Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The Language of the Debate (6)

Yesterday’s post introduced the expression “The Right’s Cancel Culture”. It comes from an opinion piece at in which journalist Chris Rufo is taken to task for his ongoing campaign to inform people that Disney is promoting the LGBTQ+ cause and that your poor kids don’t deserve to have new Disney propaganda inflicted on them.

Apparently telling the truth and promoting a Disney boycott from conservatives constitutes “cancelation”. So let’s talk a bit about how the expression “cancel culture” is being used and what it really means.

10. Cancel Culture

The Cambridge Dictionary defines cancel culture as “a way of behaving in a society or group, especially on social media, in which it is common to completely reject and stop supporting someone because they have said or done something that offends you”. That seems to be a reasonable definition, and it would certainly include the efforts of a man like Chris Rufo to make fellow conservatives aware that Disney is embracing and promoting the LGBTQ+ cause, and to discourage people from putting their money into Disney product.

Strategy and Tactics

Comparing the strategies adopted by the two sides of the current culture war with an umbrella term like “cancel culture” seems fair enough. On the conservative side, Chris Rufo wants to hurt Disney in the pocketbook to stop them sexualizing and politicizing their product with the goal of brainwashing a generation of youngsters. Perhaps he even aspires to put Disney out of business entirely. On the Progressive side, outfits like The Bulwark want to discredit Chris Rufo and take him out of the game. The goals of both parties are not wildly dissimilar.

However, if we step outside the dictionary for a moment and compare how the Left goes about “canceling” the Right to how the Right goes about “canceling” the Left, we find ourselves talking about two sets of tactics so very different that calling them both “cancel culture” really misrepresents what is going on.

There are plenty of Christians on the political right, but plenty of unsaved conservatives as well. Even people who used to refer to themselves as classical liberals are looking right wing when set alongside today’s bumper crop of opportunists, race-baiters, clueless patsies, Marxists, Antifa thugs and social justice warriors who vote Democrat. When it comes to the Right engaging in so-called cancel culture, we need to carefully distinguish saved from unsaved.

After all, some tactics used by pragmatic conservatives are inappropriate for even the most politically-active Christians.

Valid ‘Cancelation’ Tactics

Consider: What is Chris Rufo doing? Well, he’s passing on accurate information about Disney’s goals and intentions so that Christians and conservatives can make informed decisions about whether they want to continue supporting a corporation that is actively working to destroy their society and corrupt their children.

The media loves to portray people like Chris Rufo as fringe loonies who need to check what year they live in. But if that’s true, how can the few “haters” inflamed by Rufo’s rhetoric pose any kind of serious financial threat to a monolith like Disney? What could they possibly cancel ... unless in reality they are neither fringe nor loony, but actually comprise the bulk of Disney’s target market. The departure of a significant chunk of their fan base might actually put the fear of God into the board of directors and shareholders of a major corporation.

To me, Rufo’s seems a reasonable response. I do something like it all the time. “Tell the Truth and Pull the Plug” is a perfectly viable option for Christians. We are not obliged to spend our money anywhere and everywhere. When Starbucks began to actively support and promote Planned Parenthood and the LGBTQ+ movement, I stopped drinking their coffee. Loved their espresso, won’t touch it now. When Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy sent me an email asking for my support of “a woman’s right to choose” and bad-mouthing people who do not, I stopped attending the band’s concerts, buying their CDs and paying any attention to what they are up to. Why on earth should I financially support people who hate what I believe and are trying to support what I don’t? I shouldn’t, and nobody can make me. I’ll put my hard-earned money into causes and organizations with which I can agree wherever possible, and when I can’t find that, I’ll happily settle for supporting organizations that are smart enough to remain apolitical and just sell me a product without bogging it down with opinion and social commentary. I’m not sure any reasonable person finds that a crazy idea.

Bottom line: Christians have truth at our disposal. We don’t need anything else. If the fallout from telling the truth is that people stop buying a product, that’s a legitimate outcome. In a market-based society, that is how you get the products you want to the market, and how you discourage the ones you don’t from getting to market. Gay and trans people remain perfectly welcome to buy all the Disney products they can hoard.

‘Cancelation’ Tactics Christians Can’t Use

But now consider: What is the Left doing when it tries to “cancel” somebody. What tactics do they employ?

  1. Distortion. As documented in yesterday’s post, The Bulwark actively distorted what Chris Rufo said about Karey Burke’s goals for Disney. They did this by saying something technically true about what Rufo posted to Twitter in hope it would make him look bad, but it was simply a way of distracting readers from the fact that Disney has embarked on a truly horrible mission, whatever its intended scale may be. This is one of the most common leftist tactics against their critics. Conservatives might also try this one occasionally and get away with it, but Christians can’t. The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh. Paul wrote, “We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways.” Surely this is true not only in a Christian’s handling of the word of God, but also of the way a believer is to present arguments to the world more generally. We do not need to distort or manipulate the words of others. The truth will do us just fine.
  2. Outright lies. The Left rarely stops with distortion. They lie about everything, including the very existence of cancel culture as a strategy to suppress opinions contrary to the media narrative. There is Marxist reasoning behind this in many cases: if false accusations serve a cause perceived to be “good”, then many on the Left consider them a legitimate weapon. The ends always justify the means. Again, the occasional unsaved critic of the Left may employ this tactic because it works for their enemies. Christians cannot. The commands not to bear false witness come early and often in scripture and continue into the New Testament.
  3. Selective censorship. Facebook and Instagram recently eased their hate-speech policies and announced they will allow calls for violence and death exclusively against Russians. Don’t expect the new policy to apply to the nations and identity groups Facebook promotes and protects. Social media banning is rampant in platforms as mainstream as LinkedIn, as this post reveals. If they don’t like what you wrote, it will simply disappear ... and all your online content will go with it. Truth is no defense. Once again, this is a tactic Christians can’t use. Censorship in principle is fine by me; unlimited free speech is not a Christian value. However, we do have a biblical obligation to be fair and even-handed in our dealings. Scripture teaches the believer to value equal weights and equal measures. If calling for indiscriminate violence against Jews or gays is wrong, then so is calling for violence against Russians simply on the basis that they are Russian.
  4. Disemployment. Christians believe working for a living is a God-given responsibility that predates Genesis 3. We work hard and encourage others to do the same. It is one thing to stop buying product from an organization that rejects Christian values and promotes evil. The fallout from reduced revenues at Disney may put some people out of work, but there are plenty of other places these days they can go to work that are not engaged in promoting pure evil. On the other hand, leftist disemployment targets individuals it doesn’t like and does its best to make sure they can’t work anywhere, ever. That is not a Christian goal. We wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) wish that on our worst enemies. God can sort out their employment status for them.

Trying on Goliath’s Armor

So, does right wing cancel culture really exist? Sure, I guess, if all we are talking about is strategic goals, and all that is involved is telling the truth and boycotting products other people are buying enthusiastically.

But that’s manifestly not all it means to the Left. Tactically-speaking, Left and Right could not be more different. For every hardcore right winger who wants to destroy Disney, there are at least ten David French-types on the Right constantly reminding us “It’s a free market”, and “Disney has a right to free expression of opinion”, however depraved it may be. On the other hand, the Left not only doesn’t want you to disagree with them, it wants your enthusiastic approval and aid in ringing in their “diverse and inclusive” Utopia. If they can’t get that from you, expect to be censored, clobbered, silenced, shamed, pilloried or put out to pasture, all while steadfastly denying they are doing anything inappropriate.

That’s tactically distinct enough from the Right’s approach that we really need two entirely different terms for how we approach the culture wars. When the Right is at its best (meaning most influenced by Christians who participate politically), it “cancels” cultural erosion by shining the light of truth on the world and letting it see how it really looks. It’s not a pretty sight.

In the end, the truth and love are all we need. Anything in addition to that is like David trying to wear not just Saul’s armor ... but Goliath’s.

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