On Thursday afternoon, rapper Kanye West appeared on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ show to discuss the former’s theories about Jews. Jones is no stranger to peddling anti-Semitic tropes — in the interview, he expresses faith in a nefarious “Jewish mafia”- but West went further than even Jones probably imagined.
“You are not a Nazi. You don’t deserve to be called that,” Jones says.
“Well, I see good things about Hitler,” Kanye replied.
In the interview, Jones tries to do damage control, telling West that “I’m not on that whole Jewish thing” and cut to a commercial right after West once again states, “I like Hitler.” But he couldn’t take the bell off. West, which Jones was trying to do standing as something of a martyr to free speech, he had expressed his support for Hitler. The effort to reclaim his fame for Jones’s cause had exploded in his face. (Jones has refuted anti-Semitism in the past.)
What West says in this interview is despicable. His evolution into America’s most notorious anti-Semite has almost certainly emboldened the anti-Semitic fringe. perhaps even endangering the Jews.
In the process, West has also inadvertently exposed people like Jones for what they really are: promoters of anti-Semitism.
Since Donald Trump brought the far right into the GOP mainstream in 2015, it has become more and more It is common to hear coded language about Jews: Attacks on “globalists” or “George Soros” who provide the speaker with plausible deniability while signaling to anti-Semites that they are on their side.
When Jews and anti-hate groups criticize these dog whistles, the people who use them are shocked. “How dare you call us anti-Semites! Why are you trying to shut down the open discussion about the liberal agenda? Erase the culture!”
In recent weeks, as West has drifted towards fringe conspiracy theories, many of these same actors have been courting him as a potential ally. Donald Trump had dinner with him, Tucker Carlson invited him on his show, and an official GOP Twitter account celebrated him. They all seemed to assume West knew how to play the game: selling the anti-wake-up message, maybe even passing a few dog whistles on the fringes, without actually crossing the line into outright hate speech.
They were wrong.
How Kanye West Killed GOP Plausible Deniability
The current controversy has begun on the night of 8 October, when Kanye West tweeted that he planned to do “death with 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE”. Two days after the tweet, which got West suspended from Twitter and sparked a firestorm of controversy, Carlson aired an interview with West saying he was silenced for being a freethinker.
“Crazy? That was not our conclusion. Seldom have we heard a man speak so honestly and movingly about what he believes. Carlson told his audience.
In the interview, West talked about many of Carlson’s favorite topics. He railed against Planned Parenthood’s alleged “genocide of the black race” and accused “liberal Nazis” of trying to silence it (at this point, West still seemed to understand that you should say Nazis are bad).
After the interview aired, Vice acquired some of the footage Carlson had cut from the conversation. In the clips, West expresses some paranoid beliefs—such as that “pretend children” and “professional actors” were placed in her home to “sexualize [his] kids” – and made a series of strange and/or fanatical comments about Jews. “I’d rather my kids know about Hanukkah than Kwanzaa. At least it will come with some financial engineering,” West told Carlson.
Of course, changing those parts made sense from Carlson’s point of view. These clips exposed the lie in Carlson’s claim that Kanye didn’t appear “crazy” in the interview. She knew what West had really said, how bizarre and offensive the full interview was. Cutting the (relatively) unhinged parts, Carlson could present a (relatively) mainstream West as a martyr for the conservative cause – and save the West from its own blatantly anti-Semitic remarks.
Carlson, of course, is fluent in dog whistle. When he wants to blame a global conspiracy on immigration, singles out George Soros — a Holocaust survivor and billionaire funder of liberal causes — rather than pointing to Jews per se. You can’t prove that he truly meant Jews, but the right fringe knows what they are listening to (like some Jewish observers have repeatedly noted).
“Tucker is finally on our side,” Scott Greer, a former employee of the Daily Caller founded by Carlson who was revealed to have written for a white nationalist website under a pseudonym, she said in a Podcasts 2021.
“It can get millions and millions of boomers to nod along with talking points that would only be seen [white nationalist websites] VDare or American Renaissance a few years ago.
For years, anti-hate groups like the Anti-Defamation League have warned about this tactic: about how attacks on Soros or uses of terms like “globalist”, now mainstream on the right, emerged from the fever swamp and now serves to encourage its inhabitants. But they have been largely ignored and rejected by the Republican side, which has been busy, in recent weeks, claiming the West as one of its own.
Just days before the “Death Con” tweet, an official House GOP Twitter account claimed West as part of a new Republican pantheon (along with Trump and Elon Musk):
The tweet has remained active following West’s tweet and revelations about what he really said on the Carlson show. It took his fall into open Nazi admiration on Thursday for the GOP to finally decide that that was enough delete the tweet.
Over the holiday weekend, well after West’s views on Jews had been clear, Donald Trump sat down to dinner with him (and notorious white nationalist Nick Fuentes, who was also present at the interview with Jones). Afterwards, Trump defended his decision to meet with Kanye — a longtime supporter of his — saying West “asked to see me for advice.” As open as West had been about his anti-Semitism at this point, it still wasn’t bad enough for Trump to cut ties with him.
It is likely that, after the Jones interview, West will become a real pariah. Praising Hitler is practically the only universally accepted voidable crime.
But in doing so, West has revealed what lies behind the kind of rhetoric mainstream conservatives are willing to employ and the kind of forces they are willing to ally with when it’s deemed politically expedient. We know what part of their audience feels when they blame.”George Soros” for caravans of migrants and the railway against “globalist” plots against America.
Kanye West bombed his career. Plausible deniability of the law is collateral damage.
Kanye West meets then President Trump in the Oval Office. Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images