“Energy,” said William Blake, “is eternal delight.”
Poor Joe. Shuffling through his note cards, he struggled to utter a few names: “and Representatives Shir-Shirley Jackson Lee, Al Greene, Sylvia Garcia, Lizzie Penelley, ugh, uh, excuse me, Pannill, and, ugh, what am I doing here? I’m gonna lose track here.”
“What am I doing here?” It’s a question many are asking, including, I’d wager, Sheila Jackson-Lee, who doubtless also wonders who the heck Shir-Shirley is.
By contrast, Donald Trump delivered a vigorous, upbeat, and wide-ranging speech at CPAC.
Speaking for an hour and a half, he touched on many of his signature achievements, dilating along the way on Joe Biden’s alarming reversals regarding energy, for example, and immigration.
He thrilled the thousands of conference-goers by hinting that he just might run again in 2024, and he reassured the Republican rank-and-file when he said that he was not interested in starting a new party but would focus his energy on supporting the GOP and its Trump-friendly candidates (not you, Mitt, and not you, either, Liz Cheney).
Trump also expatiated on the 2020 election, noting that he won between 74 and 75 million votes, some 11 million more than he won in 2016.
It was the first time in history, he told the crowd, that a sitting President had improved his performance and still lost.
Another first: winning Florida, Ohio, and Iowa and still losing.
How could it have happened? Trump cut to the chase. The election, he said, was “rigged.”
I think it was, too, and have explained why in this space and elsewhere several times.
I know that you are not supposed to say that the 2020 election was rigged.
Left-wing news sources now regularly add disclaimers to any questioning of the election, asserting that any such contention is a “refuted” “conspiracy theory,” a “big lie,” and so on.
Left-wing on-line encyclopedias like Wikipedia have assisted in this project of delegitimation, informing readers that the idea that the 2020 election was rigged or that Joe Biden won because of widespread voter fraud has been “debunked” and “discredited.”
Except that it hasn’t. It has been denied, which is not the same thing.
One part of that denial shows itself in the sudden uptick of “cancel culture,” which seems to be operating on higher octane fuel since the election.
Donald Trump talked about that, too, in his speech when he upbraided “The fake news media and their toxic cancel culture.”
Over the weekend, I wrote about a small instance of cancel culture, the sudden, unannounced delisting of Ryan Anderson’s “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment” by Amazon and its affiliates.
Amazon handles some 83 percent of book sales in the United States, so it is close to being a monopoly.
As the publisher of that book, I am happy to say that it is still available through other emporia, including directly through the Encounter Books web site. Indeed, Amazon’s effort to deep-six the book has given it a whole new lease on life. We have sold thousands of copies in the last week.
Canceling Cancel Culture
But the Amazon episode, together with Donald Trump’s talk of “toxic cancel culture,” and CPAC’s slogan for its conference—“America Uncanceled” was emblazoned in large letters above the backdrops—reminded me that responding to this strange and dangerous initiative must be at the very center of the conservative agenda.
Cancel culture is the business end of identity politics. It aims to enforce ideological conformity by stifling free speech and, as far as possible, free thought.
How can conservatives fight back?
In the most general sense, I think that Nancy Reagan had the right idea when she advised, “Just Say No.”
The commissars of cancel culture are crybullies who intimidate by intruding upon the good will and natural tolerance of society at large.
As is always the case with bullies, the way to neutralize them is to stand up to them
In other words, in order to cancel cancel culture, we have to have the courage to oppose it publicly.
Aristotle observed that courage is the most important virtue because without it, we are unable to practice any of the others.
To cancel cancel culture, we must have the courage to stand up to the new racialists who seek to invert the vision of Martin Luther King, who said that what mattered was not the color of your skin but the content of your character.
The new-new Left of Black Lives Matter and kindred movements want to reject King and reduce everything to race.
We have to insist that one’s skin color is politically and morally irrelevant.
To the indiscriminate charges of “systemic racism” and “white supremacy,” we have to point out that treating people as equal is not racist and, moreover, that there is nothing existentially tainted about being white, just as there is nothing inherently virtuous about being black or any other skin color.
When, as happened just last week, a New York city public school principal wrote to parents inviting them to reflect on their “whiteness” in order to become “white traitors’’ and “white abolitionists,” those parents should, in addition to demanding the immediate resignation of that principal, just say no.
I am not saying it will be easy.
But history has shown that totalitarian movements can seem irresistible right up to the moment that their true nature is exposed, whereupon they tend to disintegrate quickly and crumble.
Cancel culture feeds on a denial of reality. Sooner or later reality will reassert itself. So-called “trans-culture” is not the latest civil rights issue, as we have been assured by a compliant media, it is a pathology that deserves our compassion.
American society is not “systemically racist,” it is dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
This is not to say that America is perfect or that its history has been free from cruelty and unfairness. In this it is like every nation. What set it apart are its ideals, and those, as Lincoln put it, have made it the last best hope of earth.
Donald Trump echoed that sentiment at the end of his speech at CPAC. “Together in the coming years,” he said, “we will carry forward the torch of American liberty. We will lead the conservative movement and Republican Party back to a totally conclusive victory. … Together, we will make America prouder, freer, stronger, and greater than it ever has been before.”
Canceling cancel culture is a prerequisite for that victory.
The insidious, freedom-blighting imperatives of cancel culture are ubiquitous. But so, I am happy to say, is the spirit of resistance, which is burgeoning everywhere.
We are caught in a battle between a sclerotic, gibbering, senile current of conformity and a newly energized affirmation of freedom.
I understand that the former is invested with the prestige and resources of establishment opinion. But the latter is instinct, with the spirit of freedom-loving independence.
At the end of the day, I think that the latter will prevail.
Roger Kimball is the editor and publisher of The New Criterion and publisher of Encounter Books. His most recent book is “Who Rules? Sovereignty, Nationalism, and the Fate of Freedom in the 21st Century.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.