Why We Should Cancel The Phrase ‘Cancel Culture’Roundup
tags: culture wars, Cancel Culture
Max Boot, a Post columnist, is the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a global affairs analyst for CNN. He is the author of The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam, a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in biography.
Complaints about “cancel culture,” always overblown, are becoming increasingly farcical.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) of New York, facing accusations of sexual harassment, says he won’t resign because that would mean “bowing to cancel culture.”
Fox “News” has been going on for three weeks about how Dr. Seuss has become a victim of “cancel culture,” even though his books are not being banned. All that’s happening is that six books with racist drawings are being taken out of print by Dr. Seuss Enterprises. Sen. Ted Cruz (R.-Tex.) seeks to profit from this publicity by signing copies of “Green Eggs and Ham” for donors, even though that book remains in print.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) accused Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) of practicing “cancel culture” by suggesting that the Republican Party should not align itself with former president Donald Trump after he incited an insurrection. Meanwhile, some of the loudest complainers about “cancel culture” tried to remove Cheney from her leadership position in the House Republican Caucus — to cancel her, you might say.
At the risk of feeding the hysteria on Fox News, I propose that we cancel the cant phrase “cancel culture” because it has long since become divorced from reality. It’s a trope used by the right — and now cynically appropriated by some on the left — to resist accountability for wrongdoing. Specifically, it is a way to deflect the demands of Black Lives Matters and the #MeToo movement for a redress of wrongs such as those committed by producer Harvey Weinstein and the Minneapolis cop who killed George Floyd. By talking about “cancel culture,” the right can pretend that the real victims in America are White men — and that there is nothing wrong with hurtful comments, and even hurtful behavior, against women or people of color.
Even the right implicitly recognizes that some words go too far. The Conservative Political Action Conference, for example, canceled the invitation of a hip-hop artist after his long history of antisemitic statements came to light. The question is where to draw the line. Is anti-Zionism acceptable even if antisemitism isn’t? Is crude language — “locker room talk” — okay in some settings but not in others? Can people earn a second chance with an apology or are there some words so heinous they can never be taken back?
That is the difficult national conversation we should be having. Instead, we are all spectators in the political theater of the absurd as Republicans gleefully pounce on every instance of leftists acting a bit bonkers. Unfortunately, some progressive activists seem intent on providing Fox News with fodder.
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