by Bob Barr
The request on Twitter was simple: provide a “controversial” food opinion. Professor Tom Nichols, like thousands of other Twitter users, offered his: “Indian food is terrible and we pretend it isn’t.” Some 17,000 replies later, replete with charges of “racism,” Nichols has become one of the most recent examples of how the “Cancel Culture” is debasing and corrupting our country’s proud history of free speech.
The Cancel Culture movement has become the scourge of Western civilization, a movement that will just as easily run roughshod over a Fortune 500 CEO as one of our next-door neighbors. It is a cultural pandemic long in the making and worsening each day it is allowed to fester unchallenged.
In 2015, I wrote about New York’s left-wing Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Democrat Rep. Ted Lieu’s joint investigation of ExxonMobil, for nothing more than failing to toe the Leftist line on climate change, a charge absurdly claimed to constitute criminal “securities fraud.” At the time, this was a somewhat novel way to browbeat a disfavored industry; it now has morphed into one of the Left’s preferred cudgels.
Earlier this month, fast food chain Chick-Fil-A announced it no longer would be including the Salvation Army or the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as recipients of its charitable giving program. This change caused many conservative supporters and customers of the Atlanta-based company understandably to feel betrayed. More important, the move was one the company never should have been forced to make in a society that’s supposed to protect both lawful commerce and free speech.
In spite of serving delicious food, providing top-notch service, and enjoying a clear record of philanthropy, the company faced constant and open pressure from the Left simply because its leadership endorsed traditional, Biblical notions of marriage. That fact alone was sufficient reason to cancel Chick-Fil-A.
By any reasoned definition, this is tyranny and with each such warped victory, the Left will more aggressively press its advantage in the business, academic, and cultural sectors of American society.
Consider, for example, the ongoing efforts by activist state attorneys general and civilian gun control groups, to hold gun manufacturers responsible for mass shootings by criminals using lawfully manufactured firearms.
This strategy is based on the theory that the gun manufacturers engaged in “false marketing practices,” and therefore are not entitled to the protection afforded to them under federal law as a manufacturer of a lawful product. In this way, the gun control movement is hoping to “cancel” firearms companies, in much the same way that pharmaceutical manufacturers are being punished for causing the “opioid crisis.”
We see the same “cancel culture” strategy at play in New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ongoing crusade against the National Rifle Association, a textbook example of how a state governor can employ the regulatory tools at his disposal to cancel an otherwise lawful organization against which he harbors deep animosity.
The problem becomes more complicated when private, but socially indispensable companies such as financial service providers, decide to withhold services based on ideology. Michelle Malkin wrote earlier this year about Chase Bank’s curious closures of customer accounts affiliated with the so-called “Alt-Right,” actions similar to that of PayPal last year.
Private companies, of course, enjoy broad discretion to serve whichever customers they wish. But is there a line to be drawn, and if so, where, particularly when such power is used to “cancel” a constitutionally protected right, or is used by a company that happens to be regulated by the federal government? It is, after all, one thing for snowflake Twitter users to take to social media to “cancel” another user for some perceived “insensitive” tweet. It is – or should be — far more troubling, however, when government regulators abuse their power to try and put firearms manufacturers and retailers out of business, as did the Obama Administration with “Operation Choke Point” in 2013.
Who will be left standing when all the “good guys” decide the stakes are too high to voice unpopular opinions, or when manufacturers of lawful but out-of-favor products can no longer afford the cost of doing business? Our Founding Fathers understood history and human nature, and wisely included in our Constitution mechanisms designed to guarantee we would not be placed in such predicaments. If we now are unwilling or unable to use those tools to fight back against the tyranny of the Cancel Culture, then we fully deserve the unenviable fate awaiting us.