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Michael Matteo: Cancel me too, I dare you

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Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

Comedian Dave Chappelle’s response to the cries for censoring his comedy special on Netflix and labeling it as transphobic and disrespectful was, “If this is what being canceled is like, I love it.” More people need to adopt this attitude and push back against those who would seek to force their agenda on a supposedly free society.

Since the writing of the Bill of Rights, Americans have treasured the right of freedom of speech, and although this only applies to the government not being allowed to limit what a person says, (with notable exceptions, such as speech that defames or puts people in imminent danger,) the right of speaking freely has been under attack for decades with the advent of speech codes, people losing jobs for saying controversial things and the entire notion of political correctness, which seeks to deny people’s speech because it may be construed as “offensive.”

Self-appointed censors who seek to deny others the right to express an opinion, make a joke or just make a statement about an issue are intolerant fascists who believe their right to silence people supersedes people’s rights to say what is on their minds. Yes, there are consequences for truly offensive speech, but that shouldn’t be determined by a bunch of social media cowards who hide behind their computer screens. Everyone has a right to dislike what someone says, but no one has the right to gag others under the guise of the subjective notion that a word, a sentence, or a speech may be “unpleasant.”

Dictionary writers are working overtime to create and delete words based upon what a minority of individuals believe are offensive and replacing these words with tenuously written phrases to make language inoffensive.  When a doctor has to apologize for using the term “pregnant woman” because it’s considered politically incorrect, it’s obvious that the boat to reason, common sense, and freedom of expression has sailed.

The radical left has been enabled by universities that employ speech codes, corporations that fear repercussions of anything that might be remotely unPC, as well as public schools that hire firms to rewrite curriculum to make it more “sensitive.“ As time passed, some complaints about “hate speech” expanded to an attack on vocabulary, and a new wokabulary was created to pacify extremists and include words like intersectionality, toxic masculinity, heteronormativity, marginalization, etc. to describe the “evils” of an oppressive society.

Woke individuals refuse to debate, and employ tactics of shouting down, censoring, or labeling individuals whose ideas they dislike. Woke individuals have adopted the practice of “canceling” individuals who have either said something in the past or present that could be construed as offensive. “Cancellation,” in woke terms, is to stop supporting someone; it is basically a call to boycott someone’s movies, books, products, etc.  It is normally imposed upon celebrities or famous people, but it has been expanded to educators, business owners, and others who may say something that emotionally fragile people can’t tolerate and no one is safe from being canceled.

NEWSFLASH: You can cancel stamps, TV shows, hotel reservations and so much more, but you CAN’T CANCEL PEOPLE!  The announcement that X will be canceled is supposed to send fear into the heart of X and is similar to the 1950’s McCarthyism’s blacklist, which was a fascist attempt to harm an individual because that person didn’t say or do what McCarthy and his cronies insisted was the essence of being American. It was based on fear.

Today’s cancellation list is exactly the same, except it is a tyranny of intolerant groups that have banded together (intersectionality) to force everyone to bend to their demands.

In 2019 and 2020 there were many notable individuals who were canceled or threatened with cancellation for a variety of reasons, but the common denominator for all of them was that they said things that were considered to be offensive by the sensitivity police. For a time, the list was primarily focused on right-wingers and included: Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, J.K. Rowling, Kirstie Alley, Gina Carano, and many others in a variety of different fields. Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben were also canceled due to pressure put on these companies to get rid of what was perceived as racist product promotion. Even those on the left are not immune to cancellation as the tolerance level of intersectional groups decreases.

The problem here is that people should NEVER apologize or fear being canceled because it gives power to paper tigers. Dave Chappelle has the right attitude by celebrating his cancellation. When country music singer Morgan Wallen was canceled for a video of him using obscenities and using the N-word, he apologized, but this wasn’t good enough for the self-appointed cancelers, and he was canceled. However, instead of this causing financial disaster, sales for his music soared and the market canceled his cancellation. This doesn’t justify his actions, but it illustrates a way to defeat cancel culture.

Those who attempt to cancel others are bullies, and the best way to deal with a bully is to push back. This does not justify any bad behavior, nor does it support it. However, people make mistakes and to hold a photo, a comment, or a video that someone made in the past or present and attempt to destroy that person’s career is wrong.

It’s time for those of us who have had it with myopic, hypersensitive, never-ending victims who need safe rooms when they hear a word that they fear sending them into a catatonic state to fight back, and this is through the marketplace. It’s time for those famous (and not so famous) individuals who are threatened with cancelation to come out and say, “Cancel me too, I dare you!”

McCarthyism threatened to destroy an individual’s right to political beliefs and change America into something that violated the basic tenets of the Constitution. Sadly, a lot of pain and harm was perpetrated against people who voiced unpopular political views for that time period. Yet, this attempt to deny people their right to freely express themselves was defeated and America moved on.

Today, we face a similar threat with cancel culture, and it too must be defeated. The solution to perceived controversial, racist, homophobic, sexist, transphobic comments is not to censor them, it’s to expose them, debate them and challenge them, and it works both ways.  It’s to teach students that reason and logic are the tools to defeat ignorance.

When MSNBC host Tiffany Cross attacked Bill Maher and called him an “old white guy,” no one attempted to cancel her for her ageist, racist and sexist attack on Maher. Unlike those on the left who would have immediately insisted on her cancelation and removal from the air, reasonable commentators merely refuted what she said and pointed out the hypocrisy of her rant about shutting him up because of his age, race, and gender.  That is the difference between censoring speech and using speech to dispel, debate and dispute something, which is, and always will be, the American way.

Michael Matteo
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