Canceling Cancel Culture
The Left’s strategy in its political war is to win the culture war — by belittling opposing viewpoints and personages to the point of removing economic opportunity, displacing them.
By Selwyn Duke
In 212 B.C., 460 scholars were “canceled,” permanently, when Emperor Qin Shi Huang had them buried alive for owning forbidden books. The Qin, who’d united China, made the argument, “We don’t want to hear people criticize the present by referring to the past,” Harvard University Chinese history professor Peter Bol told the BBC in 2012. “The past is irrelevant. History is irrelevant. And so you have the burning of books, you have the burying of scholars, of scholarly critics.”
When the renders and “reimaginers” of civilization today bury people and the past, figuratively, it’s the reputational and career destruction known as “cancel culture.” Ah, that’s a trendy term, it is, and people unmoored from tradition love trendy terms. Whatever you call it, however, the process is obviously nothing new. And though perhaps Bol is correct in saying that we “wouldn’t have a China without Qin Shi Huang” — and, maybe then, also no Mao Tse-tung — we’d still have cancel culture without Qin, China, or Mao.
For its practice reflects a truth: You can’t reprogram a computer so it performs as you wish without first eliminating conflicting programs. Likewise, to really change the hearts and minds of man, you must change his foundational beliefs. As Orwell said, he “who controls the past controls the future.” And our cancel cultists control the present well enough so that they’re delivering a Year Zero — a remaking of our culture — by a thousand cuts.
There were earlier victims of what could be called American cancel culture. There was the old Amos ‘n’ Andy TV show, canceled in 1953 under pressure from the NAACP, which claimed it stereotyped blacks (never mind that it portrayed a well-functioning black world in Harlem). There was economist Larry Summers being compelled to resign the presidency of Harvard University in 2006 after being pilloried for expressing a scientific finding: that women are relatively rare in elite science and engineering positions because most of the highly gifted in these fields, and most people with genius-level IQs, are male. And tech innovator Brendan Eich was forced to resign as CEO of Mozilla Corporation (which he co-founded) in 2014 because, six years earlier, he’d donated $1,000 to California’s pro-marriage measure, Proposition 8. The Left never forgets — or forgives.
But now, with the Left cementing its cultural hegemony, this phenomenon has kicked into high gear. The occasional salvo against sanity has become an unending barrage of culture-consuming locusts that leave devastation in their wake.
This more recent attack began with the soft targets that are Confederate monuments, with even famed Virginian Stonewall Jackson unable to stand up to the onslaught. Some of this was effected by government decree and much of it by rampaging mobs enabled by the impotence, if not the imprimatur, of local officials. Meanwhile, a statue of crack-using felon and ex-Washington, D.C., mayor Marion Barry was unveiled in his city in 2018.
Statues of Christopher Columbus were targeted as well, with one being thrown into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on July 4. His holiday has also been canceled in many municipalities; taking its place is “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” Never mind that Columbus practically divided history, discovering a world the West didn’t know existed and ushering in a perhaps unprecedented exchange of plants, animals, foods, ideas, technology, and people (and, yes, diseases) called “the Columbian Exchange.”
This means the Founders couldn’t have birthed the United States without a Columbus, but this would apparently suit the cancel cultists just fine. Statues of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln — whose birthdays long ago were rolled into “President’s Day” (while Martin Luther King, Jr. has a dedicated holiday) — were toppled in Portland last year, along with one of Theodore Roosevelt. Names of lesser historical figures with slavery ties or who’ve been accused of “racism” (such as physician Samuel Bard of Bard Hall at Columbia University) have been removed from buildings. Strikingly, even abolitionists (!) such as Civil War hero Colonel Hans Christian Heg (Madison, Wis.) and Matthias Baldwin (Philadelphia, Pa.) have had their statues felled. Meanwhile, the legacy of Islam’s Mohammed, not just a slave owner and trader but also a caravan raider, mass murderer, and employer of torture, remains unquestioned (among other things, the cancel cultists like their heads right where they are, though I can’t imagine why).
Not Very Entertaining
Entertainers have also found themselves typecast as anathema. Legendary singer Kate Smith’s version of “God Bless America” was nixed by sports teams the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Flyers, the latter of which also removed her statue from in front of its stadium, because she performed “racially insensitive songs” 90 years ago. Never mind that the Yankees themselves should be canceled first, since they “denied qualified black baseball players the right to make a good living for more than half a century,” as the Federalist’s David Marcus put it in 2019. The “Star Spangled Banner” has been targeted, too, with the Los Angeles Times last year explicitly advocating its cancelation as our national anthem; leftists have called the song “elitist, sexist, and racist.” Yet rapper Cardi B’s quite, uh, let’s say, libertine “song” WAP — which she recently performed at the 2021 Grammy Awards while doing mock lesbian acts — is culture. You’re definitely a prude if you criticize it, too, and probably a racist. Oh, I won’t explicitly explain what “WAP” stands for because this is a family magazine. But the first word is “Wet,” the second is the a-word meaning “derrière,” and the last is the p-word that can describe a feline. Kids listen to it, do note. But, hey, just keep them away from Dean Martin’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which also is in disfavor because it supposedly reflects “rape culture.”
Then there’s the Duke (no, not me, I was born canceled). John Wayne might have often played a man of few words on screen, but some he uttered in a 1971 Playboy interview expressing opinions that were later slammed as “racist” and “homophobic” have sparked a movement to remove his name from Orange County, California’s airport. Of course, saying “A black man should be killed if he’s messing with a white woman” is pretty extreme. Only, Wayne didn’t say that. Boxing legend Muhammad Ali did — as a 30-something man in a 1975 Playboy interview.
Oh, authorities just named Louisville, Kentucky’s airport after Ali in 2019.
Wearing blackface is reprehensible, right? Maybe. NBC canceled media personality Megyn Kelly’s Today show in 2018 simply because she questioned whether darkening your skin as part of a Halloween costume is wrong. Yet Governor Ralph Northam (D-Va.) refused to resign after it emerged in 2019 that he’d years before actually worn blackface and/or a KKK outfit; the same year we learned that liberal Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had worn blackface on multiple occasions. Both men got a pass. But they have the “right” politics: Northam expressed support for what could be called “post-birth abortion,” and Trudeau has vowed to raise “feminist sons” (a.k.a. tomorrow’s sexual harassers).
Then there’s ex-Hardball host Chris Matthews, of Obama “thrill up my leg” fame. He’s “ex” because his show was canceled early last year after he used a WWII analogy involving the fall of France in reference to Senator Bernie Sanders’ Nevada caucus victory. He also, it then emerged, was just too darn complimentary of female co-workers’ looks. But the real reason he was purged, wrote the New York Post’s Kyle Smith in 2020, was that he represented “the non-crazy, ‘No Kool-Aid for me, thanks’ Left on television, while being entertaining and pointed and wacky.” He also suffered from oldwhitemaleism. But that’s been cured: His MSNBC slot was filled with Joy Reid, who’s sufficiently female, copiously “melanated,” and just an all-around Kool-Aid cat.
Book ’Em, Dano
They used to call it book burning, at least figuratively; now it’s called eliminating Hate™. Perhaps not a week after famed children’s book author Dr. Seuss was accused of having drawn “racist and insensitive imagery,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced, on March 2, that six of his books would be canceled. This includes his work If I Ran the Zoo. Yet the inmates do run the asylum. After all, highly acclaimed now is author Ibram Kendi’s new children’s book Antiracist Baby, which, as the Federalist’s Katie Miller put it last year, “teaches even babies to hate white people.”
Then, if you’re confused and hate the sex you were born, don’t look for help from scholar Ryan Anderson’s 2018 book When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment — at least not on Amazon. Because Jeff Bezos’s behemoth bookseller has transitioned the work from available to “doesn’t exist.” Anderson is far from Amazon’s first victim, too, as the company has been banning books at least since 2017. For example, Amazon initially told ex-New York Times reporter Alex Berenson that his coronavirus booklet, Unreported Truths About COVID-19 and Lockdowns: Part 1, didn’t meet company guidelines. The online retailer only relented after other high-profile journalists and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk rallied to Berenson’s side. His work then became the No. 1 best-seller in Amazon’s Kindle Store.
Note here that Amazon quietly altered its book policy during the last year to make it prohibitive of “hate speech” and “offensive content” (as defined by desert mystic techies). Yet this is enforced selectively. As author Christina Sommers pointed out in a February 21 tweet, “One can [still] buy Valerie Solanas’ SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto, Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto, and Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf on @amazon @amazon books.”
What’s more, Big Tech is now censoring even nonpolitical businesses and nonprofits, reported the Federalist’s Phillip Stutts March 4. One example is the book The Lifestyle Investor: The 10 Commandments of Cash Flow Investing for Passive Income and Financial Freedom, by author Justin Donald. While it ended up number one on the Wall Street Journal best-seller list, it “almost didn’t happen,” writes Stutts, because as “Justin was planning to launch his book, he needed to get it loaded onto Amazon’s platform for sale. Amazon refused.” Why? Donald “had dared to describe (in his book) how he invested and made money during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Stutts explained. Amazon “said Justin was not a medical professional, so he wasn’t allowed to even use the following words in his book: ‘pandemic,’ ‘COVID,’ ‘COVID-19,’ and ‘coronavirus.’ I’m not making this up.” Striking.
This matters because Amazon isn’t “just another bookseller.” The company represented roughly 50 percent of major-publisher print book sales as of 2017 and 83.3 percent of e-book sales, and these numbers are surely higher now. And if conservative books won’t be distributed via major platforms, publishing houses won’t publish them in the first place.
Big Tech censorship really is nothing new. It was occurring even before I wrote my May 10, 2016 piece “Facebook Fraud: Ex-workers Admit They Censored Conservative News.” A month later, the online U.S. News & World Report published “The New Censorship,” in which it called Google “the world’s biggest censor.” “The company maintains at least nine different blacklists,” the site wrote, and is an Internet “master manipulator, blocking access to millions of websites.”
Yet as will happen as entities grow closer to obtaining absolute power, the mask dropped in 2018 as a new term entered the popular lexicon: deplatform. Describing the overt removal of an individual from social-media platforms, this fate was visited on colorful commentator Milo Yiannopoulos even before the term’s origination (he was banned from Twitter in 2016). But “iconoclastic” InfoWars proprietor Alex Jones was the real canary in the coal mine. He was “disappeared” in 2018 by the Who’s Who of Big Tech influence: Apple’s iTunes, Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, Mailchimp, radio broadcaster Stitcher, Pinterest, and Twitter. Later on, PayPal payment processing company also nixed InfoWars.
There were other examples, too, including liberal Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s removal from Instagram in early February for questioning COVID-19 vaccines’ safety. But the big move was when the tech world came out in force against arguably the world’s then-most powerful man: President Donald Trump. Using the January 6 Capitol event as a pretext and in its wake, more than a dozen companies ranging from Twitter to PayPal placed “unprecedented restrictions [on] or outright banned” Trump “from using their services, and in some cases, [they banned] some of his associates and supporters as well,” wrote TechCrunch.com at the time. Trump’s Twitter ban is permanent, mind you.
Oddly timely (God works in mysterious ways?), on March 17, the day before this essay’s deadline, Twitter suspended my account for the first time ever. Honestly, I’m surprised it took so long. What finally attracted the Twitter twits’ attention wasn’t that I’d called them Twitter twits on their platform for years, but a tweet I’d sent that day to the aforementioned Cardi B. After she cited Melania Trump’s past actions as a justification for her WAP Grammy performance and asked why commentator Candace Owens was taking issue with her, I responded, “Maybe because you’re acting like a greedy slut who’s corrupting the young? Just a thought. Here’s a pro tip: You don’t justify bad behavior by citing other bad behavior. Children do that.”
Comically, Twitter explained my trespass thus, “You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.” Now, first note that I never called the esteemed performer a “greedy slut,” but said she was acting like one. But I’m stumped: Into which of the categories does “slut” fall? Does being a slut result from a disability or disease? Is there a sluterovirus? Help me out here.
Oh, for the record, I will never, ever delete the tweet as per Twitter’s demand.
Note here that while this is happening, there have been “no such efforts to crack down on any of the Twitter accounts of Democrats such as Senator Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Representative Maxine Waters, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or ex-NFL player Colin Kaepernick, all of whom applauded and encouraged the Antifa/BLM violence last summer,” wrote The New American’s Raven Clabough January 21. “So-called ‘comedian’ Kathy Griffin tweeted out a photo of herself holding a decapitated head intended to look like that of President Trump. She is still on Twitter.” Moreover, “Ayatollah Ali Khamanei of Iran continues to enjoy virtually unfettered access to the media giant, despite his account’s frequent anti-Semitic, anti-Israel tweets and Iran’s ban against Twitter for ordinary citizens,” Clabough continued.
Know, too, that Big Tech is also sometimes used as a vehicle through which to transmit child porn (and Cardi B). But, hey, don’t think for a moment any of this is political.
Cartoons and Leftist Loons
Along with Dr. Seuss’ drawings, a number of quite-famous cartoon characters have of late found themselves sans careers. Chronically amorous skunk Pepé Le Pew was canceled for supposedly normalizing “rape culture” (even if he didn’t sing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”). Then, “negative stereotypes” were cited when Disney+ recently “removed several movies, including ‘Dumbo,’ ‘Peter Pan,’ ‘The Aristocrats,’ and ‘Swiss Family Robinson,’ from children’s profiles,” reported NowThis news in a March 9 tweet. The Muppets’ Miss Piggy is also being highlighted for being a female Pepé and not leaving Kermit the Frog alone (never mind the interspecies lust). Incurious minds were as well going bananas over cartoon simian Curious George, whose books have “racist undertones” and are based on the “premise of a white man bringing home a monkey from Africa,” wrote The Daily Caller in March. Whether George is now destined for a research lab remains to be seen.
Will we all be keeping up with the Joneses? InfoWars proprietor Alex Jones was deplatformed in 2018. Since then, the cancel cultists are becoming ever bolder as Big Tech seeks to silence opposition. (Photo credit: AP Images)
Before concluding the cancel culture examples, a dishonorable mention goes to Dictionary.com. Sometime between November 1 and December 1, the site canceled the true definition of “court packing.” While it had previously defined the term as what it is — increasing the number of justices on a court so as to “pack” it with co-ideologists — it changed its first definition to include the process of simply filling vacant seats with co-ideologists. Of course, this is what both major parties do routinely, which means that any time judicial seats are filled now it will be “court packing” (talk about rendering a term meaningless). Note that Dictionary.com made this change after only a few weeks of Democrat/Big Media propaganda that involved this new conception of court packing and was an effort to scuttle Trump’s attempt to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat. Just as preposterously, the site recently announced that it “will no longer include the word ‘slave’ as a noun identifying a person,” wrote yahoo!life March 11, because it’s “dehumanizing.” Never mind that slaves still exist in Africa and elsewhere and, essentially, in China.
Speaking of which, note here that the worst of the cancel-cultist, value-signaling companies generally pander to China’s tyrannical regime, which uses slave labor, murders dissidents and harvests their organs, currently has a million people in concentration camps (the Uighurs), and is accused of genocide. So it’s not just that these companies’ “virtue” isn’t actually virtue — it’s that it isn’t even sincere.
Unpopular but Unstoppable?
Cancel cultist faux virtue also isn’t popular. Yet this raises a question: How is it that virtually every “cancellation” is successful despite its unpopularity? The answer is that just as 10,000 armed and organized men can control 50 million disorganized, atomized people, so can a powerful cultural oligarchy control a nation’s social sphere. Such an oligarchy is what we have, too, with leftist ideologues controlling the mainstream media, academia, entertainment, most of big business, and GoogTwitFace. What’s a possible solution?
“Know thy enemy,” counseled ancient Chinese philosopher and general Sun Tzu. When combating a threat we must ask: What is its nature? What is, in this case, “cancel culture”?
Cancel culture is extreme social pressure exercised in the enforcement of a social code via scorn and ostracism. Yet this doesn’t make it unique. Every time and place has had its social codes which, when violated, brought consequences. For example, being exposed as communist didn’t do you much good in 1950s America, and ancient Greek philosopher Socrates was executed for, the charges went, “corrupting the young” and “mocking the gods” (it wasn’t just Christians who had “heresy” laws). What makes cancel culture unique is what it enforces: not Truth but lies, what we today call leftist ideology.
So the problem isn’t having a social code that can end careers. We’ll always have such because, as a writer once put it, stigmas are the corollaries of values; when we value certain things, such as honesty or diligence or kindness (or “equity”), it follows that their opposites will be devalued. And since we’ll always have values, we’ll always have stigmas. In other words, simply trying to eliminate social stigmas per se is fruitless.
What would work? “To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete,” counseled famed architect R. Buckminster Fuller. So we need to erect a different social-code model. But ours shouldn’t be built around anything new, or anything “old,” but something eternal. That is, our “values” must be virtues — those “good moral habits.” Just as only power negates power, only actual virtue can supplant faux virtue. Only when people have something better than political correctness to animate them, only when there’s a revolution of hearts and minds, can there be a revolution against our cultural oligarchy.
This starts with authentic education, but doesn’t end there. For with virtue, it’s not enough to know it; we must with example and stigmas show it. This means that while we should learn what the virtues are (charity, diligence, courage, chastity, prudence, etc.) and model them, something more is necessary: enforcing them with our own “cancel culture,” with an iron will and, sometimes, razor-like tongue.
In other words, conservatives are often good with logical, intellectual appeals, but they fall short on what really moves people: the emotional content that can inspire — and intimidate.
We must stigmatize the stigmatizers. To this end, Civis Americanus (a pen name — because he fears cancel culture!) suggested at American Thinker March 18 that we try to make “canceler” a pejorative just as “racist” is, and avoid hiring or doing business with people thus labeled.
Also writing at American Thinker, editor-in-chief Thomas Lifson wrote March 19 that conservatives “need to learn from our foes when it comes to forcing the major institutions of our society away from the Left’s agendas, back toward sanity.” He presents the example of how activists compelled Tufts University to finally expel from its campus its Confucius Institute, a Beijing propaganda organ. Not only were the activists relentless, but they also took a leaf from the leftists’ book: They protested outside the university president’s home.
Lifson used to find such tactics unpalatable. “But face reality,” he wrote, “the left has grabbed institutional dominance in 21st century America by a combination of infiltration and intimidation. These tactics work. And if only one side uses them, then only one side will predominate and shape the future.” Note that this Tufts tactic accords with the last part of socialist Saul Alinsky’s rule 13 from his infamous book Rules for Radicals. To wit: “Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.”
Whether or not you can stomach this (and we must condemn, not replicate, any leftist tactic based on the false premise that “the ends justify the means”), conservatives for sure must stop being so, well, conservative — as in defensive. That is to say, leftists are virtually always wrong but behave as if they’re right, with faux righteous anger; conservatives are often right but behave as if they’re wrong. Part of this, of course, is that they don’t enjoy institutional support. Yet another part is timidity.
Here’s an example: Sexual devolutionaries don’t shrink from demonizing those opposing the Made-up-Sexual-Status (MUSS, or “transgender”) agenda as bigots or worse. In response, conservatives make their rational arguments, which is fine, but they must do more. Be clear: Say, “This agenda hurts kids. It’s child abuse — and if you support it you’re a bad person.” Be passionate, resolute and, when necessary, condemnatory. This isn’t debate club or a theology class. It’s culture war! Act like it! To paraphrase writer and ex-ambassador Alan Keyes, Ph.D., “Social pressure is history’s most effective method for controlling human behavior.”
As for “new models,” there is one we can build that would be truly new. Word is that President Trump will be launching his own social-media site. As commentator Andrea Widburg pointed out March 22, however, to avoid having it canceled, he (or someone else) also “needs to create a communication, finance, and platform empire.” She mentions that this should include freedom-and-Truth-oriented versions of an encrypted e-mail service; a credit-card company; a bookseller; a GoFundMe-like fundraising site; a stripe payment processor; a bank; an Internet server; and an entertainment business that could create movies, TV shows, and magazines. This idea for birthing a “parallel society” and economic realm isn’t new, but it’s more necessary than ever. Though the Left would surely try to scuttle these efforts, too, it’s harder canceling people who live in their own economic country. Call it economic secession.
In this vein, there’s something else tangible we can do. Cancel culture is effective partially because it can destroy livelihoods. To mitigate this fear, conservatives need to provide moral and financial support to those of moderate means who are targeted; this was done with Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, in 2015 after it was shut down via sexual devolutionary threats — a crowd-funding campaign raised $842,000 for the business. To this end, traditionalists could create a quick-response organization that would provide material aid to any American suffering cancel-cultist-caused economic damage. If this organization had one million citizen members — precious few in a nation of 328 million — each pledging to donate a mere $1 to any targeted individual, that’s $1,000,000. And it would send a message: “You can try to ‘hurt’ Americans who disagree with you. But your actions will only result in the object of your hatred becoming rich.” This could help empower Truth-speaking dissenters.
As for an even more immediate remedy, remember how I likened our cultural oligarchy to 10,000 armed and organized men? Well, only organization can trump organization. And one organization doing great work countering the establishment is The John Birch Society, the entity of which The New American is the official magazine. With chapters in all 50 states, it’s “giving patriots a fighting chance,” wrote TNA’s C. Mitchell Shaw in “The Great Awakening” March 8, 2021. “It has been successfully warding off globalist advances for decades,” he continued. “Consider just the past 10 years. The JBS has played a leading role by bogging down Deep State initiatives to rewrite our Constitution, nationalize our local police, build a North American Union, and establish a UN-led one-world government.”
Moreover, in “Are you Awakened — or Woke?” April 5, 2021, TNA’s William F. Jasper reported that the JBS’ membership ranks have been swelling lately as many Americans are waking up to our real existential threat: a burgeoning Big Brother government that’s stripping away rights and promoting creeping totalitarianism and (though it’s under-emphasized) the moral decay that forges such fetters.
Speaking of which, the remedy for moral decay is moralization; to this end, stand up for Truth. Never apologize for speaking it, especially since it won’t save you, anyway (cancel cultists don’t take prisoners, but scalps). Be courageous, not conciliatory. Remember that political correctness, now “wokeness,” is the “suppression of Truth for the purposes of advancing a left-wing agenda.” Its goal is to get you to lie. And if its orchestrators can turn us into liars, we’ll have lost far more than a career.
The New American publishes a print magazine twice a month, covering issues such as politics, money, foreign policy, environment, culture, and technology.
Published with Permission of thenewamerican.com