Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Thomas Frank against Cancel Culture

Clearly-- and it is beyond any doubt-- the cancel culture will not die of its own inanition. It will not die out because the tech oligarchs who are leading the charge suddenly change their minds. It will only die out because thought leaders on the left, good liberals who still understand what liberalism was about, stand up to it. 

After all, McCarthyism was not defeated by the ACLU. It was brought down by President Eisenhower, from behind the curtain. See David Nichols’ book, Ike and McCarthy.

So, we are happy to see that Thomas Frank, bona fide liberal, author of a book about What’s the Matter with Kansas?, has taken  the cancel culture to task in the pages of the Guardian-- not a right wing publication. Needless to say Frank has elicited some cringeworthy reactions from his counterparts on the left, but still, he was manifesting some bravery, so we are happy to report it.

He begins by calling out the aberrant beliefs that currently have taken over the mind of the American left. These tenets of the leftist pseudo-religion are most often uncontested. Now, members of Congress encourage tech oligarchs to shut down conservative speech. It is a monstrous state of affairs.

So, Frank holds the mirror up to the mind of the left:

Today we know that social media is what gives you things like Donald Trump’s lying tweets, the QAnon conspiracy theory and the Capitol riot of 6 January. Social media, we now know, is a volcano of misinformation, a non-stop wallow in hatred and lies, generated for fun and profit, and these days liberal politicians are openly pleading with social media’s corporate masters to pleez clamp a ceiling on it, to stop people from sharing their false and dangerous stories.

Importantly, so importantly that Frank emphasizes it, Democratic politicians are doing everything in their power to shut down any opinions that counter the prevailing liberal dogmas. Obviously, an idiot bartendress from Queens is incapable of debating issues or ideas, so she goads tech tycoons into suppressing speech that risks intruding on the echo chamber of her so-called mind.

Frank continues:

These days Democratic politicians lean on anyone with power over platforms to shut down the propaganda of the right. Former Democratic officials pen op-eds calling on us to get over free speech. Journalists fantasize about how easily and painlessly Silicon Valley might monitor and root out objectionable speech. In a recent HBO documentary on the subject, journalist after journalist can be seen rationalizing that, because social media platforms are private companies, the first amendment doesn’t apply to them … and, I suppose, neither should the American tradition of free-ranging, anything-goes political speech.

Liberalism has become radicalized, and it has also become lobotomized.

In liberal circles these days there is a palpable horror of the uncurated world, of thought spaces flourishing outside the consensus, of unauthorized voices blabbing freely in some arena where there is no moderator to whom someone might be turned in. The remedy for bad speech, we now believe, is not more speech, as per Justice Brandeis’s famous formula, but an “extremism expert” shushing the world.

Now that we are tearing down statues and trying to erase American history, we are left with narratives concocted by illiterate Hollywood celebrities. They require less rational thought, and thus proliferate easily in empty heads:

What an enormous task that shushing will be! American political culture is and always has been a matter of myth and idealism and selective memory. Selling, not studying, is our peculiar national talent. Hollywood, not historians, is who writes our sacred national epics. 

Whatever you think about conservative speech, the correct American response is debate and discussion, even debunking. It is the correct response to radical leftist stupidities too.

Debunking” was how the literary left used to respond to America’s Niagara of nonsense. Criticism, analysis, mockery and protest: these were our weapons. We were rational-minded skeptics, and we had a grand old time deflating creationists, faith healers, puffed-up militarists and corporate liars of every description.

When it comes time to explain the intellectual deficiency of the modern left, Frank suggests that Republicans have been winning elections because the Democratic Party abandoned the working class in order to embrace the interests of a billionaire elite:

What explains the clampdown mania among liberals? The most obvious answer is because they need an excuse. Consider the history: the right has enjoyed tremendous success over the last few decades, and it is true that conservatives’ capacity for hallucinatory fake-populist appeals has helped them to succeed. But that success has also happened because the Democrats, determined to make themselves the party of the affluent and the highly educated, have allowed the right to get away with it.

The Russian collusion nonsense, as many liberals understand, was an effort to shift the blame, to refuse to look in the mirror. Frank might have noticed that the leader of the effort was an incompetent fraud, by name of Hillary Clinton, the nation’s No. 1 enabler of sexual harassment. If you cannot find a better candidate than Hillary Clinton you end up trying to rationalize your defeat by wallowing in the muck and mire of conspiracy theories:

In 2016, for example, liberals chose to blame Russia for their loss rather than look in the mirror. On other occasions they assured one another that they had no problems with white blue-collar workers – until it became undeniable that they did, whereupon liberals chose to blame such people for rejecting them.

Frank remarks that liberals have become a ruling class, a bunch of philosopher kings who believe that they know better and that they should, by divine right, be in charge:

Or perhaps this new taste for censorship is an indication of Democratic healthiness. This is a party that has courted professional-managerial elites for decades, and now they have succeeded in winning them over, along with most of the wealthy areas where such people live. Liberals scold and supervise like an offended ruling class because to a certain extent that’s who they are. More and more, they represent the well-credentialed people who monitor us in the workplace, and more and more do they act like it.

People who censor and cancel, he continues, are admitting defeat. They are saying that they cannot win a debate on the merit, so their only hope is to shut down the opposition:

What all this censorship talk really is, though, is a declaration of defeat – defeat before the Biden administration has really begun. To give up on free speech is to despair of reason itself. (Misinformation, we read in the New York Times, is impervious to critical thinking.) The people simply cannot be persuaded; something more forceful is in order; they must be guided by we, the enlightened; and the first step in such a program is to shut off America’s many burbling fountains of bad takes.

As ought to be perfectly obvious by now, liberals are no longer liberals. They no longer practice liberty. They no longer defend free expression. They label any discommodious idea as heresy and want to shut it down.

Let me confess: every time I read one of these stories calling on us to get over free speech or calling on Mark Zuckerberg to press that big red “mute” button on our political opponents, I feel a wave of incredulity sweep over me. Liberals believe in liberty, I tell myself. This can’t really be happening here in the USA.

For Frank the worst part is not only that it betrays principles that liberals have often embraced but that it will also lead to more Republican victories in upcoming elections.

But, folks, it is happening. And the folly of it all is beyond belief. To say that this will give the right an issue to campaign on is almost too obvious. To point out that it will play straight into the right’s class-based grievance-fantasies requires only a little more sophistication. To say that it is a betrayal of everything we were taught liberalism stood for – a betrayal that we will spend years living down – may be too complex a thought for our punditburo to consider, but it is nevertheless true.


Sam L. said...

"So, Frank holds the mirror up to the mind of the left:" I trust nothing, NOTHING, that the media prints or broadcasts. As I keep saying, I don't KNOW if the media is/are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Dem Party, or if it's the other way round, but it's OBVIOUS that they are in CAHOOTS. Or in bed together. Pick one or both.

Mr. Frank must now be defenestrated (thrown out a wondow; I looked it up), declared a "nonperson", and exiled to Outer Mongolia...or Siberia. With a t-shirt that has "TURNCOAT" and "OUTCAST" scrawled on it.

370H55V said...

I don't know why Frank would suggest that conservatives have been winning elections. Consider:
* not ONE Republican US House rep from all six New England states
* only two from NJ, one of whom is a Dem convert, and the other (Chris Smith) is totally useless on issues other than abortion
* three gay Dem US reps from NY alone
* gay Dem governor of Colorado

And these are just the blue states. Consider in red state territory:

* black radical US senator from Georgia
* black radical DA in Dallas County, TX
* black radical Dem later found dead drunk on the downlow in a sleazy Miami hotel room missing election as governor of FL by only 33,000 votes

The fact is the Dems in Congress and their counterparts in the states they control are forging full speed ahead with their radical plan to remake America, on party line votes if necessary, because they think, with considerable justification, that this is what America thinks.

Unfortunately, they may be right, and it will take more than just nullification to stop then.

jmod46 said...

Yes, there are a few on the Left who have an understanding of history and human nature. They are vastly outnumbered by the majority of their fellow leftists. By several orders of magnitude.

A recent article compared the pre-civil-rights era of Jim Crow in the South in which African-Americans had their own stores, schools, barbershops, and other societal necessities to a possible Right-leaning ecosystem: Conservatives with their own retail outlets, internet providers, social media companies, etc. Will it come to that? And if it does, what comes after? Would we have another civil rights revolution to re-admit The Canceled back into society? The irony would be too great...

Anonymous said...

Liberals used to tell us that the KKK needed to be allowed to parade through the streets of Jewish neighborhoods from time to time because that’s what the First Amendment was about. That was the price of our culture. That’s part of what it meant to be an American. Free speech was almost absolute, save yelling “Fire!” In a crowded movie theater.

Now they allow unscreened aliens to enter the USA by the thousands, who simultaneously hinting that vaccine passports will be required to participate in civil society.

Meanwhile, Uber sends out emails about how they are standing up to anti-Asian hate.

Oakland teachers won’t return to work, despite being given vaccination priority. You know, for the children...

Yeah, Mr. Frank. Sure. Wake me up when y’all get your dignity back.

KCFleming said...

I, for one, *welcome* our new Chicom overlords.

mrsizer said...

Liberals believe in liberty, I tell myself.
Not in my lifetime - and I'm hardly a spring chicken.

All the same, better late than never and thank you for pointing it out.

Sam L. said...

Dang my fingers! Window, not "wondow".

And my7 new Logitech keyboard keeps putting in a "7y" or "y7" all by7 itself! It ain't me doin' that!

Anonymous said...

So NOW !! Thomas Frank is waking up to the reality - the end game - of the liberal progressive agenda; an agenda that for 75 years sought greater and greater govt. control of the citizenry, and by default, greater loss of individual liberties.
None of this bothered him.

An agenda that sought, and did, excuse and rationalize everything the USSR did, explaining that the USSR was "only" responding to the misbehavior of the USA. An agenda that explained how Castro's Cuba was "forced" into the arms of the USSR by the evil USA.
An agenda that blamed the USA for causing every trouble spot on planet earth .
An agenda that accused - in PUBLIC hearings in Congress - Clarence Thomas of being a sexual predator. And they did the same thing all over again with Judge Kavaunagh.
NONE OF THESE disgusting and repugnant acts bothered Frank one bit.

Frank , for some reason, only now has a problem with the realization of the leftist agenda.
I hope the left just totally destroy's Frank, because it is people like him that have been the left's useful idiots, promoting this tyrannical, totalitarian agenda for years. An agenda that will affect us all.
Thomas Frank can go F himself.

Reminds me of Stalin executing all of Lenin's inner circle; and they certainly had it coming. What goes around , comes around.
It was Lenin and his inner circle that opened the door, set the stage for Stalin.
And in the end, those who established the system into which a Stalin could step, were rewarded in the basement of the Lubyanka Prison.

It's OK for the left to eat their own; they have it coming.
The problem is that the ENTIRE citizenry is will also pay the price.

Thomas Frank and scum like him, have been promoting this poison for years, If the day comes when we see Gulags opening up here in the USA, I hope Thomas Frank is one of the first to try out the accommodations and its gallows.

Sam L. said...

Frank: Too late wising up. Not "too late smart". Just in time for the deluge, though.