What Kanye West deserves
This appeared in the New York Daily News
Count us pleased that Kanye West, or Ye, is locked out of Twitter and Instagram and is no longer represented by the Creative Artists Agency. He may be creative and he may be an artist, but one of the world’s most powerful talent firms has no obligation to advance the career of a man who, tormented by who knows what psychological problems, has lately and unapologetically spouted anti-Semitic bile to millions. We were further pleased Tuesday when West’s corporate partner Adidas followed suit. A now-enlightened German shoemaker that once played footsie with Nazis should be especially sensitive to having one of its promoters promote Jew hatred.
And no, none of that would count as canceling. Social media companies have community standards against hate speech they’re right to enforce, and West isn’t entitled to any particular contract or endorsement deal just because he once climbed to the top of the hip-hop world. Indeed, his partners have an obligation to think about the long-term consequences of associating with someone who promotes odious ideas.
Color us old-fashioned, but where we’d draw the line is by rejecting requests to purge West’s music from streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. Those catalogs, which in a post-CD era are the way most people listen to their favorite music, feature the works of convicted child pornographer R. Kelly, Michael Jackson, and convicted murderer Phil Spector. Kid Rock remains on streaming despite spouting homophobic slurs, as does Morgan Wallen, a country star who last year was caught on video shouting the N-word. We could go on.
Though the apps are, like Twitter and Instagram, private entities free to make their own speech rules, a music platform featuring the songs of unsavory characters is roughly akin to a museum or bookstore or library including the work of artists known as racist or abusive. We don’t want a world in which Roman Polanski’s ouvre is purged by every streaming service with sensitive shareholders.
Kanye West should pay a price for trafficking in anti-Semitic invective. That price shouldn’t include banishing his work.