The Danger of “Free Thought”

Zachary Friedman, Segments Editor

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    “I miss the old Kanye.” A phrase we have all heard before, and will continue to hear. Any music or pop culture fan is familiar with the evolution of Kanye West and his attitude. Riddled with controversies and scandals, the modern career arc of Kanye West is about as volatile as they come. Many people miss the youthful, 2000’s, College Dropout Kanye, who seldom caused drama, and stuck to music. The old Kanye. However, the bluntness and boldness of the new Kanye has been admired by many as well.

    Recently, though, it seems Kanye is gone. Not necessarily in a literal sense–he’s just come back from a year-long hiatus. After being hospitalized in November 2016 for psychiatric evaluation, the Chicago rapper was inactive on social media, rumoured to be living in Wyoming, and avoiding contact with the media. In the past month though, he has come back, and is louder than ever. Since rejoining Twitter on April 13th, 2018, West has tweeted multiple times daily, and uses the platform to speak his mind as a “free thinker.” Despite his return, it still seems Kanye is gone. The Kanye we once knew, or thought we knew, has changed once again, and this time, people are not having it.

    From yelling at paparazzi and wearing questionable clothing, to giving provocative speeches, Kanye has a history of acting controversially. Fans have grown accustomed to it. But for many, West’s antics in the past month have crossed the line.

    He made national news in April for reinforcing his known support for President Donald Trump, tweeting You don’t have to agree with trump but the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone. I don’t agree with everything anyone does. That’s what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought.” This statement was obviously controversial, given how polarizing the 2016 election was.

    On top of this, he tweeted, “I love the way Candace Owens thinks.” Candace Owens is a conservative commentator, so this tweet only caused more controversy. Kanye argues that these tweets and statements are his way of refusing to be enslaved by mob mentality. Some, however, believe he may just be attempting to build publicity for his upcoming album.

    The day Kanye truly crossed the line for many, however, was on May 1st, when he was invited to speak on TMZ Live, and argued on national television that African-American Slavery was a choice. To be exact, West said: “When you hear about slavery for 400 years… For 400 years? That sounds like a choice.

    Immediately, the rapper received major backlash for this comment. Twitter users took to their phones by storm, following the news, writing their opinions, and even making memes. Within hours of the statement, #IfSlaveryWasAChoice became the top trending hashtag in the United States. One could search the hashtag and find dozens upon dozens of memes, humorizing the ridiculousness of West’s statement.

    Whether it was through memes, arguments, or news reports, it was clear West had rubbed people the wrong way. Bevy Smith, of Fashion Queens, stated “these remarks are dangerous. To you. To me… This is a dangerous path he is on.” Eve, of The Talk, said “you cannot have these ideas without facts to back them up. Slavery is a fact. Slavery is part of our history… we cannot forget it… we are still feeling the effects of slavery within our community, within our culture. It hurts me.”

    On the other hand, some believed Kanye’s comments may not have been ill-intentioned. T.I., who recently collaborated with West on Ye vs. The People, a song about Kanye’s recent ideas, argued  “No matter how much I disagree, I can say this: I do not feel it was malicious.” The CEO of Adidas, who West is a creative designer for, commented “Kanye has been and is a very important part of our strategy and he’s been a fantastic creator, and that’s where I’m going to leave it…there clearly are some comments we don’t support.”

    Some even argue that Kanye’s far-fetched statements are the results of mental illness, or mere ignorance. West tweeted after the remark, “of course I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will. My point is for us to have stayed in that position even though the numbers were on our side means that we were mentally enslaved.”

    No matter the reasoning behind it, the slavery comment had major negative repercussions. The implications of it were far too great to go unignored. Celebrities must be aware that their comments can have a significant impact on society. Controversy is near inevitable for the rich and famous, and the people know it. Comments like these, though, are unnecessary and harmful. Whether it be through self-educating, thinking before speaking, finding new promotional methods, or treating mental illness, West needs to be mindful of his recent outlandishness. Otherwise, he may lose a fanbase.

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