Kanye West’s recent antisemitic ravings have inspired celebration and calls to action among white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other extremist groups online, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Over the weekend, one group took its support of West and his hateful vitriol to new level, dropping a banner stating “Kanye Is Right About the Jews” over a highway in Los Angeles.
After West promised to “go death con 3 on Jewish people” earlier this month, the ADL’s Center on Extremism published a roundup of extremists’ groups response to the artist, legally known as Ye, all of which have delighted in having a high-profile ally amplify their antisemitic beliefs in the mainstream. Groups from the Proud Boys to the Nation of Islam, among many others, have praised Ye for “speaking a lot of truth” in their misguided fight against the invented specter of “Jewish control.” The antisemitic Goyim Defense League, which claimed responsibility for the Los Angeles banner, has also decided to use Ye’s comments to pit the Black community against Jewish people, declaring the latter “a universal enemy.”
Andrew Anglin, publisher of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website, hailed Ye as one of the greatest people to have lived since Jesus Christ, “or at least since Adolf Hitler,” the ADL reported.
“Ye is the single greatest person who ever lived in all of history since Christ, or at least since Adolf Hitler. He’s gone full on. He’s not backing down, and they’re gonna have to kill him,” Anglin wrote in an article about the artist.
Experts see danger in West’s rants. Oren Segal, who leads the ADL’s Center on Extremism, told Gizmodo, “Here [is] a person who has more followers on social media than there are Jews in the world echoing some of the statements and messages that [extremists] promote.”
Segal said that one way extremists try to amplify their hatred is to identify someone with a great following who might share their ideas.
“You never know who’s going to respond to hatred violently,” Segal added. “The more that it’s out there, the more that it’s normalized, the greater the danger.”
Neo-Nazi Group Hangs Highway Banner in Los Angeles
Meanwhile, in the real world, extremist groups also aimed to capitalize on West’s antisemitic comments. On Saturday, the antisemitic Goyim Defense League—“Goyim” is a disparaging word for non-Jews in Hebrew and Yiddish, often appropriated by online neo-Nazis—dropped a series of banners over a busy overpass of the 405 Freeway overpass in Los Angeles.
The banners read “Honk If You Know” and “Kanye Is Right About the Jews,” along with a banner advertising their video site and the American flag. The Goyim Defense League livestreamed the event and at one point performed a Nazi salute. Watching the video is chilling, and audible honks from cars can be heard at different points in the livestream.
Besides the antisemitic banners, residents around Los Angeles have also received antisemitic flyers left at their homes and on their cars in recent days, the Los Angeles Times reported. Sam Yebri, a lawyer running for Los Angeles City Council, received an antisemitic flyer at home and posted pictures on Twitter. One of the flyers accused the covid-19 “agenda” of being driven by Jews.
Yebri told the Times that although the antisemitic ideas in the flyers are not new to Los Angeles, he believed that Ye’s recent remarks had given antisemites momentum. The lawyer reiterated his thoughts on Ye to Gizmodo.
“The hateful remarks of a major celebrity with a huge platform have given air and cover to other bigots and antisemites to air their lies and hate more brazenly with a sense of impunity, even throwing their hate literally at our doorsteps,” Yebri told Gizmodo via email on Tuesday.
Yebri recalled that he felt “shocked and violated” when he first received an antisemitic flyer at home, adding that he was frustrated that leaders and the press didn’t seem to be paying attention or taking action at first. The lawyer said he had shared leaflets and camera footage with law enforcement but was told that little can be done to prosecute these incidents as crimes.
Nonetheless, the recent attention on the incidents has evoked a different feeling in him: gratitude.
“I am grateful that this moment is allowing us to educate people about the Jewish community and link arms with other communities and minority groups,” Yebri said.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre denounced the antisemitic events and actions in Los Angeles late Monday morning.
“.@POTUS ran to heal the soul of the nation after years of hate and division. As part of this healing, we need to call out antisemitism everywhere it rears its ugly head. These actions in LA are disgusting and should be condemned,” Jean-Pierre tweeted.
What Kanye West’s Support Means to Extremists
The artist has created a firestorm with his racist and antisemitic behavior and comments in recent weeks. The controversies began with the unveiling of Ye’s racist “White Lives Matter” T-Shirts at Paris Fashion Week. Subsequently, Ye accused the artist Diddy of being controlled by Jews, a dangerous antisemitic trope, on Instagram and said he was going to go “death con 3” on Jewish people on Twitter, prompting both platforms to limit his activity. Fashion label Balenciaga and agency CAA, both longtime collaborators of West’s, said they would no longer work with the rapper.
Segal said that extremists saw Ye as someone who was taking their ideas to the mainstream. Ye fit that bill perfectly, Segal said.
“It legitimizes their hateful position in a way that is dangerous because no extremist movement, no matter what it is, should feel that they have a public figure that agrees with them and that amplifies their message, intentionally or not,” Segal said.
Furthermore, Segal stressed that having extremists feel that their messages are real and that they have broad support encourages them to engage in activities that are dangerous to the groups they oppose. Violence against communities by extremists in the U.S. is not new, the ADL vice president stated, and has been happening for years.
How the Public Can Counter Hate From Extremists’ Groups
Given this panorama of hate online and out in the real world, what, if anything, can the public do to push back against the hateful messages and activities of these groups?
Segal said one thing people can do is report hate and hate incidents, such as banners, stickers, or events, when they see them. The public can submit their reports to local law enforcement or the ADL.
“The more data people have on what’s happening on the ground, the more we can drive policy to help protect communities,” he stated.
Another thing people can do is to be a voice of reason in the face of hate, Segal said, explaining that having individuals with high profiles condemn what someone like Ye or others are saying in the public sphere means a lot. It’s a way of creating friction to the normalization of that hate by saying, “No, this is wrong,” according to Segal.
On Monday afternoon, Ye’s ex-wife Kim Kardashian spoke about her former partner’s antisemitic behavior for the first time. While she did not name Ye, it seemed pretty obvious who she was talking about.
“Hate speech is never OK or excusable. I stand together with the Jewish community and call on the terrible violence and hateful rhetoric towards them to come to an immediate end,” Kardashian wrote on Twitter and Instagram stories.
Kardashian was not alone. Nearly her entire family posted a Instagram story on Monday sharing a simple blue on black text post stating: “I support my Jewish friends and the Jewish people.
Update 10/24/2022, 4:18 p.m. ET: This post has been updated to include Jean-Pierre and Kardashian’s tweets denouncing antisemitism.
Update 10/25/2022, 2:15 p.m. ET: This post has been updated with additional comment from Yebri and information on the posts of the Kardashian-Jenner family.