Dan Shomron takes a look at 'Ye', anti-semitism online, and the hurried fall of a cultural titan.
A few months ago, as many of us saw, Kanye West tweeted he was going, “Death con 3 on the Jewish people.” After a move that was almost entirely out of nowhere, the Jewish community were suddenly found to be in a difficult, yet familiar, position.
I’m not writing this article to discuss what Kanye tweeted or to analyse his words, but to discuss the consequences of what a few words can do when typed from the wrong fingers.
Kanye is an influential man and has been an inspiration to millions. A pioneer of modern hip-hop, stalwart of some of the most iconic moments in pop culture history, and creator of many a platinum selling album, he was bound to be an all-timer, one whose name would have been praised for decades.
But a few years ago, the tarnishing of his legacy would begin. The seeds of discontent were planted from his treatment of Taylor Swift and his horrific comments on slavery. He started publicly calling people out, making childish and insulting remarks, and ultimately making Kim feel unsafe in her own home. Surely, with the emotional abuse of his ex-wife, his diehard fans would think it’s time to throw away a few records, right? Well, many didn’t, and Kanye only got worse.
His anti-black racism grew and grew, recently culminating (I say culminating, this will most likely not be his last anti-black action) in him wearing a WHITE LIVES MATTER t-shirt at a fashion show in Paris. Surely now, people would open their eyes a little? Of course not, and it doesn’t take a genius to realise his loyal cronies have, mostly, stuck with him after he decided his next victims would be the Jews.
Like I said, Kanye’s an inspirational man. He talks and people listen. His long career has meant he’s garnered many followers, currently sitting at 32.2 million on Twitter, more than 10 million more people than that of the current global Jewish population. He has one of the biggest platforms in the world, which is why his attempts to belittle and demean the Jewish community hit so much harder.
But it really isn’t just about that. Have you ever seen a celebrity post an opinion (could be entirely harmless, they could simply be saying mushroom is the best pizza topping) and you’ve thought to yourself “oh yeah, that’s kinda true,” and then you’ve gone about your day without ever critically deconstructing what they said? Or, to use my previous example, maybe you’d been thinking for a few days how underrated mushroom is, and you see this celebrity post and feel validated.
This is what Kanye encourages. Yes, there are plenty of vocal antisemites, but Kanye’s just unlocked a new generation of them: a group of people who’ve seen their favourite rapper be wary of Jewish people and now feel they need to be as well. And those that were already somewhat wary, for whatever reason? They now feel validated, and they feel confident to harass Jews online or possibly even in person.
Kanye saying things like this pushes people to the next level of their antisemitism.
Now, recently, Kanye returned to Twitter, after saying more and more antisemitic remarks in several interviews over the past few months, first testing to see if his account was unblocked, and then tweeting a simple “shalom : ).” This infuriated me. How dare he, after 6 weeks of antisemitic abuse, attempt to taunt the Jewish community like that? He knew exactly what he was doing and it was simply sickening. I got angry, which I shouldn’t have done, and replied saying he’d never be accepted in the Jewish community. The next morning, I privated (sic) my Twitter account due to the droves of antisemitic abuse I was receiving. “Shut up Jew,” “shut up Shomron,” “nobody wants to be accepted by you lot,” “another whiny Jew,” I could go on.
Who gave these guys a platform? Made them confident enough that they felt they could go online and comment things like this? The main man himself.
Honestly, these responses barely worried me on a personal level. None of these people were real; they were alter-egos, made by antisemites and trolls in their basements, only able to spout their hate online because they’d be punched in the nose if they tried to say something like that in real life. But on a Jewish level, I was concerned for the attitude towards Jews both online and in real life. This was a sign that my predictions for the consequences of Kanye’s words were, in fact, correct. I’m not trying to say there wasn’t antisemitism online before Kanye’s comments – that, there definitely was – but now his tweets were a platform, a breeding ground, for this hate.
They gave antisemites confidence, something that should never be happening. And we saw real-life consequences; banners above motorways portraying anti-Jewish intent, directly referencing Kanye, were on display for drivers to see. Personally, I can’t see what Kanye could have envisioned would happen from his comments other than a swarm of people expressing hate towards Jewish people and Jews becoming less safe – and this intention only makes Kanye a worse and worse person.
Kanye has, and always will have, an insane cult following, with his words able to spark movements. As a rule of history, antisemitism is unlikely to slow down and large public figures may continue to spout hate, but as long as we don’t give in, as we never have done, they will never win.
May no one use their voice as Kanye has.
Article written Nov. 2022, statistics and references are true as of then. If anyone would like to see my reply to Kanye’s tweet, and in turn the antisemitic abuse that followed, feel free to message me.
Words by Dan Shomron.