I’ve heard so many whining, incoherent complaints about the evils of “cancel culture” over the past few years, usually from the same old suspects saying the same damn thing over and over. I wouldn’t offer a blanket endorsement of every cancellation or every cancellation-oriented group or movement. But I’m curious (once again) to hear what anti-cancel-culture warriors have to say about Trafficking Hub’s campaign to cancel human trafficking in porn.
Either the pressure exerted on MasterCard (and other vendors) was an instance of “cancel culture,” or it wasn’t. If not, why not?
Suppose it was. Was there anything wrong with it? Were the aims unjust, or the means immoral?
If there’s nothing wrong with the Trafficking Hub campaign, what’s the rationale for the blanket attack on “cancel culture”? Why don’t cases like this prove that if we’re to use the phrase at all, “cancel culture” has both legitimate and illegitimate instances?
Set aside your views, pro or con, about pornography itself. Wherever you stand on that, basic decency would (I’d think) compel you at the very least to oppose human trafficking in the abstract, better yet to abstain from contributing to it, better still to encourage those who actively oppose it, but best of all, to act in a systematic way, by legal and peaceful means, to shut it down. The way contemporary discourse is set up, however, “cancel culture” is exemplified by arbitrary terminations and the intimidation of unpopular speakers, but not by bona fide activism for justice–against, say, human trafficking, the Israeli occupation, signature drone strikes, police malfeasance, or fascism, or in favor of abortion rights, migrants’ rights, voting rights, or economic freedom.
Why the double standards? Why the tendentious, one-sided rhetoric, gerrymandered definitions, and empirical hand-waving? Why the pretense that justice is realized by genteel talk appropriate to a tea party or echo chamber, rather than the relentless full-time jihad it actually demands in real life?
Now that capitalism has been enlisted in the cause of justice via cancellation (often, as in the preceding case, pitting one business against another), capitalists themselves are wringing their hands and crying foul. Polemicists who unblinkingly tell us that employment-at-will is the best labor policy ever–serenely oblivious to the jobs it ended and careers it destroyed before it was enlisted in the cause of the Woke Olympics–suddenly find themselves aghast at the idea that people might abruptly be terminated without cause. But employers have been terminating employees without notice and without cause for more than a century now, rarely if ever provoking the outcry of these anti-cancel warriors.
Simple, obvious fact: justice is something you have to fight for. It doesn’t come for the asking. It doesn’t come about at all by the methods of quietistic academics, sitting on their asses and criticizing the human scene from the imagined heights of Mt Olympus. It comes about by methods like those employed by Laila Mickelwait & Co. If you reject her aims, have the candor to say so. If you reject her methods, have the ingenuity to come up with better ones. And if you really think you’ve come up with them in theory, try putting them into practice with equal or better results. Until then, however, maybe try staying out of the way? The arc of the moral universe is already long enough. There’s no need to make it longer.