On 2/15/2021, Rich Lowry published an article titled “It’s A Blacklist, Pure And Simple” on National Review. The byline of the article makes a specific reference to the culture of the 1950s, by stating:
Today’s cancel culture harkens back to the excesses of the McCarthy era.
Of course, National Review was founded by William Buckley, who spent half a century defending Joseph McCarthy — only stopping because the forces of death made him unable to continue. Buckley’s second book, published the year before he founded National Review, was nothing more than one giant piece of apologetics for McCarthy and his actions. Up until his death in 2008, Buckley promised us that one day in the near future Joseph McCarthy would be proven right — and he never was. It’s funny that the new McCarthyism is being derided by the people who endorsed, propped up, and actually engaged in the old McCarthyism — maybe they’re just jealous.
Of course, Lowry knows who’s behind the new McCarthyism — those damn commies:
This isn’t a First Amendment issue, we are told, rather private entities making their own decisions to disassociate themselves from people who have said or done controversial things.
This line of argument, often made by cancellation apologists, is lacking in a number of respects, including that there is no reason it wouldn’t also justify the Hollywood Blacklist that the Left considers one of the darkest moments in American history.
For the record, if I’m a conservative reading National Review I have no idea why I care what “the Left considers” on any particular issue. Maybe National Review is trying that unity thing I keep hearing about from Biden.
Of course, the reason why the blacklists were such a dark moment was not because they kept communists from working in the film industry, but also because the people on those blacklists were not communists. Many of them were blacklisted on shaky evidence, and it was commonly nothing more than an attempt to intimidate people HUAC didn’t like as opposed to actually listing true supporters of communism. (Walt Disney attempted to use HUAC to crack down on Unions he was fighting with, for example.)
Writing in New York magazine on 2/12/2021, Jonathan Chait tries to point out that, actually, some of them were communists:
If you think blacklisting is only bad if its targets have sensible views, I have some bad news for you about communism. While some victims of the McCarthy-era blacklist were liberals or progressives who refused to turn in the names of their colleagues, others were bona fide communists. Dalton Trumbo — a Hollywood writer who was blacklisted, then wrote under front names, and whose story was told in a recent hagiographic movie starring Bryan Cranston — followed the Communist Party line in the Stalin era.
“Followed the Communist Party line in the Stalin era,” is a rather odd way of saying “supported the United States going to war against Hitler,” to be honest, but okay. Yes, HUAC went after him, because many of them were either dogmatic isolationists (as much of the Republican Party was until Dwight Eisenhower) or wanted an allyship with fascism either to fight Joseph Stalin or because they agreed with it. Any relationship he had with the Communist Party was nothing more than icing on the cake, not the cake itself.
Yes, Trumbo changed his opinion from isolationism to interventionism after Operation Barbarossa, but that was because it showed the world that nobody — not even people who had allyships with the Nazi government — was safe from Hitler. (Trumbo previously held isolationist views, citing the Nazi-Soviet pact as evidence that Hitler was not as power-hungry as he seemed.) Of course, the dogmatic isolationists that then-controlled the Republican Party were against a war with fascism under any circumstances, and they made sure the American press was singing Hitler’s praises until Pearl Harbor. And when it finally became inevitable, even if they begrudgingly agreed, they were going to make sure to punish anyone who caused this to happen.
But all of this simplification must occur in order for these historical comparisons to make any sense. The argument used to be that the people targeted during the Red Scare were lied about, now it’s that actually they were communists, but that’s okay. After all, not wanting to work with Soviet-apologists is cancel culture, remember. (Hey Michael Knowles, isn’t this exactly what you said nobody was saying and anyone who says otherwise was engaging in “bad faith”?)
Here’s a quote from Lowry, continuing his McCarthy comparison:
It’s easy to see a precursor to Judd Legum or Media Matters, who push for advertiser boycotts and cancellations, in the notorious 1950 paperback book published by three ex-FBI agents, Red Channels, that made blunderbuss accusations against radio and TV personalities.
So boycotts are now “cancel culture”? Were Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks engaging in “cancel culture” when he boycotted the bus system in Alabama? Were Americans who boycotted products made in Nazi Germany engaging in “cancel culture”? Was the United States “canceling” the Soviet Union when it boycotted the 1980 Olympics? Lowry might very well think that (although I’d doubt he say something like that publically), which shows the actual point about our modern crusade against “cancel culture.”
I could keep playing this game for many thousands of words, but Chait sums up the goal of this crusade in the final paragraph of his article:
Of course, the point with Trumbo and other blacklist victims was never the soundness of their thinking. Technically, the studios had the legal right to refuse to associate themselves with people who had abhorrent beliefs. But a fairer and more liberal society is able to create some space between an individual’s political views and the position of their employer. A Dalton Trumbo ought to have been able to hold onto his screenwriting job even though he supported a murderous dictator like Stalin. And actors ought to be able to work even if they support an authoritarian bigot like Donald Trump.
(It should be noted, Trumbo was still allowed to have his screenwriting for years after he was first blacklisted — but you know.)
The first thing I should ask is where the line is. If we have to “create some space between an individual’s political views and the position of their employer,” does that mean that a group like PureFlix would have to produce a film by Richard Dawkins? Would Andrew Anglin or David Duke be able to get a job writing for The Root? Would the staff of The Nation be allowed to publish articles at The Federalist no questions asked?
However, let's also talk about the implication that supporting Joseph Stalin is just anything public view. No different than being a Biden supporter, or a Trump supporter for that matter.
I should also note, nobody has been fired for simply being a supporter of Donald Trump. Both these articles cite Gina Carano, but she wasn’t fired for supporting lower taxes, wanting a reduction in government spending, being against illegal immigration, wanting more protectionism on China, supporting tough-on-crime policies, wanting a more militarized police force, being in favor of a strong military, being against COVID-19 lockdowns, supporting nationalism over globalism, being skeptical of climate change, or anything else that would actually characterize a Trump supporter. She was fired for comparing people who disagree with her to the Nazis, it’s really that simple. After she was criticized for her political views, she compared people who “hate others for their political views” to those in Nazi Germany who beat up Jews on the street. If that’s what you think Trump supporters are like, then I — a rather vocal critic of Trump and someone who disagrees with every key aspect of supporting him — have a much nicer view of Trump supporters than you do.
For those who need a refresher, here’s what Carano said that caused so much backlash:
Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers but by their neighbors…even by children. Because history is edited, most people today don’t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews. How is that any different from hating someone for their political views.
(Side note: It wasn’t “the government” who caused the average German to become antisemitic, it was the multiple hundreds of years of antisemitism that had been a constant in European culture. Hitler never “made” anyone “hate [their neighbors] simply for being Jews” as much as he did allow old hatred to come back.)
This is not something most Trump supporters would agree with, it is something, however, that our ruling class wants to normalize. They want to normalize the idea that “hating someone for their political views” (read: criticism of their political views) is the same as what the Nazis did. They tell us this because it means, if we buy into it, we are much more likely to allow the ruling class to do more objectionable things, because speaking out against them, of course, would be “cancel culture.”
Much of what is considered “cancel culture” is simply the population wanting those in power to reflect their views. The ruling class does not like that, because their views are rather different from the mainstream population. They want to be the ones who control the culture, but the general population will no longer let them.
This is why the elites are manufacturing consent against it, because they don’t like you being involved in the culture. They want you to shut up and believe what they believe, or at least not criticize it. They want to be able to get away with anything and everything, and they can not believe that we idiotic proles are getting in their way.