It's Time to DEFCON Kanye West
And to remember that, as always, Nazis are bad.
Thanks for all the support after last week’s newsletter, Sean Plunket Defames Me. It was needed, and it was appreciated. I read it all.
I just arrived in Philadelphia to show Mister Organ at a film festival here. The last time I was here was back in 2015 — a mad dash to interview someone last minute for Tickled. From here, a brief leap back to Los Angeles and then New Zealand for a month — land of Sean Plunket and Mister Organ himself.
As I attempt to resurrect myself with coffee, I just wanted to talk a little bit about someone who, frankly, doesn’t deserve to be discussed. But I will, and it will be the last time. His 2010 record My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is one of my favourite records, but I realised I won’t be listening to it again. This is a good thing — it opens up a bunch of space to listen to artists who are not Kanye West.
Kanye West hides behind a number of excuses for doing what he does, and saying what he says. But those things are increasingly making the world a worse place to live in. He likes to escalate things, a narcissist trapped in his own incredibly selfish world — seemingly incapable of empathy.
The “White Lives Matter” shirt on October 3 was one thing — but he escalated things by spewing out a string of tweets which culminated on October 9 in a (misspelt) promise to “go death con 3 on Jewish people.”
Kanye, or Ye as he likes to be known, will rabbit on about the point he thinks he’s making. But the ideas conjured by the line “go death con 3 on Jewish people” are pretty clear. DEFCON is an alert level used by the US Armed Forces. 5 is chill. 1 is nuclear war.
DEFCON 3 is a message to “Increase in force readiness above that required for normal readiness.”
What Kanye said was: “Increase in force readiness above that required for normal readiness on Jewish people.”
And here’s the thing: Kanye does not exist in a vacuum. He lives on a planet where Nazis exist. And the Nazis came out over the weekend in Los Angeles, dangling banners over one of the busiest freeways:
“Increase in force readiness above that required.”
The banners were hung over the 405 freeway by the Goyim Defense League, a white supremacist group — what we like to call Nazis in 2022.
The next day, this in Beverly Hills:
“The Beverly Hills Police Department says it’s aware of antisemitic flyers being dispersed in the north part of the city overnight. Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse, whose mother survived a death march from Auschwitz by hiding behind a barn, spoke out against antisemitism on Twitter.”
It’s not the first time they’ve done something like this: In 2020 they displayed “Jews want a race war” banners in LA, and last year in Austin it was “Vax the Jews.” After that Austin outing, one of the Nazis attempted to set fire to a synagogue.
A few Jewish friends messaged me after I posted the images of the 405 on Instagram. One of them told me he was at a grocery store with his little kid, and he got them to take off their kippah. He felt scared for his kid.
That’s the atmosphere.
And Kanye has a powerhouse behind him that enables him. He feels invincible, backed by some of the biggest brands on the planet. His collaboration with Adidas brings that company $2 billion a year — 10% of their total profits.
Kanye knows this, appearing on a podcast called Drink Champs last week to say, “The thing about it being Adidas is like, I can literally say antisemitic shit and they cannot drop me.”
He’s correct: Adidas is yet to sever any ties with Kanye — they won’t want to lose that $2 billion. But their stance to sell their soul to Kanye West holds extra weight when you remember Adidas’ founder was a Nazi. As in, Adolf Dassler, the creator of Adidas, was a card carrying member of the Nazi party.
I mean it’s all pretty weird. When I was a kid glued to my computer in the early 90s, I spent of lot of my time killing Nazis in Wolfenstein 3D.
It felt like we’d all agreed back then that the systematic murder of six million Jewish people was reprehensible, and that Nazis were, I dunno, bad.
I was a kid and I felt a certain catharsis in taking a gatling gun to Adolf Hitler’s pixelated body.
But here we are, exactly 30 years after Wolfenstein 3D came out, reminded that Nazis still exist — and they’re empowered by pop culture fixtures like Kanye West, who has the backing of a giant corporation founded — literally — by a bunch of Nazis. And that company is yet to raise their hand and go “We think what Kanye said is, maybe, possibly, I dunno, a bit bad. And maybe, er, maybe um, we should reconsider the way we enable him.”