By now, we’ve all seen bits of Kanye “Ye” West’s mentally unstable antisemitic rampage. From his initial Instagram post and Defcon3 tweet to him openly praising Hitler and denying the Holocaust on television with other white nationalists.
While his mental health issues were something that everyone initially took into consideration when criticizing him, it seems that his manic episodes have had no bearing on some of his supporters.
The Kanye Effect has normalized antisemitism for his millions of followers. His comments have inspired extremists to come out of their shells and feel comfortable openly spreading and doubling down on their antisemitism. What used be a public taboo has turned into normalized discourse.
The Kanye Effect
We saw the immediate effects of West’s comments when white supremacists took to the LA highways to carry out his message. The perpetrators were members of the Goyim Defense League, which is a loose network of virulently antisemitic conspiracy theorists, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
After the media consistently provided a platform for West to spread Jewish conspiracy theories, the Goyim Defense League members felt at ease to join in on West’s tirade. The League’s members could easily walk above the 405 Los Angeles freeway holding a banner that read “Kanye is right about the Jews,” without fear of retribution.
Then, after the Kyrie Irving scandal, like-minded members of the Black Hebrew Israelites community began marching the streets of New York chanting, “We are the real Jews,” which is a different version of “Jews will not replace us.” Last week, a video went viral of extremist members of the Black Hebrew Israelites community arguing with a Jewish person.
The video depicts the BHI members defending West and Irving, then quickly turned into open praising Hitler because “Hitler knew who the real Jews were.” The most shocking thing about that incident is the pure ease with which an average person could openly praise Hitler and the Holocaust in the streets of New York without any fear of retribution. The irony is that had those people been around under Hitler’s reign, they, too, would have been his victims.
Other members of the entertainment industry have come to West’s defense. After West’s reinstatement on Twitter, even Ye crossed Elon Musk’s lines by tweeting a photo of a swastika and Magen David (a Jewish star). It would seem that your average member of society would clearly see that West has gone complete maniac.
BUT IN an interview with Sky News just after West’s second ban, American singer Akon defended his fellow artist by calling his antisemitic comments a matter of opinion. Akon inferred that Jews shouldn’t take his remarks personally until we understand the situation. So clearly, not everyone (even people we thought would be rational) believes that West is having an episode.
What does this mean?
So what does this mean for American Jewry? It means they are in danger of existing as a minority in a society where antisemitism is becoming more acceptable. We’ve seen this movie play out several times and we know how it ends.
To the average person (that isn’t Akon), Yes, West is acting crazy but Hitler was also acting crazy. Trump was also acting crazy. These so-called crazy people end up in the White House (where West hopes to end up). I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a wave of American immigrants to Israel in the coming years because the future of American Jewry looks grim.
The reality for Jews today was best described in a segment of The Social program on CTV, where they discussed why spreading conspiracy theories about the Jewish community is so dangerous. Since Jews only make up 2% of the American population and less than 0.2% of the world population, it means that most people have never met a Jewish person in their lives.
After those same people are exposed to West’s stereotypes of Jewish people, they are more likely to internalize the stereotypes and conspiracy theories inadvertently. After all, it’s easy to shape opinions about a person you’ve never met based on what you see in the media and pop culture.
So no, this isn’t just a matter of a maniac rambling away in the media. Whenever West makes a hateful remark about Jewish people, it makes American Jews less safe. West recently spoke with Gavin McInnes on censored.tv about how if he were president, he would spy on Jewish people, remove them from leadership positions and force them to work for Christians. Again, we have seen this movie before.
At this point, the bigger problem isn’t West; the real problem is anyone who gives him a platform or stage and is trying to justify his hateful comments. While Jewish people have received support from some celebrities, politicians and public figures, it isn’t enough. Our lives are on the line and every hateful word puts us in more danger.
The general public must stop giving West oxygen and take a firm stand against his hateful rhetoric. Jewish lives depend on it.
The writer is a social media activist with over 10 years of experience working for Israel, Jewish and caused-based NGOs. She is the co-founder and COO of Social Lite Creative, a digital marketing firm that specializes in geopolitics.