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7 Canceling Takes

7 Canceling Takes June 25, 2021

Well, it’s almost ten in the morning and the trucks are outside my window shouting and digging deep into the road, trying to bring something good about, who knows. Let’s see if there are a few takes somewhere.

One

Read this thing yesterday and was surprised, as indeed it seems much of the world was. This is the money bit:

At the beginning of March I tweeted to American journalist Andy Ngo, author of the New York Times Bestseller, Unmasked. “Congratulations @MrAndyNgo. Finally had the time to read your important book. You’re a brave man”. Posting about books had been a theme of my social-media throughout the pandemic. I believed this tweet to be as innocuous as the others. How wrong I turned out to be.

Over the course of 24 hours it was trending with tens of thousands of angry retweets and comments. I failed to foresee that my commenting on a book critical of the Far-Left could be interpreted as approval of the equally abhorrent Far-Right.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Thirteen members of my family were murdered in the concentration camps of the Holocaust. My Grandma, unlike her cousins, aunts and uncles, survived. She and I were close. My family knows the evils of fascism painfully well. To say the least. To call me “fascist” was ludicrous beyond belief.

I’ve had plenty of abuse over the years. I’m a banjo player after all. But this was another level. And, owing to our association, my friends, my bandmates, were getting it too. It took me more than a moment to understand how distressing this was for them.

Two

Saw some interesting conversations of people going back and forth about whether or not the mob canceling of a person is a good thing or a bad thing. Andy Ngo, some say, isn’t a real person and deserved all the stuff he gets, and no one has any business supporting him in any way. No, say others, don’t dehumanize people like that. As I read along, I remembered that I had written about cancel culture last year. Here is a bit:

Cancelling is essentially an ancient and very human activity — the act of publicly shaming and then shunning someone so that others will be warned and adjust their own behavior accordingly. Cancel culture is a mightier force, however, in that it marries the tried and true practice of shunning to the unprecedented power of social media. This might seem counter intuitive. How could something as impersonal as an online mob be more painful than the personal rejection of an embodied community? Shunning, after all, occurs not only in American culture, but in every human community. Yet the one personally ejected from a particular community, before the far-reaching grasp of social media, could go away, like Cain, and rebuild life in some other place. Cancel culture, by contrast, being impersonal and online, stretches anywhere there’s an internet connection, which today is most of the globe. Anyone in the world can open a Twitter account and see your transgressions. Where do you go, then, when the whole world is against you?

Oh, and this:

Every age has its outcast. In the first century, undesirable babies were abandoned by the road and left to die. Christians picked them up and pitied them, welcoming them into the church. In times of plague, it was Christians who rushed into the fray to help the sick and dying. In our own more recent past, true Christians called out against the grievous sin of racial partiality. In yet nearer times, it is Christians of every denominational stripe who stand outside of abortion clinics and reach out to the hopeless and helpless. Similarly today, the way that Christians love each other, their enemies, and those suffering the shame of cancellation will be a powerful picture of Christ’s acceptance of the sinner to a fractured, intolerant world — greater even than that of cancel culture itself.

Three

The interesting thing about cancel culture, though, is that–for the most part, except for that tragic incident of that professor committing suicide–the canceled do continue to live in a world of all the other people who are canceled. You can mostly still read their stuff on substack and watch their videos on youtube (for a while). It’s not like you can’t read any Harry Potter books anymore. They do exist in time and space. In that way, it seems like maybe being canceled should not be that big of a deal. What’s the problem? There has to be a way to let people know the acceptable boundaries of behavior and speech.

Four

Except, as many people noticed, the mob came for the families of the people in the band, not just the person who tweeted the tweet…so that’s quite something. The social implications of being hassled because of who you are related to seem fraught, to me. There should be some way to say no to the mob, except, by definition, there is no way to do that, because it’s a mob.

Five

Twitter, of course, by and large, is delighted. This seems pretty representative of the sentiments over there:

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