Kanye's political career: Thank you Kanye, very cool!
It seems that the almighty Yeezus has had another revelation.
On Oct. 30, Kanye West took to Twitter, tweeting that “My eyes are now wide open and now realize I’ve been used to spread messages I don’t believe in. I am distancing myself from politics and completely focusing on being creative !!!”
It’s not clear what caused this change of heart, but it’s likely that this tweet came in response to West’s controversial meeting with President Trump on Oct. 11. During their exchange, Trump sat quietly while West, who was wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat, unloaded a stream of consciousness rant that covered topics as diverse as North Korean nuclear disarmament and mental illness, all in his characteristically bombastic style. West concluded their meeting by embracing Trump, and openly claiming that he loved the president.
West’s performance drew sharp criticism, with many pointing out that the hip-hop artist’s friendly relationship with the president makes it seem like he supports the hateful ideologies and downright bigotry championed by Trump and his base. Clearly, these comments were not ignored.
West has a reputation for being a defender of controversial people, and much like everything else, he does it in his own way. This generally entails unleashing an unfiltered torrent of thought at the most inopportune time (such as his rant telling everyone to leave Elon Musk alone). Speaking without thinking is bad enough when you’re an ordinary person, but when you’re as big as Kanye West, your words have weight, and you need to choose them carefully.
It’s good that West finally recognized this problem and has chosen forego politics to focus on his work, for which he is infinitely more qualified. But the scenario with West is just a reminder that celebrities are getting increasingly involved in our national conversation.
On the one hand, there’s nothing wrong with celebrities supporting causes or messages that they believe in. For example, Pharrell Williams sent a cease and desist order to Trump when he used the song “Happy” at his Illinois rally on Oct. 27, the same day as the Tree of Life synagogue shooting. It’s clear that Pharrell does not support Trump, and it’s his prerogative how his music is used and in what context. Other artists, including Rihanna, have made similar requests.
In a more proactive sense, big stars like Oprah Winfrey and Will Ferrell have taken to campaigning for the candidates of their choice, both going to Georgia to support Stacey Abrams in her close race for governor against Brian Kemp.
Endorsing anyone as a celebrity is risky, and if not handled properly, it could lead to consequences. This was evident when Taylor Swift endorsed Tennessee candidates Phil Bredesen and Jim Cooper in, where she did so through the medium of Instagram (of all things) by posting a lengthy, poorly phrased justification that not only missed the mark but also promoted divisiveness in politics.
Politics is a sensitive thing for anyone to talk about, especially big industry stars who have far more clout than the ordinary person. It’s important for celebrities to realize that, should they choose to leverage their fame and power in favor of some individual or cause, they must do so in a measured, respectful, and targeted way. Otherwise, they are only stirring the pot with controversial comments and endorsements and creating more problems, rather than solving them.
If that sounds like too difficult a task, then it’s worthwhile to consider stepping out of politics for a little while. It’s better late than never, and, as West showed us, if you want to stop digging a deeper hole, step one is to put the shovel down.