Anyone inclined to believe the absurd spin that — as Time Magazine and many other left-leaning media outlets have claimed — cancel culture is nothing but a myth concocted by bitter conservatives should consider the story of the unfortunate John Focke. The announcer for the Charlotte Hornets has seen his life torn to shreds in the last few days. He is indefinitely suspended from his job. He’s been condemned and ridiculed all over social media. Major publications and national media personalities are accusing him of bigotry and worse. All because his thumbs landed on the wrong letters while composing a tweet.
During a game between the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz, Focke sent out a tweet about the action on the court: “Shot making in this Jazz-Nuggets game is awesome! Murray and Mitchell going back and forth what a game!” The only problem was the typo on the word “Nuggets,” which, through two errant twitches of the finger, came out as the N-word.
Focke deleted the tweet and fervently apologized. It was too late. His job was gone within hours and there was near-unanimous agreement on social media that either he wrote the N-word on purpose, or his phone autocorrected to the word because he types it so often in text messages and emails.
Headlines in publications like USA Today trumpeted the news: a guy named John Focke “tweeted a racial slur.” ESPN personality Mark Jones suggested that his phone corrected itself to the N-word because Focke had “written it a ton of times and trained it that way.” A lengthy Yahoo News editorial implied that Focke had intentionally written it, saying that the claim of a typo “strains credulity” and that the tweet signals that he “might have a problem” with black people. The scalp has been claimed. A life left in smoldering ruins. And the vengeful mob dances in celebration around the ashes. All because of a typo.
Speaking of straining credulity, it is the absolute height of absurdity to claim that Focke would intentionally tweet the N-word in some sort of maniacal act of professional suicide. The typo explanation — especially considering that the “R” and “T”, and “U” and “I” keys are right next to each other on your phone’s keypad — is significantly more plausible than the self-immolation theory. The idea that the phone had programmed itself with a racial slur as an autocorrect is similarly ridiculous. As far as I’m aware, smart phones will not autocorrect to profanity unless you go into your settings and specifically install those words as options. I sincerely doubt that Focke, an NBA announcer who live tweets NBA games, would have done that.
Is it really so impossible to believe that this was nothing but an innocent mistake made by a man who was merely trying to send an excited tweet about the basketball game he was watching? No, it is not. Not for any honest or rational person, anyway. So why the performative outrage? Why the gleeful attempt to destroy the life of some obscure regional NBA broadcaster?
This is cancel culture. It comes in several different forms, but here it is at its most pernicious and loathsome. Sure, sometimes the mob tries to “cancel” high profile people such as JK Rowling when they voice a really objectionable opinion like “biological sex exists,” or some other blasphemy. But it is especially toxic when it comes for the obscure and powerless, and devours them for the sheer pleasure of the exercise.
Cancel culture is, by definition, petty, cruel, vindictive, and arbitrary. It is also entirely false in its motives and its claims. The cancel culture mob is never genuinely angry. Never seeking real justice.
I found it quite appropriate that the first tweet I read when I typed John Focke’s name into Twitter’s search bar said: “The John Focke story is hilarious. Fire that man.” Yes, how hilarious. Fire him. Wreck his life. There is no reason to do it, he doesn’t deserve it, but, hey, it’s kind of funny if you’re a sociopath, and what else is there to do on a Monday evening?
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