A couple of thoughts on cancel culture.
Yes, I’m about to go there.
Three weeks ago, meditation teacher Tara Brach nearly ruined her career.
Why? She included a Woody Allen quote in one of her lectures.
The internet mob, ever vengeful and quick, descended on her, fangs out, claws drawn and threatened her with immediate cancellation. People swooned, fainted, were triggered by the mere mention of Woody Allen’s name.
Ms. Brach, ever gentle, promptly made a trembling, tearful apology.
She never meant to cause harm. She was dreadfully, frantically, painfully, horribly sorry to have “inadverntently caused so much pain” by including the quote of a man who probably-we- don’t- know- for –sure- but- honestly- we- think- he- did- abuse his daughter but either way he is creepy and we don’t like him and it is all besides the point because WOODY ALLEN IS CANCELLED.
Before anyone clutches their pearls: 1)YES I believe in accountability and consequences. We all should. There is no excuse not to. 2) Hate speech is not free speech. Free speech ends the second you incite violence.
But the problem here is two-fold:
1) The Fox news crowd, and the GOP, in general, consistently conflates consequences with cancel culture. The latest example of this being the comment by Tucker Carlsen, who claimed on Fox News, that Derek Chauvin being sent to jail for torturing and murdering George Floyd, is somehow cancel culture. Let’s all sane humans agree this bit of evil is not what we are talking about here.
2) Our worship of genius and star power causes us to gloss over serious crimes, especially in obituaries that minimize their damage and focus heavily on their glorious work: this is disrespectful to victims, and, no, I don’t buy it.
So, I am not talking about that.
People who exploit their power by sexually harming/manipulating others, making racist, anti-LGTBQ, mysogonistic comments, do not deserve to hold those positions of power anymore. They should be removed from those positions and/or jailed where appropriate.
But cancel culture does something more insidious.
Cancel culture says that not only should the Wrong Ones be removed from their jobs: but ideally, they should also be kicked off the planet earth. AND GIVEN NO PATH BACK. I don’t mean no way back to their power positions—that, they have forfeited, forever. But I mean, also no path back to exisiting as a human on planet earth. They are to be thoroughly alienated, isolated from friends, family, etc, shamed so profoundly that they can never—must never—be permitted to find redemption.
In no one’s book, in no ones religion, can this possibly be seen as just.
To be clear: I won’t personally be buying or listening to any James Levine DVD’s or Michael Jackson CD’s. Because I’d rather listen to artists who were not pedophiles.
Also: I loved Woody Allen’s early works. I also think he is deeply creepy, and his films have sucked for the last 10 years. I won’t be spending any more money seeing them.
But should other people should become radio-active because they publically admit to still liking his films? Or because they quote his work, in passing, should that threaten a person’s entire career?
What happened to Tara Brach is not an isolated exception.
Au contraire, it is cancel culture at its most glorified.
It is group think. Pack mentality, mob mentality at its finest.
There is progress, friends. There is accountability.
This ain’t it.