December 2, 2022 - 1:00pm

Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, used yesterday’s 3-hour interview with InfoWars host Alex Jones to continue building hype for what was once thought of as a 2024 presidential run, and now feels more like a piece of performance art or a cry for help. Flanked by Nick Fuenteshis recent dinner companion at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Largo estate and possible campaign advisor — and wearing a black, eyeless mask over his face, Ye expatiated about the “Jewish mafia” and the merits of Adolf Hitler. 

He then engaged in a bit of prop comedy involving a small fishing net and a bottle of Yoo-hoo chocolate drink and took a phone call from far-Right internet personality and erstwhile congressional candidate Laura Loomer. To cap off a banner day, he tweeted an unflattering photo of Elon Musk, noting that this could be last tweet — then promptly earned a suspension and a “FAFO” (fuck around and find out) rejoinder from Musk. 

At this point, it is nigh-impossible to offer thoughtful commentary on what is happening with Ye. People have tried, myself included, but the rapper always has one more trick up his sleeve. When Ye shared various anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on Tucker Carlson’s show, this seemed like a sort of zenith as far as absurd career sabotage went. If not that, then surely the Mar-a-Lago dinner, at which Fuentes, a pivotal figure in the 2017 Charlottesville riots who believes heterosexual intercourse with a woman is gay, got closer to Trump than ever before, represented the apogee. Or perhaps it came when he walked out of an interview on Tim Pool’s Timcast IRL podcast after angrily declaring that there are lots of Jewish people working in finance and media. 

As Hadley Freeman has written on these pages, it is clear that Ye is unwell. Yet it is also strange to see the ways in which celebrity culture and all things online are converging: groyper culture, the second iteration of Trump’s MAGA movement, and even some not insubstantial part of the Republican Party itself (Fuentes’ America First Political Action Conference, after all, was attended — and defended — by the likes of former Iowa Congressman Steve King and Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, the latter of whom said he admired Fuentes’ “well-informed and thought-provoking perspectives”). 

Ye’s celebrity status is raising the profile of these fringe movements, which is a problem for the Republican Party. As he memes Milo, Fuentes, and even Loomer into mainstream discourse — and rest assured, even if he’s on a dissident programme like InfoWars, Ye is covered by nearly every American news outlet — he shapes a very different future for the Right than whatever Glenn Youngkin or Mitt Romney, who condemned the Mar-a-Lago dinner, have envisioned. 

Not everyone has Romney’s elder statesman status and can afford to speak out; many Right-wingers will find themselves heeding the advice of January 6 organiser Ali Alexander to “just remain silent” about Fuentes’ presence alongside Ye (Alexander has also urged groypers to help correct the “optics” regarding Fuentes’ racism and anti-Semitism).

Some have compared this moment to the transgressive shock of late-1990s rocker Marilyn Manson or the mid-2010s avant-garde antics of dilettante actor James Franco, but neither man could have continued drawing media attention while pushing an agenda this subversive. Both would have been visibly deplatformed in some way, as Franco seemingly was in the wake of a host of #MeToo allegations (Manson, no longer an A-lister, is now facing his own abuse allegations). 

Most realistically, we are witnessing the sad consequence of a man struggling with severe mental health issues that have got out of control. There will no doubt be another, more shocking, appearance from the music artist, but by then it may be best to remain silent, and give it no further attention.

Oliver Bateman is a historian and journalist based in Pittsburgh. He blogs, vlogs, and podcasts at his Substack, Oliver Bateman Does the Work