In Canada earlier this year, an audit found record levels of antisemitism in the country and also that “post-secondary institutions were ‘significant breeding grounds for antisemitism’, with Jewish students increasingly reporting vandalism and threats of violence”. It’s the same in other countries and, evidently, at other academic institutions, including prestigious academic institutions because, in part, antisemitism was built into the original selection process for those schools.
My latest: Today, many people know the Ivy League universities as the most selective schools in the world. What they don't know is that those selection policies were put in place to keep Jews out. A dive into the untold history of America's academic elite:https://t.co/MmfHer8WHG— Yair Rosenberg (@Yair_Rosenberg) September 22, 2022
I’ve read a lot of Yair’s pieces on antisemitism in The Atlantic, including this one, from January 2022, on “Why So Many People Still Don’t Understand Antisemitism” in which he wrote that “unlike many other bigotries, [antisemitism] is not merely a social prejudice; it is a conspiracy theory about how the world operates”. And this week, while addressing Kanye West’s antisemitic outburst, he further explored the relationship between conspiracy theories and antisemitism.
For The Atlantic's daily newsletter, I talked with @IsabelFattal about how antisemitism functions as a self-perpetuating conspiracy theory, and why so many conspiracy theorists seem to inevitably land on the Jews: https://t.co/5h8jOhU7D2— Yair Rosenberg (@Yair_Rosenberg) October 13, 2022
Yair also wrote this week about how Kanye’s example offers “an important lesson […] about why antisemitism endures today, and how we might better respond to sorry situations like these”.
I wrote about what Kanye can teach us about antisemitism, and the serious consequences of an unserious story: https://t.co/VRZHAVcvRM— Yair Rosenberg (@Yair_Rosenberg) October 9, 2022
All of these pieces are worth your time and perhaps multiple times, regularly, like practice and training and staying vigilant, in tandem with condemning Kanye’s disgusting and heinous acts and rhetoric.
As for Kanye though, what can be frustrating about criticising him is that criticising him is also covering him. And that coverage, for people like Kanye and Donald Trump, even if it’s critical, is attention and amplification. And the last thing anyone needs is more attention and amplification for either of them.
People like Kanye and Trump feed off both negativity and positivity. What Kanye has said and done is, obviously, horrific. But if we learned one thing from Trump it’s that we gave him too much oxygen. Trump was condemned up and down and all around for anti-Black racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-Asian racism, anti-Mexican racism, homophobia, transphobia. For misogyny. It’s a long f-cking list of atrocities. It’s been constant Trump condemnation for almost a decade now. But he managed to weaponise that condemnation into hype. And more fixation. And distraction. All of that amounted to what the NY Times estimated in March 2016 to be “$1.6 billon in free publicity”, which was “190 times as much as he paid for in advertising, and it’s far more than any other candidate received” in that presidential election cycle. And look what happened: he got elected and rained down four years of hell from which the world may never recover.
Per this article in Brookings from July 2022, “Trump’s hold on media coverage gives him an almost unique form of political power”, and it remains a “major professional dilemma for American journalism”. Just as Kanye’s escalating attacks on Black people and Jewish people and women’s rights are now a major professional dilemma for cultural journalism.
So what’s complicated about covering Kanye is that while of course we should all be calling him out, standing up against his bigotry, and calling attention to the evil he is perpetuating, in doing so it just adds to his hold over the media. And he and Trump share a chaotic playbook.
Last week, he caused an uproar with his White Lives Matter t-shirt at Paris Fashion Week, and jeopardised the safety of Gabriella Karefa-Johnson. He followed that up by fat-shaming Lizzo. After that came his attack on Jewish people, then he was kicked off social media. But then he showed up at a premiere with Ray J, Candace Owens, and Kid Rock and so many photographers were there and those pictures were picked up everywhere and he spoke to the reporters who came specifically to cover him at that event and then published more of his antisemitic comments and all of those images were splashed across all media, including social media so, like, really, did deplatforming him make a difference? Has he really been deplatformed when everybody is talking about him?
How do we condemn the crime without aiding and abetting the criminal?
David Schwimmer posted about Kanye the other day:
Silence is complicity, yes. We should not remain silent. But how do we use our voices to condemn someone like Kanye and ALSO say “bYE” to Kanye?! No one had the answer to this where Trump was concerned, and no one seems to have the answer to this where Kanye is concerned.