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The Cancel Culture Force Awakens


I’m not 100% sure on this as I really don’t remember which post-Return of the Jedi Star Wars movies I’ve actually seen, but I think I saw The Force Awakens in a movie theater back in the day, and was struck by how it was almost a scene by scene remake of the original Star Wars that came out in 1977.

This of course happens all the time: some big studio remakes a hit movie and just gives it a different name. (BTW how many Star Wars movies feature blowing up a Death Star? Seriously, I think I’ve seen that happen three times. Did I miss any?).

Speaking of extremely stale and boring remakes, Law Professor Jonathan Turley everybody:

The GW petition [demanding that George Washington University’s law school stop paying Clarence Thomas to teach a class as an adjunct professor] reflects a growing intolerance and orthodoxy sweeping universities. When I began teaching 30 years ago, universities were bastions of free speech where a wide array of views and values were steadfastly defended. Any attack on one was an attack on all.

Turley and I — or should it be Turley and me? Help me out here grammar Nazis, I can never remember the rule in this context, also sorry for calling you Nazis when we have so many real ones around these days, that was insensitive — are the same age and started teaching at our respective law schools in the fall of 1990, which was literally the exact moment in World History when the concept of political correctness was invented.

So from a purely demographic standpoint I’m struck by the incredible chutzpah necessary for a right wing critic of American universities in 2022 to claim that the early 1990s represented a lost Golden Age ™, when Free Speech ™ flourished on America’s college campuses. Let’s linger over some misty water-color memories:

An October 1990 New York Times article by Richard Bernstein is generally credited for being the journalistic Ground Zero for what in short order became a full-blown moral panic about What Those College Professors Are Doing To Our Kids.

A few weeks later Newsweek, still a very important conduit of conventional wisdom to middlebrow America at the time, followed up with a cover story, and we were off to the races. (A NEXIS database search reveals 70 uses of the phrase in 1990, more than 1500 in 1991, and more than 7000 three years later).

President Bush the First used the phrase in a commencement speech at Michigan in May of 1991, claiming that:

The notion of political correctness has ignited controversy across the land. And although the movement arises from the laudable desire to sweep away the debris of racism and sexism and hatred, it replaces old prejudice with new ones. It declares certain topics off-limits, certain expression off-limits, even certain gestures off-limits.

I mean it’s the same goddamned movie Jonathan! Right down to blowing up the Death Star yet again. (Spoiler alert: Darth Vader is Luke’s father and Princess Leia is his sister or his girlfriend or maybe both I can’t exactly remember tbh).

The funny/not funny thing here is that the PC panic of the early 1990s was itself practically a scene by scene remake of American universities as a nest of crypto-communist indoctrinators of our tender youth, which was such a big hit in Ronald Reagan’s California in the 1960s, as well as in many other places then, and in the 1950s, etc. etc. etc.

I mean at least give us a slightly new plot point or three.

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