As a virus-shortened MLB season commences and the national anthem threatens Gabe Kapler’s aging knees, a cultural current has replaced America’s pastime: destroying people who hold unfashionable opinions.
Cancel culture is the new eSport. Played online, its aim is to smear, shame and destroy, its goal to render prey unemployable. It’s the most popular sport in America, if America is defined by Twitter, a torrent of digital blackwater.
The cancel game opens when you say something online that’s disagreeable to partisans, activists or high-end media stars. It doesn’t matter if what you said was years ago or in middle school. Your opponent seizes the gaffe, takes it to Twitter, or some other digital pulpit, and announces your iniquities to the world.
The spectators gather, faceless fans of cancel culture huddled before glowing screens. The players share and retweet, dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of times. You go viral. Your employer is informed. This could mean termination, and lights out for any future employment.
As competition, it’s unsporting. There’s no even playing field, no facing teams matched player for player. You don’t even know you’re in the game until someone says, “Hey, did you see this?”
Just you against the digital mob.
The Left is deft at the cancel game, rationalizing its crushing of critics, destruction of reputations and imposition of unemployment as the richly earned ”consequences” for freely expressing opinions that trigger them, such as critiques of Black Lives Matter.
The Right indulges in America’s cancel game, too, but it’s a weak player. Right-wingers had their salad days canceling liberals (some of them brilliant novelists and screenwriters who’d never work again) during the McCarthy commie witch hunt years in the mid-20th century. Back then, it wasn’t a game played by millions retweeting, but televised entertainment watched by millions.
Two cases of weak right-wing attempts at canceling people have been detailed in this column. The first, a lie spread by conservative websites that lefty U.S. Rep. Andy Kim, a New Jersy Democrat, refused to place his hand over his heart during “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a 2019 Memorial Day service. In a county that’s home to 30,000 veterans and a military base, they knew their “Andy’s un-American” narrative could cancel the first-term congressman in the next election.
The other case is a Black caterer in Falls. He and his business were threatened in Lower Bucks County after a lie went viral on social media that he’s anti-cop.
Cancel culture competitors don’t feature helmets, but masks. Masks, intended to contain the spread of coronavirus, are a flashpoint in the game. With an AP poll showing Democrats far more likely than Republicans to wear the irritating face coverings, the shrill command from the Left is, “Wear a mask!”
Smug mask-wearing enforcers whip out their iPhones at Walmart or Home Depot to take video of some working class guy who won’t comply, and the vid’s posted with the ambition of a viral moment resulting in his cancellation.
But the Right, which demands law-and-order, shouts “Tyrant!” at Gov. Tom Wolf for mandating masks, even though he’s exercising legitimate civil authority, which we as citizens are obligated to follow. Resistance Republicans in Harrisburg have introduced a resolution to impeach Wolf, the ultimate in cancellation humiliation in that line of work.
This may change, now that President Trump, reluctant to wear a mask, reversed and now says masks are “patriotic.”
Like Sen. McCarthy, cancel culture needs canceling. As does this cardboard-fan, knee-bent baseball season.
Woke baseball will be a disaster for the game, antagonizing and disaffecting millions of American fans who don’t care to have a privileged athlete’s politics forced in their faces like a livid manager arguing a call with an ump.
We need something to feel good about this long, hot summer, and it’s not patriotic masks.
(Columnist JD Mullane writes for the Bucks County Courier Times in Levittown.)