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Ruben Navarrette: Cancel culture is a lie

By Ruben Navarrette Washington Post

Oh dear. Conservatives have lost their bearings again. As they say in Texas, bless their hearts. This time, it’s not over refugees, affirmative action, reparations, multiculturalism or same-sex bathrooms.

Now the right wing is going loco over so-called cancel culture. That’s where people – usually those in the public eye – get taken to the woodshed for stuff they wrote, said or did.

Sure, some liberals also have a problem with cancel culture, because they think it sometimes goes too far and encroaches on free speech.

But c’mon. That can’t be surprising. The whole concept of cancel culture is about accountability, and we already know that those on the left are not big fans of that concept. If you believe in accountability, you don’t give a free pass to teachers unions to keep public schools closed down during a pandemic, or offer to bail rioters and looters out of jail. The Democratic Party is the party of excuses and alibis, not stepping forward and owning up.

Still, conservatives are really going overboard in trying to own the opposition to cancel culture.

Honestly, I liked these jokers on the right better when they were part of the establishment, telling the huddled masses and the great unwashed to eat cake. In their new incarnation as rock-throwing activists – which culminated in the anarchic uprising at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, when a supposedly “pro-cop” crowd attacked cops with hockey sticks – they often confuse even themselves.

What do conservatives believe today? I don’t know. What day is it?

If you’re just tuning in, the campaign against cancel culture is now being led by the same group that, in 2003, got so upset that France opposed the Iraq War that they changed french fries to “freedom fries.” It was conservatives who, in 2019, held public bonfires where they burned tennis shoes because they were upset over Nike’s decision to pull a sneaker honoring the American flag as well as the company’s sponsorship deals with racial activist and former professional quarterback Colin Kaepernick. And it was conservatives who have, over the past 30 years, tried to boycott a bunch of media and entertainment companies – from Disney and Amazon to CNN and Netflix – for the sin of producing material that offended them.

As with so many issues, when it comes to cancel culture, neither the right nor the left could find a modicum of consistency with a map and a compass. Hypocrites, one and all. How the partisans feel, and what they think, has everything to do with who or what is getting canceled. That gets us nowhere.

Once again, the answer is where I make camp: the center. To quote President Joe Biden, “Here’s the deal, man.”

Cancel culture is a myth. It’s a big lie used by people in both parties to avoid responsibility for their actions or inactions, mistakes or misdeeds.

Speaking of (alleged) misdeeds, beleaguered Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is one of the latest individuals to play “the cancel card.” Accused by what is now a total of seven women of sexual impropriety or inappropriate touching, and facing calls for him to step down by prominent Democrats, Cuomo recently found the chutzpah to insist that he would not bow to “cancel culture.”

Outstanding. What was, up until about 10 minutes ago, a favorite device that Republicans used to duck accountability has now been politically appropriated by a Democrat who is in quicksand.

As I’ve said before, on eight occasions in this tumultuous world of media, I have been fired, laid off, downsized, lost contracts or been escorted from the building by security. Often times, my “mistake” was simply doing my job in ways that made squirrelly bosses uncomfortable. Comes with the territory.

Look, people get fired from their jobs. Television shows get taken off the air, and hosts are replaced. Actors who go to bed thinking they have a contract with a movie studio may wake up to find the contract voided because Hollywood bigwigs got skittish when they saw something on social media.

Again, I’ve been there so many times that I could find my way back blindfolded. But, unlike my dad the retired cop, I’m no civil servant. I serve at the pleasure of media pooh-bahs. The same goes for many folks who get “canceled.”

Grow up. This isn’t a plot. This isn’t censorship. This isn’t even cancel culture. This is life.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is