Commentary: Reagan Reed
It’s a familiar story: A professor or public figure fails to use the exact politically correct shibboleth in a lecture, or is outed for holding a nuanced opinion that is not 100% in line with woke progressive orthodoxy. Left wing student groups and “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” administrators raise a big fuss and demand the defenestration of the hapless offender. If the heretic is to have any hope of retaining their job, they must engage in a public Maoist struggle session, obsequiously groveling and begging for forgiveness. The victim is usually canned anyways.
Conservatives have rightly raised the alarm about totalitarian left-wing cancel culture on university campuses. However, conservatives need to come to terms with an uncomfortable truth:
Cancel culture is emerging on the right just as it exists on the left.
To be clear, right-wing cancel culture is not currently as big of a threat as left-wing cancel culture, simply because the right does not currently control nearly as many cultural institutions as the left currently does. However, right-wing cancel culture should be just as odious to any conservative who still values independent thought.
An excellent example of right-wing cancel culture is saga of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and the anniversary of the January 6th Riot that unfolded over the past week. Cruz, who is a very intelligent man who is obviously aware that rioting doesn’t play well with general election voters, made a strongly worded statement against the violence, calling the rioters who assaulted Capitol Police “terrorists”. However, Cruz quickly walked back his comments and engaged in a Maoist struggle session on Tucker Carlson’s show. It’s funny that the populists would be so upset by Cruz calling the rioters “terrorists” when they insist the rioters were actually antifa or crisis actors, but that’s a whole other conversation…
It didn’t matter that Cruz has one of the most conservative voting records in the U.S. Senate. It didn’t matter that Cruz actually voted against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. It didn’t matter that Cruz has been a good and loyal foot soldier to Trump. Cruz used one word that offended the populists, and poof! Suddenly he is a “RINO” and a “traitor”. The fact that many on the populist right would ignore Cruz’s conservative voting record and rush to cancel him just for saying something that is politically incorrect on the populist right is strikingly similar to the left-wing cancel culture on university campuses. It is just as idiotic.
Was “terrorism” the best word to describe what happened on January 6th? The Oxford Dictionary defines “terrorism” as, “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” I personally don’t use the word “terrorism” to describe January 6th, as I think “riot” is probably a better word for what happened. But if Cruz wants to call people who assaulted police officers and sought to use violence to intimidate the Vice President into not certifying the election, I don’t see why anyone would object.
Even if “terrorism” was not the best word, Cruz should not have apologized. Just as you should never cave or apologize to the woke cancel culture mob on the far left, you should never cave or apologize to the populist cancel culture mob on the far right. No matter how much you grovel to the cancel culture mob, it will never be enough to save you. You cannot appease the mob; you must stand and fight it. Carlson didn’t buy Cruz’s apology, and neither did his populist viewers. In trying to appease everyone, Cruz ended up pleasing no one.
In contrast to the left’s relative ideological conformity, conservatism used to encourage diversity of thought. For decades, one could read the pages of National Review and encounter a broad range of opinions from multiple perspectives on the right. Policing language and canceling people for not using all the politically correct words is dangerous, illiberal, and fundamentally opposed to the founding principles of this nation. There is already one cancel culture party that wants to police speech and impose its version of political correctness. The last thing we need is another.
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