KLAVAN: The Attack of the Social Justice Insects

Them! (aka Asalto Alla Terra), poster, Italian poster art, 1954
LMPC via Getty Images

For me, the mystery of cancel culture is this: how did a few scurrilous, unscrupulous, small-minded, accomplishment-free leftist social thugs gain so much power over better people than themselves — namely just about all the rest of us?

Cancel culture is the phenomenon where nobodies who have never done anything gather together to destroy the lives and dreams of talented, hard-working people who have earned one of society’s glittering prizes. A young man wins the Heisman Trophy. A performer achieves his dream of hosting the Oscars or getting hired on Saturday Night Live. A judge of admirable learning and impeccable reputation gets nominated to the Supreme Court. And suddenly, like human woodlice swarming out from under their rocks, the outrage insects scramble to expose and publicize some past error or misstatement, real or imagined.

Show-trial apologies may follow, but they’re usually no good. The purpose of the exercise, after all, is not redemption but destruction. You may think it’s a teachable moment, but it’s really an assassination meant to frighten those around you into silence and obedience. They don’t expect you to talk, Mr. Bond, they expect you to die.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes, these human bugs manage to raise such a noise with their trilobite chorus that some cowardly boss or corporate skell or Lorne Michaels, but I repeat myself, decides to cover his virtue-signaling ass by giving in to the bug-mob and taking the well-earned prize away from its recipient. Doesn’t matter that Chick-Fil-A or Nike or Mitch McConnell has already demonstrated that courage is not just the honorable but also the winning strategy. You can’t have testicular fortitude without the requisite equipment. Them what’s got shall have. Them what’s not shall lose.

But again, why? The Social Justice Trilobites are not that many. Nobody really agrees with them. Their boycotts don’t work and quickly fade. So why do we continue to let this happen? Why did Kyler Murray have to abase himself? Why did Kevin Hart have to give up his dream? Why did Shane Gillis lose his job? Why are we kow-towing to our insect overlords?

Part of the answer, I guess, is simple fear. The Social Justice Trilobites live off the cowardice of rich and powerful people who cling to their riches and power and are therefore afraid. Why risk standing up for what’s right, if you can just cringe and scrape and give in and lose nothing of value but your manhood and your decency?

And then there’s this, too. Those of us who oppose the SJT’s are divided between two arguments.

One argument against cancel culture is its simple hypocritical gracelessness. Who hasn’t made a mistake? Who hasn’t said something they regret? Who hasn’t been young and dumb and done something stupid or cruel? “Use every man after his desert, and who shall ‘scape whipping?” Hamlet asked. “Let him who is without sin throw the first stone,” said some other guy. How can we live in a world without forgiveness?

But the other argument — the more dangerous argument and therefore the more important one — is that many of the “sins” that are being uncovered are not really sins at all. The hateful Left has created the rules of what is hateful and, for some reason, we have accepted them. Why?

The fact is: it’s not necessarily hateful to make racial jokes or gay jokes or any other kind of jokes. It can relieve the tension of living together. Ribbing one another is often part of friendship, especially among men. It often does not do harm, but good.

It’s not a sin to make a pass at a woman or take a chance at a kiss if the signals are right. As Bill Burr hilariously illustrates in his new special, even no does not always mean no.

It’s also not necessarily a sin to wear blackface, if no wickedness is meant by it. It’s certainly not a sin to have done it in times before anyone thought to object to it.

These two arguments divide us because they’re contradictory. On the one hand, people should be forgiven their sins. On the other, some sins aren’t sins at all. But both have this in common: they oppose a leftist culture that brings tyranny and hatred and meanness wherever it goes. And that is the point. This leftist philosophy — this cancel culture —they deserve no respect. Zero. Just a little bit of courage — just a little — and the Social Justice Trilobites will scurry back under their rocks where they belong.

They have no real power. Stand up to them and they’ll be gone.