Kanye West’s bizarre meltdown on Thursday—first, when he repeatedly praised Adolf Hitler and German Nazis in a bizarre interview on Alex Jones’ Infowars show, followed by his suspension from Twitter by Elon Musk himself after posting a meme with a Star of David twisted into a swastika—will certainly reverberate for a while, and not in good ways.
Aside from the immediate toxic career consequences, both for West (who mostly goes by Ye nowadays) and anyone associated with him, the supposedly mainstream conservatives who enabled the spectacle in the weeks preceding it—including Donald Trump, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, and House Republicans, not to mention Jones and YouTuber Tim Pool—will do what they always do: scurry away and pretend they had nothing to do with it. But in the meantime, the incoming tide of antisemitic and conspiracist hatred Ye’s diatribes enable has risen another few feet, and right-wing media—including Twitter—continue to deepen it.
Case in point: Hours before Musk gave Ye the boot, the account of Andrew Anglin—one of the most notorious neo-Nazis in America, and the current subject of a U.S. Marshals Service arrest warrant—was restored to Twitter, nearly 10 years after it had been suspended.
Ye’s appearance on Infowars with Jones and his newly acquired sidekick, white nationalist Nick Fuentes, was an eye-opening manifestation of the way far-right conspiracism can drive its consumers into an abyss, both socially and career-wise. It was an hour-long wade through the fever swamps of antisemitism, during which the rapper unleashed an endless embrace of neofascism:
“Well, they did good things too. We’ve got to stop dissing the Nazis all the time.”
“I don’t like the word evil next to Nazis.”
“I love Jewish people, but I also love Nazis.”
“I see good things about Hitler also. I love everyone. And Jewish people are not gonna tell me, you can love, um you know, us, and you can love what we’re doing to you with the contracts, and you can love what we’re pushing with the pornography. But this guy that invented highways, that invented the very microphone that I use as a musician, you can’t say out loud that this person ever did anything good. I’m done with that! I’m done with the classifications. Every human being has something of value that they brought to the table. Especially Hitler.”
“You know, it’s like he had a really cool outfit, and he was a really good architect. … And he didn’t kill 6 million Jews! That’s just factually incorrect.”
“And Obama was not the first Black president. He was another Jewish president.”
“I like Hitler. The Holocaust is not what happened, let’s look at the facts of that. And Hitler has a lot of redeeming qualities.”
Ye also claimed his accounts have been “frozen by the Jewish banks.” When Fuentes told Jones, “I’m very pro-Putin, very pro-Russia,” Ye piped up: “I am also.”
There were immediate consequences: Ye’s previously announced plan to take ownership of the right-wing social-media platform Parler was suddenly called off.
Then, later that evening, Ye posted a couple of memes on Twitter while apparently bantering with Musk. One showed a photo of Musk being hosed off while swimming—to which Musk responded, “This is fine”—and another showed the swastika-embedded Star of David, being struck by lightning—to which Musk responded: “This is not.”
Musk explained: “He again violated our rule against incitement to violence,” adding: “Account will be suspended.” It was.
Ye posted their text exchanges, which showed Musk telling him the perverted Star of David was over the line: “Sorry, but you have gone too far. This is not love,” Musk texted. Ye replied: “Who made you the judge.”
Within the ostensibly mainstream right, there was a mad scramble by Republicans and their media cohorts to distance themselves from Ye and his open embrace of Nazism, antisemitism, and Holocaust denial. The House Judiciary GOP’s Twitter account quietly took down a tweet it had posted two months before reading: “Kanye. Elon. Trump.”
A number of Republican megadonors—conservative Jews in particular—had already expressed their outrage at Ye’s antisemitic antics during his recent dinner with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago, where the former president lavished Fuentes, a self-described “Christian fascist” who had accompanied the rapper, with praise.
Fox News’ response to Ye’s meltdown, so far, has been to pretend it didn’t happen: More than 24 hours after it the broadcast, it still hadn’t been mentioned on Fox News airtime, according to Matthew Sheffield.
There’s no small irony in that, considering that Fox News’ Tucker Carlson had played a central role in building up Ye’s profile as a right-wing hero in the month leading up to the meltdown. Not only had Carlson heavily promoted the rapper as a conservative “thought leader,” but it later emerged that in fact Ye had spewed neofascist antisemitism during the interview and Carlson’s producers had edited it out and hidden it.
All of this incoming antisemitism is a harbinger of an even larger tide of violent authoritarianism, as we can see in the way that Ye’s diatribes have unleashed a range of eliminationist threats directed not only at Jews but a range of targets associated with them in the neofascist imagination.
"The significance of what somebody like Ye said isn't the novelty of what they said. I mean, they are really repeating longstanding antisemitic tropes and anti-Jewish stereotypes," Dov Waxman, the director of the Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies at UCLA, told NPR. "It's rather the fact of the medium through which he said it, and the fact that he has 30 million followers."
"Allowing his comments to pass is dangerous because it can legitimize or normalize those kinds of comments," Waxman added. "It's very important to signal in responding to somebody like Kanye West or Kyrie Irving ... that those kinds of statements or actions are wrong."
The peaking tide of antisemitism is reflected in data collected by the Anti-Defamation League demonstrating that recorded antisemitic incidents reached a 40-year peak in 2021—and the uptick primarily began in 2015, with Trump’s arrival on the political scene.
“Historians have called the period between World War I and World War II the ‘high tide’ of American antisemitism. I think we may have to rename that: I think we are at the moment living in the high tide of American antisemitism,” Pamela Nadell, the director of the Jewish studies program at American University, told Zack Beauchamp at Vox.
And it may get worse, thanks to Musk’s mishandling of hate speech at Twitter. Data collected by the ADL’s Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) shows that, contrary to Musk’s assurances, hate speech has been spiking on the platform under his ownership. It reported that slurs against Black Americans jumped from an average of 1,282 times daily to 3,876 times after Musk took ownership of Twitter; anti-gay slurs rose from 2,506 times daily to 3,964. Most of all, antisemitic tweets soared more than 61% under Musk.
This shouldn’t be any kind of surprise: Musk has manifested his declared intention of “restoring free speech” at Twitter by restoring a broad bandwidth of previously banned accounts, including not only Trump (who hasn’t responded by returning to the platform) but a broad range of far-right trolls and conspiracists who specialize in disinformation—all while simultaneously banishing a range of left-wing accounts at the behest of “antifa” fabulist Andy Ngo.
“Elon Musk sent up the Bat Signal to every kind of racist, misogynist and homophobe that Twitter was open for business,” Imran Ahmed, the CCDH’s chief executive, told The New York Times. “They have reacted accordingly.”
“We have advised Musk that Twitter should not just keep the policies it has had in place for years, it should dedicate resources to those policies,” said ADL vice president Yael Eisenstat, who participated in a meeting with Musk last month at which, she said, it was apparent that he was uninterested in the advice of civil rights groups and other organizations.
“His actions to date show that he is not committed to a transparent process where he incorporates the best practices we have learned from civil society groups,” Eisenstat said. “Instead he has emboldened racists, homophobes and antisemites.”
Nowhere is that more self-evident than the return of Andrew Anglin to Twitter, which occurred sometime Thursday. Anglin has vowed to remain “PC” on the platform so that he can’t be kicked off again, and immediately began tweeting his support for Ye and his 2024 presidential candidacy.
He also praised Ye’s Infowars interview, particularly the Holocaust-denial portions. “Saying you love Hitler is not even a big deal,” Anglin wrote, “no one cares about that. The man died 80 years ago.”
Doubtless, the U.S. Marshals Service will be keeping an eye on Anglin’s restored account. They hold a bench warrant for his arrest in the matter of a $14 million judgement issued against him in Montana for orchestrating an antisemitic harassment campaign against a Jewish woman’s family.
It’s an open question, though, how eager advertisers will be to have their brands appearing next to content provided by characters like Anglin and his hordes of flying-monkey Nazis.