Sunday, August 2, 2020

Cancellers can't cancel you without your help

Translation: "A joy it will be someday, perhaps,
to remember even this."
    Honestly? By 8 p.m. Saturday I was feeling pretty brain dead.
    The result of getting up early, working on the book ("Every day," Elvis Costello sings, "Every day, every day I write the book...") Then cutting down Rose of Sharon (no, not cutting down Rose of Sharon Joad, though that's funny to think about. "Geez, girl, do you know how annoying you and your stupid husband are, giggling away like that...?") The bush, in our backyard, which had grown huge these past 20 years and then suddenly was 3/4 dead, but with a lush new Rose of Sharon sprouting up underneath.  Sawed it up, bagged the branches. Took two hours.
      I was going to hop on here and tell you all to pound salt. "Show's over, nothing to see here folks, go about your business..." But I decided to read Eric Zorn's column and see what was on his mind which, I'm glad to report, unlike mine, is fully functioning, one benefit of not having a big ass dead Rose of Sharon in his yard there in Old Irving Park. He took on a subject I haven't gotten past musing about, cancel culture, pointing out that the Right, in characteristic hypocritical fashion, have a lot tougher time with it in college professors than with in their own shut-up-folks-we-don't-like selves.
     Reading Eric's piece squirted some WD-40 into the seized up gears of the old brain. Suddenly it started to whir, albeit while making a high-pitched screeching sound.
     You might want to pause and read Eric's piece here then return, if you are so inclined, and I'll add a coda.
    Hmm-mmm hmm,. hmmma hmm-hmm hmmmmmm...
    Back? Good. The thought I managed to squeeze out after reading Eric's piece was this: those who get cancelled often have a hand in their own downfall, in two ways:
     First, they serve up something that inflames the mob du jour. I could easily write a column that is heartfelt, honest, of-the-moment, and strays into the particular realm of stuff-that-gets-you-fired today. But I don't. Why? Cowardice, maybe, or savvy, but basically  because part of what my boss pays me for is to avoid horseshit dustups over nothing, to not provide anything that might tend to interfere with my ability to draw readers to the paper and add value to it. I can't do that if I've been hounded into retirement.
    Second, when the sans culottes do start baying for your blood—and the above notwithstanding, sometimes you just step into it, sometimes, despite your best efforts, you stomp on that rake unaware—the howl only lasts so long. Then they fold their tents and depart. A lot of folks who wither really didn't have to, and might have survived had they shown a little patience, and just started whistling and gazing at their thumb in mock admiration for a few days and not decide to do an Al Franken and run out of a house that really isn't on fire. Or if their bosses hadn't panicked and thrown them over the side prophylactically. 
     The example Eric mentions is the board of The Poetry Foundation, which bolted like a frightened rabbit, and is probably still zigging and zagging across lawns in Indiana, heading east, even as we speak. Unnecessary. I don't believe that today the board would still be plagued by their not-quite-enthusiastic-enough statement of support for Black Lives Matter had they just stayed off Twitter for a few days. Cancellers are a variety of hater (they hate folks who have ever done something they consider wrong, at the moment, forgetting that the realm of people who have made mistakes includes them, their puffed up sense of righteous infallibility being Mistake Number One). And being haters, they live off fear. So if you don't provide the fear reaction they're looking for, they tear away like a pack of wolves, looking for someone who will.
     Is that insight? God I hope so, because it'll have to do.  


  1. Beautiful. I'm glad someone pointed out, even somewhat in passing, Al Fraken's mistaken haste in giving up his Senate seat. He'd be more usefull in that position.

  2. Zorn has made a couple of poor choices for criticizing "cancel culture". The Poetry Foundation's problem wasn't merely their non-committal statement, it was that it made crystal clear how uncommitted leadership was to urgent action. President Bienen's truculent resignation letter confirms that.

    And Trump fired Lieutenants Colonel Vindmans in retaliation for blowing the whistle on his criminal conduct, pure and simple - there were no cultural forces calling for them to be cancelled. For a good example of White House cancel culture, look back at the Obama administration's shameful handling of Shirley Sherrod.

  3. As I recall Sherrod was fired by the Secretary of Agriculture and, when all the facts became known, the White House apologized and offered her another job, which she declined. The real villain was Breitbart, who edited one of her speeches to make her appear racist. She sued them and reached a 'settlement,' which usually means she won.


  4. Correct, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack apologized to Sherrod and offered her another job. Per the Wikipedia article on Shirley Sherrod, she sued the villainous Andrew Breitbart, who took the coward's way out. She and his estate settled after the DoJ stopped them from being able to depose Vilsack.


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