Fighting Cancel Culture to Win

As summer approaches, undoubtedly with the most “peaceful” protests yet in store, there is a specter hanging over our land: the specter of cancel culture. Racial tension, sex scandals, a militant Left, and a national fad of taking constant offense have, in a very short time, turned the United States into a slouching dystopia. 

We now have lists of books that may not be read, films that must not be watched, jokes that are not to be told or laughed at, and words that must remain unspoken. Public statements past and present are subject to ruthless scrutiny in order to police adherence to the “woke” values of an activist few who rely on a self-referential and often contrived “victim” or “ally” status to exempt themselves from being challenged in any way. Disagreement, or mere toleration of others’ disagreement, is castigated as “violence” for which even hapless liberals can be cast out of what they imagine are elite jobs and desirable social circles into the pit of deplorables. 

Private conversations, as two professors at my alma mater’s prestigious law school recently learned, can end careers. Not even the most abject apology or pathetic promise to “do better” accords any amount of redemption.

Small Numbers, Obnoxious Influence

Perhaps understandably, cancel culture is terribly unpopular, much as the Salem witch trials, the Jacobin terror, Stalin’s purges, and McCarthyism were unpopular when their dubious values malevolently ruled over their societies. Americans oppose cancel culture by a large majority, with 64 percent regarding it as a fundamental threat to freedom. That figure includes 48 percent of Democrats, supporters of the party that gave us Title IX tribunals and—at least until it nominated Joe Biden for the presidency—endorsed #MeToo. 

Combating cancel culture is a central tenet of Donald Trump’s evolving political fortunes, which are far from over and, for better or worse, reign supreme in the Republican Party—80 percent of whose members oppose cancel culture. Across the American political landscape, few other issues enjoy such a broad consensus. It is virtually the only issue that honest Democrats will mention, albeit cautiously and almost always in private, as a point on which they can agree with Republicans. In a backhanded tribute to cancel culture’s potency as a winning issue for conservatives, the leftist media by turns denies that it exists, tries to ridicule people who disapprove of it, and petulantly argues that its own issues are more important than outmoded concerns about silly relics like civil rights.

With nearly two-thirds of Americans opposing cancel culture, one could be forgiven for thinking that fighting it would be easy. But it isn’t. Cancel culture’s woke proponents, despite their small numbers, are loud, obnoxious, and convinced of their moral superiority. They are heavily overrepresented in our smug administrative-managerial-media caste, which fancies itself an “elite” justified by having attained questionable benchmarks of “merit.” Institutional and corporate employers often find it easier to support and even parrot their sanctimonious claptrap than risk workplace disharmony or potential threats to the bottom line. 

Opponents already fatigued by the pandemic and its attendant economic woes are situationally checked against offering resistance lest they bring upon themselves stress, ostracism, and even violence amid accusations of racism, sexism, insensitivity, or just being “problematic”—the new catchall term used to dispose of non-compliant people while pretending to neutrality. 

Why risk friendships, reputations, employment, promotions, invitations to those all-important cocktail parties, or the kids’ academic futures when it is so much easier to conform to whatever the wokesters want, even if it means having to perform bizarre and morally dubious actions such as shunning a colleague who has been accused but not proved guilty of an offense or wasting close to $60,000 a year on a school that, in the name of “inclusiveness,” discourages its pupils from referring to their parents as “mom and dad?”

Reject Silence and Passivity

A silent majority certainly stands against wokery, but it is precisely its silence that allows wokery to succeed. This is not the stoic silence of a stalwart population that will do the right thing at the polls while the radicals make lots of noise in the streets. In 2020, it didn’t even do that after the radicals torched the centers of major cities while, often successfully, demanding reduced police protection for their victims. This is the lamentable silence of cowards willing to believe or ignore the lie in order to get slightly ahead or at least avoid being held back—people whom much of complacent and saturnine Conservatism, Inc. has convinced all will be well if they only straighten their bowties, act like very nice people, and politely yield control of our nation’s cultural dialogue to raving fools who already hate them and who, like all bullies, will only hate them more for their gutless passivity.

If the path of the gracious loser has failed, then what is to be done? For anyone who has had the pleasure of telling off a wokester—a category that does not include the standard “conservative” think tanker adrift in the New York-Washington vortex of well-mannered uselessness—the answer is clear: Resist. Don’t be afraid to rock the boat. 

Tell the wokesters they are stupid and awful and that their views and values are immoral and un-American. Tell them to shut up because you are uninterested in their vile and irrelevant opinions. The entire woke movement is based on emotion. The more it is challenged, the more hysterical it becomes for the simple reason that its tenets cannot withstand logic, reason, or ridicule. This is why it classifies logic and reason as features of oppressive “whiteness” to be devalued, and why it is deeply suspicious of humor, which requires abstract and counterintuitive thought that can easily be turned to undermine an arbitrary regime propped up by worthless propaganda like critical race theory. 

Engaging wokesters on a rational basis is a waste of time, for they are fundamentally irrational and, predictably, reject the very concept of rationality as a tool of white male oppression from which they believe they have liberated themselves. To them, your arguments have no value in and of themselves but are merely ugly projections of your detestable race, ethnicity, and privilege and the implicit “power” that wokesters believe you unjustly wield over them and those they care about.

Stand up. If your friends drop you because you disagree with them, then they are not really your friends and you don’t need them. If your colleagues ostracize you because you dare to think or act differently, then they are poor and unreliable colleagues and your association with them is an embarrassment. If a woke girl won’t date you because you’re not woke, realize that the vigilant self-policing and constant state of rage that wokeness requires will make her no fun and soon cause her beauty to fade. If your work or school conditions are so bad that you cannot be yourself, then do something different. Do something better.

And if you find all of this harder to do in Manhattan than in Palm Beach, change islands. The weather is much better, everything is open, and there is no state income tax. We are waiting for you.

About Paul du Quenoy

Paul du Quenoy is president of the Palm Beach Freedom Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in History from Georgetown University.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

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