- 02 Nov 22
Anti-semitism preceded the Holocaust, and is still very much present today, although shockingly under the radar. Public hate speech from celebrities like Ye give dangerous power to already bigoted groups.
From interrupting Taylor Swift’s VMAs speech back in 2009 to cyber-harassing comedian Pete Davidson for dating his ex-wife Kim Kardashian this year, his pop culture-based stunts often overshadow the incredibly harmful political ones. He has publicly supported Trump, is anti-abortion, and even stooped to criticising Harriet Tubman, referring to slavery as "a choice". Earlier this month, he posed wearing a “White Lives Matter” t-shirt because he thought it was “funny” which somehow led to him turning to attack Jewish people.
It began when fellow rapper Diddy (Sean Combs) spoke out against Ye’s “White Lives Matter” stunt. Ye retaliated by posting screenshots of texts on Instagram in which he told Diddy, “Ima use you as an example to show the Jewish people that told you to call me that no one can threaten or influence me.” He quickly lost access to his account, which drove him to Twitter where he wrote that he was going to go “def con 3 on Jewish people.” He later lost access to that account as well.
Again, this is not new content for Ye. But he has managed to maintain huge popularity and wealth through it all, until now. Quickly following these posts, Ye has lost his €250m Adidas deal (a company that was founded by Nazis, mind you), his talent representation, connections to fashion houses including Vogue and Balenciaga, and his billionaire status. Countless celebrities are distancing themselves from him and condemning his actions.
While it seems as though Ye is finally facing substantial consequences for his words and actions as he loses brand deals and access to social media accounts, his anti-semitic comments have a deeper impact than the rapper’s commercial reputation. His reputation among fans has barely taken a hit, as many are quick to dismiss this as yet another silly controversy and continue on listening to Donda. Some have even gone as far as to create a GoFundMe page to restore the artist's billionaire status.
The issue lies with the way Ye's hate speech is already dangerously empowering to bigoted groups. The real, tangible effects are the way extremist groups respond to this kind of popularised hate speech.
Just days after Ye’s tweets, a Neo-Nazi group in Los Angeles hung a banner that read “Kanye is right about the Jews.”
The 77th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp was marked this past January. Anti-semitism preceded the Holocaust, and is still very much present today, although shockingly under the radar. Four years ago last week, 11 people were killed when a gunman entered the Tree of Life Synagogue on Shabbat. Last year saw a dramatic rise in the number of anti-semitic attacks.
As less and less Holocaust survivors remain alive, memories are fading and education is lacking. A 2020 study found that nearly two-thirds of US young adults are unaware that six million Jewish people were killed in the Holocaust. 23% said they weren’t sure if it had been exaggerated or a myth. Judaism is the smallest of the major religions (and the most targeted), with only 0.2% of the world’s population identifying with it in a 2015 census. In Ireland, Jewish people make up only 0.05% of the population.
Many schools around the world are failing to teach an adequate history of the Holocaust, often resorting to inaccurate fictional accounts like John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which the Auschwitz-Birkenau Holocaust memorial museum advised against using as a source.
Trying to educate Ye miserably failed, as his response to a private tour of the LA Holocaust Museum was, “I want you to visit Planned Parenthood, that’s our Holocaust Museum.” However, it is not too late for the rest of the world.
Holocaust Education Ireland is a non-profit organisation that works to spread education about the Holocaust and its consequences. They have stated they are "concerned, as anyone should be, about the rise of hate speech and conspiracy theories, particularly on social media." They believe that "education is the best way of countering this kind of misinformation."
The organisation launched The Crocus Project in 2014, an Irish initiative that now takes place across ten European countries in which more than 100,000 schoolchildren in Europe plant crocus bulbs (flowers resembling yellow stars) to remember the 1.5 million Jewish children that died in the Holocaust. They urge schools across Ireland to get involved in the project.
Everyone should take Ye's outburst as a wakeup call that anti-semitism is alive and well, and make an effort to educate both themselves and the following generations. Holocaust Education Ireland has a variety of programmes useful to schools, teachers, and anyone looking to learn about the Holocaust and Jewish culture.
Beyond anti-semitism, no forms of hate speech should be tolerated on social media or elsewhere. Justice Minister Helen McEntee published new laws that will criminalise hate speech in Ireland. The proposed legislation has a penalty of up to five years in prison for anyone who commits behavior or communication that has the potential to encourage violence or hatred against someone because they are associated with a "protected characteristic." These characteristics include gender, gender expression, race, colour, disability, nationality, religion, ethnicity or national origin and sexual orientation.
“We are all horrified when we hear of homophobic, racist, and other hateful incidents in our country. While these repulsive acts of violence and abuse against innocent people have been extensively reported on, we know that some people go about their lives constantly in fear of abuse simply because of who they are," said Mc Entee.
Hopefully more countries will follow suit in similar legislation- particularly the United States who currently have zero laws against hate speech.