Effectively a Frankenstein’s monster jolted into existence by the illiberal left, cancel culture now casts a large and lumbering shadow across the landscape of American life. From lone social media enthusiasts up to captains of industry, everyone now has to check themselves, as rapper Ice Cube once suggested – before they wreck themselves. But the principled bravery demonstrated by some recent targets of cultural erasure suggests that these attempts to cow and silence have reached their zenith and may trend otherwise in the coming months. Are Americans of good conscience sick and tired of the bullying, and does that mean a reckoning for cancel culture might be in the wind?
The first, genuine shot across the bow of the Pirate Galleon Cancel was only heard and felt because it came from the Good Ship Progressive. Conservatives and Republicans and Deplorables (oh my!) have been losing their jobs and reputations for years for having dissenting views in a time of encroaching illiberalism. Still, it was only when a bonafide left-wing deity opined in error that the wages of cancel culture really made the news.
Not Rowling Over for Cancel Culture
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling was stung by the very public defections of four writers from the Blair Partnership publishing house they all shared. Her former colleagues said they felt the endeavour was “unable to commit to any action that we thought was appropriate and meaningful” regarding Rowling’s transgressive statement that “if sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased.”
Rowling affirmed her love for, friendships with, and appreciation of trans people, but also felt that denying biological sex was reductive of the experiences of “people with a cervix” as CNN recently referred to women. Her years of card-carrying progressivism and open contempt for President Trump were no firewall against the tsunami of criticism threatening her – and so she acted.
Rowling spearheaded the media release of a letter signed by 150 eminent liberal figures, including Salman Rushdie, Noam Chomsky, and Wynton Marsalis. Rushdie is no stranger to the most severe form of cancel culture, with a fatwa from the Ayatollah Khomeini still on his head ever since it was issued in 1989. The letter decried the metastasizing intolerance that has leveled open debate and freedom of expression here in America and around the globe.
Although it conspicuously absented any conservative figures, and went out of its way to credit President Trump with planting the seeds of division and hatred and tending the garden of this blossoming cultural discontent, it was, nevertheless, a good start and an important mission statement. At the very least it was novel to see the left begin to eat itself – or at least nibble around the edges.
Facing Down the Bullies
There is strength in numbers as Rowling proved. But a braver action still is standing tall against the mob at the moment you are lined up alone with a blindfold and a cigarette. After Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue praised President Trump as “a builder” for whom “we are all truly blessed,” the calls to boycott Goya were swift. In her inimitable way, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) tweeted about searching “how to make your own adobo” and Twitter went into its now-standard blood in the water feeding frenzy.
But this time, there was the notable absence of a prostrating CEO begging forgiveness for his sins of opinion and association. As Unanue stood firm, within a fortnight, the “buycott” of Goya was dead in the water, and a TV producer had even managed an enormous success with a GoFundMe page that sought donations in order to donate Goya products to charity. The Outrage Industry failed to cancel Goya, and its torch-carrying acolytes went witch-hunting elsewhere.
Staking unclaimed territory, a young, woke Gen-Z-er called out the popular, small market chain, Trader Joe’s, for its long-standing branding habit of using culturally specific variations of the name “Joe” on its products. Items such as an Italian tomato sauce named “Trader Giotto” came under fire and it seemed the company would capitulate to the demands of a 17-year-old. But a funny thing happened on the way to appeasing the mob – Trader Joe’s issued a statement:
“We want to be clear: we disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions.”
The change.org petition appears to have failed this time, as more and more cancel culture targets are emboldened to act like Churchill rather than Chamberlain.
But the trophies on the wall are myriad – and almost uniformly conservative. Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Katie Hopkins are three formerly prominent leftist gadflies of whom you hear little these days. Cancel culture worked to bulldoze their careers almost completely. Conservative Professor Mike Adams, who decried the evaporation of free thought and free speech on college campuses and tweeted criticism of his governor’s anti-science lockdown edicts, was forced to resign from his job – and committed suicide a short time later.
Big Tech Beyond the Pale
Recently, one of the most shocking, shameful, and widespread erasures of cancel culture in the brief history of the internet took place. A group of over 600 “Frontline Doctors” from across the globe signed a letter in concert. A representative group of them then held a press conference in front of the Supreme Court in which they adamantly asserted schools should open, that there are no tests that prove the efficacy of masks, and most controversially – strongly advocated the use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a therapeutic and a prophylactic for COVID-19. One doctor named Stella Immanuel even called HCQ a “cure” and passionately held that there was no need for the increasing numbers of deaths from Wuhan Coronavirus – and no need of a vaccine.
Although their advocacy of HCQ is bolstered by as many as 60 studies that found it to be effective against COVID-19 when used early and in conjunction with zinc and azithromycin, the masters of the universe from Google, Facebook, and Twitter pulled the video, which got 17 million views in just hours – and may have set a new record for viral traffic.
This outrageous cancel culture erasure marks a dark milestone: It is the first time a group of doctors have been censored and de-platformed by big tech for their medical expertise. Silicon Valley has now gone beyond the pale by interfering in the sacrosanct doctor-patient relationship and determining for those with medical degrees what is best practice when treating their patients.
Cancel culture is just another iteration of the blitzkrieg-like advance of censorship and the attacks on free speech from the illiberal left. But the courageous stand taken by Goya, Trader Joe’s, and the Frontline Doctors, as well as the massive numbers of views these latter truth and health warriors occasioned from their video, suggest that the days of cudgeling political correctness apostates into compliance may be on the wane. With some progressives finally waking up to the monster they have birthed and joining the conservative pursuit of this hulking threat with torches and pitchforks – let us hope so.
Read more from Pennel Bird.