The Real Cancel Culture

A small Baptist university in Texas last week announced it had expelled one of its students over “hate speech.”

What was the hateful speech this student expressed? The student, Ashleigh Brock, made a TikTok video mocking the media’s double standard on interracial crime. Not only is the video accurate; it can only be offensive to those who deny obvious realities.

Even if you disagree with the message, it is hardly an offensive statement. But an internet mob thought it was and harassed the young student for expressing her First Amendment rights. 

Brock’s school, Hardin Simmons University, capitulated to the mob and pretended the student’s statement was un-Christian. “HSU became aware late this evening of a deeply disappointing and unacceptable social media post by one of our students. The message shared by this student is not reflective of the Christian values of our institution,” the official school Twitter account posted.

Hardin Simmons University president Eric Bruntmeyer said the young student was expelled for failing to uphold Christian values. “As citizens, we have certain rights of freedom of speech in public forums, like many of the social media platforms. However, within the HSU community, that right is always linked with a responsibility as Christians, as well as an inherent responsibility in the consequences of our words and our actions,” he said in a video statement.

If Brock had been expelled for making a pro-LGBT TikTok, her cause would be celebrated by every mainstream media outlet. Had Hardin Simmons expelled her for speech contrary to a Christian worldview but in line with Leftist ideology, the school would have been roundly condemned for suppressing free speech. But since her view angered Black Lives Matter activists, few sympathize with her plight.

Brock’s story is an all-too-common phenomenon in our country. An average American posts an opinion on social media or offends activists in real life, and the left-wing mob proceeds to ruin that person’s life over it. The recent unrest has produced several cases of this “cancel culture.”

Leftists doxxed and harassed a Methodist University student last weekend for the crime of waving a Trump flag at a Black Lives Matter demonstration. The angry internet posters demanded that the school expel the student, and urged people to harass her family.

Jaden McNeil, a conservative student at Kansas State University, faced expulsion demands, family doxxing, and death threats over a tweet where he joked about George Floyd’s sobriety. Kansas State’s football team threatened to boycott the upcoming season if McNeil was not expelled for his joke. The public university probably realized it couldn’t expel McNeil and so instead issued a new racial justice policy to assuage the mob. The school made no attempts to rebuke the intense harassment and violent threats against the conservative student. Students insist that they are “totally scared” to return to Kansas State because of the tweet. Seriously

Two incoming students withdrew from Missouri State University last month after being harassed for allegedly insensitive racial comments. One student mocked the phrase “black girl magic” in a Facebook exchange, the other one made light of George Floyd’s death. The school publicly stated it wished it could rescind the offers to the two students, but said it legally couldn’t do so. The mob achieved what it wanted anyway: a campus free of these two offenders.

A Vermont principal was suspended from his job for sharing a conservative anti-Black Lives Matter video on his private Facebook page. Left-wing activists found the post and launched a harassment campaign against the school to get him fired. The Northeastern York school district apologized for the harm caused by the video shared on the principal’s private page and scheduled a board hearing on whether he would keep his job. 

A nurse in Burlington, North Carolina, lost her job last week after she called Black Lives Matter “a political trick to upset a group of people to riot and terrorize” on her Facebook page. The president of the North Carolina affiliate of the American College of Nurse-Midwives promises to make sure the state’s nursing board never allows someone like this to have a nursing job again.

A Catholic priest was suspended from pastoral duties after criticizing Black Lives Matter and Antifa in a public statement. Protesters have demanded more changes in the wake of this statement. 

A California man was fired last month for appearing to make the “OK” hand sign while passing by a Black Lives Matter demonstration. The Hispanic man said he was just cracking his knuckles, but the gas and electric company he worked for believed the activists’ claim he made a “white power” gesture. 

A restaurant in Lynchburg, Virginia, was destroyed by rioters last month after the owner posted an image mocking Governor Ralph Northam’s blackface photo. The restaurant owner apologized to the rioters for the pain he caused. No arrests were made in connection to the property damage.

These are just a few examples of what is now a common feature of American life. You can log on social media every day and encounter viral posts about how some offender to progressive orthodoxy needs to be punished. These ordinary Americans face permanent damage to their reputations and job prospects just for expressing their opinions in posts on their own private social media pages. Meanwhile, rioters can get away with millions in property damage and raze statues to the ground without facing any consequences. 

This is the real “cancel culture” and we all have to live with it. Many liberals say cancel culture doesn’t exist because they focus only on celebrity cases. Or they immediately contradict themselves and say these normal Americans deserve the pain they suffered. Conservatives are somewhat responsible for this flippant attitude. Too many in conservative media spend their energy defending Hollywood liberals who only suffer criticism or one lost opportunity. The conservatives cry “cancel culture” whenever someone with power and wealth gets called out by the woke, yet too often they ignore the more serious cases of cancel culture affecting ordinary people.

Comedian Kevin Hart facing criticism for past jokes is not as bad as a random college student getting expelled and receiving death threats for saying the media overreacts to white-on-black murders. Hart kept his job and got to move on with this life. Ashleigh Brock doesn’t have that luxury. Her Google history calls her a despicable racist and colleges may deny her on the basis of her past expulsion. Her life will require a lot of work and time to get back on track—and it’s all because she shared her opinion. In America?

Cancel culture is not some frivolous right-wing meme. It’s real and it harms real people. Like a less-lethal Stasi, it ensures people stay silent and comply with whatever those with power impose on us. Freedom of speech becomes meaningless when you lose your job and have your entire family harassed by politically-protected activists for not bowing to Black Lives Matter.

Land of the free? Not so much anymore.

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About Paul Bradford

Paul Bradford is a Capitol Hill refugee now earning an honest living.

Photo: Bunhill/Getty Images

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