My obsession with “cancel culture”

Voting rights

cancel cultureI have become fairly obsessed with the notion of a so-called cancel culture. How did the term so “quickly became one of the buzziest and most controversial ideas on the internet”?

“Despite the seemingly positive intentions of many cancellations — to ‘demand greater accountability from public figures,’ as Merriam-Webster’s evaluation of the phrase notes —” Let me stop in mid-sentence here. Accountability is what we feel we want in a civilized society and don’t always receive.

Continue… “people tend to call out cancel culture itself as a negative movement, suggesting that the consequences of the cancellation are too harsh in minor instances or represent rushed judgment in complicated situations.”

That’s undoubtedly happened, especially involving things one has done in the past. I’m so glad I wasn’t on Instagram in the 1980s.

The term is of recent origin. But the notion of canceling people because they violated the conventions of the day has long existed. It’s that now, we have the technology to better facilitate it.

Often it’s been powerful organizations who’ve silenced dissenters. The church canceled Copernicus and Galileo. If it had access to Twitter, it’d have had a field day with Martin Luther. Maybe we’ll see the return of the scarlet letter.

“The kind of language that’s used to talk about groups of people assembled together—or their collective actions seeking to change the status quo—often maligns communities as irrational, ‘mobs’ or ‘rioters’ with uncontrolled, invalid emotions, a kind of faceless contagion that presents a threat to civilized, law-abiding society and the ruling establishment.”

Every social movement for changing labor laws, or giving rights to women or people of color, e.g., involved some “uppity” people making the status quo uncomfortable. Of course, there will be pushback. The difference now is that the discussion is online, so there are lots of megaphones.

A boycott is always a double-edged tool

Before Major League Baseball decided to move this year’s All-Star game out of Atlanta, Former and possible future Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams had hoped it wouldn’t happen.

“I understand the passion of those calling for boycotts of Georgia following the passage of SB 202,” the founder of the voting rights organization Fair Fight Action said. “Boycotts have been an important tool throughout our history to achieve social change.

“But here’s the thing: Black, Latino, AAPI and Native American voters, whose votes are the most suppressed under HB 202, are also the most likely to be hurt by potential boycotts of Georgia. To our friends across the country, please do not boycott us,” Abrams continued. “And to my fellow Georgians, stay and fight, stay and vote.”

But MLB commissioner Rob Manfred stated, “I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game.” Will the action help or hinder the fight against more restrictive voting laws? Will “canceling” the Peach State rescind the recently-passed law? Hey, idk.

The greater good

Remember Ralph Northam (D-VA)? He was, and is, the governor who, some years ago, was wearing blackface in a yearbook photo. He was immediately apologetic and repudiated his previous behavior. Some nevertheless called for his resignation. He survived because the next two officials in the Virginia gubernatorial succession line had problems of their own.

Northam has “signed several bills into law that aim to expand voting access, most prominently a measure that makes Virginia the first state in the country to enact a state-level voting rights act.”

It is “modeled on the federal law of the same name after the Supreme Court’s conservative majority gutted a key provision of the federal VRA in 2013. That invalidated provision had required jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination—including much of Virginia—to “preclear” any proposed changes to voting laws or procedures with the Justice Department to ensure they weren’t discriminatory.”

It would have been a shame if Northam had been forced out of office.

Conservative punditry

Ann Coulter, in a recent email alert, referred to Derek Chauvin as a Human Sacrifice. “In modern America, we periodically offer up white men as human sacrifices to the PC gods. Among our benefactions: Jake GardnerKyle RittenhouseDarren Wilson, the Duke lacrosse players,  University of Virginia fraternity members, Stacey Koon, and Mark Fuhrman.

“The rest of us just keep our heads down and pray we won’t be next.”

This is a fascinating swipe at cancel culture, conflating white cops who beat or killed black people, and a vigilante with a couple of complicated college-related cases. Chauvin, Dr. Coulter notes, should be exonerated because it absolutely was not his knee that killed George Floyd.

She concludes, “In the darkest days of Jim Crow, the entire country never ganged up on a single individual like this. Please, gods of wokeness, we ask that his human sacrifice be acceptable! Throw another virgin into the volcano.”

Virgin. Oh, give me a break. His bullying in other incidents shows a pattern of behavior unbecoming of a peace officer. That’s what they used to call them.

A lazy phrase

The BBC had an interesting article, which you should read. The final paragraph quotes Parker Malloy of the liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America. “It’s OK to believe that social or professional consequences for things said or done are either too harsh or not harsh enough…

“And it’s OK to be concerned about the outsized power tech companies like Facebook or Twitter have in the world, but using the framing of ‘cancel culture’ to make these points will always come off as lazy and cowardly.”

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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