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VIDEO: Psychologist Explains the Unhealthy Incentives Behind ‘Cancel Culture’

If there was a video documenting every second of my life, you can bet it would contain some pretty stupid comments I’ve made over the years. I would also probably be reminded of some opinions I no longer believe. If you’re being honest with yourself, yours likely would be equally cringe.

The things we have said in the past may not have been outrageously offensive, but we have all made comments, or held opinions, we later regret. We are, after all, inherently flawed creatures.

But imagine if one instance of poor judgment or one “fringe” opinion stuck with you forever. This is the problem our society is now facing with the prevalence of cancel culture.

In 2016, then-high school freshman Mimi Groves posted a video to Snapchat in which she used a racial slur. The video later circulated around her school, though it wasn’t met with controversy at the time.

Fellow classmate Jimmy Galligan hadn’t seen the footage until last year when the two were seniors—four years after it first made the rounds at Heritage High School. By this time, Groves had moved on to focus on her role as varsity cheer captain with big dreams of attending the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, a school known for its nationally ranked cheer squad.

For Groves, summer 2020 had been a time of celebration as she found out she had been accepted to the university’s cheer team. But her joy was short-lived when the death of George Floyd rightly outraged the nation, sparking a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Like many teens, Groves used her social media platforms to urge people to protest, donate, and sign petitions in support of ending police brutality. It was then that her unfortunate video came back to haunt her.

“You have the audacity to post this, after saying the N-word,” one commenter, unknown to the teen, posted on her Instagram.

That’s when her phone began ringing nonstop.

Galligan had held onto the video made four years earlier and had chosen to celebrate Groves’ admission to UT by blasting the footage to every major social media platform.

As the video began going viral, public outrage ensued, calling for the university to rescind her acceptance.

Capitulating to the mob, UT removed her from their cheer team, a decision that resulted in Groves withdrawing from the school because of what she perceived as pressure from the school’s admissions office.

Make no mistake, making racial slurs of any kind is demeaning and inappropriate behavior. But is one comment made four years prior enough to ruin the future of a teen who hadn’t even entered adulthood yet?

The court of public opinion said yes, without giving Groves any chance at redemption.

Why People ‘Cancel’

Groves’ story is just one of many.

Cancel culture has become more widespread over the last several years than anyone could have imagined. When I penned this article on the topic two years ago, I had no idea the problem would escalate to the level it has reached today.

But cancel culture isn’t reserved only for those who have made distasteful comments in the past.

Today, those espousing any opinion that goes against “woke” rhetoric are ridiculed online, fired from their jobs, and some are banned from using popular social media platforms altogether.

One University of North Carolina Wilmington professor, Mike Adams, even took his own life after tweets construed as offensive pushed him into early retirement after years of service to the institution.

Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind and co-author of The Coddling of the American Mindhas been an outspoken critic of the cancel culture phenomenon for some time.

“Part of a call-out culture is you get credit based on what someone else said if you ‘call it out,'” he said in a 2018 interview.

This virtue signaling, which is really just a means of proving to society how “good” and “moral” your views are, is only half of the equation, however. Cancel culture is also about personal destruction, which is obvious in Groves’ situation, since Galligan didn’t use this ammunition against her until the time was ripe for maximum harm.

“It(cancel culture) has reached a level of personal vindictiveness, where people go out of their way to find ways the things other people say could be construed as insensitive,” Haidt said.

Slurs and inappropriate comments aside, cancel culture has made people scared to share their opinions lest they be condemned for thinking “incorrectly” about any given issue.

We now live in an era where people are constantly looking over their shoulders, or computer screens, worried that whatever opinion they post might make them victims of cancel culture.

There is no opportunity to change one’s mind, nor is there room to defend opinions you genuinely believe. And this is a huge problem for any civil society.

Haidt spoke of the importance of protecting open dialogue so that we may live in a society filled with varying opinions from which to choose.

“One of the most important [aspects] is that people are not afraid to share their opinions – they’re not afraid that they’re going to be shamed socially for disagreeing with the dominant opinion,” Haidt said.

The odds are high that your opinions about certain issues will change over time. However, some may not, and you shouldn’t live in fear that your beliefs will be met with social condemnation and isolation.

We are no longer given the room to share our opinions today because we are no longer able to disagree with each other respectfully.

You’re not always going to agree with everything other people say — not your professors, your classmates, or your parents. In fact, you might even find that your own views change as you learn new things and grow as a person and adult.

But having the freedom to consider all opinions and decide what you genuinely believe is vital to the human experience and civil discourse.

There is a market of choice in all things, from what clothes you wear, products you buy, and what ideas you subscribe to.

When you go shopping, you might not like the first outfit you try. You might not even like the second or third. But trying on different looks, or opinions, allows you to think for yourself and figure out what it is you want, or believe.

To be truly open-minded, you must be able to consider all opinions, instead of condemning any thought contrary to your own. The free exchange of ideas pushes individuals to share unique ideas and allows for opinions to evolve.

Dissent is what makes democracy strong. Our Constitution has outlasted so many others because the Founders disagreed and debated with each other until they crafted a document that fostered “a more perfect union” than had ever been seen before. We would be wise not to forget the example they set.

Put simply, shaming others doesn’t work. It’s purely punitive, and self-aggrandizing. It also rarely changes a person’s mind and often further radicalizes their beliefs, widening the divide already growing in our country.

To foster a world where ideas can be freely expressed, Pacific Legal Foundation will be hosting an event this Friday featuring Haidt that will examine the many ways free speech serves as a central tenet of innovation, community, and civil society, and how we can preserve and protect this fundamental value that makes our society so extraordinary.

Without the ability to speak freely and consider all opinions, civil discourse cannot occur. In its absence, society as we know it will cease to exist and the divides between us will continue to grow.

COLUMN BY

Brittany Hunter

Brittany is a writer for the Pacific Legal Foundation. She is a co-host of “The Way The World Works,” a Tuttle Twins podcast for families.

EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

1776 Initiative Is Helping Turn Civics Education Around

Entrepreneur and civil rights movement veteran Robert L. Woodson Sr. believes that American civics can help save our country—and that’s the mission of 1776, a major initiative launched earlier this year by the Woodson Center, which Woodson founded to give local leaders the training they need to improve their communities.

Featuring essays by notable scholars and writers such as Clarence PageJohn McWhorter, and Carol M. Swain, and eventually a curriculum and multimedia resources, 1776 offers “perspectives that celebrate the progress America has made on delivering its promise of equality and opportunity and highlight the resilience of its people.”

A recipient of the Bradley Price and the Presidential Citizens Medal, Woodson began 1776 to counter The New York Times’ 1619 Project, a series of essays launched a year ago this month with a very different focus: It teaches that America is defined, now and forever, by slavery. As Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote in the 1619 Project’s lead essay: “Anti-black racism runs in the very DNA of this country.”

In Woodson’s view, the 1619 Project inculcates the “diabolical, self-destructive” idea that “all white Americans are oppressors and all black Americans are victims.”


How are socialists deluding a whole generation? Learn more now >>


“Though slavery and discrimination undeniably are a tragic part of our nation’s history,” Woodson notes, “we have made strides along its long and tortuous journey to realize its promise and abide by its founding principles.”

Woodson continues: “People are motivated to achieve and overcome the challenges that confront them when they learn about inspiring victories that are possible and are not barraged by constant reminders of injuries they have suffered.”

He points to the surprising number “of men and women who were born slaves” but “died as millionaires,” the existence of famous black business districts in cities such as Durham, North Carolina, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the midst of oppression and segregation, and heroes like baseball Hall of Fame slugger Hank Aaron as powerful examples for black uplift.

And it’s a lesson that Woodson knows firsthand.

Born in a low-income Philadelphia neighborhood, he rose up beyond his circumstances through hard work, the support of his family, and a good peer group. He entered the U.S. military, where he flew aircrafts for the space program; attended the University of Pennsylvania; and worked for the American Enterprise Institute, before starting the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise in 1981. (It was rebranded as the Woodson Center in 2016.)

The Woodson Center’s mission is to seek out “individuals and organizations” already present in communities and help them “build their capacities,” in part by helping them “in linking to the resources they need.”

The center has helped more than 22,000 adults reach financial literacy and has trained over 2,600 grassroots leaders in 39 states, helping them “attain more than 10 times the funding expended by the Center.”

Though the center works on the “whole range” of issues associated with the “problems of poverty,” Woodson notes a “particular emphasis on those dealing with youth violence,” since “the restoration of civil order is a necessary foundation for civic health.”

In “The Triumphs of Joseph: How Today’s Community Healers Are Reviving Our Streets and Neighborhoods,” Woodson writes that low-income black communities are “dying from self-inflicted wounds.” He calls it a “moral free-fall,” one that “penetrates beyond all boundaries of race, ethnicity, and income level.”

In light of violent protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Woodson has been active in print and on television, arguing that though Floyd’s killing was unconscionable, the violent protests that have ensued are “devastating the people in whose name they demand justice.”

Another way the Woodson Center combats civic breakdown is through its Violence Free Zone initiative, which aims to reduce youth violence by providing mentors to young students to “encourage their personal, academic, and career success.” The center reports that this initiative has led to a 50% reduction in crime, a 23% reduction in truancy, and a nearly 10% improvement in both student GPA and graduation rates.

Woodson views the 1619 Project and Black Lives Matter as major contributors to the growing belief that the foundations of America itself must be torn down. Against what he sees as defeatism and a denial of moral agency, Woodson preaches an ethic of self-reliance and personal resilience.

As Woodson sees it, “Nothing is more lethal than a good excuse for failure.”

His vision, a deeply American one, should be heeded by his countrymen of all colors.

Originally published by RealClearEducation

COMMENTARY BY

Mike Sabo, formerly a research assistant for the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics at The Heritage Foundation, is the editor of Real Clear Public Affairs: American Civics. Twitter: .


A Note for our Readers:

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For years, “Democratic Socialists” have been growing a crop of followers that include students and young professionals. America’s future will be in their hands.

How are socialists deluding a whole generation? One of their most effective arguments is that “democratic socialism” is working in Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Norway. They claim these countries are “proof” that socialism will work for America. But they’re wrong. And it’s easy to explain why.

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EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Signal column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Illinois State Rep Calls for the Abolition of History Classes in the State’s Public Schools

Rep. Ford claims that “current school history teaching leads to white privilege and a racist society.” Meleika Gardner of We Will says: “Miseducation has fed and continues to feed systemic racism for generations. If Black History continues to be devalued and taught incorrectly, then it will call for further action.” Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty adds: “I support House Bill 4954 because I am interested in learning more and believe the history of Black people should be taught to all children and include all groups, Women, LatinX, and Native Indians who helped to build America.”

All this gives the impression that February is White History Month, not Black History Month, and that the teaching of history in public schools has more of a slant toward the Confederate States than the United States. This is, of course, absurd. We see the products of public education in America today venting their hatred for their native land every night now in Seattle and Portland.

What we need is not more focus on the grievances of this or that group, but rather on what has made the nation great for all of us, of every race and ethnic background. Rep. Ford’s initiative is yet another in a long line of Leftist attempts to erase our history and make us ashamed of being Americans, which will lead us to not having either the will or desire to defend this nation from internal and external attacks.

What we need now, when so many people are telling us that America was never great and is nothing to be proud of, is an unapologetic reaffirmation of what did indeed make this nation the greatest, most magnanimous, freest country the world has ever known. That’s why I wrote Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster, which will be out in a few weeks and which you can preorder now. It evaluates the presidents of the United States on the simple basis of whether or not they were good for America and Americans. Along the way, it gives you a brisk reminder of the history that Leftist destroyers are trying to steal from us. If we do not know our own history, their sinister endeavor will be all the easier to accomplish. Rep. Ford himself put it best regarding why this book is urgently needed now: “the miseducation of our children must stop.”

“Chicago-Area Leaders Call for Illinois to Abolish History Classes,” NBC Chicago, August 2, 2020:

At a news conference, State Rep. LaShawn K. Ford said current history teachings lead to a racist society and overlook the contributions of women and minorities.

Before the event Sunday, Rep. Ford’s office distributed a news release “Rep. Ford Today in Evanston to Call for the Abolishment of History Classes in Illinois Schools,” in which Ford asked the ISBOE and school districts to immediately remove history curriculum and books that “unfairly communicate” history “until a suitable alternative is developed.”…

The full news release is below:

Rep. Ford Today in Evanston to Call for the Abolishment of History Classes in Illinois Schools

Concerned that current school history teaching leads to white privilege and a racist society, state Rep. La Shawn K. Ford, D-Chicago, will join local leaders today at noon at the Robert Crown Center in Evanston to call on the state to stop its current history teaching practices until appropriate alternatives are developed.

“When it comes to teaching history in Illinois, we need to end the miseducation of Illinoisans,” Ford said. “I’m calling on the Illinois State Board of Education and local school districts to take immediate action by removing current history books and curriculum practices that unfairly communicate our history. Until a suitable alternative is developed, we should instead devote greater attention toward civics and ensuring students understand our democratic processes and how they can be involved. I’m also alarmed that people continue to display symbols of hate, such as the recent display of the Confederate flag in Evanston.”

Attendees at Sunday’s press conference will discuss how current history teaching practices overlook the contributions by Women and members of the Black, Jewish, LGBTQ communities and other groups. These individuals are pushing for an immediate change in history changing practice starting this school year.

The miseducation of our children must stop,” said Meleika Gardner of We Will. “It is urgent that it comes to an end as we witness our current climate become more hostile. Miseducation has fed and continues to feed systemic racism for generations. If Black History continues to be devalued and taught incorrectly, then it will call for further action.”

Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty notes “As Mayor, I am not comfortable speaking on education, curriculum, and whether history lessons should be suspended. This is not my area. Personally, I support House Bill 4954 because I am interested in learning more and believe the history of Black people should be taught to all children and include all groups, Women, LatinX, and Native Indians who helped to build America.”

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The Antidote to Cancel Culture

Each week brings more bad news on “cancel culture”—primarily individuals losing their jobs for one alleged offensive statement. Cancel culture is about shutting people down based on passing, momentary ideological fads.

  • The communications director of Boeing was forced to abruptly resign because someone complained about an article he wrote in 1988 arguing against women serving in combat.
  • J.K. Rowling, the creator of Harry Potter, is being attacked by cancel culture for her pointing out the obvious—men do not menstruate. Even if a man becomes a transgenderized “female,” he still will not menstruate. “Off with her head!” declare the snowflakes.
  • Professor Dr. Mike Adams was drummed out of the University of North Carolina because of a few politically incorrect tweets.

Cancel culture, which is political correctness on steroids, demands rigid conformity to a stifling, ever-changing set of rules, so that things that were uncontroversial a decade ago are now fireable offenses. It requires yesterday’s heroes to live up to today’s momentary standards–and if they don’t, we need to tear them down.

Have we now become a nation of what one judge called “eggshell plaintiffs”?

The phrase goes back to a case in the early 1990s, in Bloomingdale, Michigan, when a painting in a public school was removed. The painting was that of Christ, and it had been hanging in that high school since 1962, when the doors first opened.

An agnostic student claimed he suffered “psychological damage” by seeing the portrait. The ACLU sued on his behalf. The court agreed, even though one concurring judge in the case said it regrettably creates “a class of ‘eggshell’ plaintiffs”—-plaintiffs who get offended too easily. The painting came down.

Recently, a group of liberal writers and academics posted a now famous open letter on Harpers calling effectively for an end to cancel culture because it is stifling free speech and robust debate.

This letter signed by J. K. Rowling, Noam Chomsky, Salmon Rushdie, and nearly 200 other liberals, asseverates: “Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes.”

Incredibly, this basic affirmation of free speech was viciously attacked by the cancel mob—thus proving the point of the authors.

The ultimate antidote to cancel culture gets back to one of the core messages of Jesus Christ: The Golden Rule.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ gave one of the greatest prescriptions for healthy living in one sentence. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. He said this “sums up the Law and the Prophets.” In other words, the whole Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible can be summed up in the Golden Rule.

The cancel culture does the opposite. They tear down statues. They troll people on the internet, looking for ways to destroy reputations—and maybe even get people fired.

We live in God’s world, and He has designed things in such a way that we reap what we sow. If you engage in cancel culture, don’t be surprised if bad things you have done unto others will end up coming unto you.

The Bible also says: You may be sure that your sins will find you out. Even when people take to Twitter in a pseudonym, it will one day be found out. Again to quote Jesus: What you whisper today will one day be shouted from the housetops.

Secular people don’t like the idea of a God who will judge us, but there is a God who will one day judge us. And yet, even secular people speak of Karma. What is Karma, but the idea that we reap what we sow?

Dr. Walter Williams, a columnist and a professor at George Mason University, once told me in an interview that liberty is predicated on courage—even being courageous enough to be possibly offended.

Williams told me, “In order to be for liberty, you have to be a very, very brave person, that is, you have to trust that people will say and do voluntary things with which you disagree….The true test of one’s commitment to free speech doesn’t come when he allows people to be free to say the things that he agrees with; it comes when he allows people to be free to say those things that he finds offensive.”

The problem with snowflakes is that eventually they melt. So here’s a message to any part of the cancel culture: If you don’t want people to cancel you or your work, then stop cancelling the work of others.

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