The Corner

PC Culture

On Cancelers, Cancelees, and Contrapasso

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A number of conservatives have responded to my post on the cancellation of Alexi McCammond by suggesting that, by defending her, I am making a tactical mistake. In essence, this argument holds that McCammond belongs to — or is, at least, aligned with — the “cancel-culture” movement, and that if I really want to see that movement weakened, I should be happy to give its practitioners and adherents a taste of their own medicine.

I disagree with this criticism for two reasons. First, because I am opposed to this happening in all circumstances — and because I think it’s important to point out that this is wrong in principle, rather than merely damaging to my “side.” Second, because Alexi McCammond is not the problem here.

I am quite sure that McCammond has all sorts of views I disagree with profoundly (although I have found no evidence that she was a cancel-culture warrior). And, yes, I consider the publication she was going to work for to be absurd and, sometimes, insidious. But, in this circumstance, McCammond is not the canceler; she is the cancelee. The cancelers here are Condé Nast’s “Chief People Officer,” Stan Duncan, its “chief diversity and inclusion officer,” Yashica Olden, and the “staff, readers and at least two advertisers” who pressured them. And precisely nothing has happened to weaken or awaken them.

My basic philosophy here is twofold: (1) that human beings should be expected to live by the rules that they have set for others, and (2) that this also applies to me. My rule for others is that they shouldn’t be canceled. Stan Duncan and Yashica Olden’s rule for others is that they should — and for the most frivolous of transgressions. In practice, that means if that Stan Duncan or Yashica Olden are deemed to be “guilty” of the same “crimes” for which they have punished others, they should be forced to leave without complaint (in Dante, this is achieved via contrapasso), but that they should also expect to be told by the people who have disagreed with them all long that their rules are intolerable, that they’ve made a series of bad choices, and that none of this ever needed to happen in the first place — and wouldn’t have, if they hadn’t been so bloody stupid.

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