Kanye West shocked liberals and conservatives alike when he proclaimed his support for US President Donald Trump. While the rapper’s photo of his signed MAGA (Make America Great Again) hat captured the media’s attention, his complaint of being “attacked for presenting new ideas” is more worrying. Rather than “dragon energy”, he shares Trump’s willingness to reject facts and warp reality to suit his world view. He's embraced the ‘Fake News’ mindset that pervades the Trump administration and conservative media.
While the impact of West’s tweets on his fan base and African-American support for Trump remains unclear, they’ve revealed an apparent change in the rapper. West rose to fame by denouncing racial prejudice, oppression and inequality, rapping lines such as “How we stop the Black Panthers?/Ronald Reagan cooked up an answer” and “The system broken, the school is closed, the prison's open”. Now he’s argued 400 years of African slavery was “a choice”, misquoted abolitionist Harriet Tubman and called for less conversation about race issues.
Evidently, West shares Trump’s reckless egotism, victim complex and refusal to be bound by facts. His tweets such as “trust your feelings. Stop thinking so much” mirror Trump’s message to supporters that they should fear Muslims, Mexicans, African-Americans, liberals, queer people and anyone else who differs from them. West implied his critics couldn’t grasp his vision, while Trump recently tweeted that negative news about him was, automatically, “fake”.
The fast-spreading Fake News mindset is alluring and easy to embrace, as it allows the wielder to confidently voice an opinion while totally disregarding contrary views, regardless of their validity. Discrediting opposition and flinging unfounded accusations of ill intent discourages debate and allows feelings to trump facts. In a country where police brutality, casual racism and bigotry are on the rise, encouraging people to dismiss ideas that challenge their beliefs won't help matters. However, Trump exemplifies the difficulty of defeating Fake News: the usual rules of rhetoric and arguing a case on its facts don't apply and opponents are aggressively silenced and maligned.
Nonetheless, influential people like West must be discouraged from cherry-picking their truths. Critics such as Naomi Klein and George Monbiot argue that defeating Fake News requires a paradigm shift, where liberals prize and promote their values once again. Childish Gambino, actor Donald Glover’s musical alter ego, has sounded the wake-up call in ‘This Is America’, a music video in which he urges viewers to accept that a divided, nonsensical, remorseless America is not the stuff of dystopian fantasy, but a present reality. While Trump gaslights the nation and West engages in 'free thinking' with minimal thought involved, Glover is facing up to facts. There's nothing fake about the current dire situation and the need for people to act.