Four years ago, after the unthinkable happened and the wrong guy won the US election of 2016. I wrote an article about how I had feared a type of “cultural purge” from within the corporate media, Big Tech and cancel culture spheres. Like everybody else, I didn’t expect Trump to win (like most other Libertarians, I was holding my nose and pulling for Gary Johnson, whose running mate, Bill Weld, endorsed Hillary Clinton during the election campaign).
What I expected then, after Trump would have unceremoniously lost the 2016 election, was a type of cultural purge against anybody and everybody who enabled his run or supported him. What surprised me was that after he won the cultural purge proceeded anyway. In retrospect it seems obvious, at the time it blindsided me.
For the next four years we watched any (remaining) semblance of objectivity and impartiality wither away from the mainstream media. Even more troubling, was that it was also happening within Big Tech. Everything polarized and all judgement calls became characteristically asymmetrical. As I noted on occasion, that compared to the post 9/11 era when the Neocons controlled the narrative and the word “liberal” was a slur, everything flipped. Now it was the word “conservative” that was unusable and being a single micron to the right of centre was equated with being “literally Hitler”.
I could list the countless examples of deplatformings, cancellations, character assassinations and careers destroyed in the intervening time. It became so ridiculous, so devoid of any attempt at a claim to due process or fairness that an entire counter-culture has formed around criticizing or ridiculing it. I wrote a book about defending from deplatform attacks, which I started giving away for free in April when Big Tech started deplatforming deviant reporting on the COVID-19 crisis. Babylon Bee sprang into existence and quickly rivalled The Onion, riffing on cancel culture and hitting headwinds on multiple occasions when their scathing satire was indistinguishable from the reality they were lampooning.
More than once I thought “This is it, this has to be Peak Outrage”, and then somebody else’s career or business would be destroyed, sometimes for imagined transgressions that may or may not have taken place years ago or even before the target even started a position they’d just been canceled from having (David Collum’s section on cancel culture, featuring his own cancelation, lays many of these out in his famous Year In Review series, the 2020 issue).
Once the 2020 election was finally in the rear-view mirror and it appeared likely the administration had changed I thought, once again, that the worst was over. The world was mired in lockdown fatigue, we’re not even dealing with the economic fallout of COVID yet, and “ding dong the witch is dead”. Surely cancel culture and social justice extremism would taper off, if only out of exhaustion….[ ]