Putting the Can in Cancel

I don’t want to suggest I have the market cornered or anything. But I do seem to come across a pretty fair amount of demented shit. In fact, I come across enough demented shit that I’ve found the need to categorize it by degrees of dementedness. Those categories are:

  1. Demented shit
  2. Really demented shit
  3. WTF, Batman?

In category #3, we can safely put a recent article from City Journal entitled, “The Miseducation of America’s Elites”. How’s this grab ya?

Nothing happens at a top prep school that is not a mirror of what happens at an elite college. What does it say about the current state of that meritocracy, then, that it wants kids fluent in critical race theory and “white fragility,” even if such knowledge comes at the expense of Shakespeare? “The colleges want children—customers—that are going to be pre-aligned to certain ideologies that originally came out of those colleges,” says a STEM teacher at one of New York’s prestigious prep schools. “I call it woke-weaning. And that’s the product schools like mine are offering.”

It’s 2021. We don’t need critical thinking, conceptual curiosity, and intellectual integrity anymore. We need ideological conformity and cognitive homogeneity. And we need it right now, damn it.

Hold on Thar, Baba Louie!

Maybe I shouldn’t be so hasty. I seem to be reminded more and more frequently of late that there is no Cancel Culture. People can be blocked, shamed, banned, fired, and persecuted. They can have their lives and their livelihoods threatened and ruined. They can have their children belittled and bullied. None of that is Cancel Culture, of course. It’s just good old American, First-Amendment-protected free speech. And it’s all done and ruthlessly enforced in the name of … you can do it … come on … please, this is no time to be bashful or coy … BINGO! Diversity. Here’s how it works, and the rules couldn’t be simpler:

If you agree with them, you’re diverse. If not, you’re cancelled, at least for now. But be absolutely certain of this: The repercussions for refusing to conform to the orthodoxy will get worse than cancellation, progressively worse (pun fully intended).

Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness. (George Orwell)

But on the bright side, if someone says, writes, or even thinks something you don’t like, you no longer have to say, “I don’t like you,” or “I don’t like your opinion,” or “I don’t like your face,” or “I disagree with your perspective.” All you have to say now is, “I don’t like your diversity,” and the party’s over.

Fun with Language

There will be a day in the not-to-distant future (if God has any mercy, I’ll be dead before it happens) at which infantilism will appear in the thesaurus as a synonym for diversity. The truthfulness of that — and of the fact that the progressive agenda is a circular firing squad — can be demonstrated with a simple, socio/psychological experiment:

Walk into any nursery. You’ll no doubt observe that the infants who cry the most and the loudest get the most attention. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. As those children grow into adolescence and adulthood, they bring with them the conviction that they remain as entitled to that attention as they were as babies. When they discover the world may not be predisposed to catering to their every whine and whim, they become bullies. The progressives, then, create, trumpet, and beat us over the head with anti-bullying campaigns. And if we speak out against them or point out the progressives’ self-defeating absurdity, we’re cancelled. It just doesn’t get any more tidy than that, does it? It’s a beautiful thing.

Once more from “The Miseducation of America’s Elites”:

These schools are the privilege of the privilege of the privilege. They say nonstop that they are all about inclusion. But they are by definition exclusive … Power in America now comes from speaking woke, a highly complex and ever-evolving language … “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

WTF, Batman?

At this point, the only thing go do is have a singalong. Just don’t call any of this Cancel Culture.

If you do, you’ll be cancelled.


Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brien
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.

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  1. Mark —
    Having “context” as my #1 StrengthFinder skill forces – forces! – me to look for the origins of the phrase and thinking behind “cancel culture.” It would be easy to cite examples such as:
    • when Mitch McConnell led the effort to silence (read as “canceled”) Elizabeth Warren because she persisted in her objections to the confirmation of Jeff Sessions as A.G. or
    • when Mitch McConnell refused to allow (read as “canceled”) the Senate to hold hearings on the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court because of “WTF, Batman!” I can’t even type the absurdity of his logic, or
    • when Mitch McConnell effectively pocket vetoed (read as “canceled”) any bills coming from the House because they dealt with things like gun control, climate change, or immigration reform and not more tax relief for those who don’t need it.

    Is there a theme here? But note, I’m NOT making the case that M.M. is the offendus maximus. I’m simply pointing out that C.C. exists on both sides of the aisle. And, as you and I have oft noted, that simply gets us into playing tennis. I whack one example over the net, and you whack another one back.

    What I will suggest is that “cancel culture” is simply the exhausted result of the ongoing tectonic drift of political, social and economic thinking, which began in earnest sometime in the mid-90s. It wasn’t that we didn’t have really divergent thinking before that. Gosh, anyone want to talk about Reconstruction and Jim Crow? But discourse, such as it was, became bloodsport in its current configuration – as did the rapid infusion of religion into politics – when a former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, saw it as his mission to blow up bipartisan coalitions of any sort. Party-over-policy and party-over-people saddled up to the table for an endless meal of divisiveness. Suddenly “disunity” became the goal. Win – read as stay in power – at any cost.

    We are reaping what was sowed. The only way to really win, as the computer points out at the end of prescient film “War Games,” is not to play.

    • Jeff, having “sense-maker” as my #1 WeaknessFinder skill compels me to believe that trying to shut up the guy who shut up the guy who shut up the other guy constitutes the Fast Track to oblivion. I don’t know for sure yet (but I’m afraid) that the country is on its way to the proverbial ash heap of history. But I do know the First Amendment is. And when that goes, the country as we knew it will be the national equivalent of Keith Richards; that is, it’ll already be dead, even if it hasn’t fallen down yet.

      You and I can debate cause all day. We might even enjoy that. But effect is all that matters now. If we can’t thicken some skin; apply the First Amendment; recognize the self-defeatingly absurd notions of trigger warnings, safe spaces, and speech-as-violence; and return journalism to something other than ideological opining, we’ll just be collateral damage of Cancel Culture.

    • NOT debating all day was what I was trying to say about “The only way to win is not to play.”

      I’m all for the First Amendment, but even it has limits. As Justice O.W.H. famously wrote: “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting ‘Fire’ in a theatre and causing a panic…”

      The word that is often left out of that quote is “falsely.” Interesting to look at that word and “panic.” Hmmmm.

      The “solution” here, if there is one, is to look at the great discourse divide as a Venn Diagram. One circle – perhaps overly simplified – is progressivism and one is conservatism. How do we get them to move to the center just a bit so that there is more overlap?

    • I grant the limits of the First Amendment, Jeff. But I wonder why we need an overlap. Couldn’t we just take things in stride? Heed the things that suit us. Ignore the ones that don’t. The way out is fewer “rules”, not more.