Without agreeing or disagreeing with anything he’s said, Kanye West is an interesting study in just how much you can say as a celebrity provided your beliefs are aligned with those of the suzerains of popular culture, the vast majority of whom are liberal.
There are plenty of celebs who have made ridiculous political statements over the years, particularly involving Donald Trump. Madonna said she wouldn’t mind blowing up the White House and literally nothing happened to her. Kathy Griffin held up a mock-up Trump’s bloodied head for a photo shoot and her access to the VIP room of pop culture was only temporarily suspended, despite the fact that she’s not actually talented.
However, Kanye West says he supports Donald Trump, makes some dumb statements about dragon energy and slavery, and suddenly he’s the worst human who’s ever lived.
Take Detroit radio station 105.1 The Bounce. After Kanye’s statement about slavery, they decided to ban his music.
“We feel like Kanye has gone too far with his latest statement declaring that ‘slavery was a choice,'” read an Instagram statement from morning show hosts BiGG and Shay Shay on the station’s official account.
“We are over it. We don’t want to hear Kanye’s music, we don’t want to play Kanye on our show, we don’t want to talk about Kanye anymore. So we are taking a stand and we aren’t playing his music anymore; we just are refusing to give him a platform.”
The move was a response to Kanye’s appearance on “TMZ Live” where he said, “When you hear about slavery for 400 years, for 400 years? That sounds like a choice. Like, you was there for 400 years and it was all of y’all?”
The station’s ban got plenty of coverage, and while much of it was local, publications like The Hollywood Reporter responded to what The Bounce had done with Kanye’s music.
The general feeling one got from reading these pieces seemed to be that Kanye had it coming, although if something similar had happened so publicly to Madonna or Griffin after their statements ostensibly calling, in couched terms, for the death of the president, there would have been an outcry about free speech. In fact, when one lonely radio station announced it wasn’t playing Madonna songs in the wake of her threat to blow up the White House, the reaction on its Facebook page seemed to be an outpouring of criticism from individuals who had likely never even tuned in.
There was something interesting we noticed about the owners of 105.1 The Bounce, which is the Beasley Media Group. See if you can discern what stuck out:
#Beasleysowhite. In the interests of full disclosure, there were two other white people on the executive team who wouldn’t fit in the image for reasons of symmetry and size. Rest assured, they are Caucasian.
I know I find myself doing this with increasing frequency nowadays, but imagine if the situation was reversed. Imagine if a broadcasting organization with an all-white executive board whose leaders donated to some liberal causes had banned a black artist who had semi-controversial liberal stances and made a similarly-controversial remark.
No matter who the DJs were, there would be a hue and cry. These were limousine liberals, clearly out of touch with the plight of African-Americans in today’s America. If the DJs who made the announcement were black, we know the racial epithet that would instantly be pulled out and used upon them.
This isn’t a defense of Kanye’s “TMZ Live” rant. My position has always been that celebrities are poor emissaries for political thought, as evinced by the wellspring of insanely uneducated things that escape the mouths of liberal celebrities. (Kanye, in fairness, has since “clarified” his remarks to insist he meant mental slavery; it didn’t sound that way to me when he made the remarks and the fact that Kanye even had to clarify is prima facie evidence that the comment was ill-conceived.)
This all being said, I’ve deliberately contrasted Kanye’s slavery remark with Ms. Griffin and the mononymous Material Girl™ for a reason: Kanye didn’t threaten to kill anybody. In both of the aforementioned cases, you could make a very good case both individuals were coyly playing with the concept of murdering the president, going just far enough that a deranged fan could take it as a call to assassination but not far enough that it would result in anything but a rather desultory conversation with the Secret Service.
Even if a radio station had banned these lily-white individuals, there would be an outcry: The First Amendment was under attack! (I guess station managers were probably relieved of this burden by the fact that Madonna hasn’t been relevant in 20 years and Ms. Griffin’s routines would, at least on commercial radio, be unairable.)
Yet, in Kanye’s case, there’s nothing more than a shrug. The Bounce’s statement seems to preclude any return of Kanye’s music to the air, and one gets the feeling this isn’t the last station that’s going to make a similar decision.
It’s worth noting here, too, that Kanye has made questionable statements in the past — remember “George Bush doesn’t like black people?” To this observer, his slavery remarks sounded little different than your average Kanye rant where Yeezy decides to drop any sort of mental or verbal filter.
To my knowledge, no station has ever stopped playing his music because of any of the bevy of controversial statements or actions attributed to him. Now he says expresses interest in some conservative ideas, and all of a sudden, Kanye saying dumb things is a problem. I suppose neither we nor he ought to be surprised.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.