When I was part of Cancel Culture, instead of a heretic and a whistleblower, the basic logic seemed sound: if you were sufficiently indoctrinated with Cancel Culture dogma, you knew that the legal system did nothing but fail those who needed it most, that the law had never helped anyone, and the only thing keeping us safe was vigilante justice.
(Nevermind how many oppressed and marginalized people, how many vulnerable people, how many innocent humans had their lives destroyed by what we used to call “Judge Lynch”—this time it would be different, because the right people were running the mob.)
(A note for future generations: Mobs always say this. And it’s basically always a lie. Don’t take me at my word – Google it for yourself.)
Let’s assume the “right” people run those rage mobs (they don’t, but let’s assume.)
Let’s assume their causes and beliefs are ‘correct’, and have the effects they desire (they don’t.)
Let’s assume the mob can do a lot of things the law cannot (they can!) and that giving the mob that power has, both historically and recently, been a good idea (nope; see Emmett Till, Leo Frank, Ricardo and Alfredo Flores – just to name a couple) –
even if we assume all of these things, let’s just look at a really simple fact:
When you tell half a story, you change the meaning of the whole tale.
Say your professor was lecturing about famous white supremacists, and said, “We must never forget how horrific the white supremacy and various bigotries of the KKK have been, and how they succeeded in terrorizing many people, organized with single-minded efficiency to harm lives, and had the harming lives, and were able, for many years, to accomplish their mission of terrorizing and killing people.”
And you tweeted, “Today, my professor said, “The KKK was a successful, efficient organization with many accomplishments.”
You’ve completely changed the meaning of what your professor said. In fact, you’ve basically reversed that message.
But it would make a great, viral message, stirring up plenty of outrage. People would compliment you for your bravery in coming forward about it, and it would be taken as proof that the world is full of monsters.
Only you, your classmates, and the professor would know it was not true. And nobody would believe your professor–the doctrine’s already in place that one doesn’t speak to, or reason with, monsters. Your classmates might know, but who’d speak up? Who wants to be seen as aligning themselves with your monstrous professor? Who wants to take that level of heat, trying to explains what really happened? If people are already willing to believe the worst, and they are, why would they want to hear a contradicting narrative?
Half a narrative is very convincing. But once we remove any obligation to write something more complete, once was say that we need to believe in the horrors without questioning where they came from–worse, once we say that asking the speaker to detail those horrors is an act of aggression against the speaker, that the speaker cannot tell the full truth lest they become the target of some form of retaliation–
We build a framework of lies.
And one unquestionable lie is an ugly thing. Because you can pile any number of greater lies on top of it, and call it true.
In this case, the speaker is a liar. And anyone who has thought through this process will recognize, not all those who speak are liars, but that we need to require proof from those who speak, or we’ll encourage the ever-greater, ever-expanding power of liars.
And that hurts everyone who is trying to tell difficult truths. It hurts those with the courage to speak, those with the courage to listen. Know whom it doesn’t hurt?
The liars. The liars get off with nary a scratch.
The intentions are good here. But validating lies of omission doesn’t help victims, and it doesn’t help prevent predators.
It just gives a different kind of tool to a different kind of predator.