The answer to hate speech is not less speech.
Kanye West is the subject of corporate ostracism. Twitter and Instagram have revoked his access to social media. The fashion brand Balenciaga terminated an agreement to distribute West’s clothing line. As did Adidas. And Gap.
Foot Locker removed Yeezy products from its shelves. Revolt TV and HBO deleted recent interviews with the rapper. On Monday, the CAA talent agency dropped him from its clientele.
We could go on.
Each company cites anti-Semitism for its dissociation from West, who asks the public to refer to him exclusively as Ye. Earlier this month, Ye tweeted that he planned to go “deathcon 3” on a Jewish cabal that he purports uses its influence to undermine him. He has since referred to his critics as members of an “underground Jewish media mafia.”
Influencers have defended the blacklisting of Ye’s business ventures by dubbing him an existential threat to humanity. Rappers consider him “dangerous.” Former radio star Howard Stern marked Ye the modern-day Adolf Hitler. Media personalities labeled him “a black white supremacist.”
The reaction to Ye’s commentary has been hyperbolic but effective.
The push to dismantle his business empire continues to escalate. Over the weekend, hotshot WME CEO Ari Emanuel pressured music services to remove Kanye West’s extensive library from streaming availability.
Emanuel dared Apple to prove it is not anti-Semitic, writing: “Those who continue to do business with West are giving his misguided hate an audience. There should be no tolerance anywhere for West’s anti-Semitism.”
Now, what would removing the 2005 jam “Gold Digger” from Apple Music do to prevent hate speech? How would deleting the album “808s & Heartbreak” crackdown on dangerous commentary? Unfortunately, Emanuel didn’t specify. Though he expects Apple to oblige.
What’s happening to Ye exceeds censorship. Big Business is using its consolidated power to exile an individual from the marketplace on account of his mere speech. That’s a development far more consequential than what Ye tweets and drivels on various podcasts.
Advocates of throttling Ye dismiss the phenomenon as a one-off, a response to a mentally ill rapper who allowed his right-wing pals to radicalize him. Perhaps to the general public, the destruction of Ye is, in fact, a one-off response to anti-Semitism.
But it’s much more than that to the people in charge. The dismantling of his brand has vastly empowered business leaders. It has uncovered the potential stranglehold Big Business could wield over discourse in the country, one that mirrors the advent of internet censorship.
In 2018, social media services de-platformed radio host Alex Jones for abusive behavior. The public collectively dismissed suppressing Jones as an appropriate punishment for a volatile provocateur. Perhaps it was.
But censorship spiraled from there. De-platforming Jones empowered Big Tech. Jones’ rhetoric opened the floodgates for tech leaders to gain control over online discourse. Censorship heightened in 2021 with the banishment of Alex Berenson, an independent journalist who held government officials accountable during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Internet suppression progressed from a tool to prevent baseless conspiracy theories to a means to silence individuals who challenge government rule. The government cannot censor the public on account of the First Amendment. However, social media can. And it has. Big Business can as well.
Four years later, the demand to destroy Ye’s business portfolio is similarly commissioning a private industry to punish speech that runs afoul of the politically correct. Bureaucrats are using his mercurial rhetoric as proof they ought to regulate free speech.
Such authority does not end with the blacklisting of a single individual. Power is addicting and an adrenaline rush. No one in history has willingly relinquished influence.
As OutKick writer Ian Miller previously argued, a movement begins with the punishment of a singular “bad guy” but escalates from there. The definition of a “bad guy” is ever-changing and increasingly expanding. Ye is the target today. The performer who opposes the genital mutilation of children is the target tomorrow.
More concerning than Ye’s understanding of Jewish history are entertainers and talent agents next daring clothing lines to sever ties with an artist for supporting the wrong political candidate or stance on abortion. The goalpost is ever-moving.
Corporate leaders are inherently cowardly and reactionary. They answer to outrage. And because one side of the political aisle controls public outrage, they answer to one ideology.
Big Business torpedoed Ye amid an outcry from influential figures in media and entertainment. Yet this same group showed no such intolerance to anti-Semitism when Squad members and Democratic congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib spewed derogatory remarks about Israel and Jews. Or when MSNBC host Joy Reid posted blatantly anti-semitic statements to her blog.
Ye’s uniquely susceptible to “cancellation,” if you will, because he admires Donald Trump, wore a MAGA cap, contradicts the Left’s vision for black America, attributes fentanyl to George Floyd’s death, and is aloof and unpredictable.
The push to bury Ye began a week before he tweeted the words “deathcon 3.” It began when he donned a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt at a Paris fashion show with Candace Owens.
Ye’s references to the Jewish cabal gave the following sociopolitical stooges an excuse to advocate for his stifling in return for his opposition to BLM:
"Black Lives Matter" is about helping us survive. Kanye trolling that notion by wearing a white lives matter t-shirt means he's trying to get attention in any way possible even if it means betraying his people.— Touré (@Toure) October 3, 2022
Kanye West decision to wear a “White Lives Matter” shirt is disgusting, dangerous, and irresponsible. Some of y’all will rush to defend him. You should ask yourselves why… pic.twitter.com/YT4a6c9tKI— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) October 3, 2022
So many folks are trying to excuse Kanye wearing a white lives matter t-shirt as just a troll move or marketing. Maybe it is. But it’s a dangerously dumb message to send for someone with his massive platform. I been off dude. But y’all go ahead labeling his foolishness as genius.— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 3, 2022
The apoplectic response to and subsequent handling of Ye are as much about his refusal to comply with prevailing narratives as his anti-Semitism.
Silencing thought crimes is hardly the answer. A society can successfully combat hate speech by virtue of debate, contradiction, and dialogue.
Corporate efforts to silence Ye only lend credence to his and others’ suspicions of a concerted effort to muzzle dissenting voices, the premise of his preamble.
Big Business using its powers to silence speech is more “dangerous” than a rapper with a library of jingles, a collection of hoodies, and a mind of erratic beliefs.
The answer to hate speech is more speech — not an empowered class of bureaucrats browbeating individuals into groupthink.