This Kanye West-supporting-President Trump business is going to take some getting used to for the media.
Attempts to make sense of West essentially coming out as a Trump supporter this week have been a mix of outrage and concern for the rapper’s mental health.
On Friday, Slate published a piece that contends West is not necessarily crazy but is attracted to Trump because he and the president share mental and emotional problems.
Under the section called “Medical Examiner,” Slate ran a story by Susan Matthews, its science editor, exploring the claim West has lost his mind.
“Kanye West Suffers From Trumpism,” the headline reads. “Grandiose narcissists have a penchant for fascism, and it has nothing to do with whether the rapper is ‘crazy.’”
The piece begins by explaining West always has been, “as Barack Obama famously put it … kind of a jacka–,” which made it complicated to square the misbehaving artist with his art. There was his “mischief,” – the beef with Taylor Swift, being late to concerts – and his “questionable choices,” such as tweeting “BILL COSBY INNOCENT!!!!!!”
But in today’s “explosive, polarized, Trumpian times,” his latest move – “his ‘Make America Great Again’ ethos, and the general concept of ‘free thought’ in an ongoing, multiday tweetstorm, has probably surpassed all previous instances of Kanye Kanye-ing.”
In trying to make sense of it, Matthews wrote, “some of the first questions that inevitably surface are some version of: ‘Is Kanye … OK?’ Is this all just another example of his vague, poorly understood mental health ‘issues?’ Is he shouting ‘MAGA’ because he’s lost it.”
No, she says. We should have seen this coming from even before his visit to Trump Tower in December 2016. They have a lot in common, as Slate’s Katy Waldman pointed out in a piece back then.
“Both men are improvisational, controversial performers with megalomaniacal dreams and a history of rebuking the ‘politically correct,’” Waldman wrote. “Both have made inflammatory nods to white supremacy, whether by inciting Twitter’s ‘alt-right’ o wearing (however ironically) Confederate arm patches. As Amy Zimmerman at The Daily Beast points out, both have vacillated between bankruptcy and astronomical wealth; both married conspicuously sexy wives; both complain that the press is out to get them. Furthermore, both have been criticized as egomaniacal man-children even as they relish playing the misunderstood outsider.”
This, of course, makes both “susceptible to the allure of fascism in part thanks to their grandiose ideas about themselves and their place in the world.”
These characteristics, Matthews wrote, explain “why they both fit so neatly into the current caricature of the right, which has taken its historic beliefs in the power of the individual to an unbelievable extreme.”
And when that happens, “when it is the individual and the individual alone who is responsible for pulling himself up by his bootstraps, a door swings open for hucksters who peddle faux scientific scams. In this land, the kind of hollow advice Kanye is shilling seems profound rather than empty. It’s another similarity the rapper has with Trump, whose snake-oil salesmanship explains a good deal of his ascent to the presidency.”
Matthews’ piece continues a trend of Slate articles suggesting right-leaning Americans must be mentally ill, including one by Osita Nwanevu, who wrapped up her article on that theme.
“The business of helping right-curious folks break out of their ‘mental prisons’ is booming,” Nwanevu wrote. “Hacks and quacks have long been central to right-wing politics … But the cast of grifters peddling everything from ‘vitality’ supplements to idiot mysticism is expanding. However dubious the political fortunes of the new far right might be, it clearly has legs as a subculture – one sizable enough, now, to have captured the attention of one of the most important figures in superstardom.”