By Stephen Tuttle | March 6, 2021
It seems we are either part of what's being called “cancel culture” or we're claiming we must cancel cancel culture while merrily doing our own canceling.
To be sure, we are quicker than ever to demand someone be fired, recalled, or impeached, or some company be boycotted for some offense, real or imagined, usually involving accusations of racism, sexism or, lately, political disloyalty. The offending party is quickly excoriated on social media and the calls for swift justice soon follow; accusation equals conviction.
Hyatt Hotels is the latest target. Their offense? They hosted the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) gathering in Florida. Those on the left, greatly offended that Hyatt would conduct business with such people, called for an immediate boycott. Never mind that Hyatt would also be happy to host a large group from the left since, well, hosting gatherings is part of its business.
It seems there is now very little that doesn't offend someone who is quick to share their experience and demand retribution. It need not be a recent offense, either. If you wrote or shared something offensive years ago, there are algorithms capable of digging up those posts no matter how many times you think you deleted them. There is a near permanence to anything ever shared on social media.
We've become quick to judge and equally quick to condemn the judgment. It's as if every action and interaction is completely absent nuance, a good or evil equation easily solved.
Sometimes, the offense seems clear. Matt Lauer, Bill O'Reilly, Roger Ailes, Charlie Rose, and Louis CK were “canceled,” to one degree or another, because there was evidence of their aberrant behavior toward women, in some instances egregiously so. Harvey Weinstein was accused by dozens, tried and convicted of third-degree rape and other offenses, and sentenced to 23 years in prison.
Yet there were those who wanted Tom Brokaw canceled after he was accused of inappropriate behavior that allegedly occurred 40 years ago. That's not so clear at all.
This is all driven by politicians eager to score points with beloved bases. Many progressives believe even the slightest slip of the tongue or even marginally inappropriate word is sufficient cause for strict and immediate punishment. Many conservatives believe the entire idea of canceling anybody or any business is just part of a left-wing, socialist plot of political correctness run amok.
But conservatives have their own cancel culture in full bloom. The 10 Republican members of the House who voted to impeach Donald Trump, plus the seven GOP senators who voted to convict, have all been censured by local or statewide party organizations and threatened with recalls and impeachment. In Arizona, the state party even censured Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, both of whom are private citizens.
Then things got really silly.
Republicans also wanted to cancel Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Their great offense was abiding by their oaths of office, following their state constitutions and laws, and refusing to illegally overturn the presidential election results in their states.
Not be outdone, Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota, thinks the Senate parliamentarian (i.e., the official charged with making sure the Senate abides by its own complex rules and procedures) should be fired for refusing to allow the $15/hour minimum wage to be included in the massive, $1.9 trillion COVID-relief reconciliation legislation.
(These days, most legislation requires 60 votes in the Senate to avoid a threatened filibuster by either party. “Reconciliation” is a process that can bypass that if the legislation directly impacts the budget or finances of the country. There can be no filibuster with reconciliation, so it requires only a simple majority for passage.)
But the Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, ruled the minimum-wage component did not meet the financial impact requirement and could not be included in the reconciliation legislation. Her rulings are advisory and can be overruled by Vice President Kamala Harris but that seems unlikely. It should be noted MacDonough was appointed by Barack Obama in 2012, is well respected, and somehow survived the Trump Administration.
Since the minimum wage increase is a pet issue for progressives, Omar's solution wasn't to introduce and work to pass a separate minimum wage bill; it was to cancel the messenger and find someone more willing to relax parliamentary rules.
Other times it just gets bizarre. Senator Bernie Sanders was targeted by a high school teacher in California who claimed Sanders was an offensive example of “white privilege” because he wore a puffy jacket and mittens to the Biden inauguration. The logic, if you can call it that, was that no minority person would have been able to dress so casually.
Cancel culture is alive in an environment ever more aware of and sensitive to offensive words and behavior. But our opinion of it depends almost entirely on who's being canceled and who's doing the canceling.