By Larry Elder
John Wayne’s 1971 Playboy magazine interview has placed the legendary actor in the crosshairs of today’s cancel culture social justice warriors. Activists demand that his name be removed from an Orange County, Calif. airport.
What did Wayne say 49 years ago? He said: “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.” He added, “I don’t feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago, these people were slaves.”
Wayne’s son Ethan does not defend his father’s words but asks for perspective: “There’s no excuse for the words he said. It was 1971; we used different words back then. It was a different time.”
Does this new standard apply, for example, to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.? King wrote an advice column carried by the popular black monthly magazine, Ebony. A closeted gay teenager wrote him:
Question: “My problem is different from the ones most people have. I am a boy, but I feel about boys the way I ought to feel about girls. I don’t want my parents to know about me. What can I do? Is there any place where I can go for help?”
Answer: “Your problem is not at all an uncommon one. However, it does require careful attention. The type of feeling that you have toward boys is probably not an innate tendency, but something that has been culturally acquired. Your reasons for adopting this habit have now been consciously suppressed or unconsciously repressed. Therefore, it is necessary to deal with this problem by getting back to some of the experiences and circumstances that lead to the habit. In order to do this, I would suggest that you see a good psychiatrist who can assist you in bringing to the forefront of conscience all of those experiences and circumstances that lead to the habit. You are already on the right road toward a solution, since you honestly recognize the problem and have a desire to solve it.”
For this advice, which today would be called offensive and homophobic, should we cancel King?
Recall the furor when President Donald Trump reportedly referred to Haiti and some African countries as “s—-hole countries.”
President John F. Kennedy, according to former New York Times investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, made a similar remark. In The Dark Side of Camelot, Hersh described an angry Kennedy reacting to a request from a man who had not supported his election yet nevertheless wanted a high-profile diplomatic assignment in the Kennedy administration. The president exploded, “I’m going to [get] him,” adding, “I’m going to send him to one of those boogie republics in Central Africa.” Boogie republics?
What about Kennedy’s treatment of Sammy Davis Jr.? The popular entertainer campaigned tirelessly for JFK in 1960, even agreeing to postpone his wedding to a white actress to avoid alienating potential Kennedy voters. Burt Boyar, Davis’s biographer, said that when Davis got married following Kennedy’s election, Kennedy rewarded him by disinviting Davis from attending, let alone performing at, the inaugural.
Downtown Atlanta prominently displays a statue of Andrew Young, the former Atlanta mayor and the first black ambassador to the United Nations. A friend and colleague of King, Young was with MLK at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. where King was assassinated. Young later became a spokesperson for a Walmart advocacy group. In a 2006 interview with a black newspaper, Young addressed the complaint that Walmart displaces mom-and-pop stores, many of which are owned by Arabs:
“Well, I think they should; they ran the mom-and-pop stores out of my neighborhood. But you see, those are the people who have been overcharging us—selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they’ve ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans, and now it’s Arabs. Very few black people own these stores.” Young later apologized, but Walmart dropped him as a spokesperson. Should his statue be torn down?
Harry Truman often referred to Jews as “kikes” and New York City as “Hymietown.” In a 1911 letter to his future wife, the future president wrote: “Uncle Will says that the Lord made a white man from dust, a [Negro] from mud, then he threw up what was left and it came down a Chinaman. He does hate Chinese and Japs. So do I. It is race prejudice, I guess. But I am strongly of the opinion Negroes ought to be in Africa, yellow men in Asia, and white men in Europe and America.” But, as president, Truman supported the creation of the modern state of Israel, and his support was crucial.
Robert F. Kennedy, as attorney general, authorized wiretaps on Martin Luther King Jr., at a request made by notorious FBI head J. Edgar Hoover.
How far does this cancel culture purge go, and who’s next? Should they all be canceled?
Larry Elder is an American libertarian talk radio host, author, and attorney who hosts “The Larry Elder Show.” He is also a columnist with Creators Syndicate. He can be reached via Instagram at instagram.com/larryeldershow/ and can be found on Twitter at @larryelder. See also www.LarryElder.com.
Attacked for Rejecting Cancel Culture
150 academics, authors condemned for sticking up for freedom of speech.
By S.T. Patrick
It almost sounds like the premise of a bad joke. How do you know the “cancel culture” has gone too far? When a collection of the world’s top leftists look like the rational, open-minded purveyors in the argument over free speech. Yet that’s exactly what happened when 150 well-known, left-leaning thinkers, media members, writers, journalists, and celebrities signed an open letter urging a wider berth on the clamping down of free speech by Generation Cancel. As 2020 has become an even weirder year, the godparents of leftist culture finally had to intervene to reign in the unruly kids in the family. In doing so, they have opened themselves to the same whips of cancellation.
The Vox media network has been a left-leaning organization since its inception. It became ground zero of the cancel culture on Twitter recently when its editor, Matthew Yglesias, signed the letter condemning the “cancel culture.” The letter, which included signatories such as Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, philosopher Noam Chomsky, and Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood, was published in Harper’s Weekly. Almost immediately, the signers of the letter were labelled as white, wealthy, and privileged—three of the most egregious demographic banes, according to the cancel culture.
Yglesias faced backlash from his own newsroom and staffers, some of whom determined that his signing of the letter somehow antagonized transgendered people. While the letter does not attack transgendered people, Vox’s transgendered critic-at-large Emily VanDerWerff claimed it sent “many dog whistles towards anti-trans positions.” It is typical of the cancel culture, when something clearly isn’t there, to read their pet aggravations into an issue or statement by claiming invisible “dog whistles” are being sent. Vox employees and even Yglesias’s co-founder, Ezra Klein, couldn’t wait to virtue signal over the signature. It is more important to be accepted by a radical microculture in the moment than it is to fall on the right side of history.
Joining Yglesias, Rowling, Chomsky, and Atwood in the letter was CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, The Atlantic’s David Frum, Bari Weiss, Salmon Rush die, Malcolm Gladwell, Gloria Steinem, and others.
Rowling is no stranger to the arrows of the cancel culture. She is already persona non grata for writing tweets that dared to hint that sexual identity through gender (identifying as a biological man or woman) is real. This seemed to be a concept as old as “fire is hot,” yet what was returned to her by the New Left was cancellation for stating that gender identity is biological and that ignoring that does more harm to women’s issues than acknowledging it. “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction,” Rowling tweeted. “If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.” No part of Rowling’s series of tweets were anything outside of the mainstream left. After the comments, she was fiercely attacked, compared to Hitler, and threatened with violence.
Famed leftist intellectual Noam Chomsky now looks like a conservative, as the left has tilted so far awry from anything resembling fair on the idea of free speech. Chomsky has said, “If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re really in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech.”
What we really don’t know is what part of the cancel culture has so outraged the leftists who, for now, look like the mainstream on the debate. They are probably less upset about the defacing of a Jefferson Davis statue than they are about the fall of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey, and comedian Kevin Hart.
The letter’s final paragraph began with a concern about which those across the political spectrum can agree: “This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation.” The question is whether the signers have enough self-awareness to realize and accept their own responsibility in the rise of the cancel culture decades ago. Do they know what they hath wrought?
S.T. Patrick holds degrees in both journalism and social studies education. He spent 10 years as an educator and now hosts the “Midnight Writer News Show.” His email is [email protected]. He is also an occasional contributor to TBR history magazine and the current managing editor of Deep Truth Journal (DTJ), a new conspiracy-focused publication available from the AFP Online Store.