Moments after half-assedly tweeting out his intention to retreat from politics, Kanye West apparently got in touch with TMZ, his news outlet of choice, to make sure that nobody would get the wrong idea. This wasn't about his praise for despots at home or abroad; it had nothing to do with the past year, which he's spent demonstrating that he has less of a hold on American history than a sixth-grader failing civics; he didn't mean to take back any of the off-the-dome inanities that inspired the right wing to embrace him as a hero. This was, he told TMZ, simply a marketing roll-out gone wrong. "Kanye contacted us to make it clear he did not mention Donald Trump in his tweets, and he's getting out of politics altogether," an update on the gossip site's initial post read. "As for being 'used'… he says he was specifically referencing Blexit, and that's it."
It's been almost two years since Kanye West visited Trump Tower to shake hands with a man who rose to political relevance by parroting a racist conspiracy theory, won the presidency by demonizing the most vulnerable people in society, and benefitted from a foreign government's intervention in a general election. It's been half a year since West strongly suggested, in a conversation with Charlamagne Tha God, that he continued to side with Trump because Barack Obama refused to acknowledge Ye's genius. (It feels like much, much longer.) The limp, sycophantic, and often absurd non-sequiturs that have spewed from West's mouth and Twitter page around those two jaw-droppingly stupid moments in modern history have led us here, to this cowardly non-apology backed by a TMZ clarification, rifled off on a Tuesday evening.
These tweets just about form the foundations of a half-decent human—they're the sorts of things that might make you pause briefly before crawling through a bathroom window to escape a Tinder date. Nobody deserves adulation when they say, on social media, that they're against America's fatally fractured prison system, the brutality inflicted upon many immigrants, and the proliferation of deadly weapons—unless they're doing something about any of those things beyond the tweet itself.
It's difficult to imagine that West has any intention of doing so. He wants "love and compassion for people seeking asylum and parents who are fighting to protect their children from violence and war," but, by using the words "love" and "compassion" ad nauseam in the middle of pro-Trump rants, he's reduced them to parodies. He "support[s] creating jobs and opportunities for people who need them the most," but two weeks ago he really did say that he wanted to turn the nation of Uganda into Jurassic Park. He "support[s] holding people who misuse their power accountable," but that thought didn't cross his mind as he stood in the Oval Office and delivered a speech so bizarre and complimentary that even Donald Trump was lost for words.
His most loyal fans, and there are millions of them still, won't see it that way. They didn't need this sort of ammunition in order to protect their man's pedestal—take a trip through the r/kanye archives this afternoon if you want an excuse to smash that kettle across your own head—but they'll take it anyway. This, to many people, is proof that his "spread love" philosophy, soggy and ready for Instagram captions, was actually more than up to the challenge of a world turning sharply and in clear view towards cruelty and indifference. The man who made a song as empathetic and raw as "Family Business" could never have truly been aligned with this many dipshits. Hell, maybe it was performance art!
Even if we pretend that's true, if we entertain the notion that West's "eyes are wide open," it wouldn't undo the damage he's done. He emboldened the far-right, who embraced the idea of a pop culture icon backing their agenda—even if he couldn't stick to the talking points for very long before moving onto his favorite PornHub categories. The kids who looked up to Kanye (and to a lesser extent the stans who thanked him for "starting the conversation" over and over again) are no more likely to fact-check his half-truths now that he says this grotesque phase is (at least temporarily) over. When America needed a brilliant voice to stand up to nativism, racism, and nascent fascism, Kanye West couldn't wait to cheer for the wrong side. His legacy is in the trash.
But West's eyes, as his clarification to TMZ proves, are still screwed shut. At no point in those tweets did he say sorry for dragging hip-hop and pop culture through the muck, emboldening the most craven right-wing trolls on the internet, or fervently praising a president who has demonized black Americans, latinx people, immigrants, trans people, survivors of sexual assault, and anyone who the hosts of Fox & Friends decide to vilify before we've all had breakfast. Kanye West's name was used to promote merchandise without his express consent—that's the beginning and end of his complaint. As far as he can see, he was "used" by Candace Owens. Nobody else.
He wants to go back to "being creative" now, as if these 130-odd words are some sort of full-stop. At least that statement sounds more like the Kanye we've gotten to know over the past two years—impulsive, cowardly, and deeply self-involved.
Yandhi is out at the end of November.
Follow Alex Robert Ross on Twitter.