Pseudohistory: A How to Guide by Kanye West

Kanye West. Everyone under the age of ~35 has heard his music at least once in their life. He is known for his musical ability as well as his outlandish personality. He has even been named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2005 and 2015, respectively. It is a fact that Kanye West is regarded as a dominant figure in rap/hip-hop, and his influence stretches even beyond that as indicated by the statement above. The enigma that is Kanye West has been puzzling critics and the public for years – the genesis of his mystery, perhaps, could be attributed to his vocalization of George Bush’s response to Katrina, in which he is quoted as saying, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Recently, he has been making headlines again, but for a seemingly juxtaposing statement to that of his statements on George Bush. In a recent interview with Charlamagne tha God, he is quoted as saying, in regard to slavery, “[w]hen you hear about slavery for 400 years … For 400 years? That sounds like a choice.” These false comments sparked outrage from fans and friends alike, with musicians such as calling his remarks “one of the most ignorant statements” he could say. These comments, combined with Kanye’s influence among the public, serve to both the performance of violence as waste and the performance of memory and forgetting.

By claiming falsehoods on the history of slavery in the United States, Kanye is therefore reducing the identities of millions of enslaved Africans and, in doing so, exhibiting Roach’s concept of violence as the performance of waste. He is also adhering to the concept of the performance of memory and forgetting by claiming that enslaved Africans had a “choice” to be free or enslaved. This historical fallacy of memory serves as the waste product, while his reduction of the enslaved people’s identity serves as a sort of performative violence. This reduction of identity parallels that of Zone One, in the context of placing a false identity on the skels. For example, Mark Spitz claims to see a resemblance of his sixth-grade English teacher, Miss Alcott, in the facial features of one of the skels. By claiming a false identity in a skel in which he has no connection to, he is reducing the identity of the formerly alive human that has been removed from the body which they once inhabited.

Kanye’s range of influence in spreading these falsehoods is also substantial, for his views are widespread across the globe. The spread of erroneous claims is also a type of violence, for the spread of misinformation acts as a disease, taking root in the impressionable without offering a chance at the truth. This also parallels Zone One in the context of the “stragglers.” The stragglers differed from the skels in the sense that they were not driven by a lust for human flesh – they were infected by the disease, but they did not move or attack; they were still killed based on “general principles.” The ones who believe in Kanye’s inaccuracies may not be attacking figures that align themselves with the truth, but they may suffer the consequences via callout-culture based on general, historical fact.

I guess my ending message of this blog post would be to check your facts and create a line of defense against the misinformed – you don’t want to be infected by the pandemic that is pseudohistory.

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