There are quite a few plausible theories for why Kanye West tweeted “BILL COSBY INNOCENT !!!!!!!!!!” last night. One might be that during a late night in the studio working on an album scheduled to be released in less than 48 hours, he decided to procrastinate and grab some publicity by tweeting out the most trollish thing possible (closely preceded and followed by more banal missives about sneakers and Michael Jordan). Another might be that he’d seen the news that a judge had dismissed Janice Dickinson’s defamation suit against Cosby’s ex-lawyer and mistook that small victory for the Cosby camp for a larger one. Or maybe he wanted to remind people of America’s innocent-till-proven-guilty paradigm, as if the entirety of the Cosby conversation in the past two years hasn’t already engaged directly with it. Or maybe he really believes Cosby is innocent, despite, as Sarah Silverman put it, the testimony of around 50 women with nothing to gain due to the statute of limitations on rape.
In any case, what a nice moment to think about the difference between art, artist, and audience.
Kanye fans don’t need to defend Kanye West on this. Everyone has their right to an opinion, and it’s worth remembering that the suspicion that Cosby’s being framed may stem from the true and painful history of black men unfairly convicted in courts of law and public. But the evidence is so overwhelming in this particular situation that it seems straightforwardly irresponsible to proclaim Cosby’s innocence in ALL CAPS and with 10 exclamation points to 18.5 million followers with no further explanation. Doing so means calling a lot of women liars. It means attempting to further shift the benefit of the doubt in the wrong direction in a society where sexual assault and rape is a widespread and documented problem.