Rapper B.o.B. has been spouting conspiracy theories for awhile now, both on Twitter and in his mixtapes. When the internet caught wind of it and then snowballed it, it predictably became the week's viral music news hit. It had everything you could want: embeddable tweets, meme fodder, clickable headlines, a rap beef with a celebrity astrophysicist and his terrible MC nephew, even a Drake reference.
A washed up pop rapper suddenly rhyming about how the earth is flat and we've all been brainwashed? Why not post it? It's all in good fun, right?
And then he endorsed a Holocaust denier.
"Do your research on David Irving," B.o.B. raps in his Neil DeGrasse Tyson diss track, "Flatline." "Stalin was way worse than Hitler/ That's why the POTUS gotta wear a Kipper [kippah]"
(The song has since been taken down from SoundCloud, so here's the response track.)
Okay, this was a red flag. Flat earth truthism is one thing, but once we get into anti-Semitism maybe this isn't the DJ Khaled lost at sea-style quick hit lolz post we thought it was. For some sites, it was a chance to take a step back and realize we're all laughing at a guy with some pretty obvious mental health issues, and then take another step back and realize the theories we're laughing at are actually pretty dangerous. But not The Fader. They had an editorial meeting and said "let's just call up the Holocaust denier."
In a news post titled "Holocaust Denier Endorsed By B.o.B. Says He 'Will Now Take A Greater Interest In American Rap'," writer Myles Tanzer quotes at length from a phone interview with David Irving, the disgraced racist historian B.o.B. references, a man who distorted historical evidence to paint Adolph Hitler in a positive light (he believed the two of them had a mystical connection) and downplayed the systematic genocide of six million Jews. This is the source The Fader called for a news post about a B.o.B. song. The rapper who did "Airplanes."
"Gotta hear both sides," Tanzer presumably said, employing the same journalism school logic that regularly gives a platform to Gamergaters and MRAs. Minutes later he was on the line with a known Holocaust denier.
Look, music journalism can have real culture-shifting merit and The Fader often has some of the best cultural criticism out there. And I know the game is the game. We're all chasing the same pageview. But let's not pretend this is Watergate. It's a dumb story about a rapper who's lost his grip.
Even without getting into the way celebrity-obsessed online media handles actors and musicians with mental illness, treating them as trainwrecks one day and tragedies the next, sometimes it's worth taking moment to process before adding your take while the bit.ly links are still hot. Because otherwise, next thing you know, there's an intern calling an aviation mechanic to see if jet fuel really melts steel beams. We don't need it.
Jet Fuel Does Not Melt Steel Beams
— B.o.B (@bobatl) September 11, 2015