My colleague, RedState editor-at-large Kira Davis, wrote an excellent piece a few days ago on the so-called ‘cancel culture’ (READ Kira Davis: How Do We Cancel ‘Cancel Culture?’) that I encourage everyone to read. The ‘cancel culture,’ if you haven’t been paying attention, is the practice of an online mob, usually from the left, publicizing unpopular or offensive social media statements by someone, no matter how inconsequential that person may be, in order to drive that person from their job and public view. The problem, as Kira notes, is that we are now in a tit-for-tat situation with no easily visible way out:
I tend to fall on the side of making people play by their own rules as an effective combatant in politics. Turnabout often leads to more fair play. However, in this situation I’m afraid the “cancel crackheads” are too addicted to the high and aren’t lucid enough to learn the lesson that Justice Marshall was expressing all those years ago.
As boring as this sounds, the only way out of this is grace. Perhaps we need not make people play by their own rules. Perhaps the most effective response and the quickest way to kill this is to offer peace instead of ridicule. Sure, there’s a bit of irresistible schadenfreude when watching the apologies and groveling of progressive celebrities who have been nothing but horrible to people who don’t think like them. I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel it too.
But as Marshall pointed out, at some point we will all be on the receiving end of that weapon. We need to kill “cancel culture.” Sooner, not later. I don’t think engaging in it will lead to its end, I think that will lead to its normalization. We cancel the cancellers by refusing to engage in petty “outings” and by using every opportunity like Kimmel’s to remind each other that no person is perfect, that we’ll all fall short of these strange new, impossible standards at some point. Perhaps when enough celebrities have been hoisted on their own petard they’ll follow suit.
It doesn’t matter if Kimmel learns a lesson or continues to judge others as unfairly as he has been judged. What matters is that those of us with any level of humility or reason left need to be in the lead, here. It’s time for the grown ups to take over.
To jump off this train to nowhere, requires trust. We are essentially in a large game of iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma. If you’ve taken business school courses, you’ve run into the Prisoner’s Dilemma game. It works like this. You and a friend rob a store. You are both arrested and separated as soon as you are arrested. The steely-eyed prosecutor who lives next door to the state’s execution chamber shows up and offers a deal. If you confess, you get zero time and your partner gets five years. If you both confess you both get three years. To try to convince you to rat our your partner, he tells you that if neither one of you talk you are both going down for a year on a lesser charge. And he tells you that he’s offered the same deal to your partner. What do you do? Your best play is to keep quiet and hope your partner does, too. But that window out of the situation via betraying your partner becomes very, very attractive. If you play a single round, it is a safe bet that both prisoners will try to betray their partner.
Once the game has infinite players constantly joining and infinite rounds and you swirl into the mix a healthy number of sociopaths and outright lunatics it becomes nearly impossible for trust to develop and there is no enforcement mechanism to prevent aberrant behavior. In short, rational actors become a distinct minority in a very short period of time.
Where I’m not sure that the ‘grace’ option is really viable is because we are in a place right now where refusing to participate becomes the equivalent of unilateral disarmament. You can’t afford to not retaliate with equal or overwhelming vitriol because the guy you don’t take out today may take you out tomorrow
The other reason why I’m less than sanguine about this fad burning itself out is that I’m not terribly sure that there is anyone out there who would qualify as a grown-up, there are no Atticus Finches or Will Kanes (go ahead, look it up) out there in government or business or academia or the military or in religious leadership. There are gray, milktoast little creatures who have either bought into the woke nonsense or who are so afraid of challenging the mob that they have become part of it.
Case in point. In 1987, for those of you who majored in gender studies that was 33 years ago, a Navy lieutenant and fighter pilot named Niel (that is not a typo) Golightly wrote an article for Proceedings of the US Naval Institute, the professional journal of the US Navy, called No Right to Fight. The thesis being that women have no right to serve in combat units and the very fact that they are there, regardless of ability, is detrimental.
At issue is not whether women can fire M-60s, dogfight MiGs, or drive tanks. Introducing women into combat would destroy the exclusively male intangibles of war fighting and the feminine images of what men fight for—peace, home, family.
Fast forward to today. Niel Golightly is Boeing’s senior vice president of communications. Or was. Some nasty little SJW inside of Boeing complained about the article to Boeing’s Karens and Golightly was kicked to the curb after writing a self-abasing apology that would have done proud any denizen of a Khmer Rough reeducation camp:
“My article was a 29-year-old Cold War navy pilot’s misguided contribution to a debate that was live at the time,” Golightly said in a statement. “The dialogue that followed its publication 33 years ago quickly opened my eyes, indelibly changed my mind, and shaped the principles of fairness, inclusion, respect and diversity that have guided my professional life since.”
Nothing this man has done in his life could save him from an opinion (a righteous one, by the way) that he jettisoned years ago in order to advance in corporate America.
Boeing said it disagreed with the content of Golightly’s article and that it has started a search for his successor. Greg Smith, Boeing’s chief financial officer and executive vice president of enterprise operations, will oversee communications in the meantime, the company said.
Boeing President and CEO David Calhoun talked with Golightly about the article and its implications for his role as the company’s top spokesman, Calhoun said. He added that Boeing has an “unrelenting commitment to diversity and inclusion in all its dimensions.”
“I greatly respect Niel for stepping down in the interest of the company,” Calhoun said in a statement.
If Calhoun had any respect for Golightly or Boeing, he would have said “this is bullsh**” and fired the useless twit who made the complaint and anyone else who’d taken it seriously. He would have issued a public statement about how this was not how the game was played in Boeing and served notice that crap like this would be much more likely to result in HR and a couple of security goons visiting your cubicle than it would in anything else.
But he didn’t. And the damage Calhoun did here will ripple throughout corporate America. Boeing has identified itself as an easy mark for the most ridiculous of complaints and that will be noticed everywhere. Letters to the editor from college newspapers will be dredged up. Sins of wrongthink will be revealed. And the watch word will be that “Boeing fired Golightly for this, if we don’t do what they did have we created a hostile work environment?” The result will be more sad, gray, sexually confused little things who have never had any opinion that wasn’t validated on Tumblr ascending the corporate ladder with all the lack of productivity and imagination that entails.
As much as I detest the cancel culture, I’ve concluded that I am a draftee in this particular war which I have no interest in fighting–sort of like an off-the-boat Irishman in New York in 1864. I know that if I engage in politics long enough, people will eventually come for me and so I must go for them first. I don’t see the way forward here beyond causing enough pain and enough damage that companies and universities and government agencies everywhere agree that it has gone too far. Boeing sent a strong message today that not only is this online Reign of Terror with its social media tumbrils not abating but it really hasn’t gotten started yet.