September 27, 2019

CANCEL CULTURE, THEN AND NOW: At Quillette, in an article titled, “‘Cancel Culture,’ Roaring Twenties-Style,” Kevin Mims looks in detail at legendary prizefighter Jack Dempsey, and silent movie superstar Fatty Arbuckle, whose careers were derailed by moral outrages – Dempsey for rumors of draft-dodging, Arbuckle for, well, as they say in Hollywood, rumors of violating his moral turpitude clause rather badly:

The 1920s—and the cases of Dempsey and Arbuckle in particular—offer warnings in these overheated and confusing times about the dangers of trial by media and a rush to judgment. Reputations and careers, once tainted by accusation may never recover, even if those accusations turn out to be based on nothing but hearsay and lies or motivated by nothing more noble than score-settling. There are those who may argue that people like Dempsey and Arbuckle are acceptable collateral damage in the fight over values. But it is more important still to ensure that we establish the truth of the matter at hand, and that the punishment fit the crime…should one turn out to have been committed at all.

But today’s cancel culture has been working at a much faster rate of attrition, simply because of how easy it is to gin up the mob – and aim it at people with far less social standing than today’s equivalents of Dempsey and Arbuckle, often simply for kicks and grins.

Consider these recent stories:

1. Local Indiana TV reporter walks into an Walkerton (population  2,248) pizza parlor and asks the owner a hypothetical question about catering a gay wedding. When the interviewee’s traditional morals are viewed as doubleplus ungood crimethink by the local TV reporter and her bosses, her segment serves as the Bat-Signal, and then ”The Internet has unleashed its wrath.” as BuzzFeed passively described it at the time. As Scott Ott wrote, “All of those eyeballs benefit the TV station, which sells advertising on its website. It also helps several young, minor-market reporters who hustled and stumbled their way into the national spotlight. But don’t blame them. Blame the editor.” Meanwhile, “Over on Facebook, the restaurant’s 5-star average rating rapidly plunged to one star, as non-customers slammed away at Crystal’s little business.”

2. Woman tweets poorly written joke based around white privilege before boarding a plane to Africa. “‘We are about to watch this @JusticeSacco bitch get fired. In REAL time. Before she even KNOWS she’s getting fired,’ one Twitter user wrote. Sacco lost her job and endured months of harassment online and offline.”

3. Man creates a silly animated gif with a CNN logo placed atop a wrestler getting body-slammed. Silly gif is retweeted by President Trump. CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski (formerly of BuzzFeed, where he led the Twitter mob against the aforementioned Sacco) doxxes man into submission on the Fourth of July of 2017 by keeping his name private because “he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same. CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.” To paraphrase Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi, no anti-CNN gifs for you – forever!

4. And just this week, Iowa’s Carson King loses a sponsorship from Anheuser-Busch because a former BuzzFeed writer employed by the Des Moines Register digs into tweets he wrote when he was 16, which they later Orwellianly described as a “routine background check.” Naturally, the editor sacks the former BuzzFeed writer and refuses to acknowledge her own role in not striking out that passage from the article, and possibly giving Anheuser-Busch an advanced screening of the piece.

And by pillering King, her paper brags that they’ve done a great public service:

As H.L. Mencken famously wrote, “Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”  But now, with just a click of a button on social media, Internet puritans can make that person’s life a living hell. And as Allahpundit noted last week, after Saturday Night Live creator-producer Lorne Michaels caved to the mob and fired comedian Shane Gillis, “Pity [Gillis], though, for having endured one of the special cruelties of cancel culture, having your dirty laundry aired *right after* you’ve achieved your professional dream. It’s like Kyler Murray getting zapped for offensive tweets he sent in his younger teenaged years days after he won the Heisman. No one cares about policing wokeness in people until the very moment they become hugely successful and potential cultural influencers. And so inevitably one of the best days of their lives becomes one of the worst.”

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