Perhaps one of the greatest cons of our time, outside of that Living Breathing Grift Donald Trump, is the Freedom of Speech “Movement.”
Back in the summer of 2020, when there were things that were much more deserving of our attention like the potential reelection to the presidency of an unstable madman and the brutal murder of a Black man by a police officer, a group of influential people decided that the left was the greatest threat to society at the moment. I didn’t even mention the pandemic, which was also raging at that pre-vaccine moment. Sort of a Creep Thomas Chatterton-Williams drove the writing of a letter, which had plenty of signatures among the elite. It was known as The Harper’s Letter, as it was published in Harper’s Magazine.
The letter so declared that The Real Problem of the Moment wasn’t the millions of people dying from a virus, nor the potential reelection of a right-wing madman, nor the serious questions about racism in American society raised by the killing of George Floyd. No, it was “cancel culture.”
There are some indications that this project arose out of the deep and correct criticism that Harry Potter novelist J.K. Rowling brought down upon herself for attacking trans people. Rowling complained that her freedom of speech was being threatened, and she became this cause célèbre for the anti-transgender movement.
There are some arguments, I suppose, for defending this kind of hate speech, but the cancel culture movement is definitely not it. Largely because the poster children for cancel culture are not really…canceled.
Comedian Dave Chappelle screamed he was being canceled for his views on, guess what? – transgender people! The poor dear has to muddle through, barely making a living via Netflix specials and sold-out comedy shows. Bari Weiss declared herself canceled by quitting her job at the New York Times and starting a Substack blog (so she doesn’t have to deal with the ultimate cancelers, editors who are so mean as to suggest her ideas might not be the best). J.K. Rowling is still selling books and the movie she produced that was released this year did quite well.
You may be detecting a theme here: People who claim to be “canceled” and shunned for their views are doing quite well. This does not stop them from declaring themselves canceled, and quite often when called on this nonsense, they angrily start spreading something that is their lifeblood:
Fortunately for them and unfortunately for their targets (again, often a very marginalized portion of our society with next to no power, transgender people), they now have a wealthy and powerful benefactor, Elon Musk. No stranger to bullshit himself (see his long list of broken promises he has made over the last five years), Elon no doubt sees these people as his people. They are wealthy, hate the same people he does, and are delusional.
Bari Weiss has joined Crazed Conspiracy Theorist Matt Taibbi as Elon’s pet attack dogs, posting rambling Twitter threads that they believe to be breathless scoops about how Hunter Biden’s dick pics are serious content that Twitter hid and how treating right-wing Twitter accounts after America’s worst insurrection attempt on January 6, 2021, was proof of pro-left bias. Or something. It’s all a little loony.
Bari being Bari, she of course is using examples of things being canceled that are not canceled. She has also fancied herself a warrior against antisemitism, mostly based on any criticism or suggestion that Israel is being kind of horrific in how it deals with Palestinians within their border. She has long angrily denied that these opinions were driven by bigotry against Palestinians and other Muslims, however, if you have become the main water carrier for what is fast becoming a hotbed for antisemitism, it is not unreasonable to wonder if she is full of shit given this new job.
Then, last night at a Chappelle appearance, Dave brought out Elon himself, who was greeted with a chorus of boos. Neither Dave nor Elon knew exactly what to do with this, so being the noted free-speech warrior that is Mr. Chappelle, he decided to yell at the crowd to “shut the fuck up.”
My goodness, one might think that Dave’s ideas on “free speech” are not about the right for all to express an opinion, but perhaps his and like thinkers’ right to say what they want, and anyone else can “shut the fuck up.”
I will finish by noting that the urge to dismiss this as unimportant and nothing but Twitter nonsense that means nothing outside of Twitter is woefully misguided. As dumb as all of this is, social media garbage does not just stay on social media. It’s not out of the question that victims and their families of the El Paso mass shootings may have thought the hate site 8Chan was silly nonsense that would never have any influence in their lives, but that was tragically wrong. Not being on Facebook didn’t prevent it from helping Trump get elected, nor will it prevent Facebook from gathering data on you. People like Weiss, Rowling, Musk, and Chappelle are enabling some very bad actors, and social media garbage has a way of forcing those who think themselves above it all to pay attention.
The good news is many people are seeing them for what they are, purveyors of bullshit. Let’s hope it stays that way. A country that enables wealthy people to act in bad faith to get what they want isn’t a good thing.
The last word goes to the glorious Grace Jones, whose absolute banger of a song still rings very true 42 (!) years later: