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The Dark, Destructive, Murderous Psychological Forces of Cancel Culture

Protesters celebrate after the Confederate statue known as "Silent Sam" was toppled on the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. (Julia Wall/The News

The cancel culture we are living in should itself be canceled. That must be obvious to most people, given the way in which it stifles the free expression of ideas, but I think there’s more happening than that. Cancel culture is the culmination of the cyberbullying, spiritually (and, sometimes, literally) homicidal social media experiment we’ve been running on the entire human race since the advent of venues like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat.

Canceling people taps into the most primitive and destructive of human impulses—dark, destructive, murderous psychological forces that, unleashed, have been manifested before in historical horrors like burning witches in Salem and burning Jews in the Holocaust (not to equate the scope of the two, at all). And while “canceling” human beings may not stop their hearts from pumping blood, it is certainly intended to stop their hearts, metaphorically. It is the modern-day equivalent of a stoning in the public square and—no exaggeration—if the people who celebrate this cancel culture could get away with pushing a button anonymously to vote to kill their targets for real, they would.

Cancelers are cancer. They are part of a metastatic social movement that, without massive interventions to stop them, will destroy the entirety of our society, instilling fear where freedom once reined, silencing and strangling not only those who err and act inappropriately but also those who dare to speak words or share ideas that are currently shunned. Left to spread, this disease will choke off not only the sharing of unpopular ideas but then the sharing of any idea that might prove unpopular. The victims of cancelers will come to include not only compassion (already on its last legs) but critical thinking and creativity.

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Lest anyone think that thoughts driven out of the public square by cancel culture will simply disappear, think, again. The free expression of ideas has the happy effect of moderating the most extreme of them, whereas that which is buried far from the light of public discourse can turn rancid underground. Labeling, threatening, and banishing people has consequences.  It breeds, rather than extinguishing, rage and extremism.

Part of the problem is that this cancerous cancel culture is good for the media. Vicious attacks on celebrities, CEOs, and anyone else worth covering guarantees more viewership. If the attacks are vicious enough, they can even go viral. That’s true for liberal and conservative media outlets, which explains why both gleefully spread cancel culture—as long as the targets are from the other side of the political spectrum.

Remember, the topics for news broadcasts are part of groupthink. No one person needs to assume responsibility for destroying a target. Network executives get involved. Producers and their assistants get involved. Reporters, too.  Writers. Researchers. Hosts. Anchors.

It’s time to cancel the cancel culture. And the only way to do that may be to shine a light on cancelers for their holier-than-thou posture and their willingness to commit metaphorical homicide—again and again. Cancelers should be met with cynicism and criticism. A list of cancelers might be more important to the health of America, in the long run, than contact-tracing for Covid.

Should those on the canceler list lose their jobs? No. Should they be subject to social media campaigns that are no less than orchestrated cyberbullying? No. Should they be targeted by investigative journalists to bring their own faults and foibles to light? No.

As Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind.” We’re almost there.

Dr. Keith Ablow is the founder of www.Pain-2-Power.com, a life coaching and consulting system designed to empower individual thought and action.  He is a New York Times bestselling author of 16 books and served, for a decade, a Fox News Network Contributor.