“These teeth are white
Trainers ultra bright
This band is perfect
Just don’t scratch the surface.” — Simon Le Bon
Sometimes when you see something you immediately think of something from the distant past. I was perusing Twitter a few weeks ago and noticed a tweet that was overwhelmingly honest and yet lacked all self-awareness. Of course, in that medium such a phenomenon is less than rare.
The tweet in question urged conservatives to understand the difference between cancel culture and righteously boycotting Ungodly people and products. I double-checked, their tongue was not firmly planted in their cheek. They were deadly serious. Unfortunately, with Twitter you rarely get the follow up tweet actually explaining the difference. I was waiting with baited breath because I’ve wanted to know for quite awhile.
I flashed back to a WKRP in Cincinnati episode where a religious group was threatening to boycott the station if they continued to play certain songs. It’s one of those episodes that stays with you over time. It was filmed in 1981, but it might as well been done yesterday given the various issues we have to face in today’s society.
It ends when Carlson (the manager of the station) confronts the leader of the movement and asked him to read the lyrics of “Imagine” by John Lennon. The minister announces that the song would not be acceptable because it promotes communism. Carlson (who is usually an idiot) correctly points out that the song says to imagine that and more importantly, the decision to bar the song was made by one man.
The irony of the tweet and the whole movement is that there is no difference between cancel culture and righteously boycotting ungodly things. They are the same thing. If there is a difference it is in who is doing the boycotting and who and what they are boycotting. Beyond that there is no difference.
Of course, this level of hypocrisy cuts both ways. Ardent defenders of the rights of artists, singers, and entertainers are many of the same people participating in what is called cancel culture now. That is perfectly fair as long as it is done honestly and with open intentions. No one can force me to buy a Ted Nugent record. I hate his politics, but I’m also not a huge fan of his music. So, a refusal to support him is not the same thing as exerting undue influence on his ability to market himself and his ideas.
The Dixie Chicks famously learned this lesson. They spoke out against then president George W. Bush at a concert and suffered a dramatic backlash that essentially killed their careers as a group. You choose to say what you want. I choose how I want to respond.
I’m free to respond in any way I see fit. I can choose not to purchase your product or shop at your store. I am free to urge others to do the same. I am not free to bar you from your choice. This is where the difference comes and its the difference between a harmless boycott and censorship.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Cancel culture is only a thing as it pertains to what has always been there. Censorship, public shaming, and ostracization have been a part of society for centuries. Our methods might be new as different mediums become available to us, but it is all the same thing. The sooner we admit that the more effectively we can navigate our way through it all.