite an absence of unambiguous evidence about the meaning of his comments. “If you were an honest person, when you read this tweet, you had no idea what the hell he was talking about,” Owens added. None of the thousands of heated analyses of Ye’s recent comments put a dent in Owens’s observation. Despite their sound and fury, without exception Ye’s accusers find meaning where none may exist, much as Rorschach inkblot tests elicit only the imaginations in the mind of the beholder.
The kerfuffle started earlier this month during Paris Fashion Week when Ye and Owens wore matching “White Lives Matter” T-shirts to introduce his new fashion collection. Progressive celebrities including fellow rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs then pressured Ye to recant his opposition to Black Lives Matter, which he has called “a scam.” In pushing back at their attempts to control what he thinks – “no one can threaten or influence me,” he says -- Ye appeared to imply that Combs was controlled by Jewish influencers. For good measure, Ye also tweeted, “How you gone kick me off Instagram,” alongside a photograph of Mark Zuckerberg and himself. Ye referred to Jared Kushner’s financial gain from having brokered an Israeli treaty in a Fox News interview with Tucker Carlson. Zuckerberg and Kushner are both Jews.
Jewish organizations among others immediately went on the attack, claiming he was employing antisemitic tropes. The Anti-Defamation League warned his “dangerous rhetoric may help advance the spread of existing false and antisemitic narratives shared by extremist groups.” The Abraham Global Peace Initiative conjured up a new Holocaust.
Ye’s attackers, in calling him an antisemite, assumed he viewed Jews monolithically, rather than as people who are often on all sides of high-profile issues. They were too quick to judgment.
Ye’s ambiguous comments deserve to be given the benefit of the doubt, a benefit he has earned through his past unambiguous praise of Israeli Jews and his refusal to succumb to pressure from the Boycott, Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement, which attempted to stop him from performing in Israel.
Ye’s attackers might also have given him the benefit of the doubt in his “death con 3” tweet by realizing Ye likely meant “defcon 3,” a U.S. military term calling for “a heightened state of alert in anticipation of mobilization” by an adversary. Given that Ye knew social media companies and agencies, many of which are run by Jews, were poised to strike, it is plausible, even probable, that Ye was sounding the alarm on incoming fire.
Ye’s attackers also failed to give him the benefit of the doubt when in his defence he rhetorically tweeted “Who you think created cancel culture,” a factually correct reference to its Jewish origin. Cancel culture, many theorists agree, arose from Critical Theory promulgated by the Frankfurt School of German intellectuals. Starting in the 1920s, these intellectuals propounded ways to modernize Marxism. Wikipedia, which lists the Frankfurt School’s movers and shakers, shows the first 12 in its list to be Jews.
Progressives see Critical Theory and its offspring as virtuous, conservatives see it as villainous. A discussion over the German-Jewish role in Critical Theory – a discussion now shut down -- is worth having. The increasing number of antisemites among progressives might reflect on what their movement owes to these Jews; all might reflect on the puzzle of why Jews in Germany were so influential in founding Critical Theory. Without a full understanding of Critical Theory’s emergence and staying power, its adherents and detractors alike would be handicapped in making their case.
Most Jews today would fear that debate, even though many of the biggest critics of the Franklin School and Critical Theory are Jews, since it could provide ammunition to white supremacists.
Likewise, most Jews have feared debates over their prominence in media, finance and other areas in society. But Jews’ success in weaponizing accusations of antisemitic tropes to silence any who would question their standing hasn’t made the questions, or antisemitism, go away. Its suppression in polite company has only relegated it to the darkest corners of society and deepened the mystique over all things Jewish.
As Owens noted, merely invoking the word “Jewish” arouses upset. The word is fraught, laden with baggage for Jews and non-Jews alike. But without open debate over Jewish-related matters that confound so many, despite the upset that debate would engender, antisemitism born of suspicions and stereotypes can only persist.
Lawrence Solomon is an Epoch Times columnist, a former National Post and Globe and Mail columnist, and the executive director of Toronto-based Energy Probe and Consumer Policy Institute. He is the author of 7 books, including "The Deniers," a #1 environmental best-seller in both the United States and Canada. He can be reached at LS@lawrencesolomon.ca.
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