"I like Hitler" and "I love Nazis", Kanye West said in an interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on 1 December 2022. The interview was prompted by Kanye's anti-Semitic statements, which Alex Jones actually wanted to qualify with, "You're not a Nazi yourself." But Kanye escalated the interview and testified to his sympathy for Hitler, because he had also done good things. A view that is still shared by transfigured people today. When a person like Kanye – with this blatant reach – who at least in the past enjoyed great popularity, makes such controversial statements, it can have terrible consequences.
This is what Kanye West and Alex Jones' interview was about with the Hitler statements
"Well, I see positive sides to Hitler too," Kanye West (under the black sock mask) responds to Alex Jones' attempts at relativisation. He would love anyone, he continues. Then Kanye replicates a number of old, anti-Semitic stereotypes, arguing that – if he had to love these things about Jews – then he could also love a man who invented motorways and the microphone (by which he means Hitler). Every person has something that makes them special – especially Hitler, Kanye continues.
Kanye West was invited to Alex Jones and his panel "Infowars". Actually, Jones wanted to express his sympathies to Kanye there and put Kanye's earlier anti-Semitic statements into perspective. Because "nobody should be called a Nazi or demonised", he explains. Alex Jones is an extreme right-wing conspiracy theorist who has been convicted several times for defamation and fake news. But when Kanye starts raving about Hitler, even Alex Jones is uncomfortable.
Alex Jones seems visibly nervous after Kanye's sudden pronouncements. He clearly distances himself from Kanye's statements and explains that he absolutely does not like Nazis. After that, the show wanted to go straight to commercial, but Kanye West still wants to address a point that is important to him: "I like Hitler". After the commercial, Kanye talks himself into a rage and explains that he thinks it's bad that Nazis are always portrayed as evil. In the following clip you can clearly see how much the well-known and extremely controversial alt-right supporter (want to impose white supremacy) Alex Jones feels uncomfortable with these statements.
Can you separate the art from the artist? Kanye West's long history with anti-Semitism
For people who know Kanye West personally and have worked with him, his crass statements should come as no surprise. As CNN reported back in October 2022, Kanye has an "obsession" with Hitler. He talks in the office all the time about his "admiration" for him and how much he loved reading "Mein Kampf". So there were a number of people who knew how anti-Semitic Kanye West really was. Some sources told CNN that Kanye actually wanted to name his 2018 album "Hitler" before it was eventually released as "Ye."
An album called "Hitler?" That just wouldn't market well, the producers said. And Kanye West could actually market himself quite well. In the past, he has repeatedly called himself a "genius", a self-assessment that has been adopted by some people.
Why Kanye's statements support neo-Nazis
Sure, Hitler did a lot of bad things, but at least we owe him the autobahn." This sentence was heard many times in the past – partly "ironic", partly "there is some truth in it". As the Welt reports, several opinion research institutes found in the 1960s that many Germans adopted precisely this relativising strategy.
This kind of thinking continues to this day – although the myth that Hitler invented the autobahn is simply false. The first autobahn was built as early as 1913 – the "Reichsautobahn" was just a Nazi propaganda project. Kanye's statement that Hitler invented the microphone is also false. The microphone was invented by Emile Berliner in 1877 – Hitler was just one of the first people to use it frequently. And even if he had invented the autobahn and the microphone, how does that relate to the Holocaust?
In his interview, Kanye West fuels this misconception and brings anti-Semitic statements back into the realm of the "sayable". He stimulates a discourse, one might think. But this kind of thinking is extremely dangerous. According to Welt, for example, every fourth person in Germany thinks that the German Reich also had its good sides.
That is a frightening number that will increase if anti-Semitic statements are spread by people like Kanye. Because: anti-Semitism did not disappear with the end of the Second World War. Neo-Nazis have already instrumentalised Kanye to make anti-Semitism "cool again". On an American highway overpass, neo-Nazis celebrated the rapper and wrote posters saying: "Kanye is right about the Jews."
Kanye West's statements are now too blatant for Twitter too
After his statements on "Infowars", Kanye naturally went straight to Twitter to reinforce his opinion. The result: his account was blocked. When the self-proclaimed "saviour of free speech" Elon Musk bans his "friend", as he called Kanye, from his platform, it must be serious. Elon Musk says Kanye's tweets are "incitement to violence". And even for Republicans, Kanye's statements are too crass. The tweet "Kanye. Elon. Trump", which is supposed to say "conservatives are back in, rich and proud", has been deleted. It looks like Kanye is at least not the next celebrity figurehead for the Republican party.
And then we're quickly back to the fundamental question: can you separate the art from the artist? The general public has not yet found a final answer. But in this case it is obvious: you cannot continue to support an artist who is obviously a fan of Hitler by, for example, streaming his music or wearing his clothes. Anti-Semitism is on the rise again and kills people – and all those who spread narratives that relativise are complicit. Populism, fake news, and dictatorships are also among the most pressing human rights issues again. Powerful people like Kanye West are part of these problems. Any assumptions about his mental state are irrelevant. Nothing justifies discrimination and anti-Semitism.
Written by Michael Zippo
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