Over the last few months, Conservatives have had a few rallying cries. There was pushback against BLM (the organization), followed by the opposition to Critical Race Theory. But the granddaddy of all Conservative rallying cries has been “Cancel Culture.” For those out there who just pushed that giant boulder out of the opening of the hole they have been crammed into for the last five years, Cancel Culture is the practice of a public rejection of an individual or group of people based on the socially or morally unaccepted view or action. A person may lose their career, company, sponsorships, opportunities, or social standing based on a position they hold, an action they took, or even an ill-advised tweet they sent.
Conservatives have jumped on this phenomenon as an assault on free speech. This is especially true when it comes to the parallel phenomenon of “deplatforming,” the act of removing an individual from social media or removing their ability to operate their business by denying them necessary services. For instance, Donald Trump was deplatformed from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and all other social media, while Amazon deplatformed an app called Parler, a Conservative alternative to Twitter, by removing their ability to use Amazon Web Services. Conservatives now claim that these moves are akin to silencing free speech and thus the first amendment.
Now, despite the fact that these are private companies that can do what they want, there may be some truth to this claim as there is a dash of government interference, combined with a pinch of collusion. However, this is not a legal discussion, and for the purposes of this article, will be put to the side.
The other key principle in Cancel Culture is that although the public is generally the one calling for the punishment, it is generally carried out by someone with higher social, legal, or financial standing. For instance, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are all bigger than the social vagrants they deplatform. If a mom and pop social media company decided to disallow Joe Biden from their service, that would not be considered canceling.
The truth is that Conservatives do not think all canceling is bad. For example, there is little doubt that you would get much pushback from anyone about canceling people like Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein. At this point, they are both finished as far as their public personae are concerned, and regardless of how social media companies move to deplatform them and businesses decide to stop doing business with them, there probably will not be a whole lot of pushback from Conservatives on their punishment. But this does not stop Conservatives from making this their issue, especially when it comes to people who are canceled, not because of some crime they committed, but because of some controversial beliefs.
The problem Conservatives run directly into in this situation is when the tables are turned on them. This happened twice over the last two weeks. First, at CPAC last week, appropriately titled “America UnCanceled,” far-right extremists (and by that I mean actual far-right extremists, not like regular Conservatives, as many on the eft like to explain), attempted to get one Nick Fuentes to be allowed into CPAC, citing the Right’s marketing as the anti-Cancel-Culture half of America as the reason he should be allowed in. For those unfamiliar with Fuentes - first, good on you. The best description of him is given by the ADL, which explains Fuentes as a White Supremacist and antiemite who peddles in conspiracy theories such as “whites are under attack” and “stop the steal.”
The second instance took place at an event hosted by Turning Point USA, a Conservative organization working on college campuses. The event was for held for Conservatives, some as young as 15. Without going into too much detail, a woman of ill repute who considers herself to be a Conservative showed up as a VIP and was asked to leave shortly thereafter. Turning Point USA released a statement explaining that this woman was not invited as a VIP, but bought her own ticket; however, the organization felt that her presence was inappropriate for the children for whom the event was created. This explanation did not stop the criticism of Cancel Culture.
The problem with shouting “Cancel Culture” every time someone gets banned or fired or removed from the public is that eventually it’s going to come back to bite you. Disallowing these people into events should be the right of the organizers, and indeed some people should be barred from entering. But if Cancel Culture is to be a big rallying cry for Conservatives, they better clarify what exactly it means, or else be ready to have it used against them. And this clarification must happen quickly.
Both parties have a knack for overplaying their hand when it comes to rallying cries. Barack Obama infamously found himself taking a picture with a giant Che Guevara mural in the background and another one with Raul Castro awkwardly raising his hand in victory because of the deals he made with Cuba back in 2016. If you are willing to make something so synonymous with your cause that it becomes a constant talking point, be ready to live with the consequences. It is something Conservatives must solve and must solve fast.
Izzo Zwiren is the host of The Jewish Living Podcast, where he and his guests delve into any and all areas of Orthodox Judaism.