Kanye West reminds us why edgelordism is a dead end

Constantly trying to be controversial is more sad than provocative.

Kanye West is down with Hitler.

Or so “Ye” said on the Alex Jones show this week, where he also claimed the Holocaust never happened and the Nazis get a bad wrap because of “the Jewish media.”

Jones—yes, that crazy, conspiratorial Alex Jones—eventually accused Ye of having a Hitler fetish.

Ye’s response? “I like Hitler.”

The interview was incoherent, rambling and frankly, sad. Whatever the hip-hop megastar’s mental issues might be, his problems have driven him off a cliff where he appears to relish getting attention by saying and doing the most bizarre and offensive things imaginable.

Sitting in the same studio with him and Jones was Ye’s newfound friend, Holocaust denier and white nationalist pundit Nick Fuentes. Earlier in the week Ye appeared on Tim Pool’s podcast with Fuentes by his side and also, early alt-right promoter and right-wing provocateur, Milo Yiannopoulos.

Fuentes and Yiannopolous’ entire careers were built as pundits willing to say or defend the most controversial things one could muster, not necessarily as a political philosophy, but as a brand posing as politics.

If arguably the most famous black celebrity in America is going to start spouting off racist and hateful rhetoric, you can believe Fuentes and Yiannopolous are going to be there for it. And they quite literally were.

They are professional edgelords. They exist to shock. Ye has appeared to morph into this too.

These three are likely the most famous edgelords, with Ye and his level of notoriety surpassing everyone. But they are not alone—and this is not new.

As Donald Trump’s popularity grew in 2016, what would come to be known as the “alt-right” also began to take shape. Mostly an online phenomenon, those who identified as or were categorized as alt-right generally promoted a white nationalist worldview, including the broadly racist and and anti-Semitic views one might expect.

Trump himself was not personally responsible for the rise of this movement, but by expanding the rhetoric and actions of what was expected of a major American political figure, alt-righters attempted to expand what might be allowable in mainstream political discourse.

Part and parcel to the alt-right movement was being edgier than the next guy. If someone said something mildly racist, another might attempt to be even more so. If someone questioned the official narrative of the Holocaust, another might declare that it never happened at all. If someone denounced immigrants, another might call for a white-ethno state. The vast majority of this phenomenon took place online on social media.

Yiannopolous promoted the alt-right in a long 2016 essay in which he acknowledged that open racism was a definitive aspect of the movement, but also argued that being provocative was the primary goal, not actually spreading hate. Alt-righters were just goofing around, he insisted. Racism was just a means to an end, part of what Yiannopolous called the “alt-right’s addiction to provocation.”

Yiannopolous wrote, “Although initially small in number, the alt-right has a youthful energy and jarring, taboo-defying rhetoric that have boosted its membership and made it impossible to ignore.”

But the horrific spectacle of the Charlottesville white nationalist rally in 2017—men in Nazi regalia, seig heiling and chanting “Jews will not replace us”—also made the alt-right impossible to ignore.

The nation recoiled. ‘What the hell was this? This was America? Freakin’ NAZIS? REALLY?’

Whatever momentum these keyboard warriors thought they had as an actual movement vanished almost overnight on that fateful day almost six years ago. Alt-righters who held out hope they could put the pieces back together were proven laughably wrong a year later when their follow-up rally in Washington, DC turned out to be an abysmal flop.

Fuentes is a product of the alt-right movement. So is Yiannopoulos, who was there from the beginning. Today, a certain subset of conservative and libertarian social media users appear to relish in trying to out edgelord everyone else in what they say online.

They’re not really a movement. It’s just dudes having a dick-measuring contest to see how crazy they can be. If their comments involve racism or racial implications, that just seems to fuel the behavior more. It’s so stale and passe’ at this point, but boy do edgelords love it.

I used to be guilty of some form of this as a radio pundit in the 1990s and aughts. After Ron Paul ran for president in 2008, he showed me something better—political substance and maturity—and I never looked back.

When my colleagues Brad Palumbo and Hannah Cox and I founded BASEDPolitics in January, alt-right leftovers mocked our use of the word “based,” seeming to believe that should mean being an edgelord. No, Pepe, being an edgelord is what’s actually completely phony. At BASEDPolitics, we stick to a classical liberal perspective no matter the current Right trends.

Kanye West embarrassing himself on a national stage right now is but the grandest version of edgelording one can do, in which whether what one says is true or not takes a backseat to the spectacle the provocateur seeks to create.

Far more people feel sorry for him, what he’s done to his career and despise the hate he’s spewing, than are taking anything he’s saying seriously. It’s transparently sad and desperate. He has become a tragic figure few will continue to respect. Hell, he’s resorted to hanging out with Nick Fuentes and Milo Yiannopoulos.

But he’s edgy.

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Jack Hunter
Jack Hunterhttp://LibertyTree.com
Jack Hunter is a freelance writer, the co-author of Sen. Rand Paul’s 2011 book ‘The Tea Party Goes to Washington’ and the former politics editor for Rare.us.