Tuesday 5 January 2021

The Right Wing Obsession With Cancelling

Cancelling has featured heavily in the discourse of late. Nick Cohen, always happy to recycle Tory talking points, has done so again by dusting off the article he always writes and passed it off as new. Then we have the terminally awful Telegraph troll, Allison Pearson, engaging in a real attempt at cancelling by trying to get one of her Twitter critics the sack. And news came through earlier today how the tedious TalkRadio had had their YouTube channel taken down for peddling Covid conspiracism, only for it to be reinstated after a bout of social media whingeing by its roster of constributors.

Surely there isn't much more about cancelling needing to be said. Yet for something so stale and snoring, it can still get the retweets and likes a-soaring. And as anyone reading this knows, right wingers are never too slow to capitalise on cancelling, considering how even mediocrities like Laurence Fox has built a media side-hussle complaining about how no one pays attention to him because racism. Imagine if you were slaved to the Daily Mail and had no idea what its stable of brigands and poltroons were banging on about when it comes to getting cancelled on Twitter. I imagine for the non-internet travelling imaginary how it must sound exhausting and angst-inducing.

Time for a quick thought about what cancelling is. It ranges from trying to get someone sacked for things said on social media, as per the putrescent Pearson, to harrassment and doxxing designed to drive someone off a platform, to dogpiling and shunning (the latter is never carried off with any rigour), to blocking and simply ignoring. Our rightwingers have poured out millions of words to their non-cogniscent audiences pretending them and their rubbish is in danger of getting banned and the world overrun by the warriors of woke, or whatever. Is it then a straightforward matter of cynical posturing? Yes. And no.

There are two good reasons for locating their incontinent gobshitery in fear. The first is habitual to anyone competing for clicks, eyeballs, and views. As there might come a time no one but me ever visits this blog (imagine!), there is an immanent danger of rightwingers going from shock to schlock in the blink of an eye. The fate of Milo and dozens of other big mouths who've fallen from favour are instructive here, a reminder how making a living from comment and opinion is a fraught enterprise and one that pits talking head against talking head. On top of this, for our rightwingers the murk of despair hovers around the fringes of self-awareness. Conservatism and right wing politics presently constituted are in long-term decline. Social liberalism is the commonsense of the rising generation, and as older people pass on the cap doffing, imperial nostalgia, and anti-social bloody-mindedness is not getting replaced like for like. The consequence is in the medium to long-term the eventual diminishing of the audience for their wares - despite the explosion of rightist outlets and a pantheon full of interchangeable atavists. Banging on about leftists and cancellation is an expression of their terror for an irrelevant future, a manifestation of the threat they feel in their marrow.

Naturally, right wing politics can reinvent itself and I expect it will. The irony is conservatism never got anywhere by being conservative. But the awful stuff we see now, the racism, the transphobia, the beggar-thy-neighbour poison, the fools' patriotism and jingoistic idiocy has a limited purchase and an equally limited shelf life. And we can hasten its demise by building our own media institutions and pushing our politics. The Pearsons, Foxes, Farages, Hopkins, Oakeshotts, Ferraris, Neils, and O'Neills, we'll be hearing from them for some time yet. But the day is coming when we won't.


Blissex said...

There is a facile argument about "canceling", which is a new fancy name for the old practice of blacklisting: that the difference between blacklisting "racists and misogynists" and blacklisting "trade-unionist and socialists" is simply that one suppresses wrong ideas, the other suppresses rights ideas, so "the left" should support blacklisting of "racists and misogynists" and fight against blacklisting of "trade-unionists and socialists".
As simple as that.

The problem with that facile attitude is that in practice as most employers and media are owned and controlled by opponents of the left, so blacklisting almost always has been used against the left, and it is not just right as a principle, but right as a practical matter, for the left to oppose all blacklisting, even if currently it is also in the interests of the proprietors of employers and media to also blacklist [alleged] "racists and misogynists" (and [alleged] "anti-semites" who happen to be supporters of socialism and trade-unionism).

Unless of course one believes that the revolution is imminent, and after it all the employers and media will be owned and controlled by (the commissars of) the people, and therefore blacklisting of the enemies of (the commissars of) the people as a principle will not have that downside :-).

Blissex said...

«The Pearsons, Foxes, Farages, Hopkins, Oakeshotts, Ferraris, Neils, and O'Neills, we'll be hearing from them for some time yet. But the day is coming when we won't.»

That would be a sad day, as "diversity" works well in politics too. Ideally those people would still be heard, but most people would just recognize them as sordid propagandists.

Because hearing only one side is not as effective as hearing that side and being able to compare it with others and know that that it is betters than the others, rather than being in doubt because there are no alternative views for comparison.

cass said...

Well said Phil. I think you're right to bring in Nick Cohen's regurgitated article, it reminds me of a piece written by Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer last March. He was reviewing a book by (Theresa May's special adviser) Nick Timothy and he singled out for praise Timothy's suggestion that the two major destabilising events for current politics were Tory austerity and cancel culture... (That's why him and Nick C get paid the big bucks I suppose?!).

Kamo said...

There's some truth in cancel culture, but like everything it's buried under shite from those who protest too much and those who excuse it because they dislike the targets. I see it as an intersection of a few things: the social media pile on - keyboard warriors self-righteously justifying bullying, virtue signalling from people keen to publicise their wokeness (I'm sure they'd call this a straw man and euphemize the behaviour as something less cynical), and those same gobshites struggling to articulate counter arguments to views they oppose (because they find their own arguments wanting, or their position owes more to faith than reason). What's more important to recognise is it's just another form of grievance peddling in a discourse powered by professional grievance peddlers of all stripes.

Which brings me to the comments about 'cap doffing, imperial nostalgia'; this is total bollocks, the 'Empire' was on it's last legs when my grandparents were in their prime (born pre-WW2, now all dead), it was at best an afterthought for my baby boomer parents, and for most people of my own generation (1970's) it doesn't register in day to day life. The people who keep dragging it out are professional grievance peddlers who keep 'reimagining' it for another cynical rinse of their tired 'anti-imperialist' schtick. For this flavour of charlatan everything from Brexit to deporting foreign rapists (well, strictly speaking only those from the West Indies, it seems nobody gives a proverbial about nonces from other parts of the world) is 'imperialist nostalgia', at least for the purpose of their latest grievance porn puff piece in the Graun. For everyone else present day reality is enough to be getting on with.