The ‘cancel’ crew will come for you someday soon
A moral panic is sweeping the nation. How we react to the pitchfork hordes will determine the fate of our country for a generation or longer.
We call what the hordes do to our fellow citizens “cancel culture,” but the term is far too cute to capture the cruel, mindless and life-destroying process taking place all around us in the name of “fighting racism.”
The tendency has been with us for some time, but the current, extra-crazed moment has accelerated its malignant energies: Locked in for months due to COVID-19, we re-emerged into a society more enraged and at war with itself than ever before.
Then the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis took the ideological madness to the next level. The great majority of Americans agreed that Floyd’s death was horrific and that the police officers responsible for it must be held to account. But that sane consensus wasn’t enough, as far as the cancel left was concerned: Enemies had to be found and eradicated.
And if there weren’t enough racist enemies, then more of them had to be invented.
Prominent conservatives, as I have pointed out in these pages, can rarely be canceled. A Sen. Tom Cotton might express an opinion deemed utterly verboten, but the left can’t drum him out of public life or destroy him.
But all other Americans — including those with small or nonexistent public profiles — are vulnerable. It’s a chilling development: We can’t cancel a Cotton or a Ben Shapiro, so let’s cancel citizens who might dare to share similar opinions.
That’s what was attempted with Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy. Gundy wore a T-shirt featuring the logo of TV station called One America News. OAN has a variety of personalities presenting a variety of opinions, generally right of center.
When the swarm came after Gundy, he folded, saying he was sorry for the “pain and discomfort” he had caused.
No one pointed to any particular opinion promoted by an OAN host that was beyond the bounds of discourse. We can’t shut down OAN, so let’s go after its viewers.
Being an unknown private citizen won’t save you. In one of the strangest pieces in the history of journalism, The Washington Post outed a left-leaning woman, who isn’t a public figure, for attending a Halloween party two years ago in black face. That she was making fun of Megyn Kelly (who had been accused of making light of minstrelsy) didn’t save this woman from ritual shaming in a major newspaper; her employer summarily fired her.
The sheer viciousness of ruining a private citizen apparently escaped the Post’s writers and editors. In fact, there is a good chance they saw themselves rendering a public service.
You don’t even have to have committed the offense to be fired. LA Galaxy midfielder Aleksandar Katai was released from his contract over his wife’s social-media posts. Somehow in America in 2020, if the actions of one spouse reflect poorly on the other, he can lose his job.
In Atlanta, the stepmother of one of the cops involved in the shooting of Rayshard Brooks was fired from her human-resources job, by her account simply because of her family link to the officer. Communist regimes the world over similarly punish guilt by family association.
To fight this moral panic, ordinary people will have to be brave, and we all need to show solidarity: People will have to stand up for their friends when they’re in danger of being swarmed, companies will have to stand up for their employees and the rest of us will have to speak out for all of them.
It’s a tough ask in a still-shaky economy and with a deadly virus still menacing the elderly and infirm. It’s easier to bend the knee than to withstand the slings and arrows that inevitably attend refusing to do so. But it’s something we must do to return to sanity and be a cohesive country again. Courage is not just helping others — it’s helping yourself, too: Are you sure the mobs won’t come for you?
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