Cancel culture: Absolute power corrupts absolutely *UPDATE*

The cancel culture of the campus outrage mob has burst into the wider world and it is daily revealing the truism that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

When it comes to cancel culture, conservatives have been the canary in the coalmine. Because they’ve been paying attention to what’s been happening on America’s college and university campuses, they’ve been witnessing the rise of cancel culture since its inception. For a long time, conservatives were the only ones paying attention and, when they tried to inform their leftist friends, they were told that they were being hysterical and paranoid. Now, though, everyone is paying attention, including a handful of worried leftists, because cancel culture is taking over America.

Every day brings more headlines about one person or another being canceled, not because the person said something truly horrible such as, “All [fill in the blank] deserve to die in the gas chambers because they are subhuman cockroaches.” Instead, they’re getting canceled for making common sense statements or for articulating views that were acceptable as little as five or six years ago.

The latest victim of cancel culture is a man of Hispanic man, Robert (Bob) Unanue. Unanue was born in America, but he’s the descendent of Prudencio Unanue Ortiz, a native of Spain who came to America via Puerto Rico immediately after WWI. In a true immigrant success story, Ortiz founded Goya, the largest Hispanic-owed food company in the United States and the 377th largest private American company. It is to be hoped that this preeminence means the Unanue family has deep pockets because the cancel culture leftists are planning on breaking the company.

Did the company discriminate against workers, a charge that is constantly being hurled at woke organizations? No.

Does it use Asian slave labor to avoid the Democrat-imposed cost of doing business in America, as most of America’s most aggressively woke corporations do? No.

Is the Unanue family involved in pedophilia, as a long list of the world’s leftist luminaries may have been thanks to their close associations with Jeffrey Epstein, or did it cover-up sexual assaults as Hollywood’s stars did with Harvey Weinstein’s endless list of sexual depredations? No.

Did Goya run its American business like a modern-day sweatshop, ignoring all state and federal safety rules, so that a day at Goya was the functional equivalent of a day in a communist China slave factory? No.

The reason the cancel culture mob has decided that Goya must be destroyed is because Bob Unanue said that he likes Donald Trump:

I have never bought Goya food before today, but today I bought four cans of beans, and I’m sure they’ll be delicious. It was all I could think of to do in the short term to make a stand against this cancel culture.

The cancel culture is becoming so prevalent that Real Clear Politics, for a short time, added a new category to the sidebar on the lefthand side of its page. In addition to such logical topics as “Election 2020,” “Supreme Court,” and “Battle for Congress,” you could find links to cancel culture stories. That’s gone today, probably itself a victim of cancel culture.

Meanwhile, on campus, the mob’s lust for power is still growing. I’ll end this post with a story about one campus — Macalester College — which is one of the most reliably left campuses in America (it’s #33 on one list of America’s most liberal colleges). The story is a perfect illustration of how the Maoist student cancel culture operates. It’s drunk with its power and will pounce on and destroy the slightest hint of heretical thinking or, worse, any challenge to its power.

The following narrative perfectly illustrates that power corrupts and absolute corrupts absolutely. It highlights how we as a society, in the name of politeness or apathy or even a modicum of true belief, have been stupid enough to vest absolute power in the most ill-informed, illogical, and emotional members of our society; namely, students. Just as they drove Mao’s bloody Cultural Revolution, they’re currently driving ours.

It all began when the Macalester Biology Department wrote a letter to campus leaders in mid-June cautioning against “in-person” instruction. The weekly campus paper published the letter — and the social justice warriors went insane.

To a normal person reading the letter, there’s nothing offensive in it. It starts with the ritual obeisance to the Black Lives Matter movement. Then it moves to a combination of fear and science, as the department takes a stand against returning classes to campus in the fall. The department letter talks about how contagious the virus is, and riffs through masks and all the other worries that people, especially leftist people, have had about the Wuhan virus. Buried deep in the long, long letter about fear and virus there is one sentence, which most would have thought is as politically correct as a sentence can be:

Unsurprisingly, Indigenous people and communities of color in the United States are bearing the brunt of the pandemic; the Covid-related death rate in Blacks is more than twice that of Whites.

Within minutes of the publication, Macalester’s victim-centric, highly woke, safe-space culture censors were on the job. Not for them the concerns about a virus and the future of their educational system. No, this was all about the massive racist injury the Biology Department had inflicted on the school. (And, to be clear, while the campus has a lot of foreign students, the American student is overwhelmingly white.)

I’m reprinting here all of the comments about the Biology Department’s linguistic misstep because I believe it’s important to understand the self-righteousness, the monomania, and the sense of uncontrolled outrage that flowed from a single word in a long essay that was manifestly concerned about everyone’s health. It’s not enough to know students are doing this. You need to see its volume and content, even if you don’t read every letter but just scroll down to my next observation:

Maria Peterson on June 15th, 2020 9:02 pm

If you’re trying to talk about the very real effects of medical/environmental racism on people in our community, you definitely should NOT use the term “Blacks” to describe those people!! (PEOPLE being the operative word.) It doesn’t matter that you’ve capitalized it – there’s no way for that word to be used by people who are not Black to describe people who are and have it be acceptable.

Alex on June 15th, 2020 9:04 pm

Biology department we absolutely do not use the word “Blacks” to refer to black people anymore — it’s gross and dehumanizing.

Aubrey on June 16th, 2020 12:29 pm

Disappointed in the biology’s referral to Black PEOPLE as “Blacks”. This language is dehumanizing towards Black people as stated in other comments. The biology dept. owes Black students and members of the Macalester community an apology citing their wrongdoing as well as why it was wrong, taking responsibility for this, acknowledging the need for their own further education on how to address Black people in discourse, and a clear explanation for what steps they will take towards further educating themselves.

Anni Clark on June 16th, 2020 12:43 pm

For people who open their letter acknowledging the crisis of anti-black racism, you’d think they’d know better than to use Blacks to describe people like it’s not 2020. What a hilarious and tragic display of the type of un-self-critical neoliberalism Macalester pretends to be above.

Sam on June 16th, 2020 1:09 pm

It’s hard to read this for its intended purpose when you use the term “Blacks.” Surely the Macalester Biology department knows scientific terminology has been used to codify racist language. They should know that “Blacks” is just another example of that long, dehumanizing tradition. But, clearly, the Biology department does not. Immediately change the terminology used in this post, apologize to the Macalester black community and commit to educating yourselves and your students about the history of racism within the natural sciences (and everywhere).

Jenna on June 16th, 2020 1:19 pm

Using “Blacks” to describe people? No, just no.

Cordelia on June 16th, 2020 2:43 pm

Using the word “Blacks” to describe people who consistently face racism and discrimination particularly in the medical community (and in STEM fields such as Biology) is not the way to communicate your point. This language is dehumanizing and unacceptable. Do better.

Kennedy on June 16th, 2020 3:23 pm

Please do not use “blacks” to refer to black people. This shouldn’t be something we have to comment in 2020.

Nora on June 16th, 2020 4:25 pm

While I appreciate that the biology department acknowledges that the use of the word “Blacks” was offensive and unacceptable, it warrants more than an edit and a note saying that it was an oversight. It warrants an apology to Black members of the community.

Addie on June 16th, 2020 4:28 pm

The use of “Blacks” in this letter represents a much deeper problem of how race and racism is talked about in the Biology department. Where’s the Biology/American Studies cross-listed class? Didn’t we just have Dorothy Roberts [a person who makes her living preaching about black victimhood] come speak at Macalester?

Conor on June 16th, 2020 6:03 pm

Have to say, even though it’s been changed, using “Blacks” in a letter which ostensibly engaged with systemic racism was… not a good look. I appreciate faculty publicly critiquing the administration’s COVID-19 response, but the Biology department needs to be careful and aware of how the language it uses can feed into a pattern of dehumanization. Especially in a field that for a /very/ long time aided and abetted the pseudoscience of eugenics. I’m wondering if the genetics class has a unit on debunking eugenics? Or if cell biology discusses the history and treatment of Henrietta Lacks? Perhaps with a more regular curricular awareness of systemic racism that pervades the sciences (and how careless language is deeply linked with that) on the part of both students and faculty in the biology department, this comments section would be focusing more on the necessary discussion of COVID-19 preparedness the letter highlights.

Joel Stegner on June 16th, 2020 10:04 pm [Stegner is a class of 1971 graduate Macalester graduate who is now on the Edina Community Health Commission. If the name Edina rings a bell, it’s because it destroyed its school system by going full social justice.]

Bigotry can kill, harm and give offense. In a multicultural world, if people are going to get along, they need to understand the history of words and their official and underlying meanings. White Americans are generally ignorant of people from other places and cultures. That means a high risk of giving offense everywhere they go. And the offense goes in all directions. Want to offend a biologist? Call COVID-19 the flu. People want their expertise and experience respected and valued.

As with spell checking, perhaps we need a “offense check” for language and phrases that disrespect others, with the “offense checks” suggesting a more respectful word. Our language comes from many sources and words are constantly developed to describe what is going on that current words don’t fit. Those with great language skills have an easier time keeping up with the changes. The words of science can be mysterious, but they are generally emotionally neutral, not disrespectful.

Once, curse words were taboo, but the ethnic, religous and racial slurs were tolerated. This has flipped. Part of life-long learning is unlearning old offensive language by calling it out so people can do better. Sort of like the Mac students who uncovered the very mixed legacy of our first college president. The hateful words and thoughts of the 19th century are still with us.

The US is not doing all the right things to minimize pandemic risk and our people want quick, easy solutions where none exist. There are risks with every choice – but health and life must take top priority. Some decisions can be made now. Does Mac require its community to be vaccinated for common diseases? Vaccine refusniks without immunity impose unnecessary risks on others. Mac is a residential school where a lot of learning happens collaboratively. Collaborative learning can happen online, but part of the greatness of small colleges is that students can work, study, do extracurriculars and have fun today. Not easily replaced.

So can what factors drive shutting down versus opening up and how you deal with students who need to go into quarantine? Should everyone who visits campus be maske, have their temperature taken and turned away if they show symptoms? Are some of the precautions for COVID-19 extended to other communicable diseases? It is common with low wage employees to have no sick time. Will anyone still expected to be in class however they are feeling? Do they get a few excuse-free sick days and grace on late assignments. This begs for a policy manual – not a 10,000 foot description, but ground level where students and staff live.

I attended during dangerous times – where students were sent off to war and non-violent protesters were being killed by police. We also had our classes ended early one year, so hundreds could participate in the March on Washington. Sometimes what what is necessary needs to be done, and smart people will figure out how to work around it an provide a fine four-year school experience. This is another one of those times.

Abby on June 16th, 2020 10:47 pm

Biology Department, what concrete actions will you be taking to address this dehumanization and make sure students do not perpetuate it in the future?

There were a handful of other letters that addressed the substantive issues, which are not relevant here, plus one more that I’ll discuss in a minute. But first, you need to know that, just one day after publishing the letter, the paper announced a correction:

An earlier version of this letter used the word “Blacks” to refer to Black people. The department stated that this was a clear and offensive oversight, and requested that this be changed.

Two days after publication, the biology department wrote its groveling, terrified, Maoist post-struggle confession:

We write on behalf of the Biology Department. We apologize to the Black students, staff, faculty, alumni, and to the larger community for our use of the racist and dehumanizing term “Blacks” in our letter to the community re: Covid-19 preparations. We are deeply sorry for compounding the anti-Black racism that has existed for far too long. We recognize that using this language reflects our own shortcomings and those of our discipline, and highlights the work we must do to engage with racism and confront anti-Blackness in our department, in our discipline, in our college, and in our communities. Going forward, we will continue to contemplate and examine our own deep biases, work hard, and take specific actions to correct them. We would also like to express our gratitude to those who spoke out. Please continue to hold us—and Macalester overall— accountable for making required structural and personal changes. We are grateful to the Mac Weekly for allowing us to correct the offensive language. Our letter was intended to voice our common concerns for the health and safety of all students, faculty and staff and to offer constructive ideas for safe and equitable teaching and learning that could reduce the risks of the pandemic in our communities. We hope that as we acknowledge and learn from our mistakes, we can continue to listen, communicate, deliberate, and mobilize our collective voices and efforts to take care of each other in the face of the formidable challenges before us.

Sincerely, The Biology Department

But that’s not the end of it. As I mentioned above, there was another letter in the list. The author praised the Biology Department’s original letter for its humanity and thoughtfulness, and then challenged the idea that anything about the letter was dehumanizing, gross, or otherwise evil. Here’s Professor Arjun Guneratne’s letter:

Arjun Guneratne, Professor of Anthropology on June 17th, 2020 10:29 pm

Far from being either dehumanizing or gross, the Biology department’s letter is one of the most humane and thoughtful I have ever seen emerge from a group of either faculty or students at Macalester. In circulating this letter and pointing out the dangers that members of the Macalester community face should we return to campus in the Fall, in the face of a pandemic that has taken the lives of 120,000 Americans and is likely to take tens of thousands more, the Biology Department has done all of us a signal service. They deserve our gratitude for their sober, scientifically-grounded, well-thought out and humanely-informed critique of the college’s actions. The outrage these self-appointed language police feel about racism should be directed, not at the Biology Department, which has done nothing to deserve it, but at the disproportionate numbers of black and brown people who have died in this pandemic. There is nothing objectionable about the sentence “the Covid-related death rate in Blacks is more than twice that of Whites”. It would certainly have been objectionable if the Biology department had used the phrase “the Blacks” a la Trump; that is a distancing and othering move, which is why people object to that kind of usage. But there is nothing inappropriate about the way “Blacks” is used in this context, any more than there is in the reference to “Whites”. Far from being an othering move, the statement invites us to consider the tragedy and inequitable treatment that is the lot of those of our fellow Americans who are people of color contrasted with those who are white. If all these indignant commentators had taken the trouble to go to the Guardian article that is linked to this statement, they would have seen that the author uses the terms African-American, entire black population, black residents, and finally the phrase “the disparity in death rate between blacks and whites” to refer to black people.

Rather than being distracted by these self-righteous critiques, we need to stay focused on the central point of the letter: re-opening in the Fall will make a number of us sick, and quite possibly, some of us will die. On Brian Rosenberg’s authority, college campuses aren’t designed for social distancing. Given that death by Covid-19 has overtaken so many of our fellows across the U.S., why would we believe that Macalester is immune to similar tragedies?

As I said, the Biology Department deserves our thanks. Thank you, colleagues! You guys are doing a great job. Keep the caravan moving forward.

Normal people will read Guneratne’s letter and agree with it. They’ll see him as a voice of sanity in a wilderness of hatred and lunacy.

However, I am reliably informed that there’s a movement afoot amongst Macalester students to get Guneratne fired. They’re crowd-sourcing a search through everything he’s said and written to prove that he is a racist.

These students are the Maoists behind the deadly Cultural Revolution in China. You can read about that revolution’s horrors here. Suffice to say that, if we go down that path, allowing these young Marxists to exercise the absolute power and corruption our system is willingly handing them, the results will not be pretty. We may avoid cannibalism, but America will not survive as a constitutional republic. Instead, it will be just another totalitarian dictatorship ruled by a power-crazed mob.

It’s time to shame the shamers. Without commenting on the merits of Joe McCarthy’s communist hearings and the actual presence of communists in the American government, I want to comment on what stopped McCarthy in his tracks, which was Joseph Welch turning the tables on McCarthy:

In 1954, the public had tired of McCarthy’s tactics and was ready for someone to take him on. Of course, that approach may not work now. The shamers exert their tyranny because the rest of us can feel shame. Unfortunately, shame, duty, and decency are foreign ideas to most of them.

UPDATE: By sheer coincidence, a few hours after I posted this, PowerLine made its readers aware of an article Katherine Kersten wrote exposing Macalester’s habit of indoctrinating students into a militant secular faith:

Macalester by John Hinderaker on Scribd