Last week, Vanity Fair asked who red-pilled Kanye West. This, in case you didn’t know, is a reference to the 1999 film The Matrix, in which the lead character Neo has a choice between taking a blue pill, which would keep him in the comfort of the world in which he is enslaved, and a red pill, which would expose him to the harsh realities of the outside world, but in doing so allow him to escape.
By appearing alongside Donald Trump, suggested the magazine, West has very much chosen the red pill option – and in doing so broken free of ‘the spell of political correctness’ which afflicts so many of his colleagues in the world of entertainment. As West himself wrote in a tweet:
“I haven’t done enough research on conservatives to call myself or be called one. I’m just refusing to be enslaved by monolithic thought.”
But if Kanye West is Neo, who played the role of Morpheus: the character in the Matrix who persuaded him to take the red pill? There is always the possibility that Kanye is either on a sincere self-directed ideological odyssey, or he’s putting us all on. If the latter is true, surely this ranks among the greatest and most absurd earned-media promotional campaigns of modern musical history. It’s not an insult to Kanye’s creativity or independent-mindedness to think someone suggested this stuff to him. That’s just how ideological change usually works.
Then there is the possibility that Kanye’s wife, Kim Kardashian, could be in part responsible for her husband’s conversion to Trumpism. Rumours have been swirling this week that Kim is considering divorcing Kanye due to his erratic behaviour and support for Trump, speculation that was on the front page of the tabloid Life & Style last week. A rep for Kardashian has denied the rumours, and Cockburn doesn’t think they’re true either. Though Kim ultimately supported Hillary in the 2016 election it was only after some deliberation. Might she now be a secret Trump fan? It would explain why the West household might not be as opposed to Kanye’s new activities as one might think – though it does not explain another facet of the Kanye West case: that a video posted by West showed a Jordan Peterson video playing on his laptop.
That leaves a third, and Cockburn’s favourite candidate for Kanye’s Morpheus: Rick Rubin, who produced Kanye’s last two albums and is expected to produce his forthcoming 2018 album as well. Rubin produced Billy Corgan’s solo album last year and is also working on the forthcoming Smashing Pumpkins reunion album. Corgan, if not quite a Trump supporter, at least shows tendencies in that direction. Rubin follows lots of figures on Twitter from a milieu that has been variously described as the #MAGA movement, the “alt-lite” or, on the more heterodox liberal end, the “intellectual dark web.” For example, he follows Jordan Peterson, Scott Adams, Mike Cernovich, Sam Harris, Bill Mitchell, Ali Akbar, Nassim Taleb, Anthony Scaramucci, Claire Lehmann, and Jonathan Haidt. He also once retweeted Scott Adams, one of Trump’s most influential online supporters, a move which angered his more progressive admirers.
Cockburn has spoken with sources who said Rubin has friends across the political spectrum, and that he has even said nice things about Bernie Sanders. But sources also tell Cockburn that Rubin has met with several right-wing figures at his house.
Or maybe there is another figure who played the role of Morpheus. Cockburn would be delighted to receive any intelligence that helped solve the question. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org