The hypocrisy of “shut up” culture: Kanye West edition

By Michael d’Oliveira

The hypocrisy of “shut up culture” reached new highs (well, lows actually) this week with Kanye West’s Oval Office meeting with President Donald Trump.

The newly crowned leader of “shut up culture” is Candace Owens. A conservative pundit, Owens has gotten a lot of attention lately – from conservatives and liberals.

Not too long ago, Owens did a whole video on that now classic conservative saying: celebrities should shut up.

In the video, Owens says, “Here’s the thing, famous ladies and gents: Nobody cares what you think. Nobody.”

And nothing says “nobody cares what celebrities think” than devoting a three-minute video to talking about how nobody cares what celebrities think. Truly not caring would involve just ignoring the thing you claim to not care about.

Fast forward to this week and Owens is smiling from ear to ear and talking to everyone about how great it is that Kanye, who, in case you’ve forgotten, is a celebrity, has spoken out against the Democrats and everyone else who is anti-Trump.

On Fox & Friends, she said Kanye was “Bold enough to move the ball forward and start speaking about these things publicly.”

Quite the turnaround.

Of course, this naked hypocrisy of telling one group of Americans they can’t be part of the political conversation while praising another for the exact same thing is nothing new. It was written about on this website earlier this year.

This hypocrisy and these double standards represent one of the big problems with our public discourse: some of us would just rather shout at people we disagree with.

It’s certainly everyone’s right to disagree with anything anyone says. If some actor or musician tells you Trump sucks, you don’t have to agree. You can even reply that liberal celebrities are the ones who suck.

But it rings very hallow to tell some celebrities they shouldn’t be involved in politics while telling others they are great for doing so.

And Owens is probably the last person who should be telling celebrities to shut up. She’s basically a celebrity herself. She’s certainly treated like one by many conservatives who like what she has to say.

Before the internet, most people couldn’t have their political opinions disseminated to the entire world. That kind of widespread exposure was really only reserved for celebrities, people in the media and politicians.

But in the age of social media, literally anyone can say or write something and the whole world will pay attention. It doesn’t matter if you are an expert in what you’re talking about or you have many years of experience, you can become famous just by expressing the right opinion at the right moment.

The game has changed, and we’ve become a society where everyone’s opinions can suddenly drive the public discourse. The time of telling others to not use the platforms they have access to are over.

The price of free speech: We can dish it out, but we also have to take it

By Michael d’Oliveira

Kanye West’s string of Trump-supporting tweets sparked the reaction you probably expected from the rest of social media. Liberals mocked and criticized him. Conservatives praised him.

The reaction to the reaction was also predictable.

In defense of her husband, Kim Kardashian West tweeted, “He’s a free thinker, is that not allowed in America? Because some of his ideas differ from yours you have to throw in the mental health card? That’s just not fair. He’s actually out of the sunken place when he’s being himself which is very expressive”

Some of what she said is valid – such as not calling someone crazy just because they have different ideas. Unfortunately, like so many others, she also played the victim card when she said, “He’s a free thinker, is that not allowed in America?”

Time and time again, people of all political stripes and ideology, including conservatives and liberals, play the victim card and act like people reacting harshly to what they say is akin to throwing them in a Soviet gulag in Siberia. Yes, being a free thinker is still allowed in America, Kim. That’s why Kanye isn’t in jail or being chased by an angry mob of fans who feel betrayed. Kanye is free to say whatever he wants.

But, Kanye is not free from the consequences of his words.

In a country founded upon the principles of free and open speech, the price of that open speech is others have the right to challenge you and your beliefs. They also have the right to go further and openly mock you and disrespect everything you hold sacred.

People calling Kanye stupid and crazy isn’t an attack on Kanye’s freedom. It’s a feature of their freedom to express their ideas. It’s literally the machinery of freedom working itself out – the marketplace of ideas in action. It’s pretty awesome and we take it for granted way too much.

Not only do we have the right to offend people, we have the right to intentionally offend them. It’s not nice, but, thankfully, the Founding Fathers were concerned with rights and not feelings.

Essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson lived in the 1800s. Way before our current victim card culture. But, even in only that second century of the American experiment, the values and merits of free expression were already strong and cherished. Emerson and many others knew and accepted all the complicated nuances of free speech. We can dish it out, but we also have to take it.

“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted,” wrote Emerson. Kim Kardashian needs to read more Emerson. Maybe she can fit him into her selfie schedule soon.