Opinion

Kanye West and the Awesome Power of Celebrity

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Posted: Apr 24, 2018 1:30 PM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not represent the views of Townhall.com.
Kanye West and the Awesome Power of Celebrity

By this point, conservatives have become accustomed to the Left’s favored tactic for dealing with opposing viewpoints. Instead of making a compelling argument with the aim of winning on its merits, the Left prefers to shame, label, and character assassinate those who dare to disagree in an attempt to silence dissent. It’s a tactic that often works to perfection, which is why they continue to use it. The threat of social or economic harm is often enough to coerce an individual to remain silent rather than publicly voice an opinion contrary to the Left’s preferred viewpoint.

Two incidents this weekend highlighted this tactic as it is used to control celebrities:

First, in an interview with The Guardian, Shania Twain, amidst a comeback tour after fifteen years of absence from the public spotlight, made a grave error: she dared to express an affinity for President Donald Trump and even said that she would have voted for him if she were American. “I would have voted for him because, even though he was offensive, he seemed honest,” Twain said. “Do you want straight or polite? … [I]f I were voting, I just don’t want the [BS].”

Leftist political activists harangued Twain on social media for her comments, and the media dutifully reported on the kerfuffle. Twain, desperate to regain the approval of the in-crowd in Hollywood and in the music industry, eventually acquiesced, apologizing to anyone she had offended and promising that she “[does] not hold any common moral beliefs with the current President.”

This is the usual script. If a celebrity dares to deviate from the homogeneous nature of the entertainment industry, where diversity of ideas is frowned upon, they become a target and are ostracized. Voicing any opinion outside the leftist ideology is not merely damaging -- it’s career suicide.

But celebrities should take note: they have far more power than they may realize, especially if they are willing to vocalize an “unpopular” opinion within their celebrity bubbles. Twain missed out on a tremendous opportunity by folding so quickly and so emphatically.

Perhaps she could have learned from pop culture icon Kanye West, who was involved in this weekend’s second incident. West came under fire from the Left’s social media warriors for tweeting seven words: “I love the way Candace Owens thinks.”

Some background information is required here: Owens, a rising conservative star who serves as communications director for Turning Point USA, and who happens to be black, had a moment this weekend as a video of her addressing Black Lives Matter protestors went viral. Speaking at an event at UCLA, she declared: “What is happening right now in the black community… there is an ideological civil war happening, black people who are focused on their past and shouting about slavery, and black people that are focused on their futures… that’s really what it comes down to. I can guarantee you what you’re seeing happening is victim mentality versus victor mentality.”

Twitter’s cadre of leftist activists -- especially white liberal men -- lost their collective minds, calling Owens an “Uncle Tom” and a member of the “alt-right.” It came as a total shock to them, then, when Kanye West entered the fray, not to pile on Owens but rather to praise her, legitimizing her words and granting them a new level of respect.

Celebrities rarely do this, in large part because of what followed: every leftist with a Twitter following came out of the woodwork to denounce Kanye and to shame him, to label him, to ostracize him, and to enforce the narrow limits of what the Left believes are the proper bounds of public discourse.

But, incredibly, it didn’t work. In fact, Westdoubled down in a series of tweets defending Owens’ general premise.

While I by no means agree with Kanye West (or Candace Owens) on everything, it’s remarkable that a larger-than-life celebrity -- if you don’t believe me, ask your kids -- decided to use his power to launch a conversation about the difference in approaches to empowering the black community. Is a “victor mentality,” as Owens put it, better than a “victim mentality”? By not caving and by challenging the bullies on the Left, West completely changed the game. Now the issue is being actively discussed with both sides acting as legitimate participants, rather than one side, victorious by default, shaming the other into silence.

Celebrities, musicians and athletes with large followings should take note: sometimes deviating from the Left’s mandated homogeneity is a good thing -- not only for one’s brand, but also for the national conversation at large. The Left may come for you, bully you, and seek to silence you, but if you refuse to give in -- as Kanye did -- you may just come out on top.

Few will remember Shania Twain’s comeback tour, although more might have had she stuck to her guns.

Kanye West, on the other hand, seems to get it. The guy really is a policy genius, self-proclaimed or not.