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Column: Does the Success of Kanye West's 'Vultures' Show That Antisemitism Has Become Socially Acceptable?

The ‘charming antisemite’ who once declared a ‘love’ for Nazis is No. 1 on the U.S. album charts. That’s something that should have us all worried. 

Kanye West
Source: MEGA

Kanye West's new album 'Vultures 1,' a collaboration with Ty Dolla $ign, made it to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 despite the celebrity's long string of antisemitic comments.

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Kanye West's new album Vultures 1 has made it to No. 1 on the Billboard 200, proving that antisemitism is socially acceptable among many segments of the American public. That's not news to most American Jews, but it's terrifying nonetheless.

Large companies and prominent figures in the entertainment industry have done their best to cancel West after he went on a tear in 2022 promoting various antisemitic conspiracy theories and speaking admiringly of Adolf Hitler. Adidas, the Gap and Balenciaga dropped him as a partner. Ozzy Osbourne has called him out as a bigot. Bill Maher refused to publish his two hour interview with the man he called a "charming antisemite." The rapper has even admitted that he's struggling to find venues that will host his shows.

But the power of West's fanbase has been simply too much for them to overcome, even after the collaboration with Ty Dolla $ign was temporarily booted from many streaming services last week.

That reportedly happened because a third party uploaded the album through the distribution service FUGA, which had previously declined to platform West and Vultures. But this didn't stop people from casually throwing around antisemitic conspiracy theories on social media.

"We all know the Jews who run the labels and music industry are just tryna black ball him, don't call me antisemitic," one person said in a tweet on Friday, Feb. 16.

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Kanye West
Source: MEGA

It's concerning that West, who has literally said he 'loves' Nazis, is not a social pariah.

Despite the distribution issue, West's army of supporters still managed to have the album spend eight days at No. 1 on Spotify, where it was reportedly streamed 278,882,223 times in the week following its release. Fans were thrilled in the comments below Spotify Daily Data's tweet about some of the recent numbers.

"Love to see it," one commenter said. "Vultures for the culture!" said another.

"Where it belongs," one X user said below a different tweet noting that the album had gone to No. 1 on Apple Music. "You can’t stop greatness," said another.

If West had threatened to go "death con 3" on any other marginalized group of people back in October 2022, can anyone imagine he’d still be able to top the charts?

So many careers have been ended over so much less in recent years. But apparently, where West is concerned, being a Nazi sympathizer is acceptable so long as you direct your hatred at Jews and not the other marginalized groups Hitler targeted.

West has repeatedly apologized for his remarks. But it's hard to take those statements seriously when the rapper still wears merch from Burzum, a black metal group whose frontman Varg Vikernes is a neo-Nazi and outspoken antisemite.

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While it’s never been absent, antisemitism has been on an alarming rise in the U.S. and other countries in recent years.

It’s gotten even worse since the Hamas attacks on Israel last October, and the Israeli siege of Gaza that followed. This article is not meant to argue that Israel's treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza is acceptable. It's horrifying, and criticizing the Israeli government for this is not antisemitic. But it is antisemitic that American Jews are constantly asked to answer for the Israeli government’s actions, and that far too many people have taken the war as a cover to express views that cross the line into outright bigotry. And few public figures have been as as explicit in their bigotry as Kanye.

Things are not going well in the U.S. these days, particularly for the young people who make up a disproportionate chunk of West's fanbase. It seems Jews have become a convenient scapegoat for their economic anxieties and distaste for the political establishment. As has happened repeatedly throughout history, when things go bad for people, antisemitism returns to the fore.

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Kanye West
Source: MEGA

West's antisemitic comments in 2022 came amid financial troubles and his divorce from Kim Kardashian.

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That may also be what happened with West. His string of antisemitic social media posts in 2022 came amid his very public divorce from Kim Kardashian. The rapper had also reportedly been struggling with debt and other financial issues since at least 2016. It's hard to take that as a coincidence.

While many people are careful to couch their antisemitism within criticism of the Israeli government, West allows for no such confusion — and his success on the Billboard charts in spite of the blatantness of his bigotry only shows how normalized such hatred toward Jewish people has become. That’s something that should have us all worried.

Kanye West
Source: MEGA

Things are not going well in the U.S. these days, particularly for young people. Jews are a convenient scapegoat for their troubles.

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History has shown, again and again, the danger of allowing antisemitism to go unchecked, and how particularly dangerous it can be when powerful figures with financial troubles openly scapegoat Jews.

In Medieval Europe, the church banned Christians from engaging in profiting off of moneylending. That's why the profession was generally left to Jews. In many cases, it was the only path they had to economic security in a society that barred Jews from from joining guilds or owning land.

In 1190, a wave of religious fervor and antisemitism swept across England amid the Crusades. That sentiment caught the attention of a York nobleman named Richard Malebisse, who owed a significant sum of money to a Jewish lender. He fomented a mob to attack the city's Jewish community. After the violence became too much to bear, the families hunkered down in a local castle called Clifford's Tower.

The mob remained outside the building for days. The captives inside eventually began running out of food and water. Members of the mob promised that the Jews' lives would be spared if they agreed to be baptized, but many members of the community didn't believe them or want to convert. This led to a mass suicide inside the walls of the castle.

A few members of the community decided they would rather convert than face death. When they walked out of the castle hoping their lives would be spared, they were massacred anyway.

Jews were officially expelled from England in 1290. They weren't allowed to return to the country until 1657.


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