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I recently watched a botched cancellation attempt in Chicago. It said a lot about the cancellers.
A handful of Asian-American restaurateurs went to the Trump rally in D.C. that preceded the Capitol riot. They weren’t involved in the violent actions that followed, but the local Karens found out, and raised hell on the neighborhood “social network” cesspool known as Nextdoor.com.
In came a few vocal progressives, posting screeds in the awkward vocabulary of the woke second language. Mostly women and, from what I could see from profile pictures, all white, they laid into these small business owners in words that I could charitably call hyperbolic. The immigrant restaurateurs were, according to them, domestic terrorists, despite having nothing to do with the invasion of the Capitol. One commenter branded them “victims of the Truman Doctrine” who side with fascism over communism whenever possible.
Their restaurants’ Yelp pages were no prettier. They were full of comments by people (mostly in different cities) perfunctorily dissing the food before claiming that their businesses’ very existence was subverting democracy. “Terrorists,” “treason,” “race-traitors,” yada yada yada. One review that gave me a chuckle claimed that these people did not deserve “the privilege of serving the diverse community of Lakeview” (which is particularly funny if you’ve ever been to the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago).
The image of mostly-white wokerellas pathologizing minorities who disagree with them is now pretty ubiquitous, suggesting this wasn’t about the idiotic “coup” attempt. The Karens would react the same way three months earlier if they had found out who the businesspeople were voting for. They shouldn’t have gone to the rally in D.C., and it’s a shame that Trump’s lies about the election brought normal people like them into the crosshairs. But the rage invoked by learning of a political disagreement shows the emptiness of progressive Karenism. Different political preferences—particularly by somebody that the Left’s simplistic racial matrix says should be on their side—is a cause for boycott.
One of the targeted businesses, a locally famous Vietnamese restaurant, is next to my nearest train stop, so I took notes on it a few times the week after this blew up online. They were not only open for business, but doing quite well. Their outdoor dining huts were filled to capacity at lunchtime on multiple days, and by their windows were awash with takeout orders. I passed it many times in the subsequent weeks, and business only increased as indoor dining reopened. So what was accomplished by screaming into this extremely online void, except for validation from a few dozen compatriots?
The internet is not exactly known as a cooling dish, and surely this behavior existed before COVID. But with nowhere else to go, many more are jumping online to take their frustrations out on others, like small business owners they’ve never met in cities they don’t live in. With no one in the immediate vicinity to hate, social media lets us create enemies and join pile-ons. It gives us self-selected and naturally receptive audiences to perform in front of.
I have little hope the incentives for this childish behavior will go away while we live under varying degrees of lockdowns. Perhaps a post-COVID world with less time spent online and more good-faith engagement in the public square will help cool us down.Published in