Due to COVID, 2020 has become the year of the cancel. Weddings, business events, professional sports (so boring without real fans), churches, schools, even family reunions and beach holidays.
Now officials are telling us to cancel holiday traditions with our families. Soon the Narnian witch queen will appear to announce that it will always be winter but never Christmas.
As frustrating as all this cancellation has been, there’s a more threatening kind of cancel culture that has spawned rapidly in the last few weeks of post-election chaos.
Recently a Democrat official in California took to Twitter to ask how best to “deprogram” the 75 million people who voted for Trump. “We have to start thinking in terms of post-WWII Germany or Japan,” he wrote.
Apparently deprogramming is on the table. So is “deplatforming,” the euphemism employed by social-media and internet barons to describe their ruinous cancellation of conservative voices.
But it’s not just left-leaning corporations that are squelching contrarian voices. It is We the People. A Politico poll found that half of Democrat voters admitted they’ve engaged in cancel culture, while a third of Republicans admitted the same.
The cancel culture mob mentality may seem new and shocking, but it is merely following a centuries-old script.
In his masterful biography of Lenin, Victor Sebestyen notes that the Soviet leader carefully crafted a harsh and abusive way of making his arguments that “almost single-handedly… changed the language on the revolutionary Left.” His opponents weren’t just wrong. They were “scoundrels,” “philistines,” “cretins,” “filthy scum,” “whores,” and “class traitors” who needed to be severely dealt with. “What is a revolution without firing squads?” he asked–and not rhetorically.
Our founders envisioned a Republic full of vigorous debate rather than shame and harm. Now, distrust of government is at an all-time high, as is people’s trust in one another. Three-fourths of Republicans and half of Democrats say they have opinions they are afraid to share. The well is officially poisoned, and sometimes the result is deadly.
In the spring of 2020, my friend, and distinguished criminal justice professor, Dr. Mike Adams was forced out of his professorship at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. The campaign against Mike was orchestrated by a prominent Wilmington attorney and former trustee of the university who called Adams a “racist, bigoted and misogynistic piece of nothingness” and said, “Mike, the time has come for you to find the hole you crawled out of…You disgust me.”
A Facebook group called “Justice for UNCW” and a related Change.Org petition gained tens of thousands of signatures calling for Mike’s removal.
In the end, even Mike’s status as a tenured professor who had successfully beaten the university in an epic free speech court case could not save him. The university forced a severance.
At first, Mike was relieved to have the episode behind him. But within days, he began to spiral into despair. “My career is over,” he repeatedly emphasized.
I, and many others of his friends, tried to convince Mike that the best was yet to come. But Mike could not see it. Being a criminal justice professor at UNCW is all he had ever known. The humiliation—perhaps exacerbated by the loneliness of the COVID-19 lockdown—proved too much.
In late July, Mike ended his own life.
The accusations that led to Mike’s dismissal have proven untrue. The furor has died down and the Facebook page dedicated to his destruction has been removed, but the loss of Mike is forever.
Those who participate in the cancel culture ought to beware the cannibalistic nature of such movements. Eventually, everyone is found to be “impure,” just as in the French Revolution when Maximilien Robespierre lost his own head to the guillotine culture he created. As the wise King Solomon warned, hell has a voracious appetite.
That is why Americans, specifically those who hold a biblical worldview, must take action against the great national shushing that is at the heart of the cancel culture.
First, reject silence. The cancel culture feeds on the self-censorship of those who fear becoming its next victims. The Czechoslovakian playwright Vaclav Haval noted that Communist leaders held sway by forcing people to live with untruth while remaining mute. People “need not accept the lie,” he said. “It is enough for them to have accepted their life with it and in it.”
Second, forsake the cancel culture mindset. Treat everyone–even your enemies–as image-bearers of God who possess inherent dignity. Show grace. Wanting to hurt people is never a valid goal of public discourse.
Third, get offline and get to know people personally. Social media’s anonymity rewards keyboard warriors for their cheap shots. Instead, engage with those with whom you disagree, face to face where possible.
Finally, be a seeker–and speaker–of truth. As Vaclav Haval and other Soviet-era dissidents have cautioned, the most powerful antidote to the lies of tyranny is to live within the truth.
If that sounds familiar, it is because it echoes the Apostle Paul’s charge, “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” Speak up and grow up. Not bad advice, America.
Dr. Jeff Myers, author of 14 books, is President of Summit Ministries. His latest book is called “20 Things to Say and Do to Fight Cancel Culture”
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.