Kanye’s Wildly Meaningless White House ‘Hit’ Propels Empty News Cycle Based on Nothing


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The splash from Kanye West’s visit to the White House yesterday continues to make media waves. But a close examination about nearly every single part of his story reveals that it is based on absolutely zero substance, and the American public is left all wet. For readers who have been blissfully in a coma the last 24 hours, the musical-cum-fashion impresario was invited for lunch by President Donald Trump, who appeared to call an audible by inviting a press gaggle into the Oval Office. The self-professed genius then went on what can be charitably described as a frenetic, nonsensical stream-of-consciousness ramble about…well, stuff. Kanye is among the most famous figures in the worlds of hip-hop, fashion and “celebreality,” and presents a rare commodity for Trump: a black celebrity supporter. At least that appears to be the White House’s incentive to arrange the bizarre television moment. It is true that Kanye supported Trump through the expected backlash from predictable places, and he’s honest that the criticism he’s received from donning the red MAGA hat has only fueled him further. Long the contrarian, Kanye West’s support of Trump seems to be entirely grounded on his stubborn desire to subvert the pleas of his friends and fans to reject the president. He proudly boasts that he’s flouting the “thought police.” Those most loyal supporters of Kanye are very well represented on CNN, where contributors and hosts have received attention by sparing little nuance in their critique of his cozying up to Trump. CNN contributor Bakari Sellers said of West, “this is what happens when a negro doesn’t read” which was followed by Tara Setmayer‘s labeling Kanye as a “token negro.” Side note one: Conservative outrage over the use of the term “negro” by these commentators seem ignorant of how that term is used within the African-American community (both Sellers and Setmayer are people of color.) They also appear to not be aware that, as Sellers told me in a phone call “many people of color currently living in this country have that very term on their birth certificate.” Also, “token” or “magical” negro is a media trope that has existed in academic circles for decades and was even used by Rush Limbaugh in a poorly considered sketch called Barack the Magical Negro.) But back on topic… So how did Fox News cover the Kanye visit? Well, they conveniently skirted the substance of his ramblings and instead focused on how the media covered the appearance. It’s a craven trick — don’t focus on the source material, choose instead to distract viewers by harping on the predictable overreaction to West from media outlets, like CNN. This is such a time-honored tactic, that one might expect a new Fox News show called Media Freak Out! So here we are. To put this thesis into its starkest terms, Kanye West supports Trump primarily because he was told not to, and Fox News defends Kanye on the basis that he was criticized by CNN. Doesn’t take a genius to pull back the curtain to reveal there is nothing of actual substance behind any of this. A perfect example was on display this morning with Fox Business’ Mornings With Maria. Fox News contributor Juan Williams asked host Maria Bartiromo to explain the substance that Kanye provided during his White House hit. Her reply was “a rejection of groupthink.” Fox News hosts can’t explain the substance of Kanye’s mindless ramblings, so all they have left to do is bash CNN for their criticisms of him. Which in turn, fuels Kanye’s victim-contrarian complex. (Side note two: conservatives hatred of groupthink is, of course, groupthink.) This phenomenon is nothing new, especially on Fox News. There is a clear parallel to Fox News coverage of presidential candidate Trump and the outrageous news stories that poured forth. When hosts were incapable of defending Trump’s actions, they focused instead on attacking his critics. To their credit, this approach has worked incredibly well, as they seem to have found a lucrative business in exploiting aggrieved viewers eager to reinforce their aggrievement. Victims, all of them, right? So this is the shiny new object that is rooted in nothing. And before you criticize this column for spending time on something so inconsequential, this is a media criticism. But we now live in a post-modern era where most everyone is a media critic eager to explain the ephemeral nature of meaning itself. Oddly, in this weird “news covering meaningless drama” scenario, almost all parties win. The cable news world gets a remarkably unique item to talk about and draw a ratings spike. If they’re lucky, the Kanye-Trump show keeps going, and those increased viewers draw advertisers willing to part with sizable amounts of cash for their commercials. “Christmas bonuses, everyone, thanks to Trump and Kanye!” is not an implausible concept. Trump gets to parade someone he believes connects him to the African-American community, a community with which he has zero visual connection since Omarosa Manigault-Newman was escorted unceremoniously from the White House. (Side note three: see side note one.) And Kanye gets exactly what he wants, loads of attention. His goal is not to win friends and influence people, his goal is to stay in the news. This phenomenon was best explained in a fascinating interview he provided The Breakfast Club a few years ago. Charlamagne Tha God famously called out the rap star’s narcissism and weird behavior, Kanye explained that the opposite of love isn’t hatred, it’s indifference. He’d rather be hated than ignored. The only real loser in this pathetic scenario? The American public, whose dumbing down continues every day. This entire story demonstrates perfectly how “cable news” is an outdated misnomer. There was nothing really newsworthy here, according to journalistic standards from yesteryear. This was an entertainment moment more akin to the reality television era we now find ourselves consistently distracted by. One wonders what real news stories we are missing due to the Trump-Kanye summit? Doesn’t matter. Are we not entertained? We are entertained! We are! We are also amusing ourselves to death.

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