The Tyranny of Cancel Culture
Trump is right. Cancel culture is the key weapon in the armoury of the intolerant. In his 4 July speech at Mount Rushmore, Trump talked about the ‘political weapon’ of ‘cancel culture’ – the totalitarian thirst for ‘driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees’.
On the cult of wokeness, the ideology of PC that says there is only one way to think about history, race, gender and myriad other issues, Trump declared: ‘If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras, and follow its commandments, then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted and punished.’
Anyone who has been awake at any time over the past four weeks will know that Trump is right. They will have witnessed the furious, misogynistic rage against JK Rowling for refusing to ‘speak the language’ of the new woke elites – in this case the eccentric, science-denying language of ‘genderfluidity’. They will have seen Britain’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab being mauled for days for refusing to ‘perform the rituals’ of the correct-think mob – in this case by taking the knee (that is, bowing down) to the slogan of Black Lives Matter and all the identitarian nonsense that lurks behind it.
And they will have seen black actor and TV host Terry Crews being denounced as a race traitor for refusing to ‘recite the mantras’ of the new identitarianism – in Crews’ case by expressing concern that the cry of ‘black lives matter’ might morph into a belief that ‘black lives are better’. In short, Crews was flirting with the great blasphemy of our time – the idea that ‘all lives matter’.
And yet what has been the response to Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech from the commentariat and the liberal elites? Sheer, bizarre denialism. They insist cancel culture is a myth. They say there is no culture war against the past or against ordinary people’s moral and cultural values. That’s a lie spread by right-wingers like Trump, they claim. In fact, if anyone is igniting a culture war, it’s Trump, they say. ‘Trump fuels culture war at Mount Rushmore’, as a New York Times headline put it.
Why is it a culture war when Trump criticises cancel culture and defends the American Revolution, but not a culture war when the New York Times launches a vast multimedia project to diminish the importance of 1776, the year America declared independence, and to elevate the importance of 1619, the year slaves first arrived in the US? Why is it a culture war when Trump encourages his supporters to stand up to the new authoritarianism, but not a culture war when the New York Times caves in to its young woke employees and sacks its opinion editor for the crime of publishing a wrongthink piece about the recent George Floyd riots? Why is it a culture war when right-wingers complain about intolerance and censorship, but not a culture war when the cultural elites enforce such things?
The reaction to Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech has provided a fascinating insight into contemporary wokeness, into the outlook of those convinced that they are in possession of all the correct thoughts and that they must now cleanse and reorder the minds of those who are not.
The most striking thing is the cognitive dissonance. Even as statues continue to fall, these people claim there is no culture war against the values of the past. Even as likenesses of George Washington are burnt and abused and monuments to Christopher Columbus are decapitated and daubed with slurs, they insist there’s no culture war – except from those who say ‘Leave the statues alone’, of course. Even as JK Rowling continues to be subjected to a slurry of misogynistic insults – telling her to ‘suck a lady dick’ or ‘fuck off and die’ – they claim there is no serious culture of intolerance. Even as people literally lose their jobs for criticising BLM, they say PC cancellation is a myth dreamt up by right-wingers.
It’s remarkable. And revealing. Such levels of self-deception, such a Kafkaesque ability to be simultaneously engaged in a war against history and wrongthink while publicly insisting that these things only exist in the fevered imaginations of the likes of Trump and the people who vote for him, speaks to the dangers of life in the echo chamber.
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