Last weekend, Kanye West tweeted, “I’m a bit sleepy tonight but when I wake up I’m going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE…You guys have toyed with me and tried to blackball anyone whoever opposes your agenda.” In the same context, West argued that he could not be an anti-Semite “because black people are actually Jew.” (Defcon is an alert system used by the U.S. Armed Forces to indicate levels of severity in a crisis – clearly, Kanye was offering a play on this term).
West’s tweet was clearly anti-Semitic, reinforced bogus stereotypical misnomers about Jews, and was indicative of somebody who is mentally unfit.
Regardless of how sick – excuse the pun – one’s actions or words are, it is imprudent to diagnose anybody with a mental illness without having the credentials and opportunity to examine them in person.
This post will focus on a few disconcerting and interlocking themes that are prudent to address: anti-Semitism, lack of condemnation, and criticism of Jews when they defend themselves.
Hate & Vitriol
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), ~60% of all religious hate crimes are perpetrated against Jews, even though Jews encompass only ~2.5% of the U.S. population. Racist or bigoted tweets are not hate crimes, but they can facilitate them, especially when the author is Kanye West, an influencer with over 31 million Twitter followers.
Mr. West’s tweet was not an isolated incident of anti-Jewish virulence. Indeed, if we attempted to highlight and respond to every anti-Semitic tweet and dispel others filled with dangerous misinformation, we would be writing in perpetuity. Conversely, condemnations of anti-Semitic tweets are few and far between. And when they do happen, they lack the same oomph compared to when other races and religions are defended against racism.
Following Kanye West’s tweet, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk, a billionaire with over 100 million Twitter followers who is in the process of finalizing an acquisition of Twitter for $44 billion tweeted “Welcome back to Twitter, my friend!” Musk later tweeted, “Talked to ye today & expressed my concerns about his recent tweet, which I think he took to heart.”
Pause for a moment. The first thing Mr. Musk did was not condemn West’s anti-Semitic vitriol, instead he welcomed his “friend” back on the platform (West’s account was subsequently restricted). Then in a pathetic half-ass way, Musk expressed his concerns about Mr. West’s tweet.
At TQC, we are not much into hypotheticals. But, that said, we would be remiss not to argue that if a famous Jewish person tweeted something bigoted against Muslims or the LGBTQ community, for example, it would be strongly condemned (as it should be). The Twittersphere would light-up with virtue signaling from all walks - celebrities, athletes, and progressive lawmakers. When Jews are the targets of hate, rarely if ever are they afforded an equivalent response.
Mr. Musk was loath to condemn West. West has millions of followers and is an A-list influencer. That equates to a lot of advertising dollars. This then begs the question, if Musk was a Jewish person and he welcomed a celebrity back to twitter following them tweeting something abjectly racist, would the response not be horror - which would be justified – coupled with the unjustified, anti-Semitic “look at that profiteering Jew putting money before all else” commentary. More than likely, yes.
When it comes to hate speech and or inciting violence against Jewish people, Twitter has always enforced its policy feebly. Regrettably its soon to be new owner seems intent on maintaining that policy. “Welcome back to Twitter, my friend!”
Following Mr. West’s tweets there were isolated instances of strong public repudiation from non-Jews. However, most of the “responses” were silence, watered down, or outright defense of the indefensible.
The NY Times referred to Mr. West’s tweet as “widely criticized.” If the author of Mr. West’s tweet was Jewish and the target was another minority, the NYT would most likely refer to it as “racist,” as they should. Candace Owens said, “if you are an honest person, you did not think this tweet was anti-Semitic.” We would agree had she replaced the word “honest” with “delusional.”
Silence Is Violence
A core argument of some human rights activists is that “silence is violence.” Their point: if people refuse to publicly condemn racist violations perpetrated against various minorities, those people are tacitly supporting these actions.
The merits of the statement “silence is violence,” is debatable. That said, if somebody truly believes that silence is indeed violence, then by that logic, staying silent after Kanye West tweets “I’m going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE” is also a form of implicit support for him, or those he motivates.
Said Jewish comedian Sarah Silverman, “Kanye threatened the Jews yesterday on Twitter and it’s not even trending. Why do mostly only Jews speak up against Jewish hate? The silence is so loud.” (Silverman was vilified across social media for criticizing West.)
During Paris Fashion Week, Kanye West wore a T-shirt embolized with the slogan “White Lives Matter.” Kanye’s argument that “they do” grossly misses the point. At a minimum, the slogan has racial undertones and is provocative. And it can certainly be interpreted as outright racist; the slogan has been adopted by some white supremacists.
West’s attention-grabbing moronic stunt was greeted with widespread condemnation – which is a good thing. Adidas, West’s longtime corporate partner, put its long-standing and financially successful collaboration, under formal review.
A few days later, West’s attention-grabbing anti-Semitic tweet was greeted with a lot of attention, but only isolated instances of condemnation. CNBC’s Sara Eisen opined, “Where is Adidas?...still no comment 3 days after its key partner said he’s going death con 3 on Jews. Instead, Adidas released new Yeezys this week.”
In an opinion piece in The Daily Beast, Michael Cohen summed it up articulately, “While racist, homophobic or sexist comments are often the death knell for a celebrity career like West’s—anti-Semitism is usually just a speedbump (if even that).” He is correct.
When Jews are unfairly portrayed and subjected to blatant anti-Semitism across social media, people typically yawn. When anti-Semitism is condemned, it is often not with the same vigor as when people (rightfully) condemn racism against other ethnic and religious groups. Indeed, Jews (and non-Jews) with the courage to defend themselves are finding themselves increasingly chastised and isolated.
Too many individuals – including some in my own social media feeds – including Jewish people themselves - who’ve rightfully advocated for LBGTQ rights, Black lives, Women’s rights, to stop Asian hate, and any other just cause, remain conspicuously silent when Jews are the targets of bigotry. This lack of consistency represents hypocrisy, cowardness, or anti-Semitism.