4 min read
What Conservatives can do to fight back against Cancel Culture

Yeshaya Gedzelman

The recent controversy over comments made by Dave Chapelle regarding transgender people, thrust the phenomenoa of cancel culture into the spotlight once again. A small group of protesters (primarily Netflix employees) staged a protest outside Netflix headquarters in late October demanding that Netflix fund more transgender talent in entertainment in response to Chapelle’s Netflix special where he stated “gender is a fact”. Chapelle is the latest public figure to symbolize the phenomena that has become known as "cancel culture", but what is cancel culture and what is driving its emergence? 

The term cancel culture is ambiguous and its definition can vary depending who is asked. Marriem Webster defines cancel culture as "the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure". Wikipedia's definition for cancel culture is a "modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles, whether it be online, on social media or in person". Regardless of which definition is chosen, “cancel culture” has come to represent the societal backlash/punishment for a figure who has engaged in taboo speech and/or beliefs. Interestingly there are religious parallels that can be found within Jewish and Christian religious practices, in the form of “Herem” and Excommunication. Essentially those who are declared to be in “Herem” or “excommunicated” are considered persona non grata and a public threat, with these punishments having an economic and social facet to them. Similar to cancel culture, one placed on a list of those who are “Herem/excommunicated”, may find themselves out of a job or their business boycotted, cast out and rejected from their social networks and publicly shamed online or in person. 

The use of cancel culture as a tool to pressure and combat taboo political speech and ideologies isn't only applied to those individuals deemed to be offensive, but also to unfavorable political legislation. North Carolina's 2016 bill called HB2, (which mandated transgender people to use the bathrooms for their biological gender) faced tremendous pressure from a swath of companies, economic losses and business organizations on account of the bill. Bruce Sprinsteen cancelled a planned show in the state, Deutsche bank pulled a planned project that would produce 250 jobs, Paypal cancelled one that would create 400 jobs and the NBA cancelled plans for Charlotte to host the 2017 All-Star game. In 2017, North Carolina gave into the surge of economic pressure and repealed the bill, showing progressives the effectiveness of this political measure in deleting/ canceling disagreeable legislation. Then there was the case of Georgia’s voting law earlier this year that provoked the MLB to move the location of the All-Star game from Atlanta. 

In addition to the economic penalizing of states because of specific legislation that was passed, Corporate pressure has also been applied to political figures such as former President Donald Trump. Once a dominant figure on the 24/7 news cycle, his voice has mysteriously been silenced and de-platformed in countless social media networks and news organizations. In early January, shortly after the Capitol Hill Riots, Facebook and Instagram, Twitter, Youtube and Snapchat suspended President Trump's accounts and they are still offline today. Although the majority of American saw the January 6th Capitol Hill saga as a “threat to democracy” (62% see it as a threat 32% don’t), a majority of Americans (albeit by a smaller margin) also think Twitter and other Social media companies should end the ban on Trump’s accounts (54% think the ban should end 46% don’t). This move to suspend Trump’s accounts isn’t only a suspension of Donald Trump, but a patronizing de-platforming of the tens of millions of Americans who voted for him and his policies. It may seem logical that Trump's Jan 6th speech (which his critics claim should be seen as encouraging/inciting the Capitol Hill riots) is another poignant example of how his administration polarized and divided Americans. Certainly many of Trump’s moves have fanned the flames of political division, but his presidency was also a symptom of a growing political divide that preceded his nomination as the 2016 Republican Presidential nominee. 

So what can Republicans do to fight back against the economic pressure that is used by corporations and social groups to enforce a progressive agenda? The first answer ‘fighting fire with fire’ is perhaps the most unprincipled solution, but one with some precedence. After Colin Kaepernick set off a firestorm of controversy over his decision to kneel when the National Anthem was played before an NFL game and later opted out of his contract (because he was told by the 49ers he would get cut anyway) in March 2017, he remained unsigned till the end of his career (sparking accusations that he was being punished for the kneeling). In other words, Conservatives would strengthen measures to boycott particularly disagreeable progressive personalities due to speech or belief, or perhaps even target states with newly created progressive legislation. This measure would be taken with the hope that it would create deterrence for reducing progressive measures against conservatives, although its unlikely. 

The second potential measure conservatives can take is actually similar to the first, boycott the boycotters. Instead of boycotting people (or corporations or states) on the basis of something especially Progressive that someone said, boycotting would boycott the boycotters. For example, if the MLB boycotted the MLB All-Star game, all conservatives would skip watching that All-Star game (or perhaps all MLB for that year, etc) to cause an economic loss to the MLB and hopefully deter them from using their institution to apply political pressure. In a case with many companies enacting a boycott against Conservative people, figures or causes, Conservatives would target the first 3 companies or people that engaged or advocated for the canceling, to deter companies and people from beginning these kinds of canceling movements against conservatives. 

Finally another solution that presents itself can be found with the example of Goya. After Goya’s CEO Robert Unanue came out in support of Donald Trump, Progressives began calling for a boycott of all Goya products. In response, conservatives began buying Goya products to show their support of Goya’s CEO. Anytime a corporation, social group or person would call for a punitive measure until its political demands are met, conservatives would employ this strategy of trying to undo this measure. 

Although each strategic approach mentioned here has its pros and cons, one thing is certain. Conservatives are losing ground to progressives by refusing to engage in these tactics (with rare exceptions) and then being held blackmail until the Progressive demands are met. Progressives are pushing their agenda through economic warfare and Conservatives must wake up and take countermeasures before it is too late. Although it may be easy to ignore the random person or public figure being canceled today as having any personal relevance to your life, don't sleep too long, because it may not be so easy tomorrow, when the next person being canceled is you.

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