AMAC Exclusive – By David P. Deavel
This week, bad things happened to supposedly good people who think Hamas’s actions are just fine. CEOs and judges said they wouldn’t hire law students who signed on to letters that claimed the responsibility for the torture and deaths of what is now counted at over 1,400 Israeli men, women, and children is fully the fault of Israel. Many on the right and even some on the left (but quietly) cheered. But there was also a lot of complaining that this contradicted what people on the right have been saying about cancel culture. It’s important to note that what we have been saying about this is that corporations should not give in to online or other mobs demanding that persons be fired for social media posts in bad taste, supporting traditional moral norms, or talking about their Christian faith—not that people can say anything. Making threats, dehumanizing people because of some characteristic such as color or ethnicity, or promoting terrorism should have consequences. This kind of language does warrant social shaming and, in the case of threats and terrorism, legal action. Nevertheless, many on the left shouted, “Hypocrites!” Many on the right lamented that This Isn’t Who We Are and that We Must Stick To Our Principles.
The left’s claims are not really all that important. But it is important for people on the right to understand that it is not against our principles to use the tools we have and force the left to play by its own rules. We on the right complain endlessly about how our opponents make us live by one standard while they live by another. We appeal to some broad middle that we think will see how unfair things are and save us. But in reality, it is only when we make the left adhere to the rules they have set up that we are going to be able to change those rules ourselves.
It’s actually surprising that anybody would think that what happened to those 20-somethings who signed on to such letters is really cancel culture. Those who blathered on for the last decade about “microaggressions” being a reason to discipline students or kick them out of college suddenly think that companies have some sort of moral obligation to hire 20-something students who effectively justified terror on Jewish noncombatants just because said 20-somethings have a diploma from Hahvahd? If you affix your name as an adult to documents that effectively justify terror against civilians, do you expect that you will be welcomed with open arms to jobs where you will likely have Jewish colleagues and clients—or anyone who objects to the slaughter of innocents?
It’s not really conservatives who made these supposed “cancellations” anyway. True, Judge Matthew Solomsen, who reportedly said signers of the infamous letters would not be his clerks, is a Trump appointee, but there’s probably little chance such Ivy League lefties were going to be working for him in any case. The rest of the group are all openly liberal or not openly anything. Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, who initially asked for the names of students signing the Harvard document, is a long-time donor to Democratic candidates including Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez. It’s safe to say that big-name law firms such as Davis Polk and Winston & Strawn are not known as conservative legal bastions. In fact, just last week Winston & Strawn refused to answer any questions about its “diversity fellowships” from conservative legal activist Edward Blum, who contends that they discriminate against white men.
Even if it had been mostly people on the right, what would have been the problem? And even if those on the right encouraged these decisions, what would have been the problem? Among others, Christopher Rufo observes that those supporting Hamas are not just single-issue terror supporters. They are intimately tied not only to many other radical groups, but they are provided cover by the academic theorists and activists. Backing this up, Ryan Mauro of Capital Research discovered that one Antifa funding group called Network for Strong Communities has been pouring money into all sorts of radical Islamist groups. Rufo argues that now is the time to force the issue: “As the public begins to connect the dots between Hamas, BLM, the DSA, and academic ‘decolonization,’ responsible political leaders will be forced to accept that recent events in Israel are not simply a matter of foreign affairs but have deep domestic ramifications.” We should be working to encourage corporations and law firms to start rejecting these noxious professors and students who are preaching hatred not only of Jews but of our country and its history.
Finally, it is not wrong to encourage even cancellations that we wouldn’t necessarily approve of in a different climate. If leftists are willing to cancel us for old social media posts or infelicitous words, requiring them to follow through with these rules for people on their own side—or even initiating such action—is not hypocritical. If they are not willing to apply their principles fairly, then they are the hypocrites. It’s also realism on our part. The way to fight against bullies is to punch back at them. If they want to operate according to insane rules and cancel people not of their political tribe for stupid things, we ought to force them to do the same for their own.
And what is true of cancellation is true, too, of more serious matters. This week Trump supporter Douglas Mackey was sentenced to seven months in prison for election interference. He shared a meme that encouraged Democrats “Avoid the line. Vote from Home” by texting “’Hillary’ to 59925.” According to Obama-appointed Judge Ann Donnelly, this was “nothing short of an assault on our democracy.”
Strange, because Kristina Wong, a Hillary supporter, tweeted on November 8, 2016: “Hey Trump Supporters! Skip poll lines at #Election2016 and TEXT in your vote! Text votes are legit. Or vote tomorrow on Super Wednesday!” She has never been charged with anything. And her tweet remains up today.
So too the pro-Palestinian protests on Wednesday, October 18, in which hundreds were arrested for taking over a Capitol building, including three for assaulting police. As Julie Kelly of American Greatness commented in a thread on X on Saturday, the way this event was being handled was distinctly different from the way the very similar January 6, 2021, protest was: “Assault on officer a local misdemeanor not a federal offense like J6ers. And someone was in an office without permission? Gulag worthy.” She continued: “Doesn’t matter how they got in the building. Assaulting/impeding police, threatening a lawmaker (MTG), remaining on restricted grounds (USCP confirmed demonstrations are NOT allowed) and interrupting Senate business all treated as federal offenses for J6. And media dropped it.”
Not surprising about media, but the GOP ought not drop it. If Republicans cannot do anything about Douglas Mackey or the January 6 protesters who have been treated so unfairly, they can certainly figure out how to start punishing Kristina Wong and those who protested in the Capitol this week. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene should not have been the only one to call for the events to be treated similarly. She called for a censure of Rep. Rashida Tlaib, for Capitol Police to save all reports, photographs, and film of the event, and for the House Administration Committee to launch a full investigation.
If we want to get back to equality under the rule of law and the peace of a country in which there is a healthy tolerance of differing ideas, we are going to have to fight back in ways that we may not like. It’s not just ordinary people but Republican politicians who need to understand that when they refuse to fight back with the political and legal tools they have, they are themselves putting in danger the principles of freedom they claim to profess. We didn’t start this fire. But unless we start fighting it with our own fire, the blaze is going to consume us.
David P. Deavel teaches at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, and is a Senior Contributor to The Imaginative Conservative. Follow him on X (Twitter) @davidpdeavel.