I was going to not comment on the Kanye West affair because a) I’m really not into pop and celebrity culture, and b) my biggest existential fear is to become a Jewish cliche commenting on antisemitism.
However, all the commentary around the affair seems to be wrong or at least exaggerated. Let me offer a quick analysis of my own.
The facts, as far as I know, are that Kanye said a few things about Jews ranging from very mean to less mean to bizarre.
It all began with this tweet:
I guess he meant “Defcon 3,” which is a high-level military alert, but he spelled it as “death.” An honest mistake? Maybe.
He later appeared on the Piers Morgan show where he sort of apologized for the “death con” tweet and said he was sorry for the “confusion” and “trauma” he caused.
He then had an interview with Lex Fridman where he spoke mostly poetically about the presence of Jews in his unhappy commercial dealings, deflecting with more poetry Lex’s accusations of spreading “hate.”
In response, Kanye was removed from Twitter, lost his deal with Adidas, and was escorted out of the offices of Skechers. He claims these losses (the combination of both deals, I think) have cost him $2B.
Kanye Virtue Analysis
So let’s analyze both Kanye’s actions and the responses to them through the lens of the cardinal virtues – Courage, Justice, Wisdom, and Temperance. Let’s begin with Kanye.
Courage: Did it take courage to sound off these rants? It would take courage if I did something like it openly on LinkedIn, I guess, as a man of humble means who is dependent on a corporate network. In Kanye’s case, it’s difficult to judge. The mega-rich occupy such a different sphere of existence that I can’t quite imagine the system of forces operating on the likes of West. The jacuzzi, the sauna, and the room for a pony are probably not in danger. But then again he did risk a vast fortune and something celebrities seem to crave – public admiration.
So I’ll give Kanye a B in courage.
Justice: Justice means giving each person what he deserves. Was Kanye giving “the Jews” what we deserve? I don’t think so. Hey, I totally get the complaints about the corrosive influence of liberal Jewish organizations and the terrible turbo-charging of Wokery by wealthy Jews. This website confronts these issues constantly and with harsh words (a few examples: Here, here, here, here).
But many Jews are not like that. Especially outside of America, but even a good 30-40% of America’s Jews who do not define themselves as “liberals.”
Now, I don’t mind making fun generalizations and I even don’t really mind racism and bigotry that much. But I’m not Kanye West. When I write about America’s infelicitous demographic elements, nobody goes to play the knockout game with Hondurans or Bangladeshis. In West’s case, a certain demographic listens, the same demographic that abuses Jews in New York.
And the Jews being abused, Orthodox Jew, are the ultra-conservative, traditionalist non-woke ones! So no, this is not just. F in Justice.
Prudence: If Kanye wished to be released from all his contracts, then this was an ingenious way to go about it. In that case, A in Prudence. If not, clearly his actions were not very prudent. For good or bad, celebrities hired as the “faces” of brands are expected to be like Queen Elizabeth II – great and dignified but in a non-thought-provoking way. These rules are known to everybody, I think. Again, I was never the face of any brand so it’s not a dilemma I had to struggle with, but for $2B I think I would shut up. So a D in Prudence.
Moderation: Moderation is always measured against the extremity of one’s circumstances. If your wife nags you a little bit, it would be immoderate to throw her out of the window. If your wife attempts to strangle your baby, it would be immoderate not to throw her out of the window. Since Kanye’s circumstances don’t seem very extreme to me, they probably don’t require extreme actions. But was his action very extreme? If the “death” thing was indeed a mistake, then his rant was not THAT super-extreme, but also hardly an example of moderation. So a C in Moderation.
So do the math, Kanye does not emerge from this as a very virtuous man. But what about his cancellers and detractors?
Kanye’s Enemies Virtue Analysis
Courage: It probably does not take much courage to remove a celebrity’s Twitter account or to cancel the business contract of an offender against contemporary sensibilities. I guess some people lost money as a result (Adidas’s designers, project managers, and tracksuit makers), but probably not the ones who actually made the decision to fire him. So courage here is a low D.
Justice: Was it just to remove Kanye from Twitter and cancel his commercial contracts? Well, I’m not sure it was. It was just, perhaps, to remove him from Twitter, at least temporarily. Whether the “death” was a mistake or not, I’ll be honest – it’s very mean. If you have a family, you wouldn’t like “death con” to be invoked upon them. And completely unrelated to Wokery or the Overton Window, basic civility is something all social networks should attempt to maintain. But I don’t think it was just to cancel his commercial contracts, especially as so many other nasty celebrities are tolerated. So a C in justice.
Prudence: Was it wise to cancel Kanye’s commercial contracts? I guess so. If I had a consumer-market brand the LAST thing I would want is for my celebrity presenter to rant about anything that is not makeup colors or hairstyles. True, celebrities’ rants seem to be better tolerated when they involve woke-race-gender orthodoxies, but it is still an imprudent decision for brand managers to employ such big mouths. So I get it. Probably A in prudence.
Moderation: I can’t help but notice that the reaction to Kanye’s action has been not moderate at all. If we measure moderation against the way we normally react to annoying celebrities, then this case seems to be blown out of proportion. Pretty much all of our corrosive celebrity class promotes the very vicious blood libel against whites known as BLM. Yet we tolerate that. Nobody has ever been canceled or lost commercial contracts for ranting against whites or making threats against traditional America and its leaders.
So no, there is no moderation in the thorough extirpation of Kanye from all possible platforms. F in Moderation.
A Dirty Bomb
It is therefore a dirty bomb of much vice and very little virtue. What could have been an honest discussion concerning the progressive frenzy of Jewish organizations has instead become a bizarro stream of rants from which mostly Orthodox Jews may suffer.
What could have been a rational reaction to the weird musings of a strange celebrity has instead become the self-fulfilling prophecy of Kanye West: “The Jews” apparently do control everything, and one may only pass judgment on them at one’s very real peril.
Personally, as always, I advise you to listen to Bach.