Gotta Learn vs. Cancel Culture

Ideas and Issues
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February 11, 2021

New Orleans       I often think about one of the favorite expressions of a long-time Local 100 organizer as she counseled, chided, and cajoled our members to stay out of trouble on the job. She would say, “you gotta learn,” to them, just as she would say it to the bosses and all of us as her comrades and co-workers. Reading the daily papers about one after another stepping in some mess and then crying “cancel culture” sometimes, and, more wisely, “I’m sorry,” other times, brings her expression to mind frequently.

Me thinks they protest too much.

Sure, I have sympathy for the young ones trying to find some footing in high school or college who might occasionally mess up on social media, but that still wouldn’t excuse racism, anti-Semitism, sexism or the like, now would it? When it comes to adults, what they say should be close to who they are, right? I might raise an eyebrow over an attack on someone now for an opinion that might be dead wrong from 20, 30 or 40 years ago. People do need to grow, and hopefully their opinions need to evolve. It still wouldn’t offset racism and general hateration, but if it were just politics, economics, and the like, let’s hope there is some allowance for increased wisdom over time.

But, those exceptions are for general citizens of the world. Politicians, celebrities, and the like who seek to influence and live in the public forum must know better. They gotta learn! The first time one of them messed up on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or whatever should have been a lesson for all that follow. Add in the years that social media has now dominated cultural and civic life, and how is it possible that any sentient being would not have learned to be careful about what they share on social media?

Another actress, this one with Disney or Lucasfilms, was ousted after some crazy anti-everything comments. Watch “Call My Agent” on Netflix and you’ll find that her agent undoubtedly had told her “be careful” on social media. Book publishers are clear that Senator Hawley and his crazy Capitol election denial, fist-raising, broke the “morals” clause in his Simon & Shuster contract, and even his new conservative publisher is clear something similar is in his new contract. Bruce Springsteen’s rave review Jeep commercial was dropped off their website after he got arrested for drunken and reckless driving the other night. Some colleges cancel speeches by Ivanka Trump and social media personalities while they scream and shout “cancel culture.”

What’s the beef? Shouldn’t there be accountability? Commercial interests are clear. You mess up, and it hurts sales, you’re gone. People pick the constituencies they are trying to build, especially politicians and celebrities, so as they choose who they want, why would it surprise them to find that it’s a choice, and others may then decide not to want them. There are consequences to actions and decisions, right? That’s what we teach our children, so why should it be different for wannabe-elites?

People make mistakes, because they are people. I’d bet money that Bruce comes up with a sincere apology, and his real fan base doesn’t care if he lost a couple of bucks from Jeep. He can be forgiven. Someone like Senator Hawley or Ted Cruz who did little but display their craven ambition, devil take the hindmost, should pay some penalty in the common space of society.

Or they can move to France where reportedly there is a rearguard action to excuse any accountability, including for sexual abuse of children, as an American invasion of cancel culture. I should warn though that before they start taking language classes, I wouldn’t be so sure that those voices will prevail. I’ve learned a lot about France in recent years, and they care about their children more than the right of some author or another, no matter how well-known, to have his way with them.

It’s not hard, but “you gotta learn.”