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The moral panic over cancel culture, conservative man edition


This is a fascinating interview in the NYT with eight conservative men, representing a wide range of ages and ethnicities. Some general themes:

(1) There needs to be a name for saying things in public while at the very same time arguing that you can’t say the things you are saying in public in public. These men all indulge in this curious and now ubiquitous rhetorical gesture:

Robert: I agree with what Danny’s saying. People become judge, jury and executioner. It could be at work. Even at church. If you got a different viewpoint than the other people and you’re in the minority, then you could be — what do you call it? — bullied.

Patrick Healy: Robert, is there something specific that you remember happening?

Robert: I voted for Trump. I like Trump from when he was with “The Apprentice.” I knew him as a businessperson. That’s why I voted for him. And then — oh, Lord — from church to every place, people just had a problem with it. You can’t have a different viewpoint.

Robert is Black, so it probably shouldn’t be that big of a shock to him that a lot of people in his community aren’t thrilled with his support for Trump. He also doesn’t seem to understand or want to understand that The Apprentice was a pretend time TV show, not an actual documentary, and that watching it in order to get to know Trump as a masterful titan of business is kind of like watching Gilligan’s Island to pick up tips on surviving in the wild.

But note what’s missing here: Any evidence whatsoever that being subjected to some sort of mob vigilante justice (“judge, jury, and executioner”) means something other than “I expressed an opinion and was criticized by people who disagree with me.”

This gets repeated over and over again. “You’re just not free to express your views any more” is, once filtered through the right wing translator, a synonym for “if you criticize me you’re interfering with my Constitutionally Guaranteed Freedom of Speech.” We really do need a word for this.

On a related note, Bari Weiss was bloviating a couple of days ago about how as a lesbian she was starting to get a little concerned about all this talk of how the gays are “grooming” kids so they can sexually abuse them. She then of course blamed all this talk on the Left, because by going Too Far, it had more or less produced this kind of backlash. The example she gave of going too far was people getting fired from their jobs for using the wrong pronoun when referring to a coworker. You will be surprised to learn that she did not actually produce any examples of this ever actually happening, as in even one time in country of 335 million people.


Speaking of those crazy kids and their gender confusion, these eight conservative men are pretty worried about that stuff too:

Tony: This country has become more feminized. It’s not the way it was when I was growing up. We started off talking about how the country has a weak image. They don’t call women the weaker sex for no reason. Men are necessary to maintain a vibrant society. And we’ve been feminized. No offense.

Kristen Soltis Anderson: Who, if anyone, do you think views masculinity as a negative thing these days?

Christopher: I support feminism, but I don’t support modern feminism. I think that modern feminism is focused on so-called toxic masculinity, and they are actually purveyors of men-bashing. And so I support femininity and feminism but not to the point where they’re looking to hoist themselves above men to try to make up for so-called patriarchy.

Kristen Soltis Anderson: What do other folks think about this?

Danny: Look at fashion. Look at the newer generation of how people dress, how men dress. There’s men, and there’s women, and there’s masculinity, and femininity. And there’s no reason to destroy one in order to make the other one better. I’m not trying to get into a negative men-versus-women thing, but I’m seeing masculinity under attack. And I’m seeing men wearing tight skinny jeans, with no socks and velvet shoes. And it’s cool to wear pink. I don’t mind wearing pink. It’s a cool color. And I’m not saying colors belong with a certain gender. It’s so funny — this is what we were talking about earlier: Every time you speak, you don’t feel comfortable enough to say what’s on your mind, where you have to almost give a disclaimer. I have no problem with pink. But when we go out to a club or a dinner or dancing, you see some of the younger generation wearing very feminine clothes, blatantly feminine clothes — so much so that we are almost trying to portray masculinity as negative.

Derrick: I think that men ought to be allowed to be men, and these people who want to be what they want to be — you can be what you want to be, but don’t try to wipe me out or erase me from being the man I want to be.

Again, I’m not trying to be broken record here — do Kids These Days even understand that metaphor? — but what’s with the I’m not allowed to do this thing that I’m doing right now thing? More generally, it’s becoming increasingly evident that the moral panic over gender roles is maybe the biggest engine of right wing paranoia in America today (h/t commenter Karen).

There’s a bunch of other fascinating stuff — for example these men unanimously agree that racism and sexism aren’t problems in contemporary American society — but you’ll have to search for more mangoes yourself.

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