Cancel culture has struck again, but this time its would-be victims aren’t apologizing.
The Daily Mail — a publication notorious for being “free” with its own speech — is leading the anti-cancel culture charge this month with a series of stories that point to an encouraging trend. A handful of prominent creatives are standing up to woke bullies and noting the dangers (and impracticalities) of their demands, which essentially amount to writers and entertainers forsaking their imaginative talents by only addressing things they’ve personally experienced. Except they aren’t supposed to be candid about those things, either, as they might offend someone if they’re too honest.
Pulitzer prize-winning author Anne Tyler has stirred up controversy by saying she should be allowed to write a novel “from the viewpoint of a black man.” Though she added it would be “very foolish” for her to do so (she’s eighty years old, white and a woman), Tyler received backlash on Twitter for being “astonished by the appropriation issue,” with one user accusing her of “privilege.”
Meanwhile, at the City University of New York, a change.org petition to cancel a play about the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till has garnered nearly 14,000 signatures. Taking a chapter from the 2019 condemnation of American Dirt, critics are charging white progressive playwright Clare Coss with “creatively [centering] her white guilt by using this play to make the racially motivated brutal torture and murder of a 14-year-old child about her white self and her white feelings.”
Coss spoke out to explain that Till’s lynching was a “barbaric…failure of justice” that “deeply impacted” her with “lifelong heartfelt pain.” The play’s black composer, Mary D. Watkins, has called the petition “an insult to me as a black woman and to the company members who are African-American.” Watkins defended Coss further, saying:
[The petition signers] have jumped on the fact that the playwright is white and assumed all kinds of things about the content of the show. Even though there are many artists of color involved in this project, the critics are assuming that we have had no impact on the final shape of the piece and that the playwright has somehow forced all of us to tell her story.
Comedian Akmal Saleh also made headlines recently for his cancel culture intolerance, comparing the practice to the secret police oppressing free speech in his native Egypt:
People should just be offended and accept it. Accept being offended, don’t go see that comedian. Free speech is not free, it comes at a price — the price is that invariably someone is going to be offended at something and that’s okay, that’s allowed. Go live in Cairo and have your opinions suppressed when the secret police come knocking at your door and then which one do you choose?
Similarly, author Kate Clanchy has revealed that in editing her memoir about being a school teacher, “her former publisher Picador recruited ‘sensitivity readers’ to ‘detect and reform problematic racism and ableism’ in her Orwell Prize-winning book.” Clanchy has since switched to a different, dare we say, more tolerant publishing house.
If woke warriors got their way, it would mean the end to the arts as we know them. If the sensitivity police obeyed their own rules regarding equity, they would realize their absurd standards threaten the politically correct practices they’ve forced into the mainstream. No more “cross-cultural casting,” as NPR calls it, meaning, for instance, the days of a black Anne Boleyn would be numbered. Indeed, under these new rules, should any modern-day actor, regardless of race, who never experienced the social intolerance of a fat ruddy English king, the discrimination of being branded a witch, or the oppression inherent in having to wear a French hood even be allowed to pretend to portray Anne Boleyn on the screen or stage? How dare an actress/writer/comedian put herself in another person’s shoes to tell a story!
It seems we’re at a point in history where putting one’s imagination to use amounts to a hate crime. But what does the left expect? They infuse every element of life with race, gender and sexuality — a private school in Chicago, for example, has been teaching ninth graders “Social Justice in Physics” for years now — yet artists get in trouble when they dare incorporate these topics into their work?
Not to worry. Cancel culture is at last getting its comeuppance. The UK’s deputy prime minister Dominic Raab has revealed plans for a British Bill of Rights, declaring:
I feel very strongly that the parameters of free speech and democratic debate are being whittled away, whether by the privacy issue or whether it’s wokery and political correctness. I worry about those parameters of free speech being narrowed.
Raab’s efforts are valiant, though having a Bill of Rights has not completely safeguarded free speech in America. Thankfully, if all else fails, we can always follow in the genius footsteps of the white theater director who changed his name, claimed to be a “born-again African” and outsmarted the cancel culture system into awarding him hundreds of thousands of dollars meant for a person of color.