The casual observer could be forgiven for assuming that, even as ten thousand illegal immigrants amassed under a Texas bridge and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs stood credibly accused of treason, one of the most significant news stories last month concerned something Nicki Minaj said on Twitter.
For revealing that she declined to attend the Met Gala because organizers had implemented a Covid vaccine mandate, the rapper and social media raconteur was the subject of late-night roasts, internet memes, and tabloid puns. And that was all to be expected — a professional hazard of being an internationally famous pop star. Less axiomatic was the focus ostensibly serious journalists and government officials turned her way.
Suddenly, the most august publications in the U.S. were talking about Nicki. Pundit panels on cable news shows were talking about Nicki. Heads of state across the Western world were talking about Nicki.
It was an awful lot of high-minded chatter for a woman whose red-carpet accessories have included a fried-chicken necklace and a pope impersonator.
The Media Vs. Minaj
Looking at their reactions in detail, it’s hard to reconcile the alarmist tone with what Minaj actually said — both the silly (that after getting the vax, her cousin’s friend experienced “cantaloupe cajones,” to quote the New York Post’s Kyle Smith) and the sage (that she would never inject a pharmaceutical just to gain access to a fancy party.)
For this, Vox devoted more than 1600 words to dissecting three of her tweets.
“[Minaj’s response] reflects a strain of distrust in public policy, health, and science experts because it presents a cautionary mindset regarding vaccines as a sort of reasonable ‘middle ground’ in the fight between science and anti-vax ideology,” the outlet fretted. A few paragraphs down, it added, “The subtext [of Minaj’s tweets] seems to be a reluctant acceptance that workers can’t always [choose] to go unvaccinated, rather than Minaj enthusiastically supporting vaccination itself.”
So, while admitting Minaj’s comments were mostly reasonable and couldn’t credibly be characterized as anti-vax, Vox still dinged her for failing to show enough enthusiasm over the vaccine. Huh.
And it was hardly the only outlet hand-wringing over the supposed irresponsibility of a singer who once got in a shoe-throwing brawl at New York Fashion Week.
The evening after Minaj’s posts, MSNBC host Joy Reid devoted a sizeable portion of her show to expressing disappointment that Minaj used her “platform” to “encourage our community to not protect themselves and save their lives.”
Again, at no point did Minaj discourage anyone from getting the vaccine. She only opined that no one should make a personal medical decision based on bullying.
For perhaps the first time in her life, the notoriously impulsive star also found herself being criticized for being overly cautious, with CNN’s Brian Stelter calling her stated intention of doing more research, “four little words that are hurting America’s pandemic response.”
“This ‘go at it alone,’ ‘doing your own research.’ It seems so innocent,” he said, “but it can have serious consequences.”
Got that? Reading up a little before blindly obeying government edicts is now harmful.
Another CNN contributor, Dr. Peggy Drexler, contrasted the truculent Minaj with a higher order of celeb, the sort who “embrace responsibility.” Her example of positive influence? That paragon of conscientiousness, Howard Stern — a man whose devotion to the common good runs so deep, earlier this month he argued, “f*** your freedom,” on behalf of vaccine mandates and urged hospitals to refuse treatment to the unvaccinated.
The list of publications discussing Minaj’s handful of off-hand comments — from The Washington Post saying it’s “extra critical” celebrities “talk about the vaccines responsibly” to The New York Times stressing the obligation of the famous to serve as vaccine ambassadors — seems endless.
But the media’s overreaction was nothing to that of various governments.
The Health Minister of Minaj’s birth country, Trinidad and Tobago, held a press conference to announce his department tried to track down the unfortunate cousin’s friend, but failed. “We take all these claims seriously,” he said. “Whether it’s on social media or mainstream media. Unfortunately, we wasted so much time yesterday running down this false claim.”
Except, who asked his office to waste that time? Not Minaj, who by that time had moved on to a new fight with the Biden administration. Was the general public outcry over this unnamed person’s testicular affliction really so great it necessitated the expense of an investigation?
Certainly, there was little reason for our erstwhile motherland to insert its nose into the business.
Across the Atlantic, at a separate coronavirus briefing in Downing Street, England’s chief medical officer barked that Minaj “should be ashamed” for sharing the swollen scrotal region anecdote. Not to be outdone, the U.K. health secretary also sternly lectured that she and other celebrities, “should be very careful with their language and certainly shouldn’t be spreading untruths.” (Which assumes, perhaps wrongly, that Minaj knew the story of the engorged gonads to be a lie).
All of which brings us home to the one government that might have made some positive, if minor use of Minaj’s off-the-cuff posts but bungled it.
In fact, the Biden team’s first instinct was an appropriate and healthy one, grounded in the American ideals of free and open debate — inviting Minaj to publicly ask questions of senior members of Biden’s healthcare team. One could easily imagine how she might have brought up issues that vaccine hesitant young music lovers have been puzzling over.
The next day, however, Nicki Summit broke down, with a White House official telling the press it had only proposed a private phone call and Minaj insisting she’d received an in-person offer.
The media immediately jumped to the mean-spirited speculation that Biden’s staff didn’t consider the 10-time Grammy nominee significant enough for a face-to-face invite, despite the fact that she has more than enough Instagram followers alone (158 million) to wipe out the nation’s vaccination deficit.
Given that this is the same administration that produced a vaccine promotion video featuring a cross-dressing TikTok influencer flouncing around the White House in dragon-lady nails, it’s a bit hard to believe concern for credibility would keep it from welcoming Nicki Minaj. More likely, there were second thoughts that the famously unpredictable artist wouldn’t stick to a script and, unlike pop starlet Olivia Rodrigo, planned on being more than a P.R. prop.
The real issue revealed in the Nicki Minaj drama is the degree to which the bureaucracy now expects every public figure to serve its aims. Consider the excessive, overwrought alarm bells the press set off because one singer declined to act as a docile cog in the propaganda machine. As Minaj herself said, it carries faint echoes of China where no one with any degree of fame or following can be allowed to express ideas or priorities out of line with the State’s agenda.
Minaj isn’t the first in her rowdy, rebellious genre to experience this. Kanye, Ice Cube, and 50 Cent discovered before her that the same media and political party claiming they want to “prioritize black voices” will silence and mock them the moment they stray off message.
If 43 percent of the black population is still wary of the vaccine, it isn’t because of dangerous narratives coming from Minaj or any other rapper. After all, nearly every major celebrity has made a show of being proudly pro-vax, including black stars like Samuel L. Jackson, Tyler Perry, John Legend, Juvenile, Lupe Fiasco, Chris Rock, and Kerry Washington, to name just a few. It’s because our institutions have proven themselves untrustworthy. It’s because our leaders on the Left have squandered public trust in the pursuit of control.
The same politicos assuring us that vaccines are effective demand we cover our faces even after we’ve had the shot. They tell us inoculation will protect us, but then ask us to rage at our neighbors who, for whatever reason, are still biding their time. All of which smacks of an agenda that goes far beyond health.
Many, like Minaj, could be persuaded. But Democrats of today (with an assist from middle-road Republicans) don’t want dialogue. They want dominance. They want a citizenry that is perpetually looking to Washington for permission to live our lives and pursue happiness.
And Minaj, vulgar and outlandish as she can at times be, represents something that authority can’t abide — a person willing to question it.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.