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HMS PINAFEMINISM

I was excit-a-nxious going into Vancouver Opera’s 2022 edition of HMS Pinafore, a comic opera furnished by our 19th-century musical wits, W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan.

They were an elite comedy thesaurus
As shown in their redundant rhyming chorus!

I, myself, am an operatic lightweight (I still can’t tell the difference between a Verdi and Puccini tuney)—

He finds opera to be so confusing
That he worries his brain is contusing

—but, with curiosity as my guide, I have attended Vancouver Opera’s repertoire since 2003.

One day, though, my opera mentor, Tom Durrie, introduced me to composer Arthur Sullivan and wordsmith W.S. Gilbert who coalesced in the late 19th century to create comic operas that were so ear-grabbing in their tunes and witty in their rhymes that even a musically-confused fellow like me could follow along.

He no longer had to curse
At every obfuscating verse

So I was filled up with delighted anticipation this season as Vancouver Opera announced that they were returning for only the second time in my loyal following to Gilbert & Sullivan with the tune-bursting HMS Pinafore.

He was looking forward to the tunes
That would leave his toe-tappers in ruins

But then I watched a promotional interview on VO’s website, in which their HMS Director, Brenna Corner, and their HMS Conductor, Rosemary Thomson, foreshadowed my upcoming dismay. They explained that they had, let’s say, adjusted HMS Pinafore for our modern sensibilities and understanding.

He felt his back filled with encrustments
As they talked of making playful adjustments 

Explained Director Corner:

“This version is a traditional HMS Pinafore… It’s like the same gem, but just seen through a slightly different angle… So, like, the colours that sparkle through it are slightly different than maybe what we’re used to.”

All the gems will be traditional
With a few sparkles that are additional

Added Conductor Thomson:

“Even, you know, years ago, decades ago, people would change the words a little bit to suit their time place. And so we’ve done that as well. But the music, itself, is still going to be what people have come to know and love about HMS Pinafore.”

Their changes are so suitable
They’ll feel so very dutiful

Good, yes, I thought: the signature sound and humour of Gilbert & Sullivan is a distinct entity that should be present in every production calling itself a descendant of G&S. But, sure, go ahead and play with the particulars so that we’re getting the same genius but with a new look that’s more accessible to our modern understanding.

He says he’s an amenable fellow
To their moulding of operatic Jell-O

Nevertheless, I noticed that, as the leaders of this production were explaining their updates, they sounded a wee bit defensive.

He’s a lot apprehensive
That they seem a jot defensive

Said Conductor Thomson:

“They [the team] added some different text here and there. I actually wrote a bit of extra recitative [musical dialogue] to fit that text in, and we’ve added a couple of verses into some of the songs, which is actually quite traditional.”

They’ll be making a few changes
That are well within normal ranges!

Added Director Corner:

“The thing is with HMS Pinafore and a lot of Gilbert & Sullivan has a history of being played with, of being adapted, of being altered, and being jeujed a little, right? And that’s really what we’ve done with this piece. We’ve just sort of jeujed it in a slightly bigger way.”

Nothing here’s a trigger
They’re just jeujing a little bigger       

Understood: we opera-goers have a reputation for being a traditional lot, so the VO creatives were understandably nervous about our reaction to their alterations. So they were letting us know that, while they’d tinkered with the specifics, the key music and humour—that has kept audiences dancing and laughing in their seats since 1878—would be present and applauded for.

He doesn’t think some tinkering
Will cause the Pinafore to sinkering

Next, our VO creative powers reassured us that the leading G&S target for their rhyming wit was still going to be pompous, unmeritorious leaders, such as Sir Joseph Porter, who famously describes his conformist route to becoming “…the ruler of the Queen’s navy.” In his own Gilbert-written words:

I grew so rich that I was sent
By pocket borough into Parliament
I always voted for my party’s call
And I never thought of thinking for myself at all
I thought so little, they rewarded me
By making me the ruler of the Queen’s navee

Explained Thomson:

“The whole genesis of their writing was poking fun at institutions and at the things that were supposed to be reverent and making them irreverent. And I think that that applies today. I think we can take a historical story that pokes fun at the—at leadership, you know, at the brass for being the sake of the brass and apply it to today’s world. So, in that way, it stays very relevant.”

They were making funny insinuations
Against leaders of their administrations

Perfect! Yes, the specifics of our leaders may have changed (indeed, the Queen of the “Queen’s navy,” as I understand it, inherited her title; whereas most present-day political brass—save for the occasional Bush or Trudeau Jr.—do not receive their jobs as hand-me-downs). But the nature of political vapidity, obsequiousness, and self-love from many leaders in many professions remains intact.

He thinks that bossly obsequiosity
Is not just a bygone curiosity

Indeed, I love reading pre-G&S-comedian Jane Austen because I see that the leading fopperies of her day are still in practice in ours, and so I feel an instant kinship with the great author every time I see her pointing out the same poor behaviours in her time that Ellen Degeneres and Jerry Seinfeld have noticed in ours.

He’s very glad Austen’s humour has held
In the works of Ellen D. and Jerry Seinfeld

So, sure, I’m delighted to hear some modern creators update the jokes to fit our own flawed bosses. But, then, the other baton dropped as our creative curators explained that they would be moderating G&S’s original japes for offensiveness. Said Director Corner:

“I mean the stuff that Gilbert & Sullivan were originally doing was really pushing the boundaries in their time period. They were definitely making some jokes that were a little, maybe only kind of acceptable in their time period. And so we want to make sure that we stay relevant with the piece that was created to be relevant… But I would say that the thing that’s interesting about HMS Pinafore is to sort of realize is that the stuff that we poked fun at hundred years ago is different than what, you know, the specifics of that. What used to be acceptable comedy then and what is acceptable comedy now are two different things.”

Their show will not be a receptacle
For jokes that are unacceptable

Hmm, I sympathize with editing an old-timey work for jokes that we won’t enjoy today, or even jokes that might offend the audience without being essential to the drama. However, I was struck by the notion of “acceptable comedy.” While some jokes may not work for a modern audience, is it the province of an artistic company to define which jokes are allowed? Is that Vancouver Opera’s role? To not only not use certain jokes, but to pronounce them unfit? Would VO also like to ban some books that they find unacceptable from the library?

He’s whining about an unlikely trip
On the friendly HMS Censorship

Corner’s cozy enunciating of the phrase “unacceptable jokes” reminded me of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s critique of the trucker convoy coming to Ottawa as possessing “unacceptable views.” While he was under no obligation to agree with the health mandate protestors heading his way, do we want our political leaders to be telling us which opinions are to be accepted for consideration and which are not?

He insults, with temerity,
Our PM’s defence of prosperity

I was thus nervous going into VO’s HMS Pinafore, not because they were going to be teasing our modern instantiation of unearned power, but instead because I suspected that they would reverse the joke and actually cheer on the sort of powerholders whom they had deemed correct. After all, is there anything more powerful than controlling language and defining what is acceptable to say?

He arrogantly glowers
Over the minor use of PC powers

Well, pardon the self-aggrandizement, but my cynical suspicions were confirmed at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on the opening night of Vancouver Opera’s HMS Pinafore as those who enjoy being morally hectored were treated to an overwrought feminist re-wording of the HMS text.

Now he’s added to his list
That he’s a double misogynist

Among other aggressive alterations, every female character was suddenly a beacon of modern feminist preferences. The lead lady love interest, Josephine, for instance, insisted throughout that, while she liked—and maybe even loved—the romantic male lead, she was equally interested in science and literature, particularly the works of female writers. (Strangely, the male protagonist, Ralph Rackstraw, was not given any such upgrades to his similarly one-dimensional and love-soaked personality.) Admittedly, HMS Pinafore is a silly story loaded with silly characters, but earnestly imposing feminist virtue onto half of those silly personalities contravenes the flamboyant comedy of Gilbert & Sullivan.

He, so very disdainfully,
Rails against ladies living gainfully

While I’m a critic of feminism, myself (because I perceive it to be a generally un-egalitarian movement, despite its insistence that its chief goal is equality), I do think that it’s a perfectly legitimate artistic endeavour to reimagine any work of art through an alternate perspective. However, please recall—

Here he has the gall
To ask us to recall

—that Corner & Thomson promised us that they would be loyal to the theme joke of the original HMS Pinafore, that of satirizing the tendency of those in power to be vapid and unworthy of their station. The leading distinction here, they said, was that, in this case, they would replace mocking the royal navy bureaucracy with teasing the pompous brass of our time.

They promised to be exemplary
In mocking every bossy contemporary

But such “irreverence” towards today’s “reverent” never arrived on stage. Instead, the production interrupted our story several times to show reverence to one of the most reverent of all Canadian clubs, feminism. Love or deride it, does anyone really think that feminism is not part of the brass in Canada in 2022?

Here, he makes a wild anti-feminist claim
Which shows that he is ugly and worthy of blame

Again, while I am a critic of feminism, I am not arguing here that the movement is flawed; instead, my present contention is simply that feminism is a powerful and influential Western institution that should count as brass for Corner & Thomson’s satirical consideration.

He blusters absurdity in the shower-full
As he suggests feminism could be powerful               

For just a few examples, consider that, seven years ago, Justin Trudeau was elected as a “feminist” Prime Minister of Canada (his boast, not mine), and he promptly appointed 50% female Cabinet Ministers (from his 27%-female party), stating as his reason for the “positive” discrimination that it was “2015.” Since then, despite the fact that Indigenous men are far more likely to be murdered than Indigenous women, Canada has spent more than fifty million dollars on a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Inquiry, but there has been no formal discussion of including Indigenous men in that consideration. And now, even though the Covid pandemic seems to have killed more men than women, Canada’s publically-funded (feminist) broadcaster, CBC Radio, frequently informs us that women have been the most negatively affected.*

*Maybe one can make a nuanced case for such a claim, but—after listening to the station for ten years—I can assure you that, if women were dying at a higher rate than men from a disease, CBC Radio would follow feminist policy and diagnose any attempt to consider such nuance to be misogyny.

Instead of recognizing women’s humanity
He blathers out his toxic male vanity

But, again, even if I’m right that feminism is the world’s leading purveyor of double standards, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve gotten every argument wrong. However, the fact that feminism can maintain such inconsistency without fear of being called out is an indication of the movement’s powerful influence. Every mainstream comedy talk show host, major bank, and hockey broadcaster is elbowing each other out of the way to brag that they care the most about women.

He whines about those who are a proxy
For our beloved orthodoxy

So, while a feminist reworking of HMS Pinafore could, in theory, be interesting, celebrating feminism as an infallible truth-sayer (as this production does) is surely inconsistent with Corner & Thomson’s promise to tease our modern-day bosses.

Instead of honouring the truth of our story
He obsesses over notes, promissory

HMS Pinafore is a tale of sailors who must ply their trade under the authority of the ruler of the Queen’s Navy, who sings about his resume:

Of Legal Knowledge I acquired such a grip
That they took me into the partnership
And that junior partnership, I ween
Was the only ship that I ever had seen
But that kind of ship so suited me
That now I am the Ruler of the Queen’s Navee!

It seems to me that Gilbert & Sullivan were attempting, in part, to satirize class differentials and how those who get to make the decisions don’t always know what they’re doing as much as those toiling beneath them.

He’s sounding very jealous
Of the Queen’s royal fellas

I wonder, then, if VO might have considered teasing Canada’s current stammering leader of the Queen’s navy, Captain Justin Trudeau. Like him or dislike him, it’s hard to deny that he’s a bit of a linguistic bumbler whose nepotistic qualification for the job could be reminiscent of Porter’s undistinguished route to his leadership.

And now he’s cruelly grumbling
About our leader’s adorable bumbling

But, instead of teasing such a poignant analog for Joseph Porter, VO’s HMS Pinafore randomly threw in a few lines mocking the Canadian trucker convoy as a sinister threat. Again, whether one likes or dislikes the arguments and behaviours of those working class protestors, surely—if they have a Pinafore analog—it is with HMS’s working class sailors, amongst whom we find our romantic male lead, Ralph Rackstraw.

 So now he suggests our favourite Rackstraw
Would have fought the noble mandate law!

I would neither expect nor want Vancouver Opera to take a pro-trucker-convoy view on that dispute. But rearranging the comedy to target the working class instead of the upper class, just to signal contempt for the truckers, is artistically incoherent.

He’s part of a terrible conspiracy
Against ever-so-mild incoherency

Again, recall that Corner & Thomson prognosticated “…a traditional HMS Pinafore… It’s like the same gem, but just seen through a slightly different angle…”

Once again, he has the gall
To ask us to recall

Mocking the working class as treacherous is more than just a new angle on G&S’s traditional satirizing of the upper class, it is a rejiggering of Pinafore to be punching in a different direction than the authors clearly intended.

He thinks that he can read the minds
Of those who wrote our timely lines

Indeed, I wonder if it has occurred to Vancouver Opera that the opera-going tend to be middle and upper class, and, therefore, we tend to be members of the collective that had an easier time during the pandemic than those who couldn’t work from Zoom. That doesn’t mean that it was VO’s role to follow the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s criticism of the Canadian government’s aggressive response to the truckers. But maybe Vancouver Opera could at least take from Gilbert & Sullivan a smidge of first-class humility that those who are rulers of the Queen (Elizabeth Theatre)’s opera house might be the Joseph Porters in these discussions.

And now he accuses our noble distorters
Of being modern-day Joseph Porters

But, most of all, to paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, I was offended by this production as a comedy fan. If the feminist reworking of HMS Pinafore were done with artistic and comedic panache, I might have still been annoyed, but at least I could appreciate their effort to deftly blend ideas. But, as it was, our creative leaders were so crass in their plan to force a conventional modern moral reading onto the whimsical comic opera that I felt like the HMS show was constantly being interrupted for bland public service announcements. Far from subversively teasing the reverent, as promised, they were perversely observing the values of the reverent.

And now he uses our own words of wonder
To cast our beautiful work asunder

Perhaps Corner & Thomson are the ones who “…are always answering [their] party’s call and never thinking for [themselves] at all.”

THE UNACCEPTABILITY OF UNACCEPTABILITY

SETHITOR’S NOTE: I recognize that this post is untimely given Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and the trucker-led obstructions discussed in this post have moved along. Nevertheless, I present it here because I have been slowly accumulating my response to the media response to the trucker protests, and I would like to house it here for future reference.

In a perfect world of protest analysis, the media over-lookers who guide our responses would attempt to give us material to help us contemplate answers to the following crucial moral questions:

(1) Do the protestors have a point?

(2) Are the protestors’ actions a reasonable and fair means of making that point? And

(3) At what point, if any, is it appropriate for our government and police to intervene?

These are not easy questions, and so the media (on both the right and the left) tend to avoid them, and instead, they choose to answer this question:

(4) Are the protestors the sort of people with whom we’d like to be associated?

Recall the American Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests of 2020. The predominantly progressive-stream media in my neighbouring country of Canada were—as far as I could observe on a daily basis—desperate to demonstrate their racially-conscious bona fides and so—in lieu of asking whether the protestors had a point—they assumed the righteousness of the political objectors. They assumed, as the protestors claimed, that individual occasions of police violence towards Black individuals in a country of 330 million people were not only, by definition, racially motivated, but also proof of widespread systemic racism perpetrated by police across that country, and then across its continent, and then across the Western world.

Not once in my daily listening did I hear Canadian progressive flagbearer, CBC Radio, consider the work of the Harvard economist Dr. Roland G. Fryer, whose analysis of ten American cities suggested that, while Black and Hispanic suspects were more likely to be handled aggressively during police confrontations than White suspects, Caucasian persons of interest were either equally or very slightly more likely to be shot. (This single study does not disprove BLM’s contentions, but perhaps it indicates that these issues aren’t as simple CBC Radio’s reporting implied.)

Nor did CBC Radio stoop to interview any legitimate critics of BLM, such as The War on Cops author Heather Mac Donald, who contended persuasively that BLM-2020’s call to #DefundThePolice might successfully provoke a reduction in law enforcement efforts (especially in predominantly Black neighbourhoods), which in turn might cost lives (especially Black lives). Perhaps Mac Donald was wrong in her further assessment that most citizens in poor Black neighbourhoods actually want more police to protect them, but ignoring Mac Donald’s daunting-to-refute argument demonstrated to this observer that Canadian progressive media cared much more stringently about signalling their affiliation with BLM than actually looking into the matter of protecting vulnerable Black lives.

Now let us look at how the truckers protest objecting to various Canadian government health mandates has been viewed by our predominantly progressive Canadian media. The ethical questions these protestors are proposing, like those of BLM, are heavy ones that ought to be checked by our journalists and pundits for reasonableness.

I, myself, have been agnostic about all government policies since the beginning of the pandemic. This is not a boast: taking the middle position on any political dispute is often the easy way out of putting one’s ideals on the line. But, as a non-expert on the most significant matters at play (from epidemiology to vaccine technology to economics to social crises resulting from isolation), it has always seemed to me that no matter what decisions the government made, they were in a precarious ethical position. If they were right that their health mandates would save lives, then not invoking them might have been a moral blight; yet simultaneously, by enforcing various restrictions, they limited freedom, suffocated the economy, and increased social isolation which critics suggest costs lives, too. So, embarrassingly, I have long raised my arms in uncertainty about the government’s actions because these questions seem too complex and elusive for a non-expert like me to have confident answers.

However, what is clear to me is that the majority of Canadian media decided early on that—in lieu of exercising their crucial role as eternal questioners of all government policies—they preferred to signal that they were evolved, scientifically-minded folk who were willing to defer to the government’s public health experts. They did not ask our political leaders tough questions about contrary scientific experts and evidence (merrily adopting the phrase “follow the science” as if the actions and evolutions of a novel virus were clearly “settled”). They did not ask the political leaders if there were any limitations on their moral right to restrict their citizens’ behaviours. Most crucially, they did not ask whether the damage to the economy and social flourishing was perhaps being neglected for the sake of safety that their measures weren’t guaranteed to protect.

While it may be the case that all Canadian governments perfectly balanced all needy considerations at all times, I submit that political leaders are less likely to pursue such an equilibrium if it is not asked of them.

So now we’ve had a trucker convoy that travelled through Canada, landed in various Canadian cities, and then blocked and/or disrupted vital pathways for commerce. Once again, I don’t know if the truckers were morally right or wrong in their arguments and conduct, but I do know that I was glad to see someone publically making the case that Canadian rights to freedom of movement should be considered, too.

So I would have loved to have heard the Canadian media asking that vital question, Do the protestors have a point?

But our Prime Minister told the media not to. Instead, Justin Trudeau spotted the approaching criticism, and announced that the truckers were “fringe,” “racist,” “misogynistic,” and possessing “unacceptable views.” Not only was Trudeau unwilling to consider the arguments of his citizen critics, but he also demonized them with accusations that required no evidence and then dismissed their critical point of view with that one terrifying word, “Unacceptable.”

Mr. Trudeau, you are the Prime Minister of all Canadians. Some of these citizens may not be the sorts you would take home to meet your mother, but to dismiss them as fringe is to divide your constituents into two classes: those worthy of civil dialogue and those not. Sir, are you not the party of human rights, delivering us the charter of rights and freedoms? And do those protections not apply to everyone? In 2015, Canadian citizen Omar Khadr (who had been convicted of “murder in violation of the laws of war” when he threw a grenade at American soldiers in Afghanistan) was paid ten million dollars by your government because Canada hadn’t sufficiently defended his human rights during his detention in Guantanamo Bay. While I emotionally disagreed with your decision to settle with Khadr at the time, I could respect your judgment to take into account the human rights of even violent criminals.

In contrast, Mr. Trudeau, your dismissal of disruptive but peaceful truckers as “fringe” is a shocking abdication of your responsibility to look out for all of us, regardless of whether you like us or not. Assertively explain your position to them and Canadians? Great. Tell them why you’re confident in your policies? Sounds good. But to suggest certain dissenters are not part of the mainstream, and therefore unworthy of consideration, is an anti-enlightenment position, which ought to have provoked a convoy of critical editorials from our mainstream punditry. They might have asked, for instance:

Whether one agrees or disagrees with the truckers, is it appropriate for the leader of a liberal democracy to determine which citizens’ opinions are allowed and which are not?

Instead, in my observation, most in the Canadian media dutifully followed Trudeau’s instructions to demonize the protestors, and offered various versions of, “We’re seeing swastika flags and Confederate flags at these protests.”

Now, first of all, reporting from independent media indicates that the flying of the swastika flag may have been misconstrued. According to the now exiled former host of CBC Radio’s Cross Country Checkup and currently trucker-sympathizing pundit, Rex Murphy, the Nazi symbol was an accusation that Trudeau’s government was behaving like a fascistic tyrant. This may be a vicious and indecent comparison, but note that it’s the same criticism that Mr. Trudeau was levelling at the protestors.

But even if the swastika flag does turn out to have been an endorsement of genocidal fascists, that does not disprove the argument of an entire protest. Dear media, have you ever been to a protest about anything anywhere? There will always be wild, irrelevant contentions presented by a few in every bunch of protestors. Even at a rally of Geologists for Earth, you’ll probably find at least one flat-earther. Consider how some BLM-2020 protestors were violent and a few of them were even murderous. Surely those heinous actions do not make BLM’s argument, itself, intrinsically “unacceptable.” So, if there were one or two evil symbols included in the truckers’ diverse display, that unfortunate inclusion does not disprove the message of the group, who as far as I can tell, disavow racism as wholeheartedly as their prime minister does. (In fact, according to independent reporting, they chased away the confederate flag-waver.)

Rupa Subramanya of the conservative-leaning National Post said in an interview:

“I spent three weeks at the protests every day, sometimes twice a day, sometimes late into the night speaking to everyone I possibly could, and I didn’t encounter a single racist, white supremacist, or even a misogynist. These were some of the warmest and friendliest people I’ve ever met in my life in Canada in the… more than two decades that I’ve lived here. So it was quite unusual that my perspective as a person of colour who went into the protests was so different from what the mainstream coverage of it was and… that there seemed to be this total disconnect between what was being said about them and what I personally experienced.”

That description neither proves that the protesters were all nice people nor that their cause was right, but maybe it—along with many other such testimonials from independent broadcasters—might be worth considering before sheep-ily accepting Mr. Trudeau’s assessment of who’s worthy of consideration.

But accusing the truckers of being bigots was our Prime Minister’s best option to avoid acknowledging their complaints. Recall that in 2020, Trudeau defended the right of farmer protestors in India to march on their government, stating:

“Let me remind you, Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest. We believe in the importance of dialogue and that’s why we’ve reached out through multiple means directly to the Indian authorities to highlight our concerns.”

Love or despise the convoy, it seems clear to me (from the fact that the trucker-criticizing media hasn’t, in my viewing, produced any evidence to the contrary) that they were a peaceful lot. Annoying to Ottawa citizens? Sure. Loud and disruptive? Yes. But violent? It doesn’t seem so.

It was much easier for Justin Trudeau to go against his own advice to the Indian government by creating a media-backed character profile of the truckers as a white supremacist underclass so devoid of good Canadian values that they didn’t deserve the protection of Canadian values.

Explained Trudeau:

“I have attended protests and rallies in the past, when I agreed with the goals, when I supported the people expressing their concerns and their issues. Black Lives Matter is an excellent example of that. But I have chosen not to go anywhere near protests that have expressed hateful rhetoric, violence towards fellow citizens, and disrespect not just for science but of the frontline health workers and, quite frankly, the 90 percent of truckers who have been doing the right thing to keep Canadians safe to put food on our tables.”

Mr. Trudeau, Black Lives Matter was the required view of any public person at the time you supported it. Standing beside such an unquestioned movement does not show great conviction. Instead, it is like a judge who’s accused of being too harsh in their sentencing, saying, “Nuh uh. Look how easy I was on my popular friends when they were accused of crimes.”

Yeah, I don’t think you’re making the point you think you’re making, Mr. Prime Minister. The measure of a leader is not how well they treat protestors with whom they ideologically align, but how fairly they respond to those with whom they disagree.

Even if one is convinced that the truckers are loaded with Nazi-sympathizers and cheerers-on of slavery, I reiterate that our best bet as a liberal society is to zoom our public focus on whether their actual argument has any merit, and whether their actions are lawful. But, by taking part in the demonization of protestors’ characters, our media facilitated Trudeau’s extreme means of resolving the conflict.

Deputy Prime Minister/Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland led Canada’s way down the path paved by our media, explaining that Canada was now criminalizing financial support for the protestors with adjustments to Canada’s financial laws—adjustments that she said she intended to make “permanent.”

“The illegal blockades,” she said, “have highlighted the fact that crowdfunding platforms and some payment service providers they use are not fully captured under the Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Act.”

Wow. Again, I understand that the truckers were disruptive and causing pain to the Canadian economy. But so, too, were the government mandates which provoked the protest. Perhaps the latter has more merit than the former, but surely a liberal society wants its citizens to have the option of expressing their disapproval of government policy peacefully. Maybe there’s a point at which the government should take serious action to intervene on disruptive behaviours, but treating peaceful protestors (and their financial backers) like organized criminals and terrorists is not a de-escalation strategy designed to move protestors along; it’s a punishment and a warning against civil unrest in future.

Then our Mr. Trudeau—backed by the supposed workers-party leader, Jagmeet Singhactivated Canada’s most powerful tool, the Emergencies Act, to take on the protestors. (This high level of response has only been used three times before, during each world war, and in response to the October Crisis in 1970, which had featured bombs, kidnappings, and murder.)

Along with allowing the police more stringent powers to remove the irritating convoyers, the high-level powers enabled the government to direct financial institutions to review their relationships with anyone involved in the protest and report them to the RCMP.

“As of today, a bank or financial service will be able to immediately freeze or suspend an account without a court order,” explained Freeland. “We are today serving notice: if your truck is being used in these illegal blockades, your accounts will be frozen.”

Wait a minute. Even if you think the trucker protest was full of jerks who shouldn’t have been allowed to set up shop in Ottawa, do we really want a precedent created where the government can financially neuter public dissenters? Dear progressive-leaning thinkers, would you be comfortable with a future conservative government not only breaking up peaceful left-wing protests but also financially wounding anyone even tangentially involved?

The Ottawa police chief, Steve Bell, put the point more starkly:

“If you were involved in this protest, we will actively look to identify you and follow up with financial sanctions and criminal charges, absolutely. This investigation will go on for months to come.”

So it isn’t sufficient to defeat the protestors: we must punish them until they learn to never publicly disagree with their government again. Count me in if the protestors were violent or even if they damaged property, but again I’ve heard no such accusation. Instead, because the protestors were not in ideological agreement with our leaders, their disruptive actions were unworthy of a proportional response.

As it is, Trudeau’s hierarchy of values appears to be this:

(1) Citizens have the right to protest for racial justice (regardless of whether protestors contravene health mandates in doing so).

(2) The government has the right to impose health mandates (regardless of whether health mandates disrupt the economy).

(3) Government has the right to protect the economy by invoking the Emergencies Act (regardless of whether such actions impede the rights of protestors).

Now, to their credit, Canada’s progressive-leaning media seemed, from my channel-flipping survey, to be more interested in the vital question of how much power the Canadian government should exercise to break up peaceful obstructions. For instance, CTV News included an interview with a leading lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, who argued that the threshold for invoking emergency powers had not been achieved and, therefore, its use here was a setting a dangerous precedent. (And, to my surprise, the CTV interviewer didn’t even accuse the lawyer of being a hate-monger.) But, while such inquiries into civil rights are welcome, their effectiveness was muted, I suspect, by the media’s previous parroting of Trudeau’s demonizing of those truckers’ initial right to complain.

Somehow, the progressive media seems to have been so hypnotized by Trudeau’s soft-spoken and noble-sounding delivery that they have trouble seeing the antidemocratic tendencies within his words.

When first elected, Trudeau “progressively” chose his cabinet on the basis of qualifications such as race and sex, and when asked why, he simply told us that the date was 2015, and that was an end to it. If our media had followed their professional obligation and asked him some tough ethical questions about his discriminatory principles, it wouldn’t have been so easy for him to run wild with them. And, when Mr. Trudeau referred to his own citizens as possessing “unacceptable views,” if a reporter or two had asked the government how they defined which anti-government criticisms were acceptable, maybe Trudeau would have had no choice but to stop answering irrelevant questions such as whether protestors were the sort with whom he wanted to associate, and instead considered, “Do they have a point?

HOW TO CELEBRATE MYSELF FOR NARCISSISM IV: HIDDEN AT THE NEW WEST PUBLIC LIBRARY

SethBlogs’ lead writer, Seth McDonough, wrote a book, and he can’t stop talking about it.

HOW TO CELEBRATE MYSELF FOR NARCISSISM COLLECTION:

I: QUOTES ABOUT GREATNESS, COMPILED BY SETHBLOGS
II: INTERVIEWS BY RIVAL-WRITER, ERIK D’SOUZA
III: INTERVIEW BY TIME-TRAVELLER, TODD VAN ALLEN
IV: HIDDEN AT THE NEW WEST PUBLIC LIBRARY (you are here)


As my fans know, I hate to brag. Therefore, I would like to thank The New Westminster Public Library for showing me off for me! My book, How to Cure Yourself of Narcissism, is now available for rent in that lovely library! This is a dream I didn’t know I had until it came true.

So yesterday with an ego in need of refuelling, I travelled to the new home of my tome to see how it was doing, and maybe take a selfie with it. When I arrived at the book collective, I immediately went to the “Librarians’ Favourites,” section, but strangely there it wasn’t! So I checked the public-facing computer and was delighted again that the digital station confirmed that HCYN lived somewhere in this large book forest. But where? I had never felt the need to learn our librarians’ unnecessarily confusing Dewey decimal system for sorting books. So I settled into my own superior approach, which is to note the general categories they assigned my book, which the computer told me were “Self-Care,” and “Health.” Sadly, my own diagnosis would have placed the book in “Humour,” but in defence of the library’s mischaracterization, they didn’t seem to possess a non-fiction humour place for books to hang out, so I travelled first to “Health,” to see if HCYN had settled in with those fine folks. When I arrived on that well-nourished scene in the back corner of the reading depot, I discovered, among the many books, two teenaged girls seated on the floor with one of the stacks I wanted to investigate as their backrest while they chatted about the latest innovations in high school gossip. None of the unblocked shelves housed my work, so I quietly peered around the yacking girls hoping they might take this as an invitation to make a little room for me to see what was behind them, but sadly my silent plea was either unnoticed or unpersuasive.

I know, I know: assertiveness advisors tell us to politely speak up and request the simple accommodation we are seeking, but somehow I felt squeamish about demanding room to look for a book so that I could take a selfie with it before putting it right back where it was; upon seeing the narcissism-curing claims of my book cover, my seated nemeses would surely then have suggested that I needed the book most of all.

So I travelled to the “Self-Care” section to see if it would provide an unobstructed view of my hopes and dreams. Sure enough; there were no babbling conferences blocking my access, so in I went and… found no indication that my book had ever been in the area.

So, if the book has indeed already reached the shelves of the New West Public library, it is likely behind those two shelf-ish girls. But, as I left the library, without a selfie in hand-held device, I realized that all was right in the world of narcissism. My ego-flattering pursuit had been disrupted by the ego-absorbed work of two library dwellers, which in turn proved that How to Cure Yourself of Narcissism has a rightful reason to be in our libraries.

Or, if you don’t feel like arguing with teenaged babblers, it’s also available for order online at most fine retailers!

 

SOCRATES VS. THE INFALLIBILITY OF IDENTITY

In the SethFM broadcast promoted in my previous post, WHO DARE YOU?, I criticized Cancel Culture apologist, Dr. Hannah McGregor, for following the identity politics’ trend of using race and gender as a sorting mechanism for who should be speaking and who should be silent. For instance, the professor criticized the writers of the famous/infamous Harper’s letter (which criticized Cancel Culture) for, not possessing the appropriate demographics to be making such criticisms.

As the Seth of SethFM pointed out: if identity is the determining factor for moral accuracy of argument, then how are we to comprehend the fact that many people from every identity designation seem to exist on every side of nearly every argument?

Therefore, I suggested that, in lieu of utilizing the content of a philosopher’s identity as the basis for measuring the strength of their contentions, we instead inspect their actual arguments. To my delight and simultaneous embarrassment for accidental plagiarism, I have since heard a thinker of slightly greater talents than my own making a similar case. His name is Socrates, and his argument as well as my celebration of it is now available on SethFM for your consideration.

 

WHO DARE YOU?

Have I told you lately how much I detest Cancel Culture?

The mission of the Problematic People Wing of Cancel Culture is to remove bad people from roles in society for which they are perceived by the good people at Cancel Culture Central (CCC) to be morally unfit. This may sound sweet to you in theory, but the devil is in the practice.

Last year, I was excited as I learned that Harper’s Magazine had put forth a letter criticizing the alleged (by critics like me) censoriousness of our current cultural predicament. My merriment quickly dwindled, though, as I realized that, as ever, the most common response from CCC was to avoid discussing the principles under consideration (such as freedom of expression, freedom of association, cultural appropriation theory, the separation of art from the artist, and so on), and instead to focus on irrelevant matters such as who was making the argument.

For illustration of such an ad who-minem critique of the Harper’s letter, I’d like to look at an interview presented on the radio program, On the Coast (a Vancouver-based discussion show living on the airwaves of my ideological nemesis, and CCC council member, CBC Radio). In this case, the host Gloria Macarenko surprised my rolling eyes as she went off brand and asked a Cancel Culture apologist, Professor Hannah McGregor, some reasonable questions about whether the Harper’s letter writers might have a point. But, not to worry, the spinning academic quickly renewed my faith in my lack of faith in mainstream media discussions of these matters. While she didn’t directly call for restrictions on free speech, she did come precariously close. For instance, she said:

 “…maybe it’s a good moment for a lot of people who are saying, you know, ‘Oh, we need more free speech,’ to say, ‘Who’s free speech? Is it yours right now? Is that the speech that’s needed? Maybe somebody else’s speech would be better, and maybe our job right is to do a little more listening.’ ”

So, in protest, I asked my namesake and colleague at SethFM to retroactively add himself into the conversation so as to counter Dr. McGregor’s scary arguments. Feel free to like or dislike, but please don’t cancel.

THE OVERSHUN WINDOW

The philosopher John Rawls created the “veil of ignorance” as a morality check.

When contemplating ethics and justice, he suggests that we place said veil on our minds to imagine we don’t know what position in society we possess. From this veiled position Rawls argues that thinkers are then in a better frame of perspective to assess the reasonableness of moral proposals with less reference to our own current circumstances, and instead, in theory, we will aim for a moral infrastructure that will be fair no matter where we end up.

This idea can be illustrated in the classic example of the cutting of the cake. If two kids, say, Seth and Zaff, are dividing up a piece of cake between the two of them, and they both want as large a piece as possible, we would ask one of them—let’s say, Seth—to cut the cake, and then Zaff would get first choice of which piece he wanted. In that situation, Seth would try to cut as close to the middle of the dessert as possible, because he’s in the veiled position of not knowing which piece he would eventually get.

While such veiled thinking is not foolproof, I think it can be a useful exercise for building and critiquing one’s values.

Consider the case of free speech vs. protecting us from hate speech. You may believe that it is appropriate to restrict certain kinds of speech that you think are racist, sexist, or otherwise deplorable. However, before you jump to that happy conclusion, I request that you step back under Rawls’ veil of ignorance, and consider that the definition of what is hateful is always changing and subject to the assessment of humans who are occasionally fallible.

Take, for instance, the ever-changing Overton window, the theoretical concept of the current values that are morally acceptable in polite society. While you may happen to agree with where that polite moral consensus is currently located, are you comfortable with the possibility that the Overton window may be constricting, while its cousin—the Overshun window—may be expanding? With the veil of ignorance fogging up your vision of the future, are you satisfied that these two judgmental windows will always fit you and those you care about?

Again, maybe you are content to live with the judgments of those holding the steering wheel of our public morality. Maybe you think that hateful speech is so terrible that it must be legally limited. My only request is that, before you advocate for censorship, that you sneak back under the veil of ignorance to make sure you can live with where such restrictions may plausibly take us.

So, with that idea of looking at moral issues from an ignorant veiled position, I would like to examine the concept of “Cancel Culture.” A friend of mine suggested that we can do better than the now set expression “Cancel Culture” so, for this essay, I offer the alternative term, “Socially Demanded Extrajudicial Role Eviction,” or SDERE.

While I’m not sure if SDERE captures the phenomenon formerly known as Cancel Culture as crisply as the latter did, the exercise of trying to re-name it was useful to me in identifying exactly what I think we mean by SDERE.

As I see it, SDERE comes about when there is a call to steer a person out of a role because of perceived moral failings of that person.

SDERE is not related to someone being fired from their job for workplace-related failings. For instance, if someone showed up late to work every day, and they were disciplined for it by their employer, that person has not been a victim of SDERE. Instead, they have lost standing in their job because of a possible defect in their actual performance at work.

Nor is SDERE criticism of a person in society for perceived wrongdoing. SDERE only occurs when there is a society-based call for a person to be removed from a role because they are perceived to be morally unfit for it.

Let’s say, for instance, that an employee is suspected of cheating on their spouse. Now it is not illegal to be unfaithful, but it is certainly morally questionable, so based on an extrajudicial assessment, some members of society might call for such a person to be evicted from their job.

In assessing whether such a firing is justified, I ask that you re-apply the veil of ignorance.

Do we want our employers to be assessing our outside-of-work conduct, at the behest of the public, and then potentially disciplining or even firing us on those grounds?

Before you land on your answer, please consider that both the public and employers have throughout history used the morality of their times to make decisions that most of us now register as unethical (and sometimes evil). You may think that we’ve evolved to produce a superior morality now that has no reason to provoke such retroactive cringe, but look at how rapidly public mores are changing. Are you certain you’re comfortable that you would pass every test of tomorrow’s leading popular moralists?

Pierre Trudeau famously said the government has no business in the bedrooms of our nation. This was to protect gay and lesbian Canadians from being prosecuted for their sexuality. Do you want our employers in those same bedrooms?

I’m not arguing that, because mores change, that there should never be consequences for doing something bad. But I do contend that the punishment should stay in its jurisdiction. If someone cheats on their spouse, that is a private matter between the people involved. If someone is accused of a crime, then it is up to the justice system to look into it. But personally, I don’t want our employers deciding what we can do or say outside of work, do you?

Perhaps you think I’m creating a moral panic about a moral panic, and that in reality SDERE only ever goes after the most extreme of bad behaviour. But, again, I ask you to go back to your veiled position. Even if you think a particular behaviour or idea is wrong, do you want a society in which people who allegedly have the wrong values, but haven’t committed a crime, are sentenced to the margins of society?

Recall McCarthyism. I happen to believe that, in practice, communism is a terrible idea, and I think we should criticize the concept whenever it pops up. However, I also think that Senator McCarthy and his allies were wrong to punish people for allegedly believing in a flawed ideology. McCarthyism created an environment of fear and suspicion, and an inability to freely associate and freely discuss ideas. Therefore, from my veiled position, I propose that we would be better off criticizing ideas and even people we don’t like, without exiling them for their alleged sins.

Again, you may be satisfied with where the Overton window is right now, but when you apply your veil of ignorance, are you sure you’ll agree with society’s future judgments?

HOW I MET YOUR INDEPENDENT DESIGN

A mere decade after my initial post, HOW I MET YOUR INDEPENDENT HUMOUR regarding the 2005-2014 sitcom, How I Met Your Mother, I have finally completed my witnessing of this most creative of television comedies.

Against SethBlogs’ standard procedures, my updated review must begin with some contrition. You see, in that first analysis, I brashly noted that the premise of the show (a dad in 2030 telling his two kids about how he met their mother somewhere between the years of 2005 and we didn’t yet know when) was likely too daunting to sustain coherently.

Mused 2010 SethBlogs:

“…the premise is a wee bit troubled: the idea of dedicating a plot to explaining to one’s future children how one discovered their mom is nice, I think, for a defined timeline such as a movie, but in the case of an open-ended TV series, it seems too difficult for the writers to keep each episode on point considering they don’t know when exactly to bring the mother in, and so in turn, they don’t know how exactly to relate each show to her eventual arrival.”

I can now report that—while I was perfectly right that the challenge the writers had set for themselves was “difficult” (well done, SethBlogs!)—I was wrong to suggest it was “too” much so (badly done, SethBlogs!). As it turned out, our writers were not toiling in the linear boundaries that most television writers reside. Instead, the authors of HIMYM were working in the realm of literary novelists where time, place, and perspective were free to wander outside the lines of sequential thinking. Yet, unlike their literary forewriters, the HIMYM creators had a sense of humour about both the lives of their characters, and about themselves, as they often pranked their future selves by having the dad-narrator reference peculiar future incidents which they would somehow have to finagle into later seasons.

The nine-year show is bursting with successful payoffs (as it high-fives those ideas prognosticated in past seasons) as well as retroactive payoffs (as it explains previous behaviours that we didn’t realize were mysterious at the time).

But this show is not just a non-linear story where jokes can be told out of order: instead, How I Met Your Mother is a collage of collages. Each season tends to live in a particular year between 2005 and 2014, but because our narrator’s memory is not limited by temporal rules, stories are bound more often by theme than by time. So, if an episode is about a particular bad habit of one of the characters, we’ll receive examples that might exist anywhere along the 50-year timeline of the show.

Perspective, too, is a mosaic on How I Met Your Mother. Along with the dad, guest narrators grab the microphone occasionally to tell the story of the episode, and the explanation for the alternative viewpoint is often as interesting as the plot, itself.

These collages of perspective and timeline work alongside the series-long arc of meeting Mom as we get many foggy hints about her, even though we don’t officially see her face until the end of the penultimate season. And, when the writers finally do let us meet Mom, they still aren’t beholden to our linear expectations: in fact, they first introduce our lead couple together later in the timeline than their long-anticipated first encounter, and so we actually get to know them as a duo before they “meet.”

The finale on the How I Met Your Mother timeline has—at this point in our real-world timeline—not been as popular as the show, itself. However, as with perhaps the greatest movie of all time, The Empire Strikes Back, which might have been titled, How I Met My Father, and which initially did not receive a positive critical reaction (unlike its precursor, Star Wars), I predict that our perspective will eventually shift in regard to HIMYM’s conclusion. While (semi-spoiler alert) the ending contains a twist on our expectations—and I admit that I, too, was miffed about it for an hour after watching—I now contest that it beautifully ties together an unspoken promise: it tells us why we’re being told the story. And that information, I predict, will change our future viewings of the show to being more meaningful than we’d realized.

Please don’t misunderstand my gushing: HIMYM is not a perfect show, and it has some dud episodes (even masters of situation comedy, such as Seinfeld, Frasier, and Jane Austen lose their way on occasion). Nevertheless, How I Met Your Mother is perhaps the most inventive sitcom I have ever met. Plus SethBlogs did get another thing right in my previous description: the show has lots of clever turns of dialogue. (Well spotted, Sethblogs!)

HOW TO CELEBRATE MYSELF FOR NARCISSISM III: Interview By Time-Traveller, Todd Van Allen

SethBlogs’ lead writer, Seth McDonough, wrote a book, and he can’t stop talking about it.

HOW TO CELEBRATE MYSELF FOR NARCISSISM COLLECTION:

I: QUOTES ABOUT GREATNESS, COMPILED BY SETHBLOGS
II: INTERVIEWS BY RIVAL-WRITER, ERIK D’SOUZA
III: INTERVIEW BY TIME-TRAVELLER, TODD VAN ALLEN (you are here)
IV: HIDDEN AT THE NEW WEST PUBLIC LIBRARY


I’m honoured to honour me by reporting that my book How to Cure Yourself of Narcissism has now reached interprovincial fame as I have been interviewed on comedian Todd Van Allen’s Ottawa-based podcast, Comedy Above The Pub.

TVA’s CATP has a fascinating set up as the elite comedian and storyteller launches himself and his visitors into conversation as though they’re at a pub, without artificial barriers of required topics, but instead with anecdotes and deferential curiosities that he surreptitiously ties to his guests’ wares.

Most fascinating  to my philosophical eye, the podcaster dances with time as the interview ends with a mini-discussion of the conversation just past, which then becomes the introduction for the later-released episode. To my ear this post-convo pre-convo sets the listener up with a much more accurate and vibrant introduction than if the podcaster had begun with a pre-written description of what might be approaching.

For the full podcast, listen here.

Or, for the video version, watch the live initial broadcast below (although, since the live broadcast was live, it lacked the ability to anticipate its post-show introduction, so I recommend listening to the intro above before watching).


HOW TO CELEBRATE MYSELF FOR NARCISSISM COLLECTION:

I: QUOTES ABOUT GREATNESS, COMPILED BY SETHBLOGS
II: INTERVIEWS BY RIVAL-WRITER, ERIK D’SOUZA
III: INTERVIEW BY TIME-TRAVELLER, TODD VAN ALLEN (you were just here)

TEN WAYS TO A MORE CANCELLED YOU

In studying the various works of Cancel Culture, I believe I can narrow its prime purifying works down to ten leading values:

(1) Punishment must be consolidated. If someone does (or is accused of doing) something wrong in one aspect of their life, then the punishment for that moral failing ought to be applied to every aspect of the wrongdoer’s life.

Corollary: All artists and their art are synonymous. If an artist is determined by Cancel Culture to be guilty of an offence, then so too is their art, and so both should be removed from public consideration.

(2) All morally problematic opinions are produced by bad people. Therefore, if you are on the wrong side of a moral disagreement with Cancel Culture, then you yourself are unfit for polite society.

Corollary: Cancel Culture has a strict no-nuance policy; any attempt by a troubled thinker to consider distinctions, exceptions, or gradations in a moral failing are just as evil as promoting the worst version of the allegedly unethical behaviour.

(3) Silence is violence. It is not sufficient for a person in the public eye to simply not state the wrong opinion; they must also publicly acknowledge the correct opinion.

Hint: When Cancel Culture does receive the correct opinion from a problematic celeb, the no-nuance policy still applies, and the previously violently-silent person can and should be micro-critiqued for any deviations in language or tone from Cancel Culture’s guidelines for correct thinking.

(4) Context doesn’t matter. If a contemptuous phrase seems innocuous when surrounded by introductory statements and explanations, those clarifying portions of the message will be removed so that the unclothed result can be broadcast on mainstream and social media.

Corollary: Historical context doesn’t matter either; no matter how much “positive change” a historical figure might have brought forth in their historical circumstances, their entire existence will be checked against our modern mores.

(5) Intention doesn’t matter. The worst possible interpretation of an enemy thinker’s meaning is always the right one.

Hint: Cancel Culture curators are invited to conjoin Intention not mattering with Context not mattering for super cancelling power.

(6) Privacy is for the righteous. While privacy is a vital right of all good people, if you are recorded saying something offensive to your spouse, you are not a good person, and so Cancel Culture shall judge you as though you were speaking at a public convention.

Hint: Combine the right to judge private moments with Context and Intention not mattering for best results.

(7) You are your worst moment. If you’ve ever done (or considered doing) something morally questionable, that bad behaviour (or thought pattern) defines you for life, and repentance is never sufficient.

Exception: Cancel Culture reserves the right to forgive the very worst in society on condition that they unconditionally support Cancel Culture’s currently approved opinions. So, if a reformed neo-nazi becomes an anti-racism trainer, they will be recognized as an infallible truth-purveyor.

(8) Association equals unconditional agreement. If a newly problematic thinker has ever been friends with, shared a stage with, or liked a Twitter post of a now cancelled thinker, that association can be used as evidence in a future cancellation trial.

Corollary: It is best to never converse with—let alone debate—thinkers on the wrong side of a moral dispute.

(9) Privilege denunciation. The race, sex, gender, sexuality, and other identifications matter when assessing the validity of a person’s arguments (as well as their art).

Exception: If a wrongful arguer’s identity matches that of a group that Cancel Culture has entrusted themselves with protecting, then the inconveniently-raced-or-gendered person will be ignored, or if necessary, criticized for betraying “their own people.”

(10) Cancel Culture shrugging. It is best when speaking publically that Cancel Culture members downplay the power of Cancel Culture. Instead, Cancel Culture agents are advised to treat the effects of Cancel Culture as minor inconveniences which powerful people experience when they do evil things.

THE GASLIGHT SIDE OF THE FORCE

Cancel Culture has claimed another trophy on the flimsiest of arguments. Star Wars: The Mandalorian star, Gina Carano, has been fired from her job of playing a soldier in a far, far away fictional universe, because she expressed an opinion (while not on the job) that has been diagnosed as immoral by her former employer, The Walt Disney Company.

That is, in a Twitter post, Carano captioned a gruesome historical photo with commentary that:

“Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers but by their neighbors… even children. :(”

Then she added in quotation marks [which I take to mean she’s quoting someone else as she says]:

“Because history is edited, most people 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?”

Now, you might argue that this parallel is simplistic, and that holocaust comparisons in general are overwrought and perhaps even insensitive (I, myself, found Carano’s use of an unhappy face emoji to be rather crass), but clearly, by making the genocide the villain of her analogy, Carano is positioning herself as anti-holocaust.

As far as I can infer from her subsequent comments, she’s arguing that we should be careful of dehumanizing our neighbours just because they disagree with us, because history has proven that dehumanization can lead to catastrophic results.

Yet somehow, the leaders of Cancel Culture were able to take this pro-tolerance, “love thy neighbour”-style argument, and gaslight Disney into viewing it as anti-Semitic. Thus the corporation said on the day they released Ms. Carano from their employ:

“Her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable.”

How in Disney’s digitized brain can they possibly interpret Carano’s neighbours-before-haters argument as denigrating of any cultural group?

This baffling reinterpretation of an individual’s argument so as to have them removed from their job is (once again) evidence that there is no limit to Cancel Culture’s appetite to control our public (and private) conversation by threatening our livelihoods if we don’t follow its demands.

My personal moral position on Cancel Culture is straightforward. If you say something with which I disagree, I may dislike you; I may even publically criticize you for it. However, I submit that it is unethical for any employer to punish us for our outside-of-work opinions (or non-work-related behaviours). Otherwise, we will find ourselves living in a corporation state where our employers can tell us not only what to do at work, but also after work. If that sounds okay to you because you think that employers are generally pretty good judges of morality and would only ever excommunicate us for extreme ideas or actions, I ask you to double check your findings.

Please consider that the Cancel Culture Hall of Shame features a long history of various mainstream morality police going wild with such powers (from religious persecutions, to witch trials, to policing of sexuality, to McCarthyism). Even if our present day employers would prefer not to overstep their purview, they are in constant threat of being hounded by a small group of self-appointed social media officers who are in charge of outrage at Cancel Culture Central. It is a digital mob that is scaring corporations into firing their employees for wrongthink. And that unnerves me more than any individual’s dumb or even abhorrent arguments ever could.

When any opinion—no matter how extreme—can make one unfit for employment, then all opinions are in danger because—as we saw in Gina Carano’s post—with the right filter, even the most love-thy-neighbourly of sentiments can be reframed as hateful.