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Cancel culture, a new corner problem


In 1987, Al Campanis, a vice president of the Los Angeles Dodgers, appeared on ABC News’ “Nightline”, and made deeply offensive remarks about why there weren’t more black managers in. baseball. “No, I don’t believe that’s prejudice. I really believe that maybe they don’t have some of the, uh, necessities,” Campanis said.

Two days later, he was fired. You could say it was “canceled”.

Ted Koppel, senior contributor to “Sunday Morning,” claims that “canceling culture,” as it is called these days, is a social weapon that has served outrage both on the left (“When you cross this type of societal norm, you have to pay the consequences “.), and the right (” Don’t support Major League Baseball, whose players kneel for the national anthem “).

In 2016, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest police violence against black people. He said at a press conference: “I will continue to support people who are oppressed. This is something that needs to change.”

He expressed his sentiment in a 2018 Nike ad: Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything. “

Cancel culture, a new corner problem
Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers kneels for the National Anthem before their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi’s Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Santa Clara, Calif.

Ezra Shaw / Getty Images


Canceled? Kaepernick never played professional football again.

Nowadays, the term “cancel culture” has become the Swiss army knife of political warfare. While Ali Velshi of MSNBC described the cancellation culture as “the two dumbest words ever to come together,” Bill Maher said on HBO’s “Real Time”, “The cancellation culture is real, it’s insane and it is growing exponentially ”.

Fox News’s Sean Hannity gave his viewers a handy reference guide: “They want to cancel, let’s see, Dr Seuss, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Pepe le Pew …”

“They?” You know, the left, the Squad, the “crowd awake”. Laura Ingraham described followers of the cancellation culture as “the successful liberals [purging] almost every curator in academia, the entertainment industry, and journalism. “

… Like the members of the San Francisco Board of Education, who approved a plan to change the names of 44 schools linked to historical racism or oppression? Among these schools (until public outrage causes the council to suspend its plan), there is one named after President Abraham Lincoln.

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel said: “This is how Trump is re-elected: cancel Dr. Seuss, cancel Abe Lincoln, melt Mr. Potato Head’s private parts … it’s his way to victory next time around. . “

Controversial? You bet! But according to Perry Bacon Jr., senior editor of the FiveThirtyEight website, “We’re re-examining who our heroes are and should be. And I think that’s not a bogus issue at all. I can I only think of nothing more important. “

Koppel asked, “Do you realize, of course, that this leaves you wide open to the argument that we apply 21st century values ​​to 18th century people?”

“I’m a black person in America. I’m pretty happy with some of the things Lincoln has done,” Bacon said. “So I’m not opposed to that. But I think so, we see some of the most fundamental values ​​of our society being challenged. Capitalism? Is America an exceptional country? America is- Is it a great country? Is America a role model? Have we treated Native Americans and blacks so blatantly that we have never been a true democracy?

“So when you see renowned San Francisco schools, I don’t think it’s minor. I think we really see that yes, yes, there are people on the left who absolutely want to re-evaluate the whole of American history. based on 2021 values.

“And hell, yeah, it’s controversial,” Bacon said.

YouTuber Carlos Maza holds up his social influence with pride: “I hope that as long as I live, racists and transphobes will see me as a bad guy!” he said.

Those who lose their jobs or their reputations because of the cancellation culture’s quick judgment see a nationwide retribution campaign spiraling out of control. According to conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, “Canceling culture is coming for all of us. Everyone will be canceled, unless you are completely on the left, in which case you can say anything.”

Maza said, “If you organize your politics or your ethics around” How can we avoid the horror stories from Fox News? “You will never do anything, because there is no way to change things in a multiracial democracy without there being horror stories.”

Thirty years ago, a surprisingly similar question carried a different label: political correctness, which “Sunday Morning” correspondent Bill Geist defined as: “Be sensitive, otherwise!

In 1991 Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College, joined Koppel on “Nightline” to explain why so many teachers on campus were frightened by the phenomenon: “They’re scared because it’s populist bullying, so it happens at all, in faculty and student groups, where people just don’t want to risk being vilified or unpopular, or they themselves don’t want to have their own biases examined.

“It’s ironic that this whole call for diversity has created a sort of silence within the university about a genuine exchange of views.”

Thirty years later, Botstein remains president of Bard College, and he recognizes the old symptoms. Today, he says of the cancellation culture, “this is not a new problem. What is new is the medium.

“The culture of cancellation is much more about punishment. Social media is like an accelerator of arson. Everything is moving fast and out of control. So the slightest spark creates an avalanche, if you will, of retaliation. There is no room for error. And the answer is not to start a conversation or a dialogue, but to exclude the person in some way. “

This may be true, said Carlos Maza; but social media is just leveling the playing field for outliers – those like him a few years ago.

“So if I was in a school, like when I was in high school and teachers would call kids ‘queers’ in class, I really couldn’t do anything,” he said. “And if the alternative to that is that teachers are scared offending the gay kid in class, I’m okay with that. What you are really describing is a power struggle between the marginalized and those who are not. “

Columnist Andrew Sullivan told Koppel: “I’ve been canceled a million times. I will probably be canceled this afternoon by someone, somewhere. And at the end you go through that process and, if you have something worthwhile to say, people will find you and listen to you. “

Sullivan recently reported going through this when some of his colleagues at New York magazine said they were uncomfortable enough with him that he was, well, canceled:

“America has always had these spasms of bullying, social bullying, trying to suppress, from Salem [witch trials] through the blacklist, “he said.” It goes back a long way, and it’s just another episode of this Puritanism, which I hope will end at some point.

“This country is an astonishing experience of openness and diversity generating more mutual understanding.”

Used be, ”Koppel said.

“No, it’s more than ever,” Sullivan reiterated. “You go anywhere in the world, anywhere else in the world and find a country as diverse and tolerant as this. You try. You think China doesn’t have incredible levels of racism. and unspeakable sexism? “

What is at issue – and it will certainly be a factor in our political process – is a shifting power structure, reflecting a shift in our national profile.

“The left is moving towards a deliberate reengineering of our society along identity lines,” Sullivan said. “You’re not all white supremacists. These stories that are propelled, that this society has basically not even advanced since slavery? These are extremist views. This idea that there is no difference between men and women? That biological sex doesn’t exist? I mean, this stuff is crazy. “

Koppel said: “But to those who say, ‘Andrew look, for all generations that we women, we trans, we black people have been oppressed in this country, we finally have the means -‘”

“To oppress others?”

“’… We finally have the means to manage our own influence.’ What is your answer?”

“I think some of them are motivated by some kind of reverse racism and sexism that want some kind of return on their investment, yeah,” he replied. “I think it’s part of psychology.”

“And what’s the natural evolution of that, then? Where is it going?”

“I hope people can understand that you’re not doing good by just repeating the bad,” Sullivan said.

“Look, Andrew, you’ve always been a voice in the wilderness, but I think yours is a particularly lonely voice right now.”

“I know,” he said. “I’m aware of it. So what?”

“To put it bluntly,” said Bacon of FiveThirtyEight, “it seems straight white men have a little less power to control speech, and people who aren’t those have a little more power just. to control speech. “

Texas Senator Ted Cruz claims to have raised over $ 125,000 in 24 hours by signing and selling copies of “Green Eggs and Ham”, the Dr. Seuss classic (who, incidentally, has do not been canceled) at $ 60 a crack. The senator says he is campaigning against the cancellation culture crowd (“Go wake up, go bankrupt!).

And there is a huge and receptive audience there. More than half (64%) of registered voters polled in a recent Harvard-Harris poll saw their freedom threatened by a “growing culture of cancellation.”

And then there’s this: according to the US Census Bureau, in less than 25 years, White Americans will be a minority. The political future of the nation is undergoing a radical change.

While the national conversation seems centered on cultural icons and on the randomness and often the silliness of who and what is ‘undone’, the issues at stake are real political power – who wins and who loses.


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Story produced by Dustin Stephens. Publisher: Ed Givnish.


See also:


Culture Canceled: Reconsidering the Art of …

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