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.”

A Tribute to Sister Rosa Parks

New exhibit at the Library of Congress

Rosa ParksI’m talking a wild guess you might have heard about Rosa Parks, who was born February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, AL and died October 24, 2005 in Detroit, MI.

The Wikipedia says, “Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was an American activist in the civil rights movement best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott. The United States Congress has called her ‘the first lady of civil rights’ and ‘the mother of the freedom movement.'”

But I saw a story this past December about a NEW Rosa Parks exhibit at the Library of Congress. It contains a treasure trove of her letters. Some are written on backs on food labels. I hope to see it; the exhibit runs through September 2020. At about the same time, a new Rosa Parks statue was unveiled in Montgomery, AL.

The King Institute website has a lot of important information about her. Among the featured documents that have been chosen from the King Papers collection:

Arrest Report for Claudette Colvin. City of Montgomery Police Department. March 02, 1955. Who is she? She was a precursor to Rosa, as I noted a decade ago. Fred Gray, Alabama civil rights attorney said, “Claudette gave all of us moral courage. If she had not done what she did, I am not sure that we would have been able to mount the support for Mrs. Parks.”

Arrest Record For Rosa Parks. City of Montgomery Police Department. December 01, 1955.

Announcement, Another Negro Woman has been Arrested — Don’t Ride the Bus. Robinson, Jo Ann Gibson (Women’s Political Council (WPC)), December 02, 1955. “Don’t Ride the Bus”. Robinson, Jo Ann Gibson (Women’s Political Council (WPC)), December 02, 1955.

“Resolution” – Montgomery Improvement Association. December 08, 1955.

Music

There’s an album that came out some years ago, with snippets of dialogue from Rosa Parks between music tracks. This is my favorite song: Help Us Lord – The Chosen.

Here’s a track from the mighty Neville Brothers, Sister Rosa.

Boycotting the cafeteria

boycottSometimes, I just get annoyed.

I’ve mentioned the cafeteria in our building. It got taken over by this new company that was nickel-and-diming everything. A cup of ice was ten cents without a drink, but then they charged a dime even when people bought a drink. The prices went up, generally as well.

But there was a woman who worked behind the register who got fired that really set me off. Her name was Shirley. She’d worked in the organization for about ten years. She was let go because she was so highly paid; after a decade, she was making a whopping $12/hour. She knew all the customers by name, something no one else did.

So I stopped going to the cafeteria. I buy food from home or buy a Subway sub on the way to work for lunch. It’s been a couple of months now.

A real boycott, I suppose, one would announce and galvanize the folks. I do know several others who have avoided the place, but I have no idea whether it is making any difference to the bottom line. But it feels like the right thing.

Burger King to Buy Tim Hortons for $11.4 Billion. And I boycott BK because they’re playing that corporate inversion game.

I’m forever getting Facebook notices to boycott Rush Limbaugh’s sponsors or asked to sign some petition because of something the windbag says, most recently about Robin Williams and the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.

I’ve discovered there are some people who are such clowns that I no longer pay attention to what they say, and wonder why anyone cares anymore. Rush is background noise. Nothing he says matters to me, he convinces no one of his point of view who wasn’t already convinced. He’s just not worth my minimal effort.
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Speaking of Change.org petitions, Please Invite the Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars to the White House.

The Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars were a Little League team comprised of African American youth from Charleston, South Carolina. The team was denied the opportunity to participate in the 1955 Little League World Series (LLWS) due to a collective boycott of South Carolina’s 61 white leagues. Little League Baseball, to its credit, refused the state’s request to host a segregated tournament but also barred the Cannon Street team from competing in the LLWS due to an existing rule prohibiting teams from advancing via forfeit…

Rather than succumb to bitterness, these fourteen boys have grown into strong, loving, and upstanding citizens. Their lives are a testament to the character and courage learned through playing America’s pastime.

So rectifying a previous boycott seems to be a fair outcome.

To boycott or not to boycott; that is the question

The traditional idea that international sports events should be a place to create cooperation through competition is damaged by boycotts, as are the athletes that have trained for years for the opportunity to participate.

There is a movement to have the United States and other nations boycott the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in 2014, and I’m a bit conflicted about it.

One group wants to boycott because of the country’s highly repressive new law banning any speech that equates the social status of same-sex relationships with heterosexual ones. I agree with the intent of the boycott in this case. But we’ve had Olympics in repressive regimes before; the dissidents in Beijing were just locked away for the Summer Olympics in 2008, and let’s not even talk about Tibet.

Another group wants to boycott because Russia has given sanctuary to Edward Snowden, the leaker of all that NSA classified information that showed the United States has all this “metadata” on its own citizens. I heard Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) float that one while Snowden was still living in the Moscow airport, which was reason enough for me to be inclined to oppose it.

I’m also reminded that there was a boycott by African nations at the Summer Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976, having to do with New Zealand competing athletically with South Africa, which had been banned from the Olympics since 1964 because of its apartheid policies.

Then the United States and some of its allies boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow because of the USSR invasion of Afghanistan; the irony still resonates. In response, many of the Soviet bloc nations stayed away from the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles.

On the fourth hand, I think we’re at here, the traditional idea that international sports events should be a place to create cooperation through competition is damaged by boycotts, as are the athletes that have trained for years for the opportunity to participate. All the Games were diminished, even if the boycott rationales were worthy.

Right now, I’m leaning against the boycott. Circumstances could change that. And perhaps I can be persuaded. Lessee, Arthur’s ambivalent, too…

Hostess: the mostess, for a few

I boycotted Hostess from about 1970 until the Vietnam war was over in 1975.

For me, the issue of the Hostess Brands snack food line apparently going under – I can’t believe that someone won’t buy this venerable line – isn’t the loss of Ding Dongs. It’s that, apparently, the company had “manipulated” its executives’ pay–sending its former chief executive’s salary, in particular, skyrocketing- in the months leading up to its Chapter 11 filing, in an effort to dodge the Bankruptcy Code’s compensation requirements.

Yet the stories I hear on the nightly news talk about the failure of the company to come to an agreement with the unions. Implicit in that is if it weren’t for the greedy unions, we’d still have our Twinkies. Maybe, just maybe, it was the unions who were offered a bad deal, and are now getting a bad rap.

I have a peculiar history with Hostess. During the Vietnam war, the product line was owned by ITT, and ITT built stuff that helped the war machine. So I boycotted Hostess from about 1970 until the war was over in 1975. Truth is, I never much liked Wonder Bread all that much, and after I started eating whole-grain breads, Wonder Bread was inedible. I liked Twinkies, though. Finally, after a half dozen years, I tried a Twinkie again; I thought it was AWFUL, pure sugar. Had my taste buds changed, or did my previous political antipathy make it taste bad? But I still liked the fruit pies when I tried them again, though I preferred the ones by Drake, which had a fun commercial to boot.

Mark Evanier made some interesting points. “They came out with ‘100 calorie’ packs of their Twinkies and cupcakes… but the experiment caused me to swear off their products for good. The size of a Twinkie that got the calories down to that acceptable number was so small as to be unsatisfying and it made me more acutely aware of how many were in the full-sized version.” Other brands did the same thing, and I had the same reaction. As for Wonder Bread, “by the time they did offer a ‘whole grain white,’ it felt insincere on their part.” Absolutely!

I’m not planning on buying up some Hostess products. Despite the cliche, they WON’T last forever like styrofoam.