Kanye West has been at the top of every headline, timeline, and feed. As one of the most famous artists of our generation, he is also probably the most controversial. The infamous VMA unprovoked upstaging of Taylor Swift in 2009 was enough for some fans to end their reverence. Then there was the TMZ interview in which he called slavery “a choice.” These bizarre and unhinged actions have become normal tabloid padding for virtually his entire career. But, West’s most recent anti-semitic actions seem to be the coup de grâce to his lustrous career. I won’t be taking just another hot-take on cancel culture or about if Kanye deserves another chance (he doesn’t, by the way). Instead, I think there is something to be found in Kanye West’s persona about modern conservatism and how it is often portrayed in society.
Pop culture and politics have become increasingly intertwined in the past few years. Election debates are meme-ified in seconds and international summits often hit gossip magazines. Nowadays, politics stray from policy and become more about ostracizing the other. Conservatives as of late have clung to and have somehow created an unofficial platform off of inflammatory comments that stick with their base.
Kanye’s latest attack came via a Tweet saying he would go “death con 3 on Jewish people.” The blatant anti-semitic hate speech sent shockwaves throughout many industries. Countless major brands dropped deals with him, radio stations limited his songs playing, and even his wax figure was removed from Madame Tussauds. In essence, it seems like he has finally been cancelled. The curious thing is how it didn’t happen before, not to this scale. Kanye has used his platform to spew baseless conspiracy theories for the past few years. And the world had constantly been listening.
Donald Trump acts similarly. His constant hate-spewing discourse based on unfounded ideas was a pillar of his political being. Sometimes the world cared, and official statements of condemnation would be released, but often, we just turned a blind eye. This seems to be a growing theme in modern conservatism. Election denials seem to be a given at every level, be it national or local. A deep fear of the state is expected in the conservative party at a level unrecognizable to what the party stood for just 20 years ago. The issue does not just pertain to US politics. President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil similarly mirrors this idea of creating a “brand” based on off-the-wall comments, and hoping something resonates with his populist base. His comments are often unrelated to topics at hand and instantly become sound bits for his camp to plaster on merchandise.
Politicians have always been known to be out of touch with voters. But the scary thing with this new wave of conservatism is it has found a way to galvanize an often silent faction of the population. The same can be said for Kanye. West’s actions are despicable, yet he attracts a serious following that feeds off of it. These big names, be it in politics or pop culture, play a crucial role in normalizing the parody that is radical conservatism. People find a sense of belonging in this uninformed bubble that continues to grow bigger and bigger. Politics and popular culture have become one in the same since the rise of social media. The effect is seen in people, celebrities, and politicians alike. Kanye may seem to be inconsequential to the theme of emerging political culture, but his canceling as of late has proved that there may be hope to change this. We, as a collective of people, must stop brushing aside the absurdity of the new conservative wave and start calling it as it is: baseless and simply… not conservative.
Featured image by: Axel Antas-Bergkvist // Unsplash