Kanye West returned to Twitter last week, announced he was writing a philosophy book, and also, that we were all already reading that book, because the book was just his tweets. But one Saturday morning tweet was a bit different, because West was endorsing thoughts from a mind that was not his own:
This tweet led to the pro-Trump Internet losing its collective mind. Owens, who used to use the social media handle “Red Pill Black,” is an African American activist in the pro-Trump Internet. She joined YouTube about nine months ago and now has just under 200,000 subscribers. Among her biggest hits: a video mocking concerns over rising white supremacy in the wake of the Charlottesville protests in August, where one counterprotester was killed.
“It’s obviously the media’s fault,” she says during the video. “The media is creating this entire narrative. It’s crazy to me … that people haven’t figured this out yet.” The video has more than a half a million views.
On Wednesday, West sent multiple tweets about Trump specifically, saying, among other things, “You don’t have to agree with trump but the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone.”
Such tweets have left many online wondering whether he’s been “red-pilled,” a term that comes from “The Matrix” and has been used in the various corners of the men’s rights movement and far-right Internet to describe a conversion experience to their point of view.
It is a term that Owens herself has adapted for her own worldview. She has appeared on both Infowars and Fox News to promote her thesis that black people have been brainwashed to vote for Democrats by the media, and that they would vote for Republicans if only they could be red-pilled by recent converts like her.
So has Kanye West been red-pilled? For the curious and confused, here’s a step-by-step guide:
Step 1: The context
Kanye West is not a brand-new figure of interest to the pro-Trump Internet.
“I told y’all I didn’t vote, right?” West said during a San Jose performance in mid-November 2016, “but if I would’ve voted, I would’ve voted for Trump.”
According to Politico, West also said of Trump’s style, “that method of communication has proven that it can beat a politically correct way of communication.”
During the monologue, West also told black people to “stop focusing on racism,” which is a pretty Owens-esque thing to say.
West and Trump met a month later, at Trump Tower in New York.
Trump said they’d been “friends for a long time.” For instance, at a 2015 political rally, Trump said of West, “He loves Trump. He goes around saying Trump is my all-time hero. He says it to everybody.”
For his part, West explained the reasons behind that visit in now-deleted tweets. They met “to discuss multicultural issues,” he wrote, and the pair talked about “bullying, supporting teachers, modernizing curriculums, and violence in Chicago.”
“I feel it is important to have a direct line of communication with our future President if we truly want change,” he added.
The meeting happened after weeks of West laying low, following the early cancellation of his tour and some time in the hospital.
Step 2: The anticipation
West said more than a week ago that he was going to write a philosophy book and has said it’s called “Break the Simulation.”
Mike Cernovich, a popular figure on the pro-Trump Internet who has lately been tweeting a lot about consciousness and “energy,” then started telling his fans that Kanye’s new philosophy book/Twitter train of thought was something to pay attention to.
“Kanye could bring the races together,” Cernovich tweeted last Wednesday. He said in another tweet: “Kanye pretended to be who he wasn’t – To show you who he really is. That’s what he means by leaving the Simulation.” On Friday night, Cernovich responded to a question from a fan by saying “Kanye” was the most positive thing the world could look forward to in 2018.
One of the pro-Trump Internet’s binding ideas is the sense that the world is on the verge of a mass conversion away from liberalism, and they often believe a mainstream figure might become an advocate of their worldview. Last summer, for instance, Infowars’ Alex Jones appeared to believe PewDiePie, a YouTuber with more than 50 million followers, had been “red-pilled.” He courted PewDiePie’s attention aggressively after the YouTuber followed him on Twitter.
Step 3: The tweet
The thing that pushed Kanye from potential messiah to #MAGA Neo on the pro-Trump Internet was his tweet praising Owens. How did he find out about her? Not sure. She did have a very viral tweet the night before West tweeted about her, however:
In this video, which has been retweeted more than 26,000 times, Owens says, “What is happening right now in the black community … there is an ideological civil war happening. Black people that are focused on their past and shouting about slavery, and black people that are focused on their futures, okay? That’s what it really comes down to.”
Step 4: The celebration
West’s tweet was met with celebration from the pro-Trump Internet, including from one of its current best-known celebrities:
Owens herself appeared on “Fox and Friends” the next day to explain to a wider audience what had just happened on Twitter and why conservatives should be celebrating it.
Step 5: The backlash
There was also a wave of anger and disappointment. “A market has always and will always exist for men and women like this who say what bigoted white folk love to hear. They will always have a seat at somebody’s table,” tweeted Shaun King, a progressive activist.
The angriest was, perhaps, comedian Tom Arnold. He tweeted at Owens, “Good luck glomming onto @kanyewest His family already told him you were a phony & fraud. A former democratic bad actress doing video bits to get on TV anyway she can. Enjoy it now. You’re so inauthentic even your white power fans are going to get bored with you.”
In another more vulgar tweet that has since been deleted, Arnold likened Owens’s appeal to conservatives to a sexual act.
#MAGA Twitter responded, basically, by saying it was Arnold who was the real racist.
Step 6: The Dilbert
By Monday, speculation about West’s possible ticket aboard the Trump train had quieted a bit. That is, until he tweeted several videos from Dilbert creator and pro-Trump Internet celebrity Scott Adams.
Kanye’s tweets appear to be videos from a handheld camera, pointed at Kanye’s laptop, as he watched a recent Periscope from Adams in which he discusses … the significance of Kanye’s tweets.
“It feels like there’s something big happening,” Adams says in one clip of the Periscope shared by West. “People are breaking out of their mental prisons. People are realizing that there are things that used to hold us back, that used to limit what we could do … that much of these were psychological.”
In another, tweeted with approving praise hands emoji, “These two people that shouldn’t be in the same conversation, in seven words, Kanye just changed that,” Adams said, pointing to a hand-drawn flowchart in which West’s and Owens’s names were visible. “He just freed a lot of people from a mental prison.”
After the video tweets, West added:
The Washington Post put in a request for West to comment on whether he has indeed been “red-pilled.” Whether he has — or whether West simply likes hearing praise about himself, from wherever it comes — his approving tweets are amplifying the voices of some of the Trump Internet’s biggest personalities to a huge audience. West has approximately 27 million Twitter followers, and his tweets of Adams’s videos have hundreds of thousands of views in just a few hours.
Red-pilled or not, the pro-Trump Internet appears to be ready and willing to embrace him:
Step 7: The intervention
On Tuesday, West resumed his executive time by even more passionately tweeting his support for Trump.
But as his tweet-storm continued to build in size, he paused to slightly walk back some of his earlier thoughts, at the apparent behest of one Kim Kardashian:
Step 8: The inevitable conclusion
This post, originally published on April 24, has been updated.