Kanye West is Antisemitic

And nobody should be surprised.

David Shankbone, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Kanye West, now known as ‘Ye’, is a complicated and sometimes downright infuriating character. Years of musical and financial success have made him an icon of American social life, but with that icon status comes a massive level of scrutiny that Ye has repeatedly shown he is incapable of handling. That was on full display earlier this last weekend when he decided to tweet that he would go “…death con three on Jewish People.”

Screenshot of now deleted Tweet by Ye, dated October 8th, 2022

Kanye’s initial defense of the tweet resided within the post itself, asserting that “black people are actually Jew{s}” and that Jewish people “blackball” him for opposing their agenda. Prior to that, Kanye released texts he had with Diddy, a fellow rapper, accusing him of being controlled by Jewish people.

It is worth noting that this is not the first time that Kanye has made anti-semitic comments in the past, some of which he seemingly failed to understand.

Kanye’s prejudiced thinking about Jewish people goes nearly a decade. In a 2013 radio interview, the rapper and music idol commented on why he thought then-President Barack Obama was unable to get his agenda passed, saying:

“People want to say Obama can’t make these moves or he’s not executing. That’s because he ain’t got those connections … Black people don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people. Black people don’t have the same connections as oil people.”

Kanye West on Barack Obama on New York hip-hop station Power 105.1.

The underlying implication of such statements is that Jewish people, by some unexplained power, have greater financial and political influence than black people solely on the basis of them being Jewish. Such a statement, though considerably tame compared to his recent Twitter post, is indicative of how age-old ideas about Jewishness and Jewish influence in public life have been treated as inherently insidious.

Indeed, Kanye’s comments provoked then-Director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman to condemn the comments, saying:

If the comments are true as reported, this is classic anti-Semitism…  There it goes again, the age-old canard that Jews are all-powerful and control the levers of power in government.  As a celebrity with a wide following, Kanye West should know better.  We hope that he will take responsibility for his words, understand why they are so offensive, and apologize to those he has offended.”

Former ADL Director Abarham Foxman, December 2, 2013

While these statements are arguably outdated, the concern about Jewish people being treated as a threat and a supposed cabal of insidious infiltrators with undue influence remains extremely pertinent.

Even after his prejudiced comments on Twitter created widespread denunciation, Kanye doubled down in an interview with the Drink Champs where he claimed:

“Jewish people have owned the Black voice… Either it’s through us wearing the Ralph Lauren shirt, or it’s all of us being signed to a record label, or having a Jewish manager, or being signed to a Jewish basketball team, or doing a movie on a Jewish platform like Disney. I respect what the Jewish people have done, and how they brought their people together.”

Kanye West on the Drink Champs about Jewish people

I could go into the many issues with these statements, but it would take far too long to explore every single prejudiced thing that influences Kanye’s thinking.

Instead, I will leave you with this. Kanye’s prejudice should not, under any circumstances, be used as a pretext to insult, disparage or otherwise otherize the black community. Kanye is his own man and he has long-established himself as a contrarian and consistent problem for public discourse on issues of race. His assertion that slavery was a choice and his support for the White Lives Matter movement, are just a few examples of his problematic conduct.

It would be an absurd disservice to pretend that Kanye’s views, tendencies, or other examples of weak analysis in public life are representative of black people, both in the United States and globally. And while I can’t presume to speak for black people or their sense of their own existence as a community, it would be equally as inappropriate to remain silent when there are those who will likely use the guise of fighting anti-semitism as a pretext to engage in anti-black prejudice. Kanye’s words are his own.

Equally important is the denunciation of antisemitism that has gripped not only this nation but the world over. At a time when anti-semitic attacks are on the rise and when more people in American political life are engaging in open anti-semitism, it is incredibly important that anti-semitism is denounced wherever it is present. America is not immune those this age-old prejudice, not even in the face Nazism.

In 1939, thousand of Americans gathered to support the Nazi party and attack Jewish people in what can only be described as the rally from hell.

Kanye’s conduct and the historical themes behind it should not be used as a pretext to attack any one community. Instead, it should serve as a reminder that everyone has a responsibility to keep an eye out for prejudiced ideas so that they don’t contribute to their spread and the abuse of authority that inevitably comes with it.

Far from being an endorsement of indicting any community, Kanye’s comments can serve as an opportunity to acknowledge the danger that is antisemitism so that we may all grow beyond even the most subtle examples of this noxious ideology.

The Progressive American Episode 52: Trump’s anti-semitism, Dinesh D’Souza’s Election Conspiracies Debunked, the Illinois Governor’s debate, etc.

Photo created by NateTalkstoYou

In this most recent episode of The Progressive American, I talk about Trump’s recent anti-semitic posts on TruthSocial, Dinesh D’souza’s propaganda film 2000 Mules, and much more.

Additionally, you can check out my review of the first debate between Governor J.B. Pritzker and State Senator Darren Bailey here.

Podcast linked

No Podcast This Week

Hi everyone,

Sadly there will not be a podcast this week due to technical issues with audacity. However, I have plans for an interview sometime next week that will be on the podcast, and I will release my content from this week around that same time. My apologies.

Stay tuned for further articles, reprints, and project updates! More to come!

Darren Bailey Should Not Be Governor

Bailey’s politics and past statements make him a horrible choice for Illinois

Darren Bailey smiling against a brick building. | Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons

The race for the governorship is in full swing, and the candidates, current Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Darren Bailey, are now readying to make their case to the people of Illinois. But with the new race, it is increasingly evident that Darren Bailey is not fit to serve in government. Throughout his time in politics and government, Bailey has proven himself entirely inadequate and irresponsible when in power. Through his rhetoric and prejudiced beliefs, Darren Bailey has weaponized the fires of hatred and ignorance within the public sphere.

Right off the bat, we must acknowledge the severity of Bailey’s beliefs on abortion. According to Pew Research Center, abortion rights have risen to the highest since 1995, with 61% of Americans supporting a woman’s right to choose whether or not to get an abortion in “all or most cases.” Despite that, Darren Baily is an avid opponent of abortion and advocates for a near-total ban on abortion, with only the mother’s life being an acceptable justification for a woman getting an abortion. That position alone makes Bailey’s candidacy radically opposed to the needs of women in Illinois.

Views on Abortion, 1995–2022. Source: Pew Research Center

Nor are his comments just talk. During his time in the Illinois House, he opposed the Reproductive Health Act and readily voted against it. The act, which was created in response to the death of Roe v. Wade, would repeal anti-abortion legislation that was on the books but remained inactive thanks to the late Roe ruling and required private insurance companies to support abortion access.

Bailey’s anti-abortion advocacy has also played into his antisemitic and far-right politics. Reporters uncovered a video of Bailey during his election campaign for the House in which he argued that abortion is worse than the holocaust. In the said video, Bailey said:

“I believe that abortion is one of the greatest atrocities of our day, and I believe it’s one of the greatest atrocities probably forever…The attempted extermination of the Jews of World War II doesn’t even compare on a shadow of the life lost with abortion since its legalization.” Those remarks inevitably caused a backlash against him with the Anti-Defamation League, with the organization’s Midwest director, David Goldenberg, calling him out for the remarks, saying they were “shameful” and “unacceptable” and warning that the remarks do “an incredible disservice to the millions of Jews and others who were killed at the hands of the Nazis.”

-Darren Bailey, 2017

Governor Pritzker, a Jewish man himself, was even blunter. Through his campaign press secretary, Eliza Glezer, Pritzker’s campaign denounced the statements, saying, “Darren Bailey’s disgusting assertion that a woman determining her own reproductive future is worse than the Nazis’ genocide of six million Jews is offensive to Illinoisans everywhere…With violent antisemitism on the rise and in the wake of a massacre against the predominately Jewish Highland Park, Bailey must answer for his hateful comments.” According to Pew Research Center, it is especially horrific to make those comments when considering that American Jewish people generally support reproductive rights.

Jewish Opinion on abortion. Source: Pew Research Center

It is worth noting that Bailey may not have intended to have those views come off as antisemitism. He released a statement suggesting that it was merely about the life of the unborn — but at the same time, he never apologized for his statements. Whatever his intentions, the result of his ignorant statements is the abuse of the memory of all those who lost their lives in that horrid genocide.

Nor is that the first time Bailey made horrid and prejudicial comments about groups that don’t conform to his norms. Unearthed comments reported by the Daily Herald and Crain’s Chicago Business show that Bailey referred to Islam as “not a religion of peace,” a long-abused talking point by anti-Muslim zealots on the right. Moreover, he referred to a CPS decision to allow trans kids to go to the bathroom according to their gender identity as “sickness.”

While this article may seem like a rap sheet of all of this candidate’s worst takes, it is important to remember that Bailey is running for the highest executive office in the state. His policy statements, whether official or otherwise, reflect what his administration would be like if it were not for the Democratic control of the legislature. I could go on and on about his comments on Chicago and how he keeps calling it a hellhole, exposing a whole other facet of prejudice to deal with, but that is an issue for another article. If Illinois is to have a functioning government, it must avoid sending a far-right politico to the governor’s mansion. The people of Illinois should send Bailey packing.

Originally published September 26th, 2022, at https://uisobserver.com.


The Right’s Attack on LGBTQ People is an Attack on America

They really aren’t hiding it

Greg Abbott by J Dimas, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

It seems like the old times have come back again. In a display of politically motivated panic, right-wing activists have dredged out old talking points that play on age-old prejudices, putting everyday Americans at risk. Using a vast array of old propagandists, the right has motivated its base to engage in what can only be described as a prejudiced onslaught against LGBTQ people.

It would be easier to believe that someone cast a spell and resurrected prejudiced spirits from a past long thought gone, but the reality is that the architects of prejudice and ignorance were never truly gone. Instead, they have been waiting in the dark, looking for an opportunity to strike and reinstitute restrictions on LGBTQ history and people whose story deserves to be told. While many Americans continue to support LGBTQ rights, Republican efforts to restrict or otherwise undermine those rights have come out in full swing.

In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order that requires the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate any parent who provides gender-affirming care to their kids, referring to said care as “child abuse.” The accusation of abuse is in spite of studies showing that gender-affirming care is associated with decreased rates of depression and suicide. The basis for the executive order was Gov. Abbott’s own Attorney General, Ken Paxton, who released a legal opinion arguing that such treatment constituted abuse, despite no statute defining it as such.

In response, several scientists and legal scholars wrote a letter condemning Texas’ interpretation of the state code and lambasted the multitude of errors in the original opinion by Attorney General Paxton, describing the opinion as being “not grounded in reputable science” and “full of errors.” The report further noted that despite claims by Texas’ attorney general that trans youth were being subjected to surgery, current practice requires that said surgeries be performed during adulthood. A federal judge has since blocked the directive and the case could find its way to the Texas Supreme Court if Paxton’s appeal goes through. In the meantime, many families are left in the lurch.

Texas is not alone in its attempt to wipe LGBTQ people from public life. In Florida, Republican governor Ron DeSantis supported and signed House Bill 1557, more commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” into law. Under this bill, teachers are prohibited from encouraging conversations about “sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.” The wording of this act is intentionally vague, but the intention was made crystal clear in a tweet by Gov. DeSantis’s press secretary, Christina Pushaw, who said the act was supposed to protect children from “grooming.”

Republicans have long spread the idea that LGBTQ people and LGBTQ-friendly teaching is grooming, and similar themes have been used to push nearly 150 anti-LGTBQ bills, including orders like the ones in Florida and Texas. Nor are these attacks new. In the 1970s, anti-gay activists such as Anita Bryant used similar propaganda to encourage Miami voters to repeal a local ordinance that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation, establishing the “Save Our Children” movement. Her efforts were supported by conservative activist and religious leader Jerry Falwell Sr, who was infamous for his own bigotry against LGBTQ people.

These attacks do not come naturally or without prompting by Republican activists. Many of these same activists were contributing to a similar panic about Critical Race Theory (CRT) earlier this year and have been using frustrations over COVID-19 and school policy surrounding it to oppose a variety of subjects they deem inappropriate.

Christopher Rufo, an anti-CRT activist, and writer for the Manhattan Institute is one such man. Rufo has attempted to ban the so-called Critical Race Theory from public schools throughout his career and writing. Working with others such as James Lindsay and the Heritage Foundation, Rufo helped to create a backlash against the 2020 Summer protests of Black Lives Matter by restricting discussions of race in school. In one tweet thread, Rufo explained his objective with the CRT panic, saying: “The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory…”

And now, he has applied that same approach to LGBTQ rights. Earlier this year, Rufo stood with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as he signed another bill intended to restrict discussions about privilege in the workplace. He has also repeatedly used grooming as a weapon against LGBTQ people, particularly when it comes to educational materials about LGBTQ rights.

Using the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal as his weapon, Rufo has ramped up a panic about LGBTQ groomers and rapists that is reminiscent of the 1970s, with familiar allies like James Lindsay doing his part as well.

In a brief article attempting to defend his claims of grooming, Rufo pointed to a 2004 Department of Education report, which examined a 2000 survey of 2,065 children from grades 8 through 11. Using this data, the report claimed that nearly 10% of the children were victims of abuse. Rufo took that rate and then claimed that as many as 4.5 million children were suffering abuse at the hands of public officials. To Rufo, this puts the so-called “grooming” problem at a rate nearly “100 times greater than the physical abuse committed by Catholic priests, who, at the time the report was published, were undergoing a reckoning for the crimes within their ranks.”

The problem with this report, aside from its incredibly small sample size, is that it is not representative of the population and assumes a constant rate of abuse. It also does not mention LGBTQ people at all. Rufo may have also misquoted Charol Shakeshaft, the Hofstra University professor who wrote the report.

Rufo has also extended this panic to Disney, accusing it of being full of groomers after it criticized the Don’t Say Gay bill, which Rufo supported. Rufo, along with DeSantis and other supporters of the bill, have latched onto this claim and used it to justify pulling Disney’s special tax status when its employees criticized the company’s initial hesitance to oppose DeSantis’ agenda. Even private businesses are not able to speak their minds, no matter how tepid their opposition is.

This panic may seem odd at first. Public support for LGBTQ people continues to rise, but it makes sense when you consider who Rufo associates with and what they seek to do with the public school system. In a speech at Hillsdale College, Rufo was recorded saying: “in order to achieve universal school choice, it’s necessary to create an atmosphere of universal public-school distrust.”

It is this distrust, this historically grounded prejudice, and a desire for austerity that appears to be the central focus of GOP operations. To operatives like Rufo and leaders like DeSantis and Abbott, the opportunity to destroy public institutions via prejudicial propaganda is too much to ignore. If this is allowed to continue, Republicans will almost certainly use what power they gain in the midterms to attack public education, protections for LGBTQ youth and employees, and much more.

Nobody should be surprised by the cacophony of nonsense that comes from these activists; they have it in their best interest to lie. It does not matter who gets hurt or whose kids are taken from them, the only thing these Republicans care about is power. And unless something is done, they will get it.

Originally published May 13th, 2022 at https://uisobserver.com.

Talking Christian Nationalism with NateTalksToYou

In this discussion, I talk with video essayist and YouTuber, NateTalksToYou, on the issue of Christian Nationalism in America. Though somewhat disturbed by a horrible storm, I am eternally grateful to have Nate on the show, and I look forward to having him on future episodes.

The Continuing Sexism of Matt Walsh

The right-wing blogger’s tendency to enforce so-called traditional gender roles is littered with misogyny and hatred.

Matt Walsh by Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

To say that politics has become a mess is a massive understatement. For those who repeat such a statement, most would likely respond by saying, “have you been living under a rock?” And rightly so. For the last several years, every prejudice under the sun has resurfaced and has been treated with a level of respect that would make any decent person sick. And nobody embodies that more so than Matt Walsh.

For those who are fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with him, Matt Walsh is a right-wing contributor to Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire and the host of the aptly named Matt Walsh Show. But more than that, Walsh is a notorious sexist and so-called traditional Catholic who regularly endorses the worst elements of machismo politics. Throughout his time as a commentator, his work has been a non-stop exercise in hatred and prejudice.

From the very beginning, Walsh has embraced the worst elements of modern media. In 2013, he wrote a horrendously named article titled Your Husband Doesn’t Have to Earn Your Respect.’ In it, Walsh argues that men have been emasculated by sitcoms, double standards, and the supposed domineering presence of women at home. The evidence he provides is scant and, in the case of an alleged incident of a wife embarrassing her husband publicly, anecdotal. But Walsh doesn’t let the scant evidence stop him. Instead, Walsh argued that women are not giving men their due respect in relationships.

According to the Department of Justice, one-in-four women will suffer domestic abuse from a partner compared to one-in-nine men, so it is peculiar that violence against women is not brought up as a threat to the respectability of marriage in Walsh’s article.

The solution he provides is that men are entitled to respect for the sake of the marriage even when “he doesn’t deserve it.” Of course, Walsh is not so foolish to argue the more blunt “women should defer to their husband” trope, as that would be political suicide. But the underlying theme of women being responsible for respecting the man when he refuses to do the same remains.

Far be it from me to argue that women should not respect their spouses, but respect is a two-way street. Anything less nullifies that actual value of the relationship. A woman in a relationship with an unruly and disrespectful husband should have no more an obligation to accept that than a man should if the roles were reversed.

I am sure Walsh would object to the argument, saying that he never stated such a position. But the fact that he singled out women as being inherently more disrespectful in marriage than their male counterparts when women are subjected to far more intimate-personal violence suggests otherwise. If someone says they don’t have a preference for one gender over the other but simultaneously holds one as more culpable for relationship problems than other when there is clear evidence against that position, then it is not unreasonable to disregard that statement.

In other words, don’t let Walsh tell you who he is; let him show you.

Nor is this article the first example of a bias against women. In a Facebook post from 2014, Walsh complained about a pastor for her participation in a film called Sex Box. Normally, opposition to a pastor being involved in such a film would come from some sense of piety, and while Walsh certainly did object to the film itself, he seemingly couldn’t resist the urge to suggest that women can’t be pastors, even though not all pastors belong to the Catholic Church or its traditions of a male-only priesthood.

Full post linked here

It seems that Walsh can’t help but object to women in any authoritative position. Walsh has also argued that women in the police should not be allowed out on patrol, arguing that they can easily be overpowered, more so than their male colleagues.

This gendered thinking is, like most of his commentary, off-base. Policing, despite its many problems, is not restricted to physical strength. Part of a police officer’s job is handling disputes, de-escalating conflict, and subduing suspects. In some cases, police are also responsible for handling abuse victims, wherever they may be. And on that front, women officers tend to be more receptive to the victim’s concerns than male officers, likely due to gendered norms influencing their attitudes.

Additional studies have shown that women are also less likely to receive complaints than their male officers. Putting physical strength as the sole barometer for success for a patrolling officer is narrow thinking and limits the ability of law enforcement to effectively manage their many duties, all in the name of outdated and prejudiced norms.

Perhaps more bluntly, Walsh has also gone out of his way to attack South Dakota’s Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, saying that Noem was her refusal to stop businesses from enforcing mask mandates on their property before arguing that she was “an attractive woman” and that was the only reason she got support from members of the right for a possible campaign in 2024.

How’s that for mutual respect between the sexes?

None of this is surprising to anyone, but it is important to remember who and what Matt Walsh is. Whether or not we like it, it is critical to remember who and what the right seeks to promote, and so long as Walsh is a part of that package, the right will remain a hostile place for women in society at large and in government.

Polio is in New York: Thanks, Anti-Vaxxers

Years of opposition to basic public health measures have come back to hurt innocent people.

Photo by FRANK MERIÑO from Pexels

Few things in this world make me as angry as anti-vaxxers. The movement, though centuries old, has taken on a new dimension with the modern era that can only be described as arrogant ignorance. That ignorance proliferated and maintained by hacks like Del Bigtree, Andrew Wakefield and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has had horrific consequences as New York found out earlier this Friday, as reports showed that Polio, long thought eradicated, has been found in the wastewater of the city.

And all I can say is “thank you!” Thanks, anti-vaxxers. Your blind faith in hucksters and anti-science advocates who don’t care about you or your children has done what nature could not—bring back a deadly disease that destroyed the lives of thousands of Americans who, before vaccines, could only pray for mercy. What an accomplishment!

It doesn’t matter that Andrew Wakefield lied about his research and was trying to sell his own vaccine. Or that he falsified his patients’ medical histories. No, of course not. You had it all figured out; the doctors were lying, and the media was all in a cabal to force your kids to get autism. Never mind the horrific attitude towards Autistic children that such a statement implies. The anti-vaxx bloggers and amateur scientists will solve all of your problems! Don’t forget to donate to the substandard blogger’s bank account!

It didn’t matter that anti-vaccine activists preyed on Somali-Americans in Minnesota or that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. compared mandatory vaccination, which was largely not applied during Covid-19, to the Holocaust.

It didn’t matter that Del Bigtree, a pseudo-scientific documentarian, did the same thing by planting a Star of David on his chest in a rally before a litany of supporters.

All of this is to say that the anti-vaccine movement and its many propagandists had multiple opportunities to change course. Numerous red flags to acknowledge and act upon, but they never did.

Instead, low vaccination rates and an increasingly conspiratorial mindset among the populace have put the entire enterprise of the last several decades to the wayside. Make no mistake, public health officials will have to fight tooth and nail to protect people from a disease that some of us don’t acknowledge, and innocent people will suffer.

This is the cost of spreading anti-vaccine propaganda; unless there is some mechanism to crack down on it, we will all pay the price.

Susan Collins Botches ‘Hot Take’ on Trump Search

She has a habit of botching the moment, so this isn’t surprising.

Susan Collins by Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The recent search into Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago has provoked many unique takes, with many being understanding and reasonable and others being the exact opposite. But as always, Susan Collins (R-ME) is here to give us the most tepid and equivocating opinion on the issue. Her take, though misinformed, is no less disgusting when one considers the severity of the allegations against Trump. Especially when one considers the recent allegations that Trump had nuclear documents at Mar-a-Lago.

In a recent interview with NBC’s Maine affiliate, NEWSCENTERMaine, the Senator argued that if the search was just to seek documents illegally held by the former president, then a search was heavy-handed and unnecessary.

This argument aged like spoiled milk with the aforementioned report by the Washington Post, but it is even more frustrating when considering the nature of the search.

While it is unprecedented for a former president to have his home searched, it is not inherently incorrect solely because it breaks tradition. If a president is facing such a search, the first reaction should not be outrage but curiosity.

As I explained in one of my recent posts on the issue, if a president is being searched with a warrant, then chances are that a judge was presented with extensive evidence to support the need for a search. No judge worth their salt would risk their careers breaking tradition like this unless they had strong evidence to suggest it was necessary. Questioning why a search was necessary is one thing, but those questions should lead to an informed conclusion, not ignorant condemnation.

Senator Collins could have easily looked into Trump’s own legal record from his presidency and seen that he signed a bill making holding such documents illegally a felony, which would easily explain why the DOJ felt it was necessary to search Trump’s home.

You can read the law here.

All of this is to say that Susan Collins had every opportunity to understand the nature of the investigation and could have held off before seeking to condemn it without any basis to do so. Her work, insofar as one can call it work, has been nothing but unprincipled equivocation and lies.

I understand that Senator Collins has to play a more moderate tone due to her states’ political streak, but sometimes the people don’t need a representative; they need a leader. And Susan Collins is not that person, and she never will be.