For anyone who’s spent even a few hours inside the online fever swamps of the pro-Trump media, Kanye West’s Oval Office rant feels exhaustingly familiar. Holding court as the president beamed through the different side of the Resolute Desk, West delivered a lengthy monologue cribbed through the “Recommended Next” algorithm that will kicks in at the end of any Jordan Peterson YouTube video. Trump, West proclaimed, was on a “hero’s journey.” The “Make America Great Again” hat he was wearing “made [him] feel like Superman.” There were hugs. This kind of was the logical conclusion of a months-long saga: the red pilling of Kanye West.
How’d This kind of happen? is actually This kind of real? Do we even care? West’s embrace of the MAGA life is actually, at This kind of point, unsurprising. although his journey — through a politically disinterested nonvoter in 2016 to the giver of a prolonged pro-Trump speech onstage at Saturday Night Live a couple weeks ago — is actually crucial to understanding the enduring appeal of Trumpism in addition to the MAGA movement.
Trump’s MAGA hat–wearing, “lock her up”–chanting crowd is actually often described as his political base, although even that will doesn’t quite do justice to the intensity of devotion the Trump coalition feels for the president. #MAGA is actually the 20–30% who’ll never leave, regardless of the political effects a Trump presidency might have on them personally. This kind of doesn’t matter if Trump’s tax cuts never genuinely trickle down or if the administration’s tariffs put a hurt on the agricultural communities that will show up to his rallies in dizzying numbers, clad inside the red hats. Because, for many who show up, MAGA is actually about a sense of community over all else.
Whether This kind of’s a Trump rally or the toxic /r/The_Donald subreddit, MAGA communities coalesce around the idea of being proud to be an outsider. This kind of’s why Hillary Clinton’s “deplorable” remark became a rallying cry during the election. This kind of’s a movement that will relishes turning criticism through ideological opponents into a badge of honor. Similarly, those who inhabit the MAGA world simply view confrontation in addition to people taking offense to their actions as a byproduct of being right. This kind of’s like driving 0 mph the wrong way down a one-way street in addition to interpreting the honking in addition to flailing arms of the different drivers as proof that will they’re all just jealous you found the best route. This kind of mindset allows for a particular brand of freedom: freedom through introspection, through ever having to say you’re wrong, in addition to through ever admitting defeat.
This kind of’s not surprising, then, that will West, a lifelong contrarian, provocateur, in addition to relentless self-promoter, found acceptance in This kind of world. Despite being one of the most famous, sought-after people on the planet for the better part of two decades, West has always positioned himself as an outsider — for being unafraid to flaunt his ego or to call himself “the nucleus” of culture. Though Kanye has been at the center of modern common culture, he’s frequently bemoaned a lack of acceptance — an inferiority complex that will has strong Trumpian echoes. “When I do an interview in W magazine, in addition to they take all these classist shots at me,” he told Jimmy Kimmel during a 2013 interview. “Because This kind of’s not about racism anymore, This kind of’s classist. … What they try to do is actually to say, ‘You’re a rapper in addition to your girl is actually on a reality show, so you’re not up here with us. We’re old money.’”
Trump in addition to the MAGA lifestyle also seem to offer a safe haven to some who’re reflexively distrustful of establishment politics. Infowars creator Alex Jones, for example, dedicated his career to a conspiratorial, nonpartisan distrust of every president through George H.W. Bush to Barack Obama. This kind of wasn’t until Donald Trump that will Jones endorsed a mainstream presidential candidate — similarly, no mainstream presidential candidate until Trump gave Jones or the Infowars audience the time of day. Kanye, while no Alex Jones, has been similarly outspoken in addition to has publicly expressed his displeasure with commanders in chief during his infamous post-Katrina telethon speech in addition to through a long-simmering feud with Obama. As with Jones, the always available Trump gave Kanye what he truly desired when he posed with him at Trump Tower as president-elect in 2016.
So This kind of makes perfect sense that will a person,] who was once compelled to pen the line “They say I was the abomination of Obama’s nation” would certainly not just feel comfortable among “the deplorables,” although at home. Because as with Trump, the MAGA appeal for West appears to genuinely be about identifying with in addition to revering an unapologetic outsider.
A movement organized around building a community of contrarians — those who feel aggrieved in addition to disenfranchised, in addition to who prioritize conflict in addition to winning over all else — is actually quite literally tailor-made for the internet. in addition to though This kind of’s unclear exactly how Kanye was red-pilled (though lots of people are guessing), the rapper’s transformation helps explain why the internet has been such a powerful force for Trumpism. Kanye is actually, among different things, a creature of the modern internet. His penchant for sensationalism in addition to reactionary commentary suggests he instinctively understands how algorithms in addition to virality work; he’s a genius at igniting in addition to sustaining news cycles. In different words, he’s an excellent troll with respect for others like him — in addition to he includes a mindset primed for tumbling down a rabbit hole of reactionary thought.
This kind of’s unsurprising that will a TMZ screenshot through This kind of summer revealed West’s computer had browser tabs open to Jordan Peterson videos on YouTube. Or that will West praised Trumpworld star Candace Owens in addition to began repeating her talking points about the “victim mentality” of black Americans. Or that will West would certainly be more concerned with the “intellectual dark web–esque” culture war elements of Trumpism than Trump’s policies. West has suggested he doesn’t agree with the administration on everything, in addition to some reports suggest there’s plenty he doesn’t know: A May piece through the Atlantic recalls an anecdote through the rapper T.I., who “was stunned to find that will West, despite his endorsement of Trump, had never heard of the travel ban.”
although while Kanye’s political blind spots might be glaring, the notion that will policy comes second to the culture war is actually shared by many people inside the pro-Trump media. “This kind of gets tiresome,” one common pro-Trump media personality texted me after watching the mainstream media’s reaction to West’s Oval Office visit today. “What are MY POLITICS? I don’t have any! There’s a large side of MAGA like that will. This kind of’s more a cultural thing. The media treats MAGA as angry in addition to missed the real story. MAGA is actually fun.”
For some pro-Trump pundits, the “fun” isn’t in building the wall or tariffs or tax cuts although in Trump’s positioning of the mainstream media as the opposition in addition to fake news. For others, This kind of’s Trump’s ability to anger both establishment conservatives in addition to liberals. in addition to for many inside the fever swamps, the fun is actually in belonging to something, no matter how toxic or anonymous This kind of might be. At a recent conference, a researcher told me the story of a polite confrontation she had had using a member of the alt-right. He had just heard her talk in addition to wanted to clarify a point she’d made about 4chan trolls, in addition to why they turned out in force for Trump during the 2016 election. The man said he wasn’t a particular fan of Trump or his politics, although was drawn to posting memes extolling Trump as “God Emperor” because the notion that will they “could meme a president into office” felt exciting, empowering, in addition to something akin to belonging.
Connecting people in addition to providing that will belonging — whether This kind of’s on Facebook or 4chan — is actually what the internet does best. in addition to few movements have harnessed This kind of quite like the MAGA crowd. Trumpism aligns with the internet because This kind of shares the same mechanics as all the algorithms in addition to recommendation engines: This kind of favors the sensational over the factual, the emotional over the rational. This kind of finds out what you want, no matter how bad This kind of ultimately makes you feel, in addition to This kind of serves This kind of to you again in addition to again in addition to again. The red-pilling process isn’t meant to be subtle, although thrilling. Again: “MAGA is actually fun.”
Sitting there inside the Oval Office, Kanye rattled off ideas on everything through criminal justice reform to an Apple-designed hydrogen plane that will should replace Air Force One. The president, who might be looking for brand new opportunities for ratings gold, gave Kanye what he truly desired, 10 minutes of unfettered attention in addition to validation. For that will, Trump got a news cycle devoid of stories about his taxes, murdered journalists, or Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. This kind of was a perfectly symbiotic attention grab in addition to not unlike two reactionary YouTubers agreeing to appear on each different’s channels to discuss toxic groupthink or trigger warnings going too far. Like any Great YouTube shock jock, they knew we couldn’t help although click. in addition to further down the rabbit hole we go. ●