Kanye Disses Taylor Swift (On The Pusillanimity Of Joe Wilson And Kanye West Vs. The Magnanimity Of Beyonce Knowles And Barack Obama)

So last night, Kanye proved once and for all that he has no class through a single action which demonstrated an unbelievable lack of grace.  Taylor Swift looked so demoralized and her speech had been all about feelings of being surprised to be accepted by this particular voting bloc, when he insulted her by implying plainly that she didn’t deserve the award.  It was remarkably cruel of him to do this to her. I really thought he learned his lesson from this, when he wrote this, but apparently not.

UPDATE:  In the comments section, Jim agrees with me (and I imagine most of America) when I say that what Kanye West did last night was disgraceful.  But he worries from perusing the internet so far that racism will make the condemnation against Kanye more severe and wider spread than the condemnation of the comparably rude Congressman Joe Wilson last week:

I’m saying that the disdain towards Kanye is 1000 fold what it was for Wilson. Just as you can attest here, it’s turned into a race thing. While I don’t have solid evidence of such, I’d bet that many of the same people that are asking for Kanye’s head and shouting for boycott are the same people that stand up in support of Wilson’s loud mouth. Show me any good press that Kanye gets out of this and compare it to the good press that Wilson has had since then. I bet that you will not find a single good word about Kanye – not one.

I agree that racism will be a factor in the assessment of Kanye West from racists. And obviously the same racists who hold President Obama in contempt will viscerally support Wilson and hate on Kanye out of their own predisposition to see blacks disgraced and humiliated whether it be through their being unjustly called a liar (Obama) or justly called a miserable, self-absorbed, petty, petulant, cruel narcissist megalomaniac (West).

But, nonetheless, Wilson’s support will come from the fact that he’s on a team with much more at stake. Republicans stick by Republicans just like Democrats stick by Democrats. Not that it makes anything any better but Wilson’s support will be from those invested already in defeating the health care proposals in Congress right now. And they will support him because they’d rather not throw overboard someone on their side who was standing up for their opposition.

In other words, if there weren’t larger public policy and party stakes or even if supporting Wilson obstructed their larger public policy and party stakes, they’d hang him out to dry in a heartbeat. In other words, right wing support for Wilson isn’t (for the most part) just double standard racism or sympathy for him individually—it’s political alliance. To the extent that Wilson got inflamed and out of order precisely on Obama’s attempt to dispel hate-sewing xenophobic rumors, then yes, those who support him may be a little more racially motivated.  And, yes, there is a dark, disquietingly sizable, ugly portion of the Republican core that seethes with deep racial hatred and sees everything through that lens. But for the most part, Wilson’s support is political.

But Kanye also will have his own defenders, I assure you. I have already read just among my Facebook friends support for Kanye. One of them (a white friend, if it matters) took Taylor Swift’s victory or career success in general as in some way signifying white privilege and Kanye’s snub as a wonderful rejection of that. And I imagine it’s likely that much of the hip hop world will support Kanye over the country girl—again, not out of racism, but out of loyalty to alliances within the music world.

I think the litmus test of Kanye denouncers’ motives will be whether they are equally as uplifted by Beyonce’s class and Barack Obama’s class as they are by Kanye’s lack of it. Because I know I sure am and for those of us judging these events by the content of the characters of the people involved, that’s all that matters.

My own thoughts on Joe Wilson and Barack Obama were strong and I was waiting for a chance to address the issue, so what the hell, why not now?

During the 2008 presidential run as I obsessively watched speech after speech from all the 16 “major” candidates, including numerous from the most prominent ones, I was amazed when they paused campaigning a night for the State of the Union. And I remember watching Obama listen as George W. Bush had the floor. And I was struck with the nobility of it all as he sat silent. Here was someone I was watching give impassioned speech after impassioned speech against the man he was listening to. He commanded the enthusiasm and support of millions of people, including thousands at single events.

And, yet, this night he sat silent as one senator among 100, one congressman among 535, one citizen among 300,000,000. Because this was a democracy and his challenge to the man in the speaker’s podium that night was still the elected leader. And Obama’s campaign was not any illegal insurgency. The millions he was rallying to his cause were not to lay siege on the existing powers. This was a free and open struggle for power through debate and speech and non-violent mobilization of voters rather than troops. And he could nobly sit by and watch the duly elected leader he sought to replace and defer for the evening. He would have his own podiums, he would have his own turn to speak and he would be heard. But in a democracy, you have to respect your opponent’s turn.

And then I remembered almost exactly a year later, watching now former president George W. Bush and former vice president Dick Cheney sit peacefully behind Barack Obama as he addressed billions worldwide and countless thousands in front of him. And as Obama denounced Bush’s president, here Bush sat silent, respectful, deferring to his successor and deferring to law. (If only he had respected the law so much while in office, but that’s another gruesome story of course).

This all embodied to me the noble sense of democracy as an arena of contests of ideas and persuasion, rather than one of force and obliteration. In democracy you recognize your opponent’s right to be your opponent, his right to speak and to challenge you and to mobilize his own peaceful resistance to you. And you get your turn too. What is noble about our democracy, for all its crass machinations and appalling demagogic manipulations is that it is an arena in which opponents are not destroyed but where they are free to continue to challenge us and to continue to force us to be our best.

They are fearful people who are threatened by their enemies so much that they think they must be utterly eradicated and if they cannot be eradicated they must be shouted into silence.  Noble, powerful people appreciate their enemies as those who motivate them to overcome themselves and become more powerful through their perpetual contest.

And so when Joe Wilson spoke out of turn a few nights ago, I heard the voice of petulance and ignobility. He was dishonest, crude, and vulgar. He had no respect for the decorum that makes the contest so noble. He showed the heart of a crass and petty little man who does not respect his enemies and who does not deserve the respect of his enemies. And the same goes for Kanye. They’re a pair of petty pusillanimous people in realms of power and influence and honor where only the magnanimous who know how to win and lose honorably and how to honor their worthy rivals as such belong.

But not all is lost for our culture when for every pusillanimous Joe Wilson, there is a far more esteemed, clearly and famously gracious, dignified and magnanimous Barack Obama, who makes his vanquished rival his secretary of state; and when for every pusillanimous Kanye West, there is a magnanimous Beyonce Knowles, who wins the highest prize of a contest and gives the floor to her unjustly insulted runner up to give a speech instead.  Let’s hope the Obamas and Beyonces are the ones who inspire the character of our future generations rather than those wound-nursing, rancorous cry babies represented by the likes of Joe Wilson and Kanye West.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • wingzorvoice

    NO CLASS are kind words in retrospect for what he did. NO CLASS, NO TALENT, NO RESPECT needs to be tattood on his forehead. He thinks he is gods gift to music and the people? I think he is gods gift to the shit that slides down the side of my toilet on the way to septic hell. I hate Kanye West and hate even more that I am wasting my time writing about this incident but when people have NO CLASS the people should speak up and throw his ass out of the music business for ever. No one likes a no talented no respect jack ass wanna be…. I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire…

    • Fuck Kanye West

      Amen Dude.

    • aa

      fuck you. kanye #1

  • Daniel Fincke

    Racist remarks and any others which denigrate whole groups of people, or others which I find offensive are being removed. I already caught one, if there are more I will lock the comments on this thread. My apologies to readers if any show up and stay up while I am otherwise occupied. I assure you, I’ll remove all of them soon as I find them.

  • Erik

    The people trying to push their latent racism through on this issue are even more pathetic than Mr. West. Good work on catching those.

    • Daniel Fincke

      I imagine if my site were bigger the task would be like trying to catch and bottle all the water gushing out of a fire hydrant. Hopefully, given my general caliber of readership there’s hope for much better here.

  • Jim

    Yep, what Kanye did was quite inappropriate but so was Senator Wilson’s outburst. I think one could easily draw a connection between the two incidents. Country vs R&B and Progressive Thought vs Southern Hostility-err Hospitality. Not racist but certainly indicative of a divide between cultures.

    • Jim

      One more thing, so long as the disdain is shared equally between both events then I think that’s fine, however, from what I’ve seen on other boards, it’s absolutely not equal, it’s very ignorantly divisive.

  • Daniel Fincke

    How so? I’m not sure to what you refer

    • Jim
    • Daniel Fincke

      Right, I know the Joe Wilson story but I don’t know what you mean about “sharing disdain equally between both events.” Are you saying there’s not been as much disdain for Joe Wilson as there has been for Kanye?

    • Jim

      I’m saying that the disdain towards Kanye is 1000 fold what it was for Wilson. Just as you can attest here, it’s turned into a race thing. While I have solid evidence of such, I’d bet that many of the same people that are asking for Kanye’s head and shouting for boycott are the same people that stand up in support of Wilson’s loud mouth. Show me any good press that Kanye gets out of this and compare it to the good press that Wilson has had since then. I bet that you will not find a single good word about Kanye – not one.

    • Jim

      …while I DON’T have solid evidence of such…

  • Daniel Fincke

    Jim, I’ve updated the post to reflect on the vital issues you raised, please have a look!

    And thanks for the motivation to develop my thoughts on Wilson and Obama and the inspiration to tie them to Kanye, Swift, and Beyonce. I hope you like what I have to say and welcome your further thoughts!

    • http://aeroslin.wordpress.com/ aeroslin

      Thank you for taking my opinion into consideration. I think you highlighted both events very well, better than I could.

  • Erik

    Umm…was the “Taylor’s success = white privilege thing” about me? Because that’s not what I was intending to convey at all. I was simply trying to say that Taylor’s success is at such a level where this sort of attention whoring can’t really hurt her beyond a few minutes of awkwardness. And in considering that, one could potentially enjoy the sheer absurd, in-the-moment awkwardness of the whole thing.

    • Daniel Fincke

      Hey Erik, no it wasn’t you, it was someone else who made a really explicit remark, “Taylor Swift is an excellent example of America’s possessive investment in whiteness. Beyonce forever!”

    • Daniel Fincke

      I understood where you were coming from.

  • Erik

    Ah, fair enough.

  • Karen

    You are wonderfully eloquent, sir. I agree that a double standard is at play here. Misters West and Wilson clearly lack self-discipline. Both could use some time in the corner to ponder their immaturity. Yet so much hate for Mr West is being poured into blogs everywhere. What happened to good old fashioned disdain or outrage ? Surely “burn in hell” is a bit extreme (although I’ve seen that more than once today). Let’s get some perspective here: no one was maimed or killed in either incident. A verbal insult does not warrant anyone damaging their soul by wishing harm on another person. Rather pray that they soon gain the wisdom they so obviously lack right now.

  • Daniel Fincke

    Interesting case you make, aa.

    And thank you, Karen.

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