Cancel Culture: An Insidious Infection


What is “Culture” anyway, and why all the rage to “cancel” it? When anthropologists see the word “culture” in print, outside of a textbook, they become uncomfortable. They acknowledge that most folks don’t really understand the nature and dynamics of a society’s “culture,” set within an anthropological cross-cultural context.

Let’s clarify any confusion with some definitions. A culture is a hodgepodge of ideas, ethos, values, shared beliefs of groups, tribes, cities, societies, empires. Culture is a constellation of interwoven beliefs that defines a society.

Ethos that define us are beliefs inculcated in a majority of the citizenry; otherwise, said “ethos” (values) are merely “ideas” that a small “tribe” or “group” have faith in and which they want you, the majority, to believe in also. American “culture” shares beliefs in democratic procedures created by our founders in the 18th century.

These ethos/values of fundamental democratic ideas and values are shared by the majority of our kinsmen/women: they include a respect and reverence for truth, rejection of bullets instead of ballots, abhorrence of politically motivated violence, a commitment to social, racial and political equality, and veneration for the rule of law. These values are both part of “the American Dream” and the American “Culture.”

However, today a vicious war (“argument” is too kind) exists between what American culture is and why determined tribes of LiarLand want to “cancel” it. “Cancel Culture” is a form of Trollism, except in this case the perpetrators’ goal is to convince you that their view is correct and yours is wrong and malicious.

In his recent provocative and profound book, The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth, Jonathan Rauch provides deep insights into the armies of Truth in their battle against the armies of Untruth. Many of the ideas about, and an understanding of Trolls, Trollism and Cancelers have been implanted in my brain from reading and reflecting upon the deep messages in this incredible book.

I believe the insights articulated therein are so profound and significant, that I choose to share my education, an understanding worth having regardless of cost.

Mr. Rauch defines two conflicting and totally incompatible phenomena: “Criticism expresses arguments or evidence with the goal of influencing opinion through rational persuasion. It belongs to the realm of truth-seeking. Canceling exists within the realm of propaganda warfare … (it) seeks to organize and manipulate a social or media environment to demoralize, deplatform, isolate, or intimidate an adversary … its interest is not in discovering knowledge but in shaping the information battlefield.”

The diagnostic indicators of the Constitution of Knowledge (CoK) and Cancel Culture (CC) are easy to spot:

CoK relies on many different views; CC blocks all but their own.

CoK challenges ideas; CC punishes people.

CoK depends on rational arguments; CC praises demagoguery.

CoK creates credibility by seeking Truth over time; CC destroys it overnight through character assassination, thereby destroying careers and livelihoods of all who stand up to their falsehoods.

CoK depends on independent observers and rational judgment; CC relies on mob action, bullying and violence.

CoK places Truth and accuracy before politics; CC places political power above all else.

The Persian polymath, Omar Khayyam, lived a millennium ago, and wrote a profound book called the Rubiayat. Among his most insightful observations, my favorite:

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,

Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

Once on the internet or Facebook, Twitter, and their ilk, your words live on forever. Social media is the mother’s milk of the LiarLand dominion. No do-overs; no erasures; no invisible ink. Like a deadly virus, their deceptions reproduce themselves endlessly through the magic of the digital technology they have mastered – 24/7/365.

The concept that “violence begets violence” (or “hate begets hate”) means that expressing violent behavior promotes other violent behavior, in return. This ancient concept is best known from the New Testament (Gospel of Matthew 26:52), wherein a disciple (identified as Peter in the later Gospel of John) draws his sword to defend against Jesus being arrested. But, Jesus tells the brave disciple to “sheath his weapon.”

I suggest a variation on this insightful Biblical aphorism: that the lies of violence beget more violent lies, and more violent lies in return beget violence itself, which in turn begets more violence, thus inciting an endless cycle of viciousness. We are witnessing this truism today as it infects our social order and threatens our democracy.

The Toadies of Trollism and the Captains of Cancel Culture are the sharp spearheads of LiarLand’s tribes. The nihilism of Trollism/Cancelers seeks only to derange the very nature of Truth itself, so that it becomes indistinguishable from Falsity.

The only vaccine to combat the deadly infections of LiarLand is to stand tall and speak the Truth. The responsibility of our patriotic citizenship lies with our brave brothers and sisters who will do so. A call to arms: Don’t default to the perdition of LiarLand, The costs are too great.

“Well, all I know is what I read in the newspapers.” – Will Rogers. 

David M. Taub was Mayor of Beaufort from 1990 through 1999 and served as a Beaufort County Magistrate from 2010 to 2015. You can reach him at david.m.taub42@gmail.com.

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