Cancellation or Consequences?

In a just society, illegal and immoral actions must have consequences. We rarely ban speech, but there’s an exception for speech that incites illegal activity.
Cancellation or Consequences?
(Zenza Flarini/Shutterstock)
Bob Zeidman

Since the Hamas atrocities took place over three weeks ago, I have been wrestling with the reactions of some Democratic politicians, progressive movement leaders, and left-wing students on college campuses who blame Israel itself for the most vicious and massive attack on Jews since the Holocaust.

Some influential business leaders such as billionaire Bill Ackman, CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, and Jonathan Neman, CEO of restaurant chain Sweetgreen, have requested that Harvard University publish a list of the names of students who signed a letter blaming Israel for the atrocities so that they can avoid hiring them.
Others, including Apollo Global Management’s CEO Marc Rowan, former U.S. diplomat Jon Huntsman, television producer Dick Wolf, and billionaire hedge fund manager Clifford Asness are withholding further donations to the University of Pennsylvania for its support of anti-Israel programs that included blatantly antisemitic speakers.
At Cornell, conservative and Jewish students are calling for the firing of professor Russell Rickford for his public celebration of the Hamas murders, rapes, and kidnappings.

Most, if not all, of the people making these demands are conservatives who for years have condemned the cancellation of their own members. Is this hypocrisy?

Other conservative pundits and leaders have said that cancellation is a value of the left and doesn’t coincide with the free speech values that are honored on the right.

Vivek Ramaswamy, a Republican presidential candidate, said that the while the students’ actions were wrong, it wasn’t “productive to hunt down individual members of college student groups for the purpose of blacklisting them.”
Conservative political commentator Candace Owens suggested the students should be given some grace, saying, “You know that many of those students are not out there because they want babies to be murdered.”
My friend Eli Steele wrote about this in his recent blog, in a piece titled “Hamas, What Killed Michael Brown & Cancel Culture.“ As a politically conservative member of at least three minority groups—black, Jewish, and disabled—he has a unique perspective. His own film, ”What Killed Michael Brown, was initially banned on Amazon until the influence of his well-known father and public pressure restored it. Because of his own situation with cancellation, he took a long, hard look at what’s happening on college campuses and within American corporations and institutions:

“I [initially] came down on the side of [blacklisting] in several private conversations and to my surprise one of my friends said to me, ‘your film was cancelled and now you want to turn around and cancel these students?’ I had not explicitly said that these students should be cancelled but that there should be consequences for supporting terror while the bodies of hundreds of Jews remained undiscovered. ...

“However, the charge of cancellation against me gave me pause. As a believer in free speech I do not believe in cancel culture. ... Before cancel culture there was moral judgment, and I believe there are profound and fundamental differences between these two forms of judgment. … Cancel culture… refer[s] to the act of cancelling a person if their views do not conform to the prevailing ideology of the moment. ...

“[W]hen a person or organization endorses a terror group that yelled, ‘Die Israel!’ during the attack, we are no longer within the ideological realm of cancel culture. We’re within the universal realm of actual morality, the timeless ethics of right versus wrong, good versus evil. This morality requires that one draw a line somewhere and say, ‘I am not like them.’ When one objects to the Harvard organizations and students endorsing Hamas and its charter of annihilating the Jews of Israel, one is making a moral judgment. One is compelled to, since morality must have a bottom, a line we cannot cross, or we descend into a free fall where everything is justified, even the beheading of a baby.”

As I considered my own reaction to recent events, I realized that Mr. Steele had expressed my thoughts very well. First, supporting Hamas is unquestionably immoral, and immoral behavior must have consequences. The Judeo-Christian moral code of Western Civilization is grounded in that basic concept. Second, even the college students who celebrated Hamas’s crimes or at least excused them are considered adults in almost every endeavor, including the ability to choose the politicians who control not just the government but nowadays legislate morality. Adults shouldn’t be able to hide in anonymity and must suffer the consequences. In fact, if they believe what they say, why would they hide? But the signatures have been withdrawn, the students have refused to come forward, and others like Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib simply stick to their condemnation of Israel while obfuscating about Hamas.
What should be the consequences for their immoral actions? That question is debatable. But there must be consequences. They still have time to issue sincere public apologies and take action to counteract what they have already done. These apologies must acknowledge that murder, rape, torture, and kidnapping of civilians is evil and never acceptable. They must plausibly state that they had no knowledge of the letters or statements made in their names. And they must not simply say they’re sorry but must take corrective action of some kind, perhaps donating to the Magen David Adom, which provides emergency medical services to victims of terror. Otherwise, it would be obvious that they just fear for their own futures rather than sympathize with the victims or their families.
In a just society, all illegal and immoral actions must have consequences. We rarely ban speech, but there’s an exception for speech that actually incites illegal activity, as many in America and around the world have done since the Oct. 7 massacre and continue to do.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Bob Zeidman is the creator of the field of software forensics and the founder of several successful high-tech Silicon Valley firms including Zeidman Consulting and Software Analysis and Forensic Engineering. His latest venture is Good Beat Poker, a new way to play and watch poker online. He is the author of textbooks on engineering and intellectual property as well as screenplays and novels. His latest novel is the political satire "Animal Lab," a modern sequel to George Orwell’s classic "Animal Farm."