Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
The usual names that come up when a Conservative thinks about Cancel Culture or the Culture Wars in general: Saul Alinsky, Herbert Marcuse, Antonio Gramsci, etc.
My thoughts on Cancel Culture made some other names pop up in my head; Roy Moore, Ed Stack, Brett Kavanaugh, Ben Shapiro, Andrew Breitbart, Stanley Kurtz, Thomas Jefferson, Jared Polis, Michael Corleone, John Roberts, Heather Mac Donald, Ronald Reagan, Michael Lind, etc.
Stay with me …
Thomas Jefferson: The adage that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” is attributed (rightly or wrongly) to the 3rd President. Whatever the case, this is as true as it ever was. The problem for us on the Right is that we dropped the ball. We focused all our attention on the government as the only place from which the threat would come. We never credited the notion that it could come from the private sector (and many deny it even today), enabled by the nation’s cultural institutions. I do not know what to call a situation in which one fears to express an opinion because it could lead to a person being declared an “untouchable” by vast swathes of the private sector and will thereafter be unable to get a job, secure housing, start a business, avail himself of financial services, etc. I just know it’s not liberty.
Andrew Breitbart: It’s just now dawning on a lot of people exactly what Breitbart meant by “Politics is downstream of culture” and you suddenly understand why so many people on the Left celebrated his death. Turning up our noses and sniffing “who cares?” about the major cultural institutions – academia, entertainment, journalism – has now made it politically possible for celebrities, journalists, and politicians to call for “defunding the police” and the literal destruction of Mt. Rushmore. Worse yet, it has made it possible for Congress, or even a Supreme Court majority seeking to please Left-Wing tastemakers in New York penthouses to strip American citizens of any number of Constitutional rights, including the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments as we know it.
Roy Moore: He was an absolutely terrible candidate, and when it came down to it, as a simple matter of candidate and campaign quality and crisis management, he deserved to lose. But the manner in which his loss was engineered, and the aiding and abetting of it by numerous Conservative figures, was a travesty. The primary allegation against him was based entirely on a document showing his accuser was in the same office building where he worked as a prosecutor on a workday in the 1970s. Protests that this proved nothing at all and that he deserved the presumption of innocence was met by contemptuous retorts that this was not a court of law, and in an election, it is enough to be “credibly accused.”
Ben Shapiro: I admire Ben Shapiro enormously. But, he was one of the people who validated the “credibly accused” standard when it came to Roy Moore, explicitly dismissing the idea that he deserved the presumption of innocence because an election was not a court of law. What Shapiro missed out on was that the presumption of innocence is not just a legal standard, but a cultural one. Even outside a court of law, the circumstances must be extraordinary to warrant abandoning the presumption of innocence.
Jared Polis: As a Congressman, Polis took the notion that the presumption of innocence belonged only in a courtroom to its logical conclusion; why not automatically expel any male student who is accused of sexual misconduct? After all, being expelled for sexual misconduct is not the same as being sent to prison. He backpedaled once he got some pushback, but colleges were already dispensing with the notion of innocent until proven guilty in favor of the reverse. And then, encouraged by the Obama Administration’s infamous “Dear Colleague” letter, they instituted rules and procedures, for the ostensible reason of ensuring that the accuser is not “retraumatized”, that made it impossible for the accused to prove his innocence.
Brett Kavanaugh: The “credibly accused” standard came back to bite Brett Kavanaugh, much to the horror of many of the same folks on the Right who excoriated Roy Moore (including Ben Shapiro). Many claimed that there was no nexus between what happened to Moore and Kavanaugh. Except that in both cases; the allegation was made at the most politically opportune moment, there was no evidence the accused had ever met his accuser, the accuser faced no forensic cross-examination of her accusation and an appeal for the presumption of innocence for the accused was immediately dismissed because “this was not a court of law.” Again, as things from the college campus usually do, the prioritization of the accuser’s comfort over the accused’s possible innocence made its way out into the real world; including not just warnings against subjecting his accuser to a piercing cross-examination, but demands for Kavanaugh, the accused, to be questioned first.
Stanley Kurtz: Campus culture does not stay on campus, a large number of kids graduate and take their beliefs and attitudes with them into the real world. These are the people who get hired by big corporations, who make connections with venture capitalists, who staff HR departments, who get hired to teach the nation’s children and go on to work in journalism, music, publishing, film, and games. Some never fully leave the campus and become members of faculty or administration to indoctrinate the next generation. Others get into politics and law, and actually get elected to positions of power or even get on the bench. Kurtz (and others) sounded the alarm over two decades ago about the rolling purge of conservative voices on campus and the resulting ideological echo chamber producing a self-reinforcing army of extreme Left-Wing foot soldiers only too ready to use their positions in both the public and private sector to reward and punish ideological friends and enemies … only to be greeted with smug smirks and chortles about jobs and taxes.
Heather Mac Donald: The conservative confidence that the STEM disciplines would remain untouched by the poison being churned out into the minds of students by the corrupted Humanities and Social Science faculties is proving to be as ill-founded as the notion that earning a wage and seeing what is taken out by the government on a payslip is going to turn an indoctrinated Marxist into a committed capitalist. Mac Donald has documented numerous instances of pressure being applied to engineering schools to reduce the rigor of their courses to produce more demographically pleasing pass rates. Indeed, many STEM Departments have signed on to mission statements denouncing the very concepts of rigor, merit, logic, and objectivity, key elements of the scientific method, in favor of “diversity.”
Ed Stack: Apart from the incandescently stupid belief that work and taxes will undo years of indoctrination, conservatives also confidently held on to the notion that corporate America would always put profit first, and avoid unnecessary political entanglements. Except … that is not the case at all. The assumption that profits will always drive corporate America assumed that the leadership of corporate America will not come to value something more. The CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods deciding to sacrifice nearly a billion dollars in sales just to be feted by Left-Wing tastemakers in New York by deliberately choosing to alienate tens of millions of gun owners is evidence of this. The CEO of Chick-fil-A deciding to abandon his company’s long time Christian supporters, who have been loyal through multiple boycotts and official harassment by Left-Wing local governments, by blacklisting the Salvation Army to appease the Left-Wing cocktail circuit is yet another.
Michael Corleone: There’s a scene in The Godfather Part II where Michael, in Cuba, witnesses a youthful supporter willingly carry a bomb/grenade in his hand and run up to destroy a military checkpoint for the communist cause. This immediately led Michael to accurately predict that Castro will be successful in overthrowing the Cuban government. The point here is that if people are convicted enough to be willing to sacrifice their lives for an ideology, how much easier to sacrifice a few hundred million, even billions of dollars when you’re worth hundreds of millions, or even many billions of dollars already? Especially if it comes with social acceptance among taste-making peers in media and entertainment? In case anyone missed it, the leadership of the tech giants in Silicon Valley, and much of corporate America, are increasingly making it clear that they have no use, regard, or even respect, for half of the country.
Michael Lind: A recent Tablet article by Michael Lind makes the point that progressives in corporate America are increasingly rejecting “any pragmatic attempt to try to win the votes of deplorable voters in flyover country as immoral or just tasteless” because “they have a second, undemocratic option, now that they represent much of the economic elite. They [will] just skip the hard work of electoral politics and use the raw power of the banks and corporations they control to impose … progressive policies on their customers or borrowers directly …” With the encouragement of fellow travelers in the public sector, “the [progressive] economic elite” are increasingly willing “to do an end run around electoral democracy by using its private economic power directly to impose partisan policies on society as a whole.” This means what they were taught in college – from speech codes to direct punitive action for expressing any form of dissent. Once we get used to living under such rules, imposed by the private sector, the codification of them into law is sure to follow, and there will be no recourse to the courts because their fellow travelers will be on the bench – law is downstream of politics, which is downstream of culture.
John Roberts: On that note, make no mistake; there are at least four sitting Supreme Court Justices right now who could very easily rule that a defendant in a sexual assault case can be prevented from confronting his accuser despite the clear wording of the Sixth Amendment, based entirely on current practices endorsed by law professors – their peers – in the nation’s most elite institutions of higher learning. And that’s not counting the threat they already pose to the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. With the Chief Justice increasingly basing his judgments on Left-Wing social acceptability, a majority may already be half-formed.
The point is this; freedom of speech and faith, the right to confront your accuser and challenge his allegations, the right to self-defense, equal treatment regardless of immutable characteristics, the recognition of innovation and merit, pluralism, and open debate, reason and empiricism, the presumption of innocence … these are not just legal but cultural precepts that should apply in, and out, of a court of law. They should apply in every section and institution of society to the extent possible.
No institution in America, not even the private sector, should do away with any of these except under exceedingly extraordinary circumstances. Sniffing that private companies or individuals are free to do what they want does not mean we in the wider society cannot expect and exert maximum social pressure to ensure, at minimum, that these precepts are the default.
Ronald Reagan: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same …“Published in