As regular readers of my ravings (and assorted other masochists) know, I’ve written on Cancel Culture before:
Those writings have elicited reactions on a curve that can be accurately rendered like this:
It’s fair to assume, then, that folks will determine — according to their ideological dispositions, their individual definitions, or their perceptions of or grips on reality — that the following items have or have not been canceled, according to the content appearing under this headline: “Books meet ‘cancel culture’”.
- Simon and Schuster canceled a book about Big Tech by Senator Josh Hawley, following the Jan. 6 Capitol Riot.
- Some Amazon employees tried to have the company stop selling books questioning mainstream treatment for transgender people. The company refused.
- Amazon banned the sale of a book on transgender people that framed gender dysphoria as a mental illness.
- Woody Allen’s memoir was dropped by Hachette after an online backlash.
- A Philip Roth biography was canned after its author was accused of sexual harassment and rape.
- ‘American Dirt’ author Jeanine Cummins was forced to cancel a book tour after questions arose whether she should write a book about a Mexican migrant.
- Six Dr. Seuss books were pulled by their publisher over racially insensitive images.
- A number of YA authors have pulled their own books over criticism of insensitivity.
- The author of children’s book ‘Captain Underpants’ pulled his recent book over “passive racism.”
The upshot of all that is this: If Someone A doesn’t like what Someone B might want to express, Someone A has the ability to make sure Someone B is muzzled like a dangerous dog. As for the rest of us, tough shit. We can’t be privy to what Someone B would otherwise have chosen to express because (1) Someone A believes we have some seriously errant misconceptions about what’s good for us or (2) Someone A has decided for us that we don’t have the intellectual capacity to know what’s good for us.
Cancel Culture by Any Other Name
Since we’re not allowed to call Cancel Culture Cancel Culture — and because the increasingly dire implications and the inevitably irretrievable consequences of canceling free speech by anyone for any reason terrify me — let’s call canceling free speech an act of terrorism.
terrorism (noun): the use of violence, threats, and/or censorship to intimidate or coerce a population in furtherance of political, social, or ideological objectives
The other benefit of calling it terrorism, of course, is that we already have a system for identifying the seriousness of the threat, courtesy of the fine folks at our very own Department of Homeland Security.
Putting that system to work for Cancel Culture threats is easy. Just codify threats to free speech according to the following criteria:
- Green: In response to something you’ve said, someone gives you the hairy eyeball.
- Blue: In response to something you’ve said, someone calls you a derogatory name. (Your calling that a hate crime is optional).
- Yellow: In response to something you’ve written, someone unfriends you on Facebook or disconnects from you on LinkedIn.
- Orange: In response to something you’ve said, written, or done, you’re prevented from publishing something.
- Red: In response to something you’ve said, written, or done — or in response to something someone thought you were thinking — you’re fired from your job, you’re prevented from publishing something, and things you’ve already published are banned, regardless of their chronological or historical contexts.
What could be easier?
If we follow the logic here (or the alarming lack thereof), one of two things will happen:
- We’ll finally achieve The Great Homogenization through a process of grinding down — deliberately, relentlessly — until oppression and control yield a state of utter demoralization and capitulation that appears to be the smooth edges of conformity.
- We’ll find more and more reasons to be offended, more and more grievances, more and more special-interest-generated intolerance for free expression until any notions of or attempts at unity will fly apart at the seams like the explosive disintegration of a nucleus.
It’s a great time to be alive, kids.
God help us.