Cancel Culture Isn't a WMD: It's Political Terror
There are only a tiny handful of writers working in the media worth following. That wasn't always the case, but the media has consolidated into a political narrative bloc churning out clickbait aimed at the choir which means that, even aside from its politics, it has no room for anything interesting.
Neither does its core audience.
Most of the handful of interesting writers in the media have moved to Substack or are in the process of doing so.
But at the Washington Post there's Megan McArdle who's the only sane liberal at a paper populated by clickbait hysterics like Jennifer Rubin worth reading. Not always, but this column is a reminder of why.
...many moderates have tried to fight runaway cancellations on the left by personally demonstrating the merits of tolerance, and forgiveness. More and more, however, seem to be giving up on that strategy. Instead, I’m hearing an argument previously confined to the harder right: The madness will not end until they are as afraid as we are...
So for every Kevin Williamson there must be a Will Wilkinson; for every James Bennet, a Hemal Jhaveri. It’s the social-commentary equivalent of mutually assured destruction, or MAD....
The Cold War was a standoff among a handful of armed countries where launch decisions were controlled by a small few. That select group could, and did, talk to each other to manage tensions and de-escalate crises. Cancel culture, by contrast, is like an arms race in which everyone, everywhere, has their finger on the launch button at all times...
And yet, I understand why conservatives feel pushed in this direction. Cancel culture is like an offensive weapon with no good countermeasures — the very problem that led nuclear strategists to conclude that the best defense is a good offense.
It's an interesting column because it does engage with the reality of what's going on, a rare thing these days, but it suffers the common problem of even the most sensible liberals of missing the big picture.
Cancel culture isn't a WMD. If you want to see a political WMD, look to the actions of the Bolsheviks in destroying all political opposition in the USSR. McArdle can't grapple with that metaphor because it would mean admitting the reality of the Left's goals and what it really represents.
Cancel culture is political terrorism.
A sudden and shocking act of brutality on a small scale whose purpose is to terrorize the population by sending the message that any of them can be next.
A mob suddenly appears, swarms, destroys some befuddled individual, and then dissipates as quickly as it arrived. Before moving on to the next target. The members of the mob are often pawns, like street-level terrorists, grad students, social media personalities, and disposable people. They're the products of critical race theory indoctrination who understand that getting jobs in the media or functioning as influencers requires them to engage in acts of political terror. Taking them out does little to affect the 'Osamas' who mastermind the whole thing or their political donors.
Islamic terrorism consists of three organizational tiers.
We've been losing the War on Terror because we largely focused on combating fighters (the Vietnam War fallacy), occasionally taking out leaders, but mostly leaving the funders, (Muslim Gulf billionaires and countries like Qatar and Iran) alone except for imposing sanctions on them. We've also focused on fighting combatants individually, instead of seeing it as a scale problem on a population level leading to our immigration disaster.
A counterterrorism campaign that focuses on taking out leaders has been low-cost, somewhat effective, but ultimately a loser at stopping the terror. That was entirely predictable because the whole thing was borrowed from the Israelis who tried to proportionately deescalate (Democrat administrations and the Bush administrations had repeatedly threatened and berated Israel for being 'disproportionate' and for 'escalating') by responding to individual acts of terrorism by targeting key leaders. The strategy was never meant to win the war, but only to force the terrorists to back down, instead of escalating, by reminding them that there's a personal price to pay and hoping that this leads them to hesitate.
This isn't a scenario intended to win a war.
Cancel culture isn't going to be stopped by taking the jobs of a few pawns. Not even a few leaders. Like Islamic terrorism, it's a popular problem and a funder problem. A narrow group of very wealthy leftists is funding the political machine doing all of this. A few of them also control the social media platforms being used for this purpose. They don't remotely care if a few pawns or even leaders of their revolutions lose their jobs.
As we've seen in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the only thing that can bring peace is when the leaders and funders decide, at least temporarily, that war is no longer in their interest.
That's the missing link in ending Islamic terrorism and leftist political terrorism.
The other thing that McArdle doesn't properly address is that cancel culture's real institutional targets are liberals. I mean, they're going after Ken Burns at PBS now. In daily life, cancel culture can hit anyone. But at a strategic level, it's meant to allow the Left to consolidate control over institutions while suppressing any academics, journalists, or executives who might object to the collapse of civility and norms.
Those are exactly the people least fit to respond to political terror with anything other than cringing apologies.
Conservatives are far from perfect, but they understand what the stakes are. Liberals are unwilling to address the stakes and if they think cancel culture is a WMD, the gulags and mass graves are going to be a hell of a surprise.