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A swift and merciless ‘unpunishment' for West

As a 39-year-old white guy with a country-club upbringing and no rhythm, I am, understandably, not a huge fan of rap music. This wasn’t always the case, mind you. Once upon a time I was deeply into Public Enemy and A Tribe Called Quest and, yes, even gangsta rappers like NWA and Eazy-E. But that was when I was young and hip — well, less unhip, anyway — and since then I’ve gotten a lot older and rap’s gotten a lot worse. By now I can’t even listen to the stuff.

So believe me when I say I wouldn’t know a Kanye West song if I heard one. I’ve been aware of Kanye West for a few years now, certainly, as he’s apparently a large enough celebrity to have been mocked on an episode of “South Park,” but any opinion I have of him is due solely to the news stories I’ve read about his obnoxious and egotistical behavior. Based on that, I’m led to believe that the entire world hates Kanye West.

You might think that with so much animosity directed at him, West would eventually disappear from the public eye. Yet, somehow, he continues to sell millions of albums and get invited to things like last Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards, an event at which he took his boorish behavior to new heights by jumping onstage while 19-year-old Taylor Swift was giving her acceptance speech for the Best Female Video award, snatching the microphone out of her hand and telling the world that Beyoncé should have won instead.

Obviously, the reaction to West’s stunt has been unanimously negative. He was soundly booed as he left the stage, and the Internet was abuzz the next day with stories denouncing his actions. Even former President Jimmy Carter, who you have to figure has probably never heard a rap song in his life, weighed in on the matter, calling West’s actions “completely uncalled for.”

The most publicized reaction, though, came from President Obama, who called West a “jackass” during off-the-cuff remarks that were not intended to be on the record prior to an interview he did with CNBC reporter John Harwood. This, naturally, brought Obama some unfavorable press from people who considered his remarks unpresidential, but the man was absolutely correct. West is a jackass.

Anyway, the end result of all this is that once again, I’m left with the impression that the whole world hates Kanye West. Given that, you might assume people have been calling for a boycott of West’s music or uninviting him to their awards shows and ceremonies, right? Wrong.

Monday night, just one day after upstaging Swift, West appeared on the premiere of “The Jay Leno Show” and sat down with Leno for an interview. Sure, he said all the right things about being sorry, and he acknowledged that his actions were rude and inappropriate, but he was still given scads of free publicity for having acted like a jackass. Is that really the sort of behavior we want to reinforce by inviting people to appear on talk shows?

West also apologized to Swift on his blog, writing, “I’m sooooo sorry to Taylor Swift and her fans and her mom.” (You can tell he meant it, too, by the number of o’s he used in the word “so.”) Then, just for good measure, West called Swift on Tuesday to apologize to her in person, an apology which the gracious teen accepted and called “very sincere,” making Taylor Swift a much more forgiving person than me.

Now that his apologies are out of the way, however, does anyone actually believe that West regrets his actions? Yes, he got booed, but everyone seemed to dislike the man in the first place, so getting booed probably didn’t faze him in the least. The real result of his obnoxious little stunt was that he got his name plastered all over the Internet and got his face on TV, and, oh yeah, he got to appear on the premiere of Jay Leno’s highly anticipated new show. With punishment like that, I wouldn’t be surprised if West does something similar at awards shows for the next decade.

Don’t fall for this, people. Don’t encourage jackass behavior. I promise that if you just ignore Kanye West — stop buying his albums, stop downloading his songs, stop paying attention when he acts like a conceited prick — he will eventually go away. I know it’s hard to avert your eyes from a train wreck, but if you can just take that initial step you’ll be much happier in the long run.

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Todd Hartley

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09 2009

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