Come On, Conservatives. Kanye Won’t Save Us
The bipolar hate/envy conservatives have for the entrainment industry erupted recently when rapper Kanye West came out in defense of conservatives Candace Owens and President Donald J. Trump.
“I like the way Candace Owens thinks,” Kanye said. He added that he “loves Donald Trump.”
Kanye is a big cultural persona, and conservatives who make their paychecks resenting the cultural left were suddenly singing hosannahs.
In their reaction, conservatives resembled the quick-fix, celerity-worshipping entertainment culture that they are always renouncing. Headlines blasted from Breitbart and other outlets. “I admire your bold moves against the thought police,” Alex Jones panted to Kanye. “And if you want to see these control-freak vampires really go crazy, please join me on my broadcast!”
Jones was slobbering like the class fat kid on the brink of a “yes” from the prom queen.
He needed a dose of cold water. One heresy from one celebrity will not reverse the decades-long advantage the cultural left has over the right. It’s an advantage liberals have because, unlike the right, they have worked to gain it.
In their criticism of celebrities, conservatives reveal a hypocrisy: From their safe spaces in foundation think tanks and billionaire-funder websites, the right lobs grenades at celebrities who have had to scrape and fight in the free market to attain their wealth and fame. The experience leaves liberals with a foundational strength and longevity that the right cannot hope to challenge.
Conservatives love to blast celebrities like Alec Baldwin, Madonna and Jimmy Kimmel. But look at the lives of these people, and ask yourself if they represent risk-taking and the American dream more than people like Laura Ingraham, Ben Shapiro and the folks at the Heritage Foundation.
A kid from a poor Catholic family in Massapequa, Long Island, Baldwin went into acting for the money, as he admits in his book “Nevertheless.” Baldwin’s father Alexander was a high school teacher and coach who struggled financially; the family was always bouncing checks and their Long Island house was perpetually falling apart. “Six kids and no help,” Baldwin used to repeat to himself in reference to his mother. “Acting was a way to ease, though never eliminate, the financial anxieties of a boy from South Shore Long island who remains inside me today,” Baldwin observes
In other words, Baldwin took and enormous risk, entered a highly competitive field, busted his ass and came out on top.
Jimmy Kimmel hosted a Sunday night show on the college radio station KUNV and after that lived spartanly and went from job to job, competing with other DJs.
Jonah Goldberg, who is part of the right’s school-to-pundit pipeline, once wrote a piece warning Kimmel about having too much empathy. Any person who has ever had a real job would never have penned such words.
Laura Ingraham, an Ivy Leaguer who has lived in D.C. her entire life, told LeBron James, a basketball star who was raised by a single mother and who struggled financially and move frequently as a kid, to shut up about his political opinions and dribble. Even when showered with gift money, Ingraham has been unable to build a decent journalistic enterprise.
The Washington Post, filled with liberals and competing in the free market, is profitable. Of course, the Post made its bones in the 1970s, when sweat and hard work led two reporters to undercover the Watergate scandal.
The New Yorker has seen a huge surge in attention after breaking the Harvey Weinstein story, a scandal that some conservatives were trying to cover — instead of doing cheap punditry — as early as 2014.
For the last 50 years, the left has erected a powerful infrastructure in media and the arts. They have done so not through nepotism and foundation money but through risk and entrepreneurship.
In 1967 college student Jann Wenner took $6,000 and started Rolling Stone magazine. In 1975 NBC reacted to an empty time slot by creating “Saturday Night Live.” In the 1980s a penniless young woman named Madonna Ciccone moved from Bay City, Michigan to New York to become a singer and dancer. Unlike Tomi Lahren, she had to struggle, hone her skill, compete fight.
Growing up in Chicago, Kanye Omari West started rapping in the third grade. He began writing music in the seventh grade, selling some of it to other artists. This is an inspiring variation on the kids’ lemonade stand that conservative always cite as an example of young capitalism at work.
The thing about competing in the marketplace is, it makes you tough and gives you a foundation for lasting relevance. Baldwin is now in his sixth decade as an actor. SNL has giant ratings, and Kanye is the king of the universe. His music will be studied long after National Review is gone, just as future aspiring journalist looking to emulate the best will be reading writers who strained muscles to become great — Norman Mailer, Christopher Hitchens, Hunter Thomson, Tom Wolfe.
Without this sense of achievement that comes from bleeding for your talent, getting rejected and corrected in the market and pitting yourself against the best, conservatives have to reply on the occasional crack blast when a culturally significant figure like Rosanne Barr or Kanye apostasies.
It’s a great high, but fades quickly.
Mark Judge is a journalist and filmmaker living in Washington, D.C.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.