Ye (Kanye West), antisemitic conspiracy theories, far right grifters and social media

I do not care much about so-called ‘celebrities’; their views and personal lives receive amplified and unnecessarily lengthy attention on social and corporate-controlled media. Every excruciating detail of their lives is offered as ‘news’ to be consumed in our celebrity-obsessed culture.

However, when a celebrity, such as Ye (Kanye West) recycles misinformed and harmful views – which reach millions of people – it is time to provide a rebuttal. It is perfectly reasonable to respect the work of an musician – and Ye is a talented hip hop artist and lyrical poet – but also to heavily criticise the views expounded, especially if those viewpoints are toxic nonsense. Ye’s drift into the cesspit of ultrarightist and antisemitic tropes has been a long time in the making. His descent is being aided and abetted by far right scoundrels.

Ye’s antisemitic comments are easily accessible through social media. He recycled various tired old cliches – Jews ‘control’ Hollywood and the music industry, Jews are conniving to accumulate more finance and power; boring and age-old tropes that are new only to the uninformed. I will not link directly to Ye’s comments – you can find them for yourself. What I will observe here is that Ye’s comments have found him new friends – neo-Nazis and white supremacists are loudly praising Ye’s antisemitic conspiratorial worldview.

Ye has millions of followers on social media, even though Twitter and other platforms have locked his accounts (for the time being) in response to his antisemitic posts. Millions can read his opinions, and take them seriously. Ye is a talented lyrical poet, applying his creative energies to producing music. Being remarkably talented is no insulation from being completely off-grid in other fields of endeavour. Elvis Presley was an incredible singer and musician – but a hopeless actor.

This is not the first time that Ye, alongside ultrarightist opportunist Candace Owens, has espoused views adjacent to white nationalism. Ye and Owens, during a public function, wore t-shirts bearing the slogan ‘White lives matter’. Seemingly innocuous perhaps, but then consider the origins of that statement – white supremacist groups, attempting to deflect attention from the resurgent Black Lives Matter and anti racist protests. Cynically posing as ‘civil rights defenders’, neo-Nazis and white nationalist organisations have cunningly countered accusations of racism. What better ally of white nationalist sentiment than an African American boosting the white supremacist cause?

Ezra Pound (1885 – 1972) was a versatile and internationally famous American poet. A pioneer of Imagism in poetry, his works are still studied in English literature courses around the world today. It is also true that he was an inveterate antisemite and fascist sympathiser in his politics. Confined to a mental asylum after the end of World War 2, he was released in 1958. He will forever be associated with regurgitating antisemitic viewpoints, and orienting politically to the European fascist powers. The American ultranationalist Right continues to provide support for European white supremacists until today.

Charles Lindbergh

Ye is not the only celebrity to advocate antisemitic and ultrarightist views. In his time, Charles Lindbergh (1902 – 1974), internationally renowned aviator, was a remarkably talented pilot. He proved his courage and resilience by achieving an historic first – the 1927 solo transatlantic flight. That flight earned him international fame and widespread respect. The book by Dan Hampton, The Flight, explains in elaborate detail the meticulous preparation, the skilled engineering and incredible technical skills that went into making that accomplishment possible.

His fame and celebrity status – in the days before the internet – seemed assured. However, he displayed to the public another side – purveyor of bigotry, Nazi sympathies and recycler of antisemitic conspiracy thinking. Travelling to Nazi Germany in the 1930s, Lindbergh praised the Nazi party’s efforts to ‘protect’ the white race. Inspecting Germany’s military aviation, he admired the vitality of the Germans, especially in promoting technologies in the service of the superior race.

Making radio broadcasts from Europe, Lindbergh’s views were heard by millions of Americans at the time. A strident eugenics advocate, he couched his bigotry in terms of ‘concern’ for the preservation of the white race – a community-minded bigot. After the defeat of European fascism, he tactically retreated from openly praising fascism, but clung to his racist beliefs.

To be fair, Lindbergh was not the only high-profile American to share antisemitic views. Henry Ford, the founder of the famous automotive company, did his utmost to promote antisemitic sentiment through funding publications and media. Nevertheless, Lindbergh went out of his way to propound antisemitic conspiracy theories, and worked with the isolationist America First committee to prevent (ultimately unsuccessfully) the participation of the United States in the war against Nazi Germany. The America First policy finds its modern expression in the politics of Donald Trump.

There is no doubt that Ye has made an incredible impact on modern music. I hope he receives the counselling he needs for his mental health issues. All of this does not absolve him of responsibility for his reprehensible views.

Workplace meetings are dreadful when unnecessary, but they can be made effective

Every business organisation requires workplace meetings. The most effective meetings are brief (around 30 minutes), everyone contributes, decisions are made and each participant leaves with specific action points. In reality, 99 percent of workplace meetings – in my own experience – were long-winded, totally unnecessary, and most participants do their level best not to fall asleep.

Should workplace meetings be replaced by emailing? The short answer is – it depends on why you think a meeting is needed. For a few quick questions, certainly an email will be enough. Setting out the goals of a new project, reporting on progress and status updates, a workplace meeting is required. Face-to-face communication is always preferable, even in this day and age of online meetings.

The best advice is – set out clear goals for a workplace meeting, and do not overuse them. Repeated and unnecessary meetings waste time and money, and distract participants from their urgent priorities. Similarly for emails, establish clear reasons for emailing. Limit CCing everyone so the email becomes one long document of similar length to a nineteenth century novel. Important information gets lost in an over lengthy email.

Indeed, with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, online meetings such as through Zoom have become overused – overcompensating for the reduction in onsite work and face-to-face communication. Zoom fatigue – the overuse of online team meetings – has become a serious topic of conversation. Sitting in your home environment to have an online meeting, but what happens when the kids, or the cat, run in and interrupt?

We have all read the stories of people, while in a Zoom meeting, having their partner walk in naked. Or the similarly prurient story of a man – shall we say, pleasuring himself – while participating in a livestream meeting. While we laugh at these examples of private habits becoming public, there is a serious consideration here – the encroachment of workplace life into our private spaces. The work-home life balance is being lost as we become more available through digital communication.

As we work longer and longer hours, our personal life space suffers. Being reachable by online communication apps helps to increase our workload availability, which includes workplace meetings.

In the days of on-site work, a Kanban board was very effective in setting out the deliverables and status updates of every element of an IT project. Every morning, we attended a daily scrum meeting, and this was great, because we all had a focus – the Kanban workflow. In brief, Kanban is a workflow management technique, defining each step of the production process, to deliver real-time outcomes in a project. It was first developed by an industrial engineer at Toyota corporation to improve workplace efficiency.

When calling a meeting, whether face-to-face or online, always bear in mind if this meeting will boost productivity, and maintain accountability for all the participants. Years ago, when I was an eager university student, we used an old but effective comedy-documentary film series called Meetings, Bloody Meetings, featuring English comedian John Cleese. In the days before office computerisation and the internet, workplace meetings were already the bane of existence for managers and workers.

Written by Cleese and Antony Jay in 1976, that kind of documentary needs to be updated. Its basic points are still valid; plan, prepare, inform participants, keep the meeting structured and controlled. However, times have certainly changed since then. While this article is not the place to extensively examine the impact of social media, it is necessary to make some relevant observations.

We all live in an immersive world of digital media, where we share our opinions, preferences, beliefs, photos, images – and we increasingly ask search algorithm to make decisions for us. Medical questions, concerns about romance, love, shopping, prices – all our questions and searches are increasingly interconnected. I do not care about celebrities and trivial gossip, however, consider the following.

When Kanye West, now known as Ye, shares antisemitic conspiracy theories and advocates a worldview based on that prejudice, millions of his followers read his opinions and take them in. All of us now have access to the opinions and decisions of others. His followers constitute an instant online ‘meeting’, where people can exchange their ideas and make decisions based on those considerations.

No, I am not suggesting that every workplace meeting can reach millions of people. We need to aware that social media has a huge outreach, and we should understand ways to use that reach wisely, including having workplace meetings that are effective. Do what is right for your organisation – workplace meetings can be efficient; an email can be equally effective if a meeting can be replaced. Don’t overuse one kind of communication over another.

The Holocaust, and the doctrines of those who murdered Jews, cast a long shadow

The Holocaust, and the perpetrators of that hideous crime, may seem like a purely academic subject. However, its lessons, the racism underlying that systematic industrialised murder, and the tribulations of the victims, have contemporary relevance. First, let’s look at a human interest story, and then elaborate on how the memory of the Holocaust (and World War 2 more generally) impacts political developments today.

Zoe Zolbrod, writing in Salon magazine, explains her emotional and heart-rending struggle with the realisation – when she was an adult – that her great-grandparents perished in a concentration camp. This information was kept from her throughout her childhood. This revelation – that her great-grandparents were among the millions exterminated – was profoundly shocking to her.

As an adolescent, she wondered about what would have happened to her if she had lived through the Nazi German experience. She explained how she wrestled with her concept of Jewishness – was it cultural, passed down through the genes, or a combination of both? She grappled with wider questions, even though her experience of Judaic identity was largely confined to religious-cultural celebrations of Jewish holidays with extended family.

By the by, the late geneticist and professor Richard Lewontin, wrote in a lengthy article for the New York Review of Books that despite the best efforts of DNA experts, there is no such thing as a ‘Jewish gene.’

Interestingly, as Palestinian American academic Joseph Massad points out, the insistence on a gene-bloodline definition of Jewishness is shared by the Zionist and the antisemite. The characterisation of Jews as a racially distinct people forms the ideological basis not only of Zionist groups, but also of antisemitic ones too.

Antisemitism is the crucial underpinning of Nazism, and also of the ethnonationalist Eastern European organisations that collaborated in the mass killings of European Jews in WW2. The Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and its associated military formation, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), participated in the ethnic cleansing of Jews in lands that the Nazi forces occupied in Eastern Europe.

With that in mind, let’s consider another human interest story, but this one has more direct political implications. The Canadian Dimension magazine published a report highlighting the presence of a rather curious statue in Oakville, Toronto; a commemorative monument to the Ukrainian 14th Grenadier Waffen SS division. A unit made up mostly of ultranationalist and racist Ukrainians, this division fought in the service of Nazi Germany, and participated in the mass killings of Jews, Poles, Russians and non-Ukrainian ethnic minorities.

Deriving its ideology from the OUN, this outfit made no secret of whom it considered the main enemy – the Jewish people. The OUN leadership, under its cult-like leader Stepan Bandera, singled out the Jews as the original enemy to be annihilated. Blaming ‘Muscovy Communism’ – shorthand for Marxism – on the Jews, the ultranationalist outlook of the OUN found common cause with other Germans and Eastern European formations with a similar racist ideology.

It is no secret that the malicious trope of ‘Judeo-Bolshevism’ has experienced a resurgence in Eastern European nations where the far right is politically active. Why are Ukrainian communities in Canada actively rehabilitating the reputation of those ultranationalist groups which cooperated in the Holocaust?

That is a question only the Canadian Ukrainian community can answer. What we can observe here is that it is an appalling rebuff to the memory of the Holocaust’s victims to rehabilitate the doctrines and practices of their murderers.

Before any simpletons accuse me of recycling Red Communist propaganda from Kremlin, consider the following. The Polish government, which is a strong ally of the Kyiv regime, nevertheless maintains a principled position regarding the Volhynia massacres. The latter involved the widespread killings of Polish people, in the Nazi-occupied Volhynia region, by the Ukrainian Nazi collaborator group, the OUN and its military wing. These massacres of Poles, in the northwest region of today’s Ukraine, were carried out in pursuit of the stated Ukrainian nationalist goal of an ethnically ‘pure’ nation.

While the Polish government has stood by its Ukrainian ally, it has also insisted on commemorating the Polish victims of homicidal Ukrainian ultrarightist nationalism. Bilateral relations between the two nations are ongoing, but the lack of acknowledgement by Kyiv of the OUN’s atrocities committed against Polish people during WW2 has left a sour note between the two neighbours. The Volhynia massacres remain an emotional touchstone for Polish recollections of the war.

Let’s make one last observation about the importance of remembering the Holocaust and understanding who helped in the commission of that crime. Please do not think it is intentional to ‘pick on’ Ukraine; earlier this year, the graves of 700 Yugoslav partisans, interred at a necropolis in Mostar, Bosnia, were systematically vandalised. These graves, of those who fought for a multiethnic Yugoslavia, were attacked by Croat ultrarightists, the ideological heirs of the genocidal and Nazi-collaborating Ustashe.

The Ustashe, whose adherents were provided sanctuary after WW2 by the United States and Australia, advocate a view of history untainted by their active participation in the mass murder of Jews and ethnic minorities. What is the purpose of vandalising the graves of anti fascist fighters, if not to repudiate the multiethnic vision of a united Yugoslavia? It is high time to respect the victims of the Holocaust by repudiating the ideology of those who participated in it, and whose ideological heirs today wish for its repetition.

Harriet Tubman, the CIA and diversity in the workforce

Earlier in September this year, current CIA director William Burns cut the ribbon for an official ceremony outside CIA headquarters at Langley, Virginia. The occasion? The unveiling of a statue to anti slavery activist and African American abolitionist Harriet Tubman. The latter, best known for assisting fugitive slaves escape their condition by operating an Underground Railroad, worked as a military spy for Union forces during the American Civil War.

Why is the CIA promoting, or at least attempting to co-opt, Harriet Tubman to its cause? If you listen to the CIA director and his associates, it is all about cultural diversity in the workplace. The CIA’s upper echelons are almost exclusively white males. Burns, and the director of the CIA museum Robert Beyer, bolstering a diverse workforce is of paramount importance.

The conservative Right responded with predictable contempt – former CIA director Mike Pompeo dismissed the statue, stating that a woke military is a weakened military. This way of thinking is in line with the hard Right’s hostility to any measures promoting cultural and ethnic diversity in the workplace. However, there is another aspect of this statue unveiling that is important to note here. The cooptation of Tubman’s cause by the CIA is a perverse and cynical exercise to whitewash the many crimes of the CIA as an organisation.

Tubman, an anti slavery proponent, helped slaves in a practical way. Her efforts place her in the tradition of those fighting to expand the democratic rights and freedoms of those who are economically and racially oppressed. She did indeed help the Union cause during the Civil War, spying on Confederate shipping in South Carolina in 1863. The information she secretly relayed to the Union side helped the US navy avoid many casualties, and attack Confederate positions on the Combahee river. She led troops into battle against Confederate troops.

The CIA, by contrast, has done all it can in its power to undermine and overthrow democratically elected governments the world over, cultivated secret criminal insurgencies for such purposes, and overseen a network of torture chambers and secret rendition sites located in American-allied nations.

The objective of such criminal activities by the CIA is to reverse any progressive economic and social gains made by the targeted government, and install pro-US proxies. The latter then set about dismantling all the redistributive measures of the overthrown regime, and implemented pro-business policies friendly and amenable to US corporate interests. The policies pursued by the US-backed military dictatorship of General Pinochet in Chile are a classic example of this reversion to neoliberal capitalism.

In the 1970s and 80s, when the CIA supported the politically ultrarightist Afghan mujahideen insurgents against the then socialist government of Afghanistan, the associate allies of this American/British project were Saudi Arabia and Pakistan – two US allies which can best be described as petro-dictatorships. While religion was certainly a factor in the hostility of the Afghan mujahideen towards the socialist government, the British and American governments knew that the mujahideen were also feudal warlords, opposed to the far-reaching agrarian and social reforms of the Afghan regime.

The CIA actively supported an insurgency – one with an Islamist flavouring – which rolled back the gains of women’s rights, land reform for the peasantry, education for girls, and all the social reforms implemented by the socialist government in Kabul. Women in Afghanistan were returned to patriarchal subjection.

In fact, if the CIA was truly serious about promoting diversity in the workplace, they could highlight the long-standing and deep links that the organisation has with the Ukrainian diasporan far right communities. There is a durable relationship between the ultranationalist Ukrainian diaspora, and its role as footsoldiers for CIA initiatives in Ukraine. There is no need to be shy – let’s examine the multicultural footsoldiers for US empire deliberately cultivated by the CIA.

Cultural and ethnic diversity in the workplace is indeed a laudable goal – the political and economic institutions of a society should reflect the composition of the people which make up that society. However, being woke is not just a cosmetic exercise in window-dressing; reducing diversity to a catchy slogan is a worthless exercise. Actually, there is a point to that exercise; providing cover for the criminal policies of US imperial over-reach. As I have written previously, praising the ‘humans of the CIA’ is a slick public relations exercise.

Promoting women and ethnic minorities is very commendable. However, if they continue to provide rationalisations for the same predatory and criminal practices, then they are nothing more than mascots for US empire. Gina Haspel, the first female director of the CIA, certainly faced misogyny in the workplace. Her record as CIA chief confirms that she oversaw the same policies of torture and rendition as her predecessors. That is the exact opposite of the kind of change for which Harriet Tubman stood.