On Monday, The New York Times released a hilarious Monty Python-style video that mocks “cancel culture.” Ironically, the Times has arguably engaged in the very thing it so powerfully mocked.
The video opens with a medieval mob of angry peasants gathering in the woods. Among them, a salesman cries, “You can’t have a canceling without self-gratification!”
The “proceedings” begin with the judge declaring, “You are hereby sentenced to be publicly canceled by having thy head smote from thy body … for the crime of saying something offensive eleven years ago.”
“YEAH!” the crowd roars. “Eleven years ago!”
“Let’s judge past statements by a present-day perspective,” a man adds.
“Wait? Don’t I get a trial?” the accused woman asks.
“No. This is a canceling! No due process,” one man replies. “We are the jury,” a woman declares. “Anger makes us qualified.”
“Plus, we’re all perfect,” a woman in the crowd declares. The crowd echoes, “Yeah, we’re all perfect.”
“You may be granted a reprieve … if you apologize,” the judge says.
“Of course I apologize. I’m sorry that you’re offended,” the accused woman declares.
“Sorry that we’re offended?! That’s a non-apology!” a man replies. The crowd echoes, “A non-apology!”
“That’s worse than saying nothing!” an angry woman adds.
The accused woman, befuddled, wonders, “Well, if apologizing makes it worse, what’s the point of apologizing at all?”
After the entire crowd takes an astonished gasp, the angry woman points her finger, “She hates apologizing!”
An angry man declares, “Cancel her even more!”
Seemingly about to execute the accused woman, the judge concludes, “Fare thee well, and may you never again utter the phrase ‘f**k the peasants.'”
The crowd lets out another astonished gasp. “He just said something bad about peasants!” an angry man yells, pointing his finger. “I’m a peasant and I’m offended,” one peasant adds.
“No, I said she said, ‘f**k the peasants,'” the judge explains.
“OH, MY GO-, He said it again!” the angry woman responds.
The judge, clearly in trouble now, backtracks. “I love peasants. I would never say, ‘f**k the peasants.'”
After more outrage, the judge responds, “I apologize unreservedly.”
One man shouts, “That’s not a good enough apology!”
The peasant who was originally offended disagrees. “I thought it was all right.”
“Ah, an apology apologist! He’s for apologies,” the angry man replies.
“Hang on, hang on, I’m confused,” the angry woman says. “Are we against him for being for apologies, or against her for being against apologies?”
The accused woman, sensing an opportunity, replies, That’s irrelevant. What matters is that you’re angry.”
“Cancel him!” the crowd shouts, pointing at the judge.
“But we’re supposed to be canceling her,” the exasperated judge replies.
“Well that was whole minutes ago,” the accused woman says. “Who knows, things we say today might be offensive in the future.”
“She’s right,” the apology apologist says to his irate fellow. “You might have offended me in the future.”
“Well, you might be offending me in the future right now!” the angry man responds.
“It’s a pre-canceling!”
As the irate members of the crowd start assaulting one another, the judge escapes and a prince arrives.
“I hereby increase your taxes by 150 percent,” the prince declares. When none of the angry peasants respond, he adds, “No? Well, I’m going to burn your crops too.”
This hilarious video rightly captured many of the problems with “cancel culture.” Artists, comedians, and journalists have found themselves “cancelled” for one offensive message posted years ago on Twitter. Some of the offenses are more serious than others, but even many on the left have realized that cancel culture has gotten out of hand.
There is more than a little irony in The New York Times deciding to mock cancel culture, however. The Times arguably applied a disgusting double standard in firing one member of its editorial board for racist tweets while keeping another for the same offense.
In February 2018, the Times fired tech journalist Quinn Norton a few hours after hiring her to the editorial board. Her crime? Tweets that included derogatory slurs for gay people and black Americans. Norton apologized for her tweets, but explained that “[w]hen I speak to communities, I used their language to do it.” She described the outrage over her old tweets as “context collapse.”
In August 2018, The New York Times hired Sarah Jeong, who had shared her disdain for white people on Twitter. Among other things, she compared people to dogs and “groveling goblins” based on the color of their skin, and confessed that she took a sick pleasure from “being cruel to old white men.” Naturally, the Times decided to keep her on — and emphasize the fact that she had been bullied on social media.
In both cases, the women apologized for their offensive old tweets, but the Times fired one and defended the other.
The New York Times has also caved to pressure multiple times. Liberals demanded a retrospective article on the tea party movement include an attack on the movement’s allegedly racist inspiration — and then complained that the resulting addition didn’t go far enough to tar the movement as racist.
Furthermore, the Times has abetted some of the most outrageous attempts at cancel culture. When the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) tried to get a Mar-a-Lago gala for the national security group ACT for America canceled, the Times uncritically repeated their smears that ACT was “anti-Muslim.” Mar-a-Lago did indeed cancel that gala, so CAIR tried to get a Mar-a-Lago even with the Center for Security Policy (CSP) canceled, as well. The Times interviewed CSP President Fred Fleitz, but they omitted key facts from his quotes in the story.
The New York Times is right to mock cancel culture. Perhaps America’s newspaper of record should practice what it preaches.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.