Kanye needs help, not a pub­lic plat­form

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION - S.E. CUPP @se­cupp

Back in Oc­to­ber of 2018, mu­sic and fashion mogul Kanye West took a trip to the Oval Of­fice, os­ten­si­bly to dis­cuss crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form with the pres­i­dent. What hap­pened in­stead was a three-ring cir­cus in front of rolling cam­eras and mil­lions of tele­vi­sion view­ers at home.

West veered from one un­re­lated topic to the next, while a slightly un­com­fort­able Pres­i­dent Trump sat look­ing on, at times try­ing to steer him back to the pre­ferred goal for the pub­lic event (which was ul­ti­mately to praise Trump).

Some peo­ple found the spec­ta­cle amus­ing, oth­ers a wild kind of per­for­mance art by a pub­lic­ity-starved “artiste,” not un­like the kinds of stunts Trump him­self would pull be­fore be­com­ing pres­i­dent.

But I found it sad and deeply dis­turb­ing. Here was clearly an un­well man and a pres­i­dent who was will­ing to ex­ploit his ill­ness for the faint praise of a pop­u­lar Black celebrity. The whole thing made me queasy.

West has been forth­com­ing about his men­tal ill­ness and past episodes. He has said he has been di­ag­nosed with bipo­lar dis­or­der, has ad­mit­ted to abus­ing painkiller­s, and says his wife Kim Kar­dashian’s rob­bery in Paris and his feud with friend and rap­per Jay-Z con­trib­uted to a wellpub­li­cized 2016 ner­vous break­down.

To his credit, his open and frank dis­cus­sions about his men­tal health have likely prompted many oth­ers to seek help for their own is­sues.

But know­ing all that we do about West’s frag­ile men­tal state, his lat­est pub­lic­ity stunt, a half-hearted run for pres­i­dent, feels all the more dis­turb­ing.

Ini­tially, some spec­u­lated it was merely part of a ploy to pro­mote a new album, given how rushed and un­pre­pared the up­start “cam­paign” is.

Oth­ers be­lieve it’s ac­tu­ally a form of spir­i­tual pros­e­ly­tiz­ing, in­spired by his pro­posed “run­ning mate,” a “Bi­b­li­cal Life Coach” named Michelle Tid­ball, who lives near West in Wy­oming.

WEST’S PUB­LIC PARA­NOIA, OVER­SHAR­ING, IN­ABIL­ITY TO FIL­TER AND FO­CUS IS SIM­I­LAR TO WHAT WE SEE FROM TRUMP HIM­SELF, WHOSE TWIT­TER RAGES, UN­FOUNDED CON­SPIR­ACY THE­O­RIES, RAM­BLING RAL­LIES AND DIS­TORTED VIEW OF RE­AL­ITY SHOULD BE JUST AS TROU­BLING.

Oth­ers still think it’s merely en­ter­tain­ment. One Twit­ter user posted of his first rally, “I went for a laugh and I got one,” be­fore leav­ing of­fended.

But it’s hard to see this as any­thing other than a very sad pub­lic break­down.

At his first “cam­paign event” in South Carolina, West ap­peared in a pro­tec­tive vest and again ca­reened from topic to topic, his mood swing­ing like a manic pen­du­lum. First laugh­ing and jok­ing, he was at once sob­bing un­con­trol­lably while re­veal­ing he and his wife al­most aborted their first-born daugh­ter, news I’m sure Kim would have pre­ferred to be kept pri­vate.

He railed against abor­tion and the morn­ing-after con­tra­cep­tive pill Plan B, slammed Har­riet Tub­man, warned that “you don’t know who’s putting the in­ter­net in your school just to track you,” and sug­gested that ev­ery­one who had a baby should get “a mil­lion dol­lars, or some­thing.”

The event was met with equal parts con­cern, scorn and ridicule. He was ac­cused of misog­y­noir by Black women and of un­der­min­ing Black is­sues.

And after that event, West took to Twit­ter to un­ravel some more.

“Kim tried to bring a doc­tor to lock me up with a doc­tor,” he tweeted. “If I get locked up Man­dela… Ya’ll will know why.” He took shots at Kim’s mother, Kris Jen­ner. “Kriss don’t play with me you and that calmye are not al­lowed around my chil­dren. Ya’ll tried to lock me up.” And he said the hor­ror movie “Get Out” — about a Black man who vis­its the white sub­urbs only to face mind-bend­ing hor­rors — was about him.

In­ci­den­tally, West’s pub­lic para­noia, over­shar­ing, in­abil­ity to fil­ter and fo­cus is sim­i­lar to what we see from Trump him­self, whose Twit­ter rages, un­founded con­spir­acy the­o­ries, ram­bling ral­lies and dis­torted view of re­al­ity should be just as trou­bling. The dif­fer­ence, of course, is that Trump is ac­tu­ally pres­i­dent, and not merely pre­tend­ing to want to be.

Still, West’s very un­set­tling pub­lic­ity stunt isn’t funny, and it isn’t even a car crash we can’t help but watch. It’s a cry for help, and one we should all give him by re­fus­ing to play the role of spec­ta­tor. He’s a hus­band, a fa­ther and a hu­man be­ing, and he’s not “run­ning for pres­i­dent.” He’s run­ning for his life.

S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Un­fil­tered” on CNN.

Rap­per Kanye West makes his first pres­i­den­tial cam­paign ap­pear­ance on Sun­day in North Charleston, S.C.

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