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Bret Easton Ellis: Why liberal lunatics are deeply wrong about Kanye West
By Bret Easton Ellis
In 2018, various journalists wanted to talk to me about a couple of tweets I’d posted in favor of Kanye West. They couldn’t seem to believe that I supported his “crazy” feed, especially when he said he liked Trump, and couldn’t fathom why I tweeted “Hail Kanye!” in response to his weird blend of transparent prophet and calculated p.r. prankster.
I’d known Kanye since 2013, when out of the blue he texted me to ask if I’d like to work on a movie idea of his. We’d never met, but I was intrigued enough to go see him in a private wing of Cedars Sinai in LA the day after his first child had been born. We spent four hours there talking about the movie project and a wide range of subjects — everything from Yeezus to porn to “The Jetsons” — until Kim Kardashian came out of her room cradling their newborn North. This seemed the time for me to excuse myself, though it also seemed that Kanye wanted me to stay indefinitely, even offering me a Grey Goose that he was pouring out of a magnum as I prepared to leave.
Since then I’d worked with him on a few complicated and strange projects for film, TV and video that mostly never happened, yet because of all this I kept up with him on social media and now found myself reacting to his amazing stream-of-conscious thoughts on his Twitter page in the weeks before the release of his new record — just like hundreds of thousands of other followers.
These tweets were a reminder of why I liked Kanye: They were sweet and mysterious, dumb and profound, funny and playful, part absurdist stunt as well as a genuine reflection of where Kanye West was in that moment. And at one point during the Twitter-storms he mentioned that he loved Trump and admired his “dragon energy,” which he suggested he and the president shared. But this admiration was nothing new, since he’d said as much when he imploded with a rant at a concert in San Jose the week after Trump won — and told the audience, “If I would’ve voted, I would’ve voted for Trump.”
On top of all this, he was one of the only celebrities to visit the president in Trump Tower after the election. All of this was pure Kanye, obsessed with showbiz and spectacle and power — and to some of us his honesty had always been hypnotizing and inspiring. But the left acted like horrified schoolteachers, lecturing us that what he’d tweeted was very, very bad; that nobody should listen to him; that he should apologize so we all could forgive him for a narrative in which he — a black man — supported a racist and was therefore racist himself.
Instead of getting outraged, they should have realized that a figure like Trump would seem appealing to him: brash, a gangster, his own man whether you liked him or loathed him, a loner, transparent, a truth teller not to be taken literally, flawed, contradictory, a rebel, awful for some or wonderful for others but certainly not vanilla or middle-of-the-road, incapable as a bureaucrat but skillful as a disruptor. This was also, of course, what a lot of other people I knew liked about Trump in the summer of 2018.
The media became derisive and speculated that Kanye had to be on drugs to say anything of the sort. He’s destroying his career! How could a black man like Trump? Anyone but an idiot could tell what Kanye was trying to say, however garbled and clumsy it was, but given the bias infecting everything in 2018, the press worried that he was having “delusional episodes” and probably needed to be treated for drug abuse. The consensus, in postmortem editorials everywhere, was that he would never have a career again after the slavery comment and the Trump tweets. It was all over for Kanye.
The year 2018 had been anxiety-inducing for a lot of people, many of them feeling like they were tumbling into free fall without a parachute. Everyone had a personal opinion, his or her own hot take on reality, and very few seemed to have the gift of neutrality, of being able to look at the world in a naturally calm, detached manner, from a distance, unencumbered by partisanship.
Ever since the election, Hollywood had revealed itself in countless ways as one of the most hypocritical capitalist enclaves in the world, with a preening surface attitude advocating progressivism, equality, inclusivity and diversity — except not when it came down to inclusivity and diversity of political thought and opinion and language. They proudly promoted peace just as they were fine with Trump getting shot by Snoop Dogg in a video or decapitated by Kathy Griffin or beaten up by Robert De Niro or, more simply, as an apparently drunken Johnny Depp suggested, assassinated.
Fellow comrades had started to adhere to their new rule book: about humor, about freedom of expression, about what’s funny or offensive. Artists — or, in the local parlance, creatives — should no longer push any envelope, go to the dark side, explore taboos, make inappropriate jokes or offer contrarian opinions. This new policy required you to live in a world where one never got offended, where everyone was always nice and kind, where things were always spotless and sexless, preferably even genderless — and this is when I really started worrying, with enterprises professing control over not only what you say but your thoughts and impulses, even your dreams.
This, at the end of the summer of 2018, seemed not only like an ugly intimation of the future but the nightmarish new world order. Kanye’s behavior would continue to confound some people for months to come. In September, he would appear as a musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” wearing a Make America Great Again hat, which had taken on, for both the right and the left, a kind of talismanic power that was either a symbol of racist-sexist red-state evil or, for believers, a symbol of patriotism and national pride. Wearing the hat had become, for some, an act of defiance — it could be dangerous and you could get into trouble, which is exactly why it became a fetish object Kanye loved, and said, in a meeting with the president at the White House a week later, that wearing the hat made him feel like Superman.
He would top the “SNL” performance off with a free-associative rant where he would praise the president, diss a one-sided liberal media, accuse cast members of trying to bully him into not wearing the MAGA hat and essentially accuse leftists of being the real racists. And at the White House he talked to Trump about, among other things, prison reform, abolishing the 13th Amendment and even a hydrogen-powered iPlane whose plans he was happy to share with his host, whom he would call the father he never had, and that he loved him very much and then ask if he could hug him. For this, Kanye was lambasted across the media landscape as a “token Negro” and “an attention whore” who should be “hospitalized” and that “what happened” to Kanye was “what happens when a Negro doesn’t read books” — this actually coming from anchors on CNN and MSNBC.
I MET up with Kanye during the week those controversies were exploding across social media. Kanye reached out because he was interested in resurrecting a TV project we had discussed in 2015, which he was now considering as a film. I promptly rearranged my schedule and made the drive out to his Calabasas compound, flittingly apprehensive that I might be meeting, as the media kept reiterating, a man who’d lost his mind.
After being ushered in by security, I was brought into a room where he was multi-tasking: assembling the movie team, overseeing his fashion line, rehearsing new material. In the five years I’d casually known him, I’d never seen him so attentive and focused and happy. This was Kanye at his most lucid, and this afternoon confirmed for me that he was, in fact, sane: his own man, no apologies, not some drugged-out freak gibbering on Twitter. People simply needed to acknowledge — not approve or to embrace — that here was someone who saw the world in his own way and not according to how other people thought he should see it.Enlarge Imagehttps://thenypost.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/ellis-book-border-01.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=317 317w, https://thenypost.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/ellis-book-border-01.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=308 308w" data-sizes="(max-width: 640px) 100vw, 308px" />
What Kanye was championing in his Trump tweets was an idea of peace and unity, imagining a place where different sides could work together despite vicious ideological differences — that’s it.
He wasn’t particularly interested in actual politics or literal policy, but it also seemed by the end of the summer of 2018 that no one else was, either. Kanye, like everyone else, on both sides of the divide, now envisioned the world as a theater where a musical was always playing and hopefully starring someone like themselves voicing their own opinions. But in Kanye’s case with the appropriate amount of narcissistic dragon energy, a power that allowed him, no matter what others thought, to be totally free.
But how could you be free if you were bowing down to the shrieking antics on both sides of a Grand Canyon-size divide that no one was attempting to cross?
Since November 2016, I had heard that a horrendous economic collapse was about to materialize, the planet was going to melt, countless people would die, the fraught situation in North Korea would send the United States into a nuclear Armageddon, and Trump would be impeached, brought down by a pee tape — leaving no jobs for anybody and Russian tanks in the streets.
We also idly noted that the filmmaker David Lynch couldn’t say in an interview that he thought maybe Donald Trump would go down as one of the great presidents in history, not without groupthink forcing him into apologizing for this immediately on Facebook. And where was a resistance that was so attractive and cunning that it managed to sway you, that maybe made you see things in a broader, less blinkered light?
But the one we had in 2018 seemed bent on advocating mostly vandalism and violence. Trump’s star on Hollywood Boulevard was destroyed with a pickax, an actor resembling a septuagenarian Lorax said “F–k Trump” at the Tony Awards, a television hostess called the first daughter “a feckless c–t” on her TV program, another actor suggested the president’s 11-year-old son should be put in a cage with pedophiles. And all of this from Hollywood: the land of inclusion and diversity. Maybe it was just another episode in the reality show that is still unfolding. Or maybe when you’re roiling in childish rage, the first thing you lose is judgment, and then comes common sense. And finally you lose your mind and along with that, your freedom.
An excerpt from the book “White” © 2019 by Bret Easton Ellis, published by Knopf on April 16, 2019. The Bret Easton Ellis Podcast is available on Patreon.
LIBERTY HAS NO EXPIRATION DATEDemocrats wouldn't buy a clue if it was government subsidized.
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