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Our Opinion: Ugly antisemitism

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Ye — the artist formerly known as Kanye West and still addressed that way by much of the world — is undoubtedly talented. He’s been extremely successful in the worlds of music and fashion, accruing the wealth that often accompanies such success.

And he’s a man whose voice carries influence. That’s why, after recent statements made in the service of the ugly antisemitism that has infected his mind, others have followed his lead. That includes the neo-Nazis who took to a bridge above a Los Angeles freeway recently, waving antisemitic banners and extending their arms in Nazi salutes. Just like the Charlottesville rally attendees who shouted “Jews will not replace us!” as they marched with tiki torches in 2017, many racists will take courage from Ye’s pronouncements, possibly leading to an increase in antisemitic violence.

Ye voiced his venom with impunity, fully trusting in his own fame to protect him. Indeed, he boasted, “I can say antisemitic things, and Adidas can’t drop me.”

But Adidas, a one-time business partner, did drop him.

Our right to free speech doesn’t absolve us from the consequences of our speech.

Other business partners dropped him more quickly, including the talent agency CAA and production company MRC Entertainment. In a letter, MRC said: “Kanye is a producer and sampler of music. Last week he sampled and remixed a classic tune that has charted for over 3000 years — the lie that Jews are evil and conspire to control the world for their own gain.

“This song was performed acapella in the time of the Pharaohs, Babylon and Rome, went acoustic with The Spanish Inquisition and Russia’s Pale of Settlement, and Hitler took the song electric. Kanye has now helped mainstream it in the modern era.”

In the wake of business losses, Ye is no longer a billionaire, Forbes reported.

But while Ye is being called to account, Fox News’ most popular host, Tucker Carlson, continues to spew the racist “great replacement theory” with corporate sponsorship. Now, with “free speech absolutist” Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, many fear the prominent social media app will become a cesspool of racist rhetoric.

Examples of antisemitism can be found on the left and the right. But whatever its source, it’s wrong and should be rejected by every person of conscience. It’s the kind of rhetoric that led to the murderous persecution of Jews in Germany in the 1940s, culminating in the Holocaust.

In a recent interview with The New York Times Magazine, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene stated that she hadn’t realized the phrase “Christian nationalist” had a history — once being used interchangeably with “white supremacist.” But that realization hasn’t stopped her from claiming the term, thus muddying the waters and providing cover for white supremacists.

Antisemites have been happy to see the term “globalist” — a powerful, scheming Jew — and paranoid criticism of Jewish financier George Soros become acceptable in public discourse, as well as the “great replacement theory,” to make their own claims seem more acceptable.

This is the problem with prejudice and propaganda — they take what may seem to be pure motives and infect them with ignorance and hatred.

Seemingly harmless rhetoric can lead to violence and threats of violence. As recently as August, U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart of Florida faced a storm of antisemitic slurs and death threats after approving the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, leading his synagogue to cancel services temporarily.

Antisemitic symbols were also highly visible at the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

Locally, we have not been immune to such ugliness. In December 2021, antisemitic fliers that blamed Jews for COVID, among other things, were left in the yards and driveways of some Greensboro homes. In 2019, white supremacist propaganda threatened Winston-Salem’s Temple Emanuel. Also in 2019, a Greensboro police officer was fired after attending a racist and antisemitic gathering.

Like Ye, we all have the right to choose the voices that inform and enlighten us — or pollute our minds. We need to use that right responsibly.

We also need to stand up and speak out, together, whenever hate and ignorance shows its face.

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