Kanye West is currently the best representative of the principles that have led to America’s prosperity. The foundation of these principles is the Western ideal of privileging the individual over the group. This is the well from which upward mobility springs, and the axiom that best captures this ideal is the freedom of expression.
In this week’s multi-day string of tweets after his return to Twitter, Kanye accurately stated “We have free speech but we don’t have free thought.” This is the result of the far left’s stranglehold over the places serious ideas are supposed to be generated.
Free thinkers don't fear retaliation for your thoughts. The traditional thinkers are only using thoughts and words but they are in a mental prison. You are free. You've already won. Feel energized. Move in love not fear. Be afraid of nothing.
— ye (@kanyewest) April 25, 2018
I love when people have their own ideas. You don't have to be allowed anymore. Just be.
Love who you want to love. That's free thought. I'm not even political. I'm not a democrat or a republican
— ye (@kanyewest) April 25, 2018
The Left’s current Draconian opposition to free thought can be confusing because it has often been associated with right-wing oppression. But attempts to control people’s minds aren’t limited to Left or Right. They exist inside both. Our situation is best understood through Jean Pierre Faye’s horseshoe theory. It says the political spectrum from far-right to far-left progresses like a horseshoe, where the tails grow closer to one another, as opposed to a straight line.
Horseshoe theory reconciles the dictatorships of the twentieth century. There are distinct similarities between Adolph Hitler’s far-right Nazism and Joseph Stalin’s far-left communism, particularly their thirst for blood that caused a body count in the millions. First espoused in the 1970s, Faye’s theory also applies to today’s Western politics.
The current neo-Marxist progressive movement is actually not very progressive at all. Their obsession with viewing the problems of today through prisms of the past led Dave Rubin to coin the term “regressive left.” It allows people willing to claim they are the descendants of people who were oppressed the right to a narrative that privileges them even though they live in an entirely different world.
Any benefit that may come of this is fool’s gold, because there is no redress for what occurred in the past. Capitulation from the supposed descendants of the oppressors is cheap and will do little to help those striving to actualize themselves today. Our political schism is the result of a debate over the central question: What role should the past play in determining how we make decisions going forward?
For the university type, the postmodernist narrative of grievance is the only acceptable answer to this question. It is either their way or illegitimacy. Professor Eric Bennett recently outlined the humanities’ progression from apolitical expertise to one of a clear political agenda. Bennett quotes cultural critic Louis Menand: “[yet if] opinion is always contingent…why should we subsidize professionals to produce it?”
In other words, if all viewpoints are relative, why privilege the viewpoints created within the university? The unintended consequence of dispensing with an understanding of knowledge that stood the test of time, in exchange for political cache and control over the media, was that the university lost all claims to truth. No longer fostering a distinctly apolitical opinion leaves room for many suitors claiming to be such.
The explosion of alternative media pushed back against the overt leftist takeover of cultural institutions. Fights over immigration, same-sex marriage, and the like served as proxy wars instigated by an increasingly partisan academy and their media allies against right-wing opponents. These all distract from the real war over freedom of thought.
In this conformist environment, the far-left classified anyone who disagreed with them as far right or the enemy. This provoked voices that represent the middle parts of the horseshoe to defend against being made the scapegoats of the far right. Figures such as Jordan Peterson and other sensible non-radicals are vying to order the chaos created by groupthink and hardened ideologies.
A free thinker has no other real allegiance except to truth. So it makes perfect sense that Kanye West would choose to ride for the side of free thought. His presence is a monumental tilt in our current marketplace of ideas.
Black people don’t have to be democrats.
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) April 25, 2018
West has always been a truth seeker. Few could have guessed that the man who said “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” would later say “If I would’ve voted, I would’ve voted for Trump.” To many there is little difference between Bush and Trump since they think along the dichotomy of Republican and Democrat. To the eye that is focused primarily on ideas, though, President Bush the neocon is rightly different than the hard-to-classify President Trump.
Trump caused a rift by appearing to carve himself a space as a progressive Republican. His best attribute is that he presents more questions than answers. Tech optimists like Scott Adams agree with Kanye’s focus on new, creative solutions to today’s problems rather than reapplying broken paradigms to a new world. In that vein, they are the true progressives.
Kanye has made pioneering statements advancing this worldview in the past like, “Technology is the death of classicism.” The mutual respect between West and Elon Musk also indicates this perspective, as well as Peter Thiel’s presence in the Trump orbit. Only time will tell who was right about Trump, but in the meantime, some heavy thinkers are making a good case for optimism.
The value in West’s opinion is due to what scholar Nassim Nicholas Taleb refers to as “Skin in the Game.” Taleb says there is no value in an opinion without risk. So by expressing his support of both the president and free thought, Kanye risks alienating not only his fellow celebrities but much of his fan base. This risk is what makes West’s tweets supporting Adams and black conservative Candace Owens such seismic acts.
It would have been easy for West to use his time battling a serious issue with opioids as an excuse to distance himself from his controversial opinions, but we all benefit from his strength on the side of free expression. The greatest takeaway from West’s return to Twitter is his optimism.
To paraphrase Peterson, the line between the freedom to speak and the freedom to act is much thinner than we presume. In a sense, ceding control of one’s free speech is the same as ceding control of one’s actions. Kanye has always been one of the loudest voices against the forces that seek to control people. His non-partisan application of that principle is not only refreshing but also absolutely necessary.