Kanye West’s slavery remarks: free thinker or racist troll?

West thinks he’s presenting new ideas, but he’s playing right into conservatives’ hands

"Once again I am being attacked for presenting new ideas," tweeted Kanye on Wednesday.

Future cultural historians, picking their way through the vast Twitter archive (housed in a lead-lined vault under the President Trump Education Centre & Beach Resort) might discover that the novelty of Kanye's right-wing ideas were not the main problem with his Worst-Ever Week on the Internet™.

West first alarmed his 28 million Twitter followers by professing his love for Trump the week before, and then sharing the bad faith wisdom of smirking far-right grifters like Candace Owens, Charlie Kirk and wit-phobic Dilbert scribe Scott Adams. For this, he was feted by the very same conservative hive mind that previously called him an illuminati lizard and degenerate thug.

With far-right politics on the march in America and throughout Europe, those who peddle racism and bigotry online have realised they can make bold strides toward respectability by presenting themselves as an oppressed minority – dogged truth-tellers gagged by an oppressive media hegemony. In Kanye, they’ve found a depressingly potent mark, and one who seems to believe their ideas are true, forbidden – and new.


Evils of welfare

So it was that he uncritically posted text messages declaring the evils of welfare and socialism, and finally went on TMZ to opine that slavery had been, to some extent, “a choice” by black people who had been insufficiently strong-willed to gain their freedom.

The internet of normal people reacted with sad, angry horror. John Legend went on a retweet offensive, Will.i.am claimed it "broke my heart", while writer Roxane Gay claimed that his words "reiterate my previous statements about how dangerous his trite, shallow ramblings are".

Kanye's journey of free thought is little more than a dimly-conceived drift through online far-right talking points

“He is not a free thinker,” she concluded. “He is a free moron who doesn’t read.”

While his rants caused mockery from some corners – and darkly hilarious memes via the #IfSlaveryWasAChoice hashtag – the main consequence of his racist myth-peddling wasn’t horrified media types clutching their pearls, but ordinary black people having to reassert the actual, historical truths of slavery; to debate the truth of their oppression once again, hundreds of years after that argument was won.


The idea that blacks are responsible for their own oppression is not – surprise, surprise – new at all, but it seems increasingly popular in those pockets of the internet that profess loud admiration for free speech while using said speech to dehumanise minorities.

Kanye’s journey of free thought is little more than a dimly-conceived drift through online far-right talking points; bad ideas he’s embraced with all the zeal of a sulky teen reading 8Chan for the first time.

In the end, the age of those ideas is irrelevant. As @CraigRozniecki succinctly put it, “Whether an idea is old or new, stupid is still stupid.”