“When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.” – Eric Hoffer. “Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” ― H.L. Mencken. “The mob is the most ruthless of tyrants;” ― Friedrich Nietzsche. “‘But the working people, the common people, they won’t allow it.’ It’s the common people who get most fun out of the torture and execution of great men…. If it’s not going too far back I’d like to know who it was demanded the execution of our friend Jesus H. Christ.” ― John Dos Passos
What is the difference between healthy democracy and mob rule? Only conscientious thought. The Golden rule requires that all within a society are tolerant, while not necessarily supportive, of ideas that are different or even foolish. Cancel Culture is about mob behavior and the cowards, politicians, and bean counters who compromise their integrity in order to appease that mob.
A California high-school senior, Briones Bedell, exposed the cultural exploitation of Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s had dared to label its Chinese food, “Trader Ming’s”, its middle eastern food, “Arabian Joe’s”, its Mexican food, “Trader José”, its Italian food, “Trader Giotto’s”, and its Japanese food, “Trader Joe San”. This “branding is racist because it exoticizes other cultures—it presents ‘Joe’ as the default ‘normal’ and the other characters falling outside of it.” The company issued an apology and has agreed to discontinue its exoticizing practices.
A drive-in film festival in Portland, Ore., has withdrawn the comedy Kindergarten Cop, after complaints that it “romanticized over-policing.” Local author Lois Leveen tweeted, “There’s nothing entertaining about the presence of police in schools, which feeds the ‘school-to-prison’ pipeline in which African-American, Latinx, and other kids of color are criminalized.”
The owners of the Nordic Pineapple Bed and Breakfast in St. Johns, Michigan, have taken down their Norwegian flag after residents accused them of racism. Kjersten Offenbecker, who has Norwegian heritage, concedes that Norway’s flag shares a color palette with the Confederate battle flag, but says the two flags are clearly distinct. “It bugs me as far as the stupidity of people,” says her husband, Greg. “There are no stars on it.”
Emory and Henry College in Virginia is considering renaming its sports teams, currently known as the Wasps. The nickname was adopted in 1921 as a reference to the striped uniforms of E&H’s football team, but college officials now say that because of its similarity to the acronym WASP, for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, the nickname could offend “those not in that category.”
If this “madness” is all a reaction to Trump, said Rolling Stone contributor Matt Taibbi in his newsletter, then why aren’t the “Twitter Robespierres” of the woke Left so focused on persecuting heretics in their own ranks? David Shor, a 28-year-old Democratic data analyst who once worked on President Obama’s re-election campaign, was recently fired for tweeting a link to research suggesting that violent protests risk a political backlash. Critics said that tweet “reeks of anti-blackness.” This inflexible orthodoxy is “closer to cult religion than politics,” and has institutions from the New York Times to the Democratic leadership in Congress kneeling in supplication and fear.
Stan Wischnowski, the top editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, resigned Saturday, June 6, 2020, several days after the Inquirer ran an article entitled “Buildings Matter, Too,” that commented on how civil unrest affected the city’s buildings. Dozens of staff members walked out of the Inquirer Building in protest against the article.
The article was written by Inga Saffron, who has written an architecture criticism column for the Inquirer since 1999. Among her awards is a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. The following is a one-paragraph quote from her even-handed article: “People over property” is great as a rhetorical slogan. But as a practical matter, the destruction of downtown buildings in Philadelphia — and in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and a dozen other American cities — is devastating for the future of cities. We know from the civil rights uprisings of the 1960s that the damage will ultimately end up hurting the very people the protests are meant to uplift. Just look at the black neighborhoods surrounding Ridge Avenue in Sharswood or along the western end of Cecil B. Moore Avenue. An incredible 56 years have passed since the Columbia Avenue riots swept through North Philadelphia, and yet those former shopping streets are graveyards of abandoned buildings. Residents still can’t get a supermarket to take a chance on their neighborhood.” Apparently Ms. Saffron did not get into trouble. There was no objection to her article—it was the title attached to it that raised hackles. Quite a sin, I guess, to contend that buildings matter.
There was large encampment of homeless people who staked out space for themselves along the Ben Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia’s most scenic architectural roadway, that stretches from City Hall to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It seems the city government was feeling quite liberal as long as COVID-19 was keeping the tourists away. But business is business and the city is exerting pressure to close the encampment down (while trying to be sensitive in the doing.) Apparently there is some truth to the claim that buildings matter.
“It hurts people when they see a white man bouncing a brown baby on their lap and they don’t know the context! That is harmful! That makes people cry. It makes people log out of our meetings. They don’t come here. They don’t come to our meetings. And they give me a hard time. Because I’m not vocal enough. And I’m not trying to be a martyr. I am trying to illustrate to you that you think I’m a social-justice warrior. And you think I’m being patronizing. And I’m getting pressure for not being enough of an advocate. I take that to heart. That hurts me. And I have to learn how to be a better white person. Read a book. Read Ibram Kendi. Read How to Talk to White People. It is not my job to educate you. You’re an educated white male. You can read a book. And you can learn about yourself.” – Robin Broshi (commenting about a NYC Education Counsel meeting in which Thomas Wrocklage was called out for being insensitive because he was bouncing a black baby on his knee.)
“If a member of a civic body expressed frustration that a colleague refused to read the Bible, the Quran, The Wealth of Nations, The Communist Manifesto, Atlas Shrugged, or Dianetics, and couldn’t understand an accusation until they did, most observers would see the problem. Drawing on outside concepts is fine. But if you can’t explain your position unless everyone reads your source material, then the fault lies with you. No one in a public meeting should have to read the books you consider important, much less accept that the ideas in those books are sacrosanct.” —Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic
Rose Ritch, recently resigned as vice president of her undergraduate student government at USC. Ms. Ritch was told that her Zionist support for Israel made her complicit in racism, and that she is, therefore, racist. Students launched an aggressive social-media campaign to “impeach her Zionist a—.” Last week, USC’s Black Student Assembly condemned university president Carol Folt for supporting Ms. Ritch. The BSA argued that it was antiblack to denounce anti-Zionism, ignore Ms. Ritch’s “white privilege” and “disregard” the black students who had opposed her. Apparently there are different ideas about what qualifies as being racist.
An Iowa State professor was forced to change her syllabus after warning students their work could not criticize Black Lives Matter, gay marriage, or legal abortion. Professor Chloe Clark said she would eject any student who engaged in “othering” non-privileged groups, but school officials said such a rule would violate students’ “First Amendment Rights”.
A group called South Asians for Biden tweeted: “If America isn’t racist, why did (Republican) Nimrata Haley feel compelled to change her name to ‘Nikki.’
The popular British singer-songwriter, Adele, posted a photograph of herself on Instagram with her hair twisted into “Bantu knots”—small buns that are an African style of coiffure. She also wore a bikini top in the distinctive pattern of Jamaica’s flag, and a gold saltire with green and black triangles. Her caption read, “Happy what would be Notting Hill Carnival my beloved London,” a wistful reference to a Caribbean-themed celebration that has taken place in London every August since 1966 but won’t happen in 2020, thanks to Covid.
Then ensued a familiar reflex of disapproval: Ms. Adkins, who is white, was accused of one of the cardinal sins of our time. Ernest Owens, an African-American journalist, tweeted: “If 2020 couldn’t get more bizarre, Adele is giving us Bantu knots and cultural appropriation that nobody asked for. This officially marks all of the top white women in
pop as problematic. Hate to see it.” Others followed, berating Ms. Adkins for her transgressive adoption of an African hairstyle.
Yet in all of this tyrannical cultural scorn, a pattern appeared to emerge: Adele’s critics on Twitter and Instagram seemed, almost entirely, to be “woke” Americans. Adele is the latest to be canceled, as American progressives impose their culture on Britain.
The global left, which has always included American progressives as fellow travelers, has long derided American “cultural imperialism.” A range of ideas and products are dismissed as vehicles of colonialism: Hollywood, American TV, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Google, democracy, free speech, the free market, human rights—these are all cast as American impositions. America’s “soft power”—to use Joseph Nye’s unhelpful phrase—is portrayed as a neocolonial Trojan horse. And yet the latest manifestation of “cultural imperialism” comes from the American left, which has ex- ported to foreign lands its gestures and memes of protest.
A recently concluded series of cricket matches—played in Britain between the West Indies and England in the weeks after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis—saw the overwhelmingly white England team take a knee at the start of every game. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” was used as a logo on all match scorecards. The locals had little understanding of the quasi-Marxist organization of that name. The political intolerance rampant on American campuses has been transplanted abroad, with British universities now showing the effects of stifled speech and policed thought. A recent report on academic freedom in the U.K. by Policy Exchange, a British think tank, has called for Parliament to pass an “Academic Freedom Bill” to protect intellectual dissent. Free-speech advocates in Britain want protection from the American Disease.
In all of this, Adele’s story offers a silver lining. As Americans attacked her for her Bantu knots, numerous Brits (and Jamaicans) rose to her defense. “The Adele cultural appropriation thing is just a perfect microcosm of American cultural dominance,” one writer tweeted. He bemoaned that “everything is analyzed through the lens of one country and its tensions,”—meaning the U.S.—and that other countries weren’t allowed to have their own approach to integration.
“Yes, it’s very tedious,” a prominent historian responded. “The current prostration of large swathes of the British left before US cultural imperialism is really quite the irony.”
A rare instance of pushback, you might say. It’s nice to see the Brits take a stand against imperialism.
(Taken from an article by Tunku Varadarajan, visiting fellow at the New York University Law School’s Classical Liberal Institute.)
According to a poll released in July by the Cato Institute, 62% of Americans agreed with the statement “The political climate these days prevents me from saying things I believe because others might find them offensive.” That included 77% of self-identified conservatives, but also 52% of liberals.
A group of prominent writers, including Margaret Atwood, J.K. Rowling and Salman Rushdie, issued a group letter in Harper’s magazine warning that “the free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.”
Of course, this letter met its own backlash through a letter that derided the Harper’s letter. “Harper’s has decided to bestow its platform not to marginalized people,” it said, “but to people who already have large followings and plenty of opportunities to make their views heard.”
The counter-letter was signed by a large group, as well, though a number of these “signed” anonymously, including three New York Times journalists. (The Harper’s letter was signed by four Opinion columnists at The Times, who used their names.)
Akela Lacy a signer of the counter-letter said she was aware of the “irony” of an open letter that included redacted signatures, but said that some people who criticized the Harper’s letter had gotten threats or feared workplace retaliation. “There’s a difference between being canceled in the way Harper’s letter is talking about and actually getting threats of violence,” she said.
Sure. In the one case you’re pointing the gun, in the other, the gun is pointed at you.
John Muir, “father of the national parks” and hero to environmentalists, has been “cancelled”. The Sierra Club is severing its association with its founder because as a young immigrant he made “derogatory comments about black people and Indigenous peoples”. No matter that Muir wrote admiringly of Native Americans later in his life, after he had spent time living with them.
In 2016, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who is Black, told ESPN’s The Undefeated website, “I stand by what I said that All Lives Matter and that we are human beings.” This summer, Sacramento Kings TV announcer Grant Napear, who is white, was fired after he tweeted “ALL LIVES MATTER…EVERY SINGLE ONE!!!”
Speech controversies on college campuses affect relatively few Americans, but they receive a great deal of attention, since colleges have traditionally been centers of open debate. Students once jealously guarded their speech rights. The Free Speech Movement, the first great student protest of the 1960s, erupted at Cal-Berkeley, in 1964, when a former student was arrested by a campus police officer for leafleting on behalf of the civil rights organization CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality. As many as 4,000 students demonstrated in favor of free speech on campus, and 800 went to jail.
Times have changed…or perhaps free speech only counts for certain issues. The case of Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, was recently taken up by the Supreme Court. Georgia Gwinnett College, a public college in Lawrenceville, Ga., disciplined Chike Uzuegbunam for making a public speech testifying to his Christian faith in one of the school’s designated “free speech zones”. The school has rescinded its policy that bans any expression “which disturbs the peace and/or comfort of person(s)”, effectively acknowledging the policy contradicted student Constitutional rights.
Niel Golightly, senior vice president of communications at Boeing, resigned in July after an employee complained that he had written an article arguing that women should not be combat pilots—in 1987. At the time, this was U.S. Air Force policy; the rule excluding women from flying in combat wasn’t lifted until 1993. Like the Air Force, Mr. Golightly changed his mind on the issue, saying that when he wrote the article he had been “uninformed and unformed.” But he still had to go, as Boeing’s CEO David Calhoun released a statement emphasizing, “our company’s unrelenting commitment to diversity and inclusion in all its dimensions.”
“The past decade saw the rise of the woke progressives who dictate what words can be said and ideas held, thus poisoning and paralyzing American humor, drama, entertainment, culture, and journalism. In the coming 10 years someone will effectively stand up to them. Their entire program is accusation: you are racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic; you are a bigot, a villain, a white male, a patriarchal misogynist, your day is over. They claim to be vulnerable victims, and moral. Actually they’re not. They’re mean and seek to kill, and like all bullies, are cowards.” – Peggy Noonan
“Totalitarians claim unconditional authority to reach deep into each person’s conscience. They prescribe an interpretation of the world and dictate the language with which citizens are permitted to express that interpretation.
“The woke are especially obsessed with two areas—sex and race. In their dream, nature’s basic working arrangement—sex, male and female, the business of procreation that ensures the survival of the species—dissolves in a frolicsome alphabet soup of identities; human meaning works itself out not in the mind, not in thought or art, but in the territory that lies south of the navel, in restless genital experiments. Men become women on their own say-so, and may bear children, if they choose: Death to the one who denies it! Even pronouns have become narcissistically discretionary.
“As for race: In the eyes of the woke—and in most media accounts—this summer’s eruptions (protests, demonstrations, riots, precinct-house occupations, and the “summer of love” in Seattle’s “occupied protest”) have been “overwhelmingly peaceful.” It’s not really true, but the woke are addicted to the meme of their own harmlessness, and so they will it into truth. Destruction, in fact, has been extensive—and inexcusable. Those hardest hit have been residents and shopkeepers in black and other minority neighborhoods that are left in the wreckage after those who did the damage—among them many white anarchists and antifa people—have gone back to their parents’ basements.” – Lance Morrow
The owner of a British hair salon was temporarily blocked from publishing a help-wanted ad seeking “a happy stylist,” because the posting “discriminated against unhappy people.” Alison Birch said she initially thought the complaint by the Department of Work and Pensions was a joke, before realizing it was serious. A department spokesperson has since apologized, but Birch says she is too unnerved by the incident to repost. “I only want happy people,” she said, “but I am too scared to advertise my job now in case I discriminate against anybody.”
The examples above are brutal depictions of America’s new left extremism. Mob behavior is not reserved for leftists, of course, it just happens to be trending these days. Put the Democrats in power for awhile and maybe it will be the right-wingers gathering pitchforks, lighting torches, and rushing out to find witches for drowning.
I will share a personal incident that illustrates mob action from the right. I attended a conservative, Presbyterian college, a beneficial experience and a generally happy time of my life. Students were all required to take a class called, “Foundations of Modern Culture”. Naturally, the concepts in the class were heavily flavored with Christian, Presbyterian thought.
One day the professor asked the class of roughly 100 students to express the purpose of being human. Since most of the students came from Presbyterian backgrounds it was a matter of seconds before someone quoted from the Westminster Confession of Faith: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” There was a general murmur of assent to this and the professor was ready to move on. However, since I did not come from a Presbyterian background, and because I was a product of public schools, and because I didn’t have the sense to avoid walking into a minefield, I raised my hand to comment. “Didn’t Jesus answer this question?” I asked. “Didn’t he say that we should love the Lord our God with all our soul and strength, and that we should love our neighbor as ourself?”
The professor paused for a milli-second and then he asked, “What do you think of that, class?” “Booooooo!” came the answer in chorus. And that was the end of that discussion.
I have thought about that event many times in my life. It’s not that the two answers are fundamentally different—they are not. To glorify God is to honor him in your words and actions, which means loving him and loving others. So the difference is really a bit of theological hair-splitting…though sometimes there is a kernel of truth to be harvested from a split hair (if I can mangle my metaphors). What bugs me, though, is that I didn’t stand my ground. Why didn’t I say to the class, or maybe to the professor after class, “Since when has truth been decided by majority vote? Is this how we promote careful thinking in a Christian liberal arts school? Is this how we learn that Christians should be courageous and unafraid of truth…because God is the author of truth?”
It was a reminder that has always stuck with me, though. Just because you can get a flock of sheep to bleat in harmony to your song does not mean your song has merit. In fact, whenever the chorus is loud, sticking close, and lumbering forward together without taking the trouble to look around, beware. Be suspicious of the mob; it is almost always wrong.
I realize that the temptation to socially blackball an “enemy” is hard to resist, especially for those who imagine themselves as disenfranchised victims. But hear this: Those who live by the sword will die by the sword. – Matthew 26.52. This is a prophecy for your life. Using the mob as a tool against those who disagree with you and who stand in your way…using this tool may work as you hope. But the day will come when the same tool will be used against you. Those who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind. – Hosea 8.7