It seems that every week someone gets canceled. Perhaps somebody made an offensive remark ten years ago. Or they posted an insensitive tweet when they were in high school. It doesn’t matter. The left doesn’t like it, so the person must be utterly ruined. Next week, it happens again. Wash, rinse, repeat.
But where is this new cancel culture headed? What impact will this tendency to destroy people who make mistakes have on American society? And what happens when those who have grown weary of it start punching back against the Cancel Soldiers?
Cancel Wars Are in Full Swing
In the past, only people who engaged in particularly egregious behavior would face the wrath of the cancel crowd. But now, many in the progressive left realize they can leverage this social phenomenon to their own ends. Put simply, the cultural left has discovered a new political weapon to use against anyone to the right of Mao.
The hard left is all in on cancel culture, which has grown almost too large to control. Like other outrage-fueled political strategies, it appears to have backfired. While several examples exist of cancel culture’s victims, now we have a taste of what happens when a prospective victim decides to flip the script.
You might already have heard the story of Carson King, an Iowa native and a fan of Anheuser-Busch beer. The 24-year-old made headlines when he appeared on a taping of ESPN’s “College Gameday” at Iowa State University with a handwritten sign asking people to send him beer money. “Busch Light supply needs replenished,” the sign read, displaying information on how viewers could send him money through Venmo, a money-transfer app.
The Des Moines Register published a profile on King, who ended up receiving more than $1 million from viewers, which he donated to a children’s hospital. Prior to writing the article, journalist Aaron Calvin performed a “routine background check,” which turned up racially offensive tweets that King posted eight years ago when he was a teenager. This probe likely included running a search of King’s account with certain offensive keywords designed to dig up dirt on the young man.
Calvin brought the tweets to King’s attention and also informed Anheuser-Busch. King later gave a press conference as a way to get ahead of the oncoming outrage storm. The beer company cut ties with King, and The Register published the story, including the controversial tweets from his past. This is where the story would normally end. The victim would be disgraced and slink back into obscurity. But this time, something different happened: an uprising of sorts.
After seeing how Calvin treated King, people from a variety of political persuasions defended the young man. They lambasted the newspaper for including irrelevant information designed to damage King. Then, they went a step further. It turns out that Calvin had some cyber-skeletons deep in his Twitter closet.
On social media, the rebellion raged against Calvin and his employer, inundating their social media and email accounts and protesting their treatment of King. This was not a short-lived effort. These individuals sustained their attacks, even as the newspaper and reporter attempted to make excuses for their behavior. In the end, it worked. Calvin lost his job, and the whole endeavor to cancel King backfired.
How Will This End?
King is just the latest in a long line of folks the cancel movement has targeted. Comedian Roseanne Barr lost her hit sitcom after tweeting racially offensive comments about former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett. Actor Kevin Hart lost his gig hosting the Oscars due to a 13-year-old tweet about homosexuality. Vox Media’s Carlos Maza – who has advocated assaulting conservatives – attempted to get right-leaning pundit Steven Crowder banned from YouTube for making racy videos about the journalist.
If the King story is any indication, Americans are rebelling against cancel culture, as they should. It is a pernicious social phenomenon that empowers societal bullies. But now that people have observed that the cancel soldiers are not all-powerful, it is inevitable that they will continue to fight back. Recently, a network of conservatives made headlines when they announced that they had gathered offensive statements made by left-leaning journalists, who tend to be the primary purveyors of the cancel culture offensive.
There are two possible future scenarios. The first would involve a cessation of hostilities due to mutually assured destruction. The left might become hesitant to continue targeting people for cancellation based on years-old tweets because the right has joined in on the same game. Put simply, it could become a war of attrition: You take one of ours, we’ll take one of yours. In this world, people might be somewhat hesitant to voice an opinion, but the armistice might allow for expression.
The second would see this war escalate until the populace is cowed into nearly complete silence. People will become afraid to voice their opinions on any matter, fearing that their statements might someday be used against them. This is the more dangerous of the two possibilities as it is the progressive left that thrives on squelching certain views. With its hold on the culture, it is easy to see that conservatives might lose this war.
Either way, it appears this conflict has yet to be resolved. The question is, at what point will the American public grow weary of it?