December 4, 2022
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Opinion | Kanye Shows Where the Right’s Troll Politics Lead

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Such insinuating rhetoric lets Republicans speak to antisemites and then take umbrage when other people notice. The umbrage itself then becomes part of the political message: Those people won’t let you say anything anymore! Usually, this performance depends on language with at least a shred of ambiguity, allowing the speaker to adopt a posture of put-upon faux naïveté. “Apparently now it’s some kind of racist thing if I talk about the school,” huffed Mastriano.

Ye, however, doesn’t bother with ambiguity. Last week, after Sean Combs, the rapper known as Diddy, criticized him for his “White Lives Matter” T-shirts, Ye posted an exchange on Instagram accusing Combs of being controlled by Jews. That got Ye’s Instagram account frozen, so he went on Twitter, where he was welcomed back by the site’s likely future owner, Elon Musk. There, after announcing his vendetta against the Jewish people, Ye addressed us directly: “You guys have toyed with me and tried to blackball anyone whoever opposes your agenda.”

If Republicans were capable of shame they might have felt some. Ye, who long ago embraced Donald Trump, had just given an interview to Tucker Carlson in which he lambasted the media’s “godless agenda” and railed against abortion. Always thirsty for celebrity validation, conservatives ate the interview up. The account for the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee tweeted, “Kanye. Elon. Trump.” And now here was Ye showing, in a completely unvarnished way, just what his right-wing conversion entails. (As it turns out, Carlson already knew; Vice has since revealed that Ye’s most paranoid and unhinged comments were edited out.)

It’s not surprising that few conservatives are rushing to distance themselves from Ye, committed as they are to defending their right to malign their enemies without consequence. Antisemites, after all, may be the original trolls. As Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in “Anti-Semite and Jew,” first published in English in 1948, antisemites “know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words.” It was antisemites who perfected the pose of just asking questions; the Holocaust denier David Irving famously demanded that Deborah Lipstadt, a scholar of the Holocaust, debate him.

Criticizing Ye requires acknowledging that there’s such a thing as going too far, and that there are values higher than owning the libs. A few conservatives made the pivot; the hosts of “Fox & Friends Weekend,” who’d earlier condemned Ye’s Instagram suspension, called his tweets “ugly” and “unfortunate.” Others, however, stuck to the typical right-wing script.





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