The emotional manipulation of ‘cancel culture’ critics
We’ve all heard the horror stories — a poor bloke who says something stupid and offensive and gets himself sacked. These anecdotes are designed to misdirect our ire.
In the first episode of her podcast “Honestly”, Bari Weiss recounts the sad story of the Wadi family, a Palestinian-American family with a popular grocery business in the Minneapolis area. During the Black Lives Matter protests, some offensive tweets that had been sent by one of the family’s teenage daughters surfaced, many years after they had been sent. An outcry resulted over the tweets and despite the daughter’s apologies, the family and its business suffered. Profits were lost, employees were laid off, family members were harassed. Weiss — a conservative journalist and long-standing women’s rights critic — does a good job getting you angry at the BLM protesters. The Wadi family were sympathizers, she points out. They didn’t deserve to be targeted by these cancel culture vultures.
The term “cancel culture”* is used to deride the efforts of progressive voices to use social media and other forms of pressure to obtain accountability for offensive words or actions. Conservatives trot out the anecdotes of mishaps, examples that invariably prove their belief that people on the left are both ridiculous and dangerous. In doing so, commentators like Bari Weiss seek to raise our ire against this particular form of accountability. But these selective anecdotes constitute emotional manipulation.
Yes, sometimes the fight for justice can lead to instances of individual injustice. Yes, sometimes those fighting for change can make mistakes and hurt their allies. And yes, we need to learn from these mistakes. But often these mistakes are exploited in a bad faith effort to reinforce the underlying problems. The bad faith is apparent in what is not being said in these discussions, the convenient omissions that distort both history and current events.
First, the phenomenon mislabelled as “cancel culture” is typically associated with the left, but in fact, is a tool that has been used historically by conservatives. The McCarthy era was notorious for getting people fired for expressing views considered…