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The 4 Things People Hate About Cancel Culture
Cancel culture is a warped form of authoritarianism masquerading as politeness.
The Left in America (and much less frequently, the Right) likes to take advantage of America’s cultural customs. For example, for obvious reasons, it’s generally considered to be out of bounds to savagely criticize a child. So, the Left loves to make children like Greta Thunberg into political spokesmen who aren’t supposed to have anyone fire back at them, no matter how ludicrous their comments are. Remember Cindy Sheehan? You’re certainly not supposed to criticize a grieving mother who lost a child in a war. So, what happens when that grieving mother becomes the spokesman for one side of a controversial political debate? What happens when she lies? What happens when she smears people? It’s “how can anyone be so low as to criticize someone who lost a child in a war.” It’s a hustle. It’s a scam. It happens all the time in politics.
Although most of the liberals engaging in this tactic probably don’t realize it, the genesis of this concept comes from Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. It’s his 4th rule:
4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules.
On the upside, Americans usually do figure out how this game is being played, but it often takes far too long. We’ve certainly seen that with “cancel culture,” which is another variation on this theme.
In America, we have long believed that everyone has a right to free speech, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be consequences for using that free speech. Traditionally, this has equated to things like, “Yes, you can call your boss a jackass, but he may fire you for it,” or “You can join NAMBLA, but most people are going to find it gross and you’re certainly not getting hired to work in a daycare,” or even, “You can tell everyone at the party that they’re all losers and you hope that they go to Hell, but you’re probably not getting invited back to the next party.”
On top of that, Americans also make rudimentary efforts not to offend other people because it’s bad manners. Traditionally, the person who shows no consideration for other people’s feelings is considered to be a bad neighbor and even a bad person. You might love my writing, but if we ran into each other in the supermarket, you started telling me about your favorite column, and I responded, “F*** you, peon. I don’t care what you think,” your opinion is likely to change from, “Smart guy, good writer,” to “What a d***” in about two seconds – and that would be perfectly reasonable and justified.
None of this is profound. Americans have embraced this kind of thinking for a long time, and it hasn’t even been remotely controversial.
So why does cancel culture upset so many people? What makes it qualitatively different than the traditional American norms around these issues? Well, there are four major points that explain it.
1) First of all, like the examples listed in the first paragraph, cancel culture is a way of taking advantage of norms. Cancel culture almost always ends up being a combination of people who seem to be offended by EVERYTHING mixed in with people engaged in performative outrage for likes, clout, or other reasons trying to cancel someone. Since this is the case, it often strikes people as disingenuous and over-the-top. If you are constantly offended and triggered by things, you have a mental problem you need to discuss with a therapist. If you are abusing people to score points on social media, you’re a creep, not a genuinely offended person whose opinions deserve to be respected.
2) The punishment often seems like a bigger offense than the crime. Someone makes a bad joke or uses a poor word choice, and they should lose their job and be treated like a pariah over that? Who’s worse, the person who makes a dubiously offensive comment or thoughtless remark, or a person joining a mob of hundreds of other people heaping profane abuse on that person, catastrophizing their comments, and calling for them to be fired? If some “Karen” deserves to be destroyed because she was caught on video doing something extraordinarily obnoxious for two minutes, why doesn’t the person tweeting, “Screw you, you evil b*tch” at a person they don’t know and calling her job trying to get her fired also deserve to be destroyed? These hate mobs are not good guys. They’re not standing up for anyone. They’re just low self-esteem pr*cks venting their anger over their busted lives against some stranger.
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3) It leaves no room for growth, forgiveness, and grace. The ABSOLUTE WORST THING YOU CAN DO (make note of this my friends) when people are trying to cancel you is APOLOGIZE. Those same people will ALWAYS take your apology as evidence they were right to persecute you in the first place and ramp up the abuse. Again, this is breaking norms. If someone accidentally bumps into you in the supermarket and says, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry, excuse me,” the proper response is not, “OMG! I’ve been assaulted! Call the police! Fire him from his job! F*** you buddy! Hey, everyone get this guy!”
4) Cancel culture is really a punitive way to enforce ideological beliefs. Are people really offended OR are they actually just trying to punish people for disagreeing with them? At its heart, cancel culture is a way to intimidate people into going along with things they don’t believe are true. It’s not about “consequences” for free speech, it’s about creating a very narrow, suffocating, politically correct set of expressions and ideas that people are allowed to use or face punishment. That’s incredibly unhealthy for our country, particularly since the people driving cancel culture are usually the weakest, most pathetic, most damaged people in our society. Why would any sane group of people want the biggest group of losers among them setting their norms?
Meanwhile, Americans may not have ever quite lived up to it, but our ideal has been much closer to that famous quote often attributed to Voltaire:
So, what can we do about this? How do we stop cancel culture?
Well, first and foremost, we need to understand the fundamental truth about cancel culture. It’s a Potemkin Village, a counterfeit bill, a chihuahua barking as loud as it can and pretending it wants to get off the leash so it can maul a pit bull. In most cases, do you want to know what the penalty is for refusing to knuckle under to cancel culture?
It’s a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.
Sure, they can whip up a Twitter mob, full of fake and duplicate accounts. Some friendly media outlets may write some stories. If a company lets its employees run wild, there may be some attention seekers inside the company protesting, but there won’t be any damage to the bottom line because…
1) There ultimately really aren’t that many hypersensitive losers and clout chasers pretending to be offended for likes.
2) They have the attention span of 12-week-old puppies.
Besides, the woke mob is a spoiled, whining, helpless brat that only rewards compliance with more tantrums down the road. Furthermore, as often as not, canceling someone can create problems with the often much larger group of people who are ideologically opposed to the cancel culture crowd. The savvy move for a business is almost always to ignore the cancel culture crowd. Corporations can be a little slow on the uptake, but as we’ve seen with Netflix and Spotify, they are starting to figure this out.
As to individuals, because there are cowardly corporations, you may pay a price if there’s an attempt to cancel you. You could also face doxing or harassment, but ultimately, it’s the same advice. This is from a piece I wrote back in 2018 called, The Five Keys to Surviving Attacks from a Social Media Mob. It’s still true:
5. Nothing lasts forever.
When hundreds of comments from hate-filled strangers are pouring in, time seems to slow down. Punctuate that with a few death threats and it seems like the attacks are going to last forever. Happily, they don’t. Today these troglodytes are outraged at you, coming up with dumb insults, and then getting all 30 of their fake accounts to like their comment. Tomorrow they will be pissed off at someone else. In a week, most of them will have forgotten your name, and whatever you said that made them react like you just nuked Finland. They may hang in a bit longer if whatever set them off stays in the news or they think they have a chance to get you fired, but these are short attention span failures who love to find something new to be upset about. If it bugs you, just log off for a while and go do something more productive than social media, aka almost everything.
Don’t apologize, don’t reason with them, don’t take it personally, just accept that it happened and move on.
In other words, there is a solution to this. It’s one the great C.S. Lewis pointed out long ago:
Do you believe in freedom of speech? Do you believe in tolerance? Do you believe in standing up for what’s right? When enough people and corporations answer “yes” to those questions, cancel culture will fade away in short order.