Some thoughts on cancel culture
First, let’s get something out of the way: I’m on the “wrong” side of this. The conservative one, more or less, although if I call myself anything, I’d say I’m more like a constitutionalist libertarian. (Socially liberal/economically conservative, all that.) Politically, I’m a leave-me-the-hell-alone-ist. I want a government that’s as small as possible, that does only what’s absolutely necessary to ensure a free and level marketplace and provide for national defense and spends the rest of the time getting the hell out of everybody’s way. In other words, the polar opposite of what we’ve got today.
So where does “cancel culture” come into this?
Well, it’s pointed directly at me (or would be, if I mattered enough to show up on anyone’s radar). It’s been around for a long time, but only recently acquired a name. And after decades of being targets, people on my side of the cultural divide are FINALLY starting to catch on to it — they’ve realized that they most likely outnumber the other side, and that two can play that game.
But many on the conservative side, especially the libertarian types, who tend to camp in a very uncomfortable middle ground between conservatives and the so-called liberals, and who tend to have a very unfortunate blind spot when it comes to the totalitarian potential of private business, are calling for a high-minded refusal to engage in “cancel culture.” They say it’s hypocrisy. That private businesses can do what they want. That we become what we hate if we use their tactics, and we’ll be no better than the repugnant enemy.
Author and blogger Alexander Hellene has a good counter to that line of thought:
Ask them what they’ve conserved and then ignore their horrible advice, which essentially boils down to “If you fight back, your enemy wins.”
And if you don’t fight back…surprise…your enemy wins! Heads they win, tails we lose. We’ve been losing for a long time because of that line of thought.
But I used to agree with that line of thought, actually. Mostly. Personally, I’ve always hated the idea of boycotts and “cancel culture.” (Another thing I hate: this thing where we call every social trend a “culture.”) It always felt like a dirty, low-down, villainous, cheating kind of thing to do, destroying somebody’s livelihood — and I didn’t want to feel like a dirty cheater or do anything like that to anyone.
But you know what? I also didn’t want to be in a war. I don’t pick fights. I don’t want to fight anyone at all (cf. that “leave me the hell alone” thing), but nevertheless I have been in a couple. It takes two to fight…but only one to start it. Nobody’s going to ask your permission before declaring war on you or stealing your stuff.
And this cultural problem, it’s more than a divide. It really is a war. If not a war, then a fight for survival, because if the “progressive” side wins, people like me (and probably you, too) will have no place in society. No political party to vote for. No way to speak our mind or live by the dictates of our own conscience. No way to participate in the arts or the economy. We will be erased. Make no mistake, that is what’s at stake. Fight or die.
So when I finally came around to the realization that there IS a culture war and that I’m part of it whether I want to be or not (remember, it only takes one side to start one), I had to ask myself who’s fighting it and how. And I didn’t personally ask any mainstream conservatives, but I did ask myself what they were up to. And everything they did and said indicated that they weren’t fighting — or at least, they weren’t in it to win. The “conservative” establishment has either failed to recognize that they are in a war, or has decided they’d rather lose than risk their access to the cool-kid parties. Either way, they’ve failed to conserve any of the things they pretend to value.
And then, having joined Gab in the early days of 2016 when it was new, I got an inside view of the alt-right and how they were fighting. (BTW, I encourage everyone — everyone — to go sign up for Gab. It’s the only censorship-resistant and cancel-resistant platform that exists right now.) And I didn’t (still don’t) like a lot of the baggage that comes along with them, but by God, the alt-right were fighting, and they meant to win. And in the process of finding and following all the creative people I could find on Gab, I started coming across a lot of people who weren’t alt-right but were definitely also in the fight to win it. It was inspiring.
Now, I’m still not wading into the conservative/libertarian/right version of cancel culture with fists swinging. I’m just not like that. But I can’t just sit here and let a bunch of horrible people trash everything I believe in, either. Doing nothing isn’t an option.
But…what if you still can’t get on board with the meanness of cancel culture? What if you’re just not brutal enough to punch an enemy in the face and laugh while he bleeds (or at least say serves you right)?
You don’t have to “cancel” to make a difference
There are two basic ways you can help win a war, and both are absolutely necessary if you’re going to win.
One is to fight; to attack the enemy, make them bleed, make them fear for their lives and livelihoods. That’s “cancel culture,” and it works; it’s as necessary in a culture war as infantry with rifles in a physical war. But it’s not the only way to win. Fighters need support; they need resources and a home front to sustain them. So support your side’s fighters; donate money, buy their products, and spread the word. Make sure they have all the resources they need, and then some.
The “progressive” side of this conflict has been fully committed to both of these tactics for a long time. We need to be, too.
So fight. Choose a method that works for you — that you can commit to — and get after it.
One thing everyone can do, “cancel culture” or no, is to throw your economic and social support behind people who truly are on your side, or at the very least, people who play fair and aren’t enemies. Authors like Alexander Hellene, Erik Testerman, Brian Niemeier, Misha Burnett, Rawle Nyanzi, Larry Correia, and Sarah Hoyt (to name just a handful who I read, follow, and/or talk to). On and on and on. There are a lot of them. Independent fiction magazines like Cirsova. Publishers like Baen and Castalia House. Go watch Run Hide Fight. a kick-ass movie produced by the Daily Wire. Watch Gina Carano’s movie project when it comes out. Join Gab and, if you can, pay for a pro account. Things like that.
The better our people do in the cultural arena, the better we all do. And if someone you follow does get canceled, for God’s sake, don’t go along with it! That’s when you commit harder. If you’ve followed the Q Anon thing (I haven’t, but I’ve heard from plenty who do), where we go one, we go all. The “progressive” left knows there’s power in unity, which is one of many reasons why they hate and fear the Q phenomenon so much. And it’s why they’re so hell-bent on canceling everyone who disagrees with them.
If you’ve ever been a big fan of a hometown sports team, you basically know how the home-front support part of the war works.
Cheering from the sidelines is a valid role; every team needs its fans. So you keep cheering them on, even when they lose, even when the refs throw the coach out of the game. Even if the coach gets fired and the team currently sucks, you find a better coach and look forward to the team getting better. (Note: These are not political teams; the moneyed establishment is never on your side, and besides, we’re talking culture and art and entertainment here.) And you never, ever buy the other team’s merchandise. You don’t go walking around in a Lakers jersey if you’re a Utah Jazz fan or a Yankees hat if you’re a Red Sox fan…so don’t give your money to people who hate you.
That’s not cancel culture in any way; it’s just good sense.