One of the all-time great Onion headlines is 2001’s “Marilyn Manson Now Going Door-to-Door Trying to Shock People.”
It’s a succinct way to summarize how the ’90s lightning rod had overplayed his hand, having cycled through heresy, androgyny, drug worship, and aliens so quickly that his goth-lite audience became immune to his Stygian P.T. Barnum style. Left with dwindling sales and fewer options, the erstwhile rock star took to the streets–in the Onion’s conception–to take his hyper-evolving sideshow straight to the public.
Twitter did not exist back then, but it has certainly become the modern-day equivalent of knocking on someone’s door to inform, delight, or shock them. Kanye West knows as much. He has an incredible, Trumpian talent for getting Twitterers fired up and then taking up space in their brains. There’s no end to the provocation-for-provocation’s sake he will employ when it’s time to start spinning an album release cycle.
But this time, he’s doing so at the worst possible time.
According to the Washington Post, 6 out of 10 Americans planned on watching Thursday’s Kavanaugh hearing or following along online. This moment is critical. What’s at stake is not just whether the SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh will end up confirmed when a vote is called; it’s also a referendum on whether Americans have learned anything since Clarence Thomas’s similar hearing 27 years ago. Have we decided to believe women with credible allegations of sexual harassment? Or are we defiantly trumpeting that we never will. What’s at stake today is proof of whether, after all the talk about the #MeToo movement, anybody in power has actually been listening.
— Andy Cohn (@andycohn) September 27, 2018
Enter Kanye West, bursting into the fray like a malevolent Kool-Aid Man filled with goofy juice. It’s two days before West returns to Saturday Night Live as a musical guest, on the same day that he drops a new album, his second this year. Time for some promotion, of course.
The form that promotion took, though, involved visiting the offices of Fader magazine, wearing a certain garment and dropping a certain amount of textbook-outrageous quotes on the staff, designed to go maximum viral. (Fast Company will repeat none of these, and recommends you not bother Googling them.) Perhaps his deliberately inflammatory bloviation is in spite of the day’s historic news cycle; more likely, though, it’s because of it.
This isn’t the same thing as Taylor Swift hijacking the day’s music news by putting all her music on Spotify the same day her rival Katy Perry puts out a new album. West airing his grotesque abattoir of awful opinions during such a critical moment for women–and those who care about them–is a distraction-blitz straight from the Trump playbook. Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t.
Either way, it comes off as despicable as it is desperate.
Kanye West is knocking at your door right now, trying to shock you. As of this writing, he’s not trending on Twitter.