Ethics Dunce: Kanye West


I need a new designation for people like Kanye West, and am open to suggestions. Noting that in any specific episode that West is an ethics dunce is entirely superfluous and stating what was undeniable and generally known long ago. This is a man who accused George W. Bush of wanting to see black citizens suffer in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and did so on national TV. This is a man who interrupted a fellow entertainer’s acceptance speech for an industry award to announce to the world that she didn’t deserve it. This is a man who has inflicted the names “North” and “Saint” on his helpless children. He, like Donald Trump (whom I would vote for as President over Kanye West, so don’t say I’m #NeverTrump), belongs to that rare but growing class of celebrities for whom  civil descriptions are inadequate. Only labels like “asshole” come close to describing them. In the West’s extreme case, even that is an insult to assholes.

West gave us another view of his near total ethics vacuum when he abruptly ended his October 2 performance at the Meadows Festival in Queens, New York City. He had just learned that his wife, Kim Kardashian, was robbed at gunpoint in her Paris hotel room. West, who was headlining the festival, went onstage (late, as usual) at a little after 8:45 p.m. He was scheduled to perform until 10 p.m., but walked off the stage at 9:40, halfway through the song “Heartless,” announcing, “I’m sorry, family emergency, I have to stop the show.”

In fact, he didn’t have to stop the show, and no professional performer worthy of the name would stop the show. His wife wasn’t in danger, and she was in Paris. There was nothing West could do to assist her. Walking off mid-song added to the breach of performer ethics here. West had an obligation to deliver the performance that his fans, themselves ethically dubious for supporting such a mega-jerk, had paid for, and also to the organizers of the festival, who trusted him, lord knows why, to meet his contractual obligations. He is, however, the definition of a narcissist. It’s all about Kanye, all the time. Audiences? Partners? Employers? They don’t matter. Respect? Fairness? Honesty? Responsibility? Trust?


As ethics corrupters like West tend to do, his actions encourage those associated with him to also behave unethically. Founders Entertainment released a statement that said,

“Due to a family emergency, Kanye West was forced to end his performance towards the end of his set. We appreciate the great show he put on for fans to close out the inaugural Meadows Festival. Our thoughts are with West and his family.”

Translation: “You’re not getting your money back!”

A show that begins late and ends 20 minutes early is not a “great show,” it is an incomplete show. The audience paid for and had a right to demand a complete show.

Meanwhile, over in Paris, the spectacularly useless Mrs. West was robbed at gunpoint of what police say was $9 million worth of jewelry. Remember when your mother told you not to bring some treasured possession to school or camp because you were liable to lose it or have it stolen? And you did, and it was? Kardashian, whose entire family is a blight on the values of the nation and whose popularity and success are indictments of the culture as well as the intelligence of the public, is learning this hard lesson about 35 years later than most. Why would she travel with $9 million in jewelry? Why would anyone spend $9 million on jewelry? Has anyone worthy of fame and admiration ever purchased $9 million in jewelry? Has anyone with the brains of a gnat ever been robbed  of $9 million  of anything that far away from home? Nobody deserves to be robbed and assaulted, but some victims do forfeit sympathy by being spectacularly reckless and foolish. That’s our Kim.

Not to worry, though: she’ll soone be able to buy another 9 mil or so.  Americans will shower her with residuals and royalties for something, probably involving her bodacious booty, and shell out more to her husband for Hip Hop classics with lyrics like this—-they are not atypical— from West’s “Bound 2″

“She asked me what I wished for on my wish list…Have you ever asked your bitch for other bitches?”

Hmmm. Maybe it’s not so unethical ending a Kanye West show early after all.

44 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Kanye West

  1. I sincerely hope that the fools that go to his shows quit buying tickets and his income drops precipitously. Maybe he won’t be able to buy fancy pimp outfits anymore.

  2. It is widely believed that he has serious mental illness issues.

    I don’t know where to separate the unethical from the crazy, so I would just leave it be.

      • At the risk of being called “ablist” again, that’s no excuse. Want o take a guess how many performers have serious emotional or mental problems, or substance abuse issues? Like any other worker, if they accept the responsibility, they are obligated to meet it.

        • I agree … to a point. But their disease might affect whether or not they can — or think they can — accept the responsibility. It’s not like a pitcher deciding if his arm injury has healed enough to pitch tonight’s game. The pitcher’s brain still works so he can make a rational decision. Diseases of the brain are different. This doesn’t excuse Kanye’s conduct, and perhaps a refund is warranted — but I wouldn’t go as far as labeling him a “dunce.”

              • Pretty sure men are criticized via a wide spectrum of methods. The fact that feminine hygiene products enter the array of options should be pretty well meaningless…

                • Men are often criticized by suggesting they are not “manly.” So, bitch, gay, or reference to anything feminine is pretty typical.

                  • If a doctor behaved less than doctorly, would you describe him or her in non-doctorly terms or at least in terminology that distances him or her from what is expected of him or her?

                    • So, if you do something stupid, it is okay for me to call you a stupid bitch? Shouldn’t “stupid” suffice? Or if you do something mean, should I call you a douchebag? Or if you ask out a girl, and she says no, is it acceptable to call her a dyke because she rejected your advances?

                      Words are important and should be used correctly — especially when people are being critical of other people.

                      Men are especially guilty of this. One easy example, Bill Maher refers to Trump all the time as a “whiny little bitch.” If he’s such a whiner, why not call him that? Why does he need to add on a derogatory feminine word. Because if a man is whining, it makes him more female?

                    • I haven’t said it’s ok to call anyone anything. I have stated though, that if someone does choose to insult, they usually use terms descriptive of not behaving according to what someone assumes are the standards of that “position”. I’ve also stated that men use a wide range of insults towards each other. And that I find it odd for you think it is some sort of exception to the world of insults that terms related to feminine hygiene products enter the spectrum.

                      It’s almost like manufactured offense.

  3. Writer’s slang for something like this is “protagonist-oriented ethics,” where ethics either bend for the lead in the story or don’t apply to the lead in the story simply because he is the lead. This is a very inflated version of that, where a celebrity, in his rarefied bubble, has decided that ordinary ethics don’t apply to him.

    The guy’s management was probably somewhat incompetent also, since any manager worth his salt would have left off informing the performer of something like that until the show was over, then pulled him aside and told him what was going on. That said, I could name MANY performers who have gone the other way and set a lot better examples -though mostly from the classical crossover genre, which is where I mostly go to shows, etc. Tenor John McDermott fought his way through a concert for vets with a 102 fever, though he was not a happy camper. Celtic Woman fiddler Mairead Nesbitt tore her calf muscle during the first half of a show, and still finished the show though she couldn’t bounce around the stage like she usually does and was in terrible pain. The big prize goes to mezzo Katherine Jenkins, though, who not only did a complete show in NY despite having spent the night before puking her guts out due to food poisoning, but who was in fact fired upon while landing in Iraq to perform for UK soldiers there, and still went through with the performance.

    I can’t imagine sinking $9M into jewelry, heck, I can’t imagine owning something a fraction of the cost, like a $10K Rolex watch. If I did, though, you can bet your last dollar I wouldn’t risk losing it by taking it on a vacation abroad where it might get lost or taken. Spectacularly irresponsible.

  4. I’d stick with your tried and true Ethics Corruptor. Kanye’s accusations against Bush contributed to the racial divide in this country with blacks believing that any setback that afflicts them is the result of malice due to skin color, his poor performance ethics (and the fans who continue to support him anyway) encourage other artists to do the same things and his repeated disrespect for others tends to get the That’s Our Kanye treatment as opposed to the ostracism it deserves. People like him influence the culture for the worse.

  5. There are a few things going on here, but I think the main thing we should be looking at in this post is Kanye in mid-performance.

    We don’t know what was said to Kanye in that moment. One account stated that Kanye was ignoring “the messenger” and shooing him away at first. The real ethics dunce here is “the messenger”. They should have looked at the clock and decided if there was anything that Kanye could have done for the situation. Realizing he was time-zones away, they shouldn’t have interrupted the show. They certainly shouldn’t have interrupted him with incomplete information and if they did have complete information, obviously this is the kind of stuff that was less than tragic and could have waited another 30-60 minutes.

    But once that messenger interrupted the show and said god-knows-what to Kanye to put him into a panic about his family – well, the performer was done for. The interruption gave him an opportunity to consider his priorities and he put family first. A good messenger wouldn’t put the performer in that position and would give him deniability.

    Regardless, I’m with you on your post and this isn’t a grain of sand that I’m willing to die over.

    • I think your comments add good points to the discussion, and I think the ‘messenger’ acted inappropriately. However, the fact that West started the show late is another factor demonstrating that he is a narcissistic unethical jerk. I never understand why performers think that only their times are important. Happily, there are many artists who respect their craft.

      For instance, my favorite band, Rush, is known for putting on 3-hour shows, not including an intermission. They were clockwork angels: if the show was supposed to start at 7:30, they started at as close to 7:30 as possible (barring some unforeseen difficulty), and they played their entire two-set shows, along with videos, short clips, and other things. Consummate professionals they were. Bruce Springsteen is another example. I am given to understand that Lady Gaga, for all of her foibles, is a professional, too. West could learn a thing or two about ethical responsibility and honoring his contractual agreements to his fans, promotes, venues, crew, etc.


      • The best concert I ever attended was in February 2010. Billy Joel and Elton John, Face-to-Face. They canceled the rest of the tour after that night, so looking back, I think they gave it their “all” that night. I don’t think I would ever expect that from Kanye. You get what you pay for, and if you pay for Kanye, you get…well….Kanye.

    • Good point. It’s the equivalent of telling Bill Clinton that a busload of Girl Scouts just stopped nearby for vanilla ice cream cones during one of his $500,000 speeches, with the same predictable effect.

  6. Do the Kardashians really own much of anything? Don’t they use things on their shows and in front of the paparazzi that are loaned to them by the manufacturers in return for payment for making the manufacturers’ things visible? I assume the jewelry was on loan during the Paris fashion week and must have been insured. The stuff wasn’t placed in a safe?

    The whole thing sounds like some sort of insurance scam to me. Wouldn’t the Paris police want her around for a while to get all the relevant facts straight before she left the jurisdiction, never mind the country and the hemisphere? Can those two really afford to spend ten million on jewelry? Of course, I’ve never been able to come to terms with the designation “reality star.” Makes my head hurt thinking about what that really means.

    And she’s only 5’3″!

  7. The real story here is that a criminal had access to a handgun in France, in Europe. I thought Progressive Liberal cities in Progressive Liberal countries, on Progressive Liberal Continents had the best Progressive Liberal Gun Control Laws?

    • GREAT point, Tim. I’m surprised Francois Hollande is not calling for stricter gun laws in France and the EU as we speak.

  8. I’m sure the reason she had nine million dollars worth of jewelry on her is that said jewelry did, in fact, belong to Kim God Damn Kardashian, and that alone makes it priceless.

    At least, I’m sure that’s what she told the police.

    Actual value: $128.72.


  9. “Why would she travel with $9 million in jewelry?”

    Flag on the play! That comment, no matter how reasonable and correct, is Victim Blaming and therefore not allowed by the overlords.

    To paraphrase the feminist refrain: “Don’t teach women not to wear $9 million worth of jewelry. Teach men not to steal $9 million in jewelry!”

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