Kanye West is the latest — and most famous — example of the misogyny-to-fascism pipeline

The road to Christian nationalism often starts with anger over women's freedom — in this case, Kim Kardashian's

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published October 19, 2022 6:00AM (EDT)

Kanye West attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills on February 9, 2020. (Jean-Baptiste Lacroix / AFP via Getty Images)
Kanye West attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills on February 9, 2020. (Jean-Baptiste Lacroix / AFP via Getty Images)

Rapper and producer Kanye West — who now goes simply by "Ye" — has been in a slow-moving, disquieting public meltdown for years. Still, he apparently mined new depths of depravity this month, as Ye has aligned himself with the far-right Christian nationalist movement, with actions like trolling Black Lives Matter activists with "White Lives Matter" T-shirts and spreading conspiracy theories about the death of George Floyd. This is delighting America's increasingly powerful fascist faction, blessing them both with his celebrity and his race, which can be used to confuse people over the role racism plays in right-wing politics.

Earlier this month, Ye did a sit-down interview to Tucker Carlson at Fox News, which was carefully edited to remove some of the star's most bizarre conspiracy theories and overt antisemitism. Vice News got hold of the full interview, however. Despite Carlson's suggestions that Ye is entirely is level-headed, the leaked footage shows him suggesting that "fake children" were "placed into my house to sexualize my kids" and invoking antisemitic conspiracy theories. Shortly after the heavily edited interview aired, Ye was barred from Twitter for writing he plans to go "death con 3" on "JEWISH PEOPLE." He is now in talks to buy Parler, a far-right Twitter competitor, presumably so he can write all the racist tweets he wants. 

Ye's mental health troubles have been heavily discussed in the coverage of his recent behavior, but what may be less obvious is the role played by his obsessive anger at his ex-wife, reality-TV star Kim Kardashian. This aspect should not be overlooked. Ye has been throwing a very public tantrum for more than a year, ever since Kardashian filed for divorce. He may be rich and famous, but in this sense he's just the latest example of the misogyny-to-fascism pipeline that is used to radicalize men to authoritarian politics. 

Want more Amanda Marcotte on politics? Subscribe to her newsletter Standing Room Only.

As I've written about extensively before, white nationalists and other authoritarian groups figured out years ago that an effective way to lure men into the fascist cause is by appealing to their resentment toward women. The internet has created a bunch of different misogynist communities that fascists latch onto, looking for new recruits. There are the "men's rights" communities, primarily composed of bitter divorced men, like Ye, who blame feminism for the breakup of their marriages. There are the "incel" communities, where younger men blame feminism for their inability to find sex partners. There are men who position themselves as dating and fitness gurus, only to turn around and feed their audience far-right politics. The Proud Boys, who played a major role in the Jan. 6 insurrection, were founded by right-wing video host Gavin McInnes, after he realized that male insecurity creates an ample recruiting opportunity for the far-right cause. 

"This is not like the Charlie Sheen situation," Angelo Carusone of Media Matters told Salon, referring to the celebrity mental health breakdown that captured national attention during the Barack Obama administration. Instead, he argued, Ye's situation reflects a "larger pattern" of how men are radicalized into far-right politics after buying into "men's rights" rhetoric. 

"Oftentimes these things start from real pain," Carusone noted. The "men's rights" rhetoric appeals to those who are suffering because of divorce or other emotionally fraught situations and are looking for answers. But instead of offering real help, "men's rights" forums have "fabricated this alternative narrative to help explain what these people were going through, which is that basically people were out to get men." 

That can be an appealing story, because it allows a person to avoid self-examination and the role they played in their own troubles. The big problem is that once a man has adopted a conspiratorial mindset about feminism, the door swings open to believing similar fever dreams about shadowy cabals. As the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) explained in a 2018 report, "a deep-seated loathing of women acts as a connective tissue between many white supremacists" and "the largely anonymous outrage of the men's rights arena acts as a bridge to the white supremacist and anti-Semitic ideology of the alt right." In a 2021 report, the ADL noted that the "great replacement" — a white nationalist conspiracy theory championed by Tucker Carlson, among others — as much reflects "a hyper-fixation with controlling women's bodies" as it does racist fears about a diversifying America. 

It seems indisputable that Ye has immersed himself in the toxic ideology peddled by "men's rights" activists. Even during the parts of the Carlson interview Fox News was willing to air, he repeatedly asserted that he had a right to control Kardashian's life, career and body. 

"Kim is a Christian, but she has people who want her to go to Interview magazine and put her ass out while she's a 40-something-year-old multibillionaire with four Black children," he told Carlson. Kardashian, it must be noted, was a nude model before she started dating Ye, and did a pictorial for Playboy in 2007

Want more Amanda Marcotte on politics? Subscribe to her newsletter Standing Room Only.

That was just the latest comment from Ye in months if not years of public griping that Kardashian rejects his authority over her. Last spring, Ye even publicly threatened the life of "Saturday Night Live" performer Pete Davidson, who briefly dated Kardashian after she filed for divorce. But even before he and Kardashian split up, Ye's behavior regarding her was at times overtly misogynist. During his brief and bizarre run for president in 2020, for instance, Ye claimed that he and Kardashian had considered aborting one of her pregnancies. He said he was criticizing himself for not doing enough to support her. But this public disclosure reportedly distressed Kardashian and may have contributed to her eventual decision to leave him. 

Ye's comments about the hypothetical abortion sound a lot like the rhetoric heard at a "men's march" in Boston last weekend. Hundreds of men marched against reproductive rights, justifying it by claiming they were just telling men to step up and take responsibility. But as with Ye's own self-flattering narrative, "taking responsibility" in this context does nothing for women's autonomy. It's just a cover for the real agenda: subjugating women to male power. 

Truth be told, there have been signs for years that Ye was inclined toward the misogynist rhetoric of the "men's rights" movement, as in his song "Gold Digger." But the links go deeper than that. Lyrics to the confessional song "Runaway" from 2010 read like any random rant from a "men's rights" or "incel" forum: "I sent this bitch a picture of my dick/ I don't know what it is with females/ But I'm not too good at that shit." The song offers a "toast for the douchebags" and sounds way too much like online misogynists who brag about having the "dark triad" personality psychologists have linked to antisocial behavior. 

Whatever is going on with Ye personally, he is being clearly being validated and encouraged by people like Carlson and right-wing figurehead Candace Owens, who see him as a powerful tool for radicalizing more people to white nationalism. "Converts end up becoming the biggest evangelizers," Carusone warned. Ye's planned purchase of Parler, he added, is another sign that the far right is now "building infrastructure and capabilities." Ye's own dark journey may be a personal tragedy, but his behavior symbolizes the accelerating radicalization of far too many American men. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

MORE FROM Amanda Marcotte

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Analysis Incels Kanye West Kim Kardashian Men's Rights Activists Misogyny Tucker Carlson Ye