I used to find the expression “kill your heroes” valuable. Too often, we idolize individuals, assigning them some sort of unimpeachable aura. So to “kill your heroes” meant to recognize that your heroes were human, flaws and all. William Faulkner was an alcoholic. Alexander Pushkin opted to duel over his wife and died in the process. Ernest Hemingway was a serial cheater.
The endgame of this metaphorical killing was never destruction. If anything, it was to stave off the inevitable crashing disappointment you might otherwise experience had you not prepared yourself emotionally for your idols’ imperfections. This killing was ironically a humanizing one—it made you realize that your heroes were far more like you than you initially anticipated.
Iowan Carson King was catapulted to social media heroism after his stunt to raise beer money ended up generating a wild amount of funds beyond anything the 24-year-old could have foreseen. He opted to donate these funds to a local hospital instead of keeping for himself. King recently announced on a local radio station in Iowa that he had reached nearly $3 million in donated funds, a third of which consisted of donations sent directly to his Venmo and the rest a result of a matching campaign by Anheuser-Busch and Venmo.
After King’s fund reached its first million, the Des Moines Register did a profile on King that included two vulgar tweets King had penned as a 16-year-old quoting comedian Daniel Tosh. The author of the Register article, Aaron Calvin, received significant backlash, with people eventually digging up vulgar tweets Calvin had written. In a swift act of retribution, Calvin was fired from the Des Moines Register.
The Carson King saga reveals the excesses of the cancel culture spawned by rabid social justice warriors. What began as a fastidious practice among leftists seeking to root out the “evil” among us through digging up old tweets has now turned into an entire cabbage industry of “canceling” people’s careers.
The process itself is rather simple—one self-anointed “warrior” exposes someone for something he or she said (or did) years ago and then proceeds to incite masses of people to join in the public shaming. The desired outcome is the forceful removal of the individual from the public sphere of acceptability, and generally, the systematic scourging process works.
There are certain individuals whose behavior is egregious enough that canceling is surely justified (for instance, Kevin Spacey). There are others, like Woody Allen, who perhaps should be subjected to the wrath of cancel culture but have managed to evade its clutches. But then there is another category of individuals who have fallen victim to the screeching of social justice warriors and unjustifiably so. Those are the Taylor Swifts and Dave Chapelles of cancel culture. And now Carson King.
The mob attempted to cancel Taylor for not saying enough about politics while attacking Chapelle for saying too much about politics. From this swivel, it becomes abundantly clear that it’s not about promoting political discussion—it’s about conditioning cultural icons to regurgitate leftism and then threatening the destruction of their careers if they do not. Indeed, from this vantage point, it becomes clear that cancel culture is the culmination of the left’s ownership of the cultural complex.
But what happens when cancel culture attacks the “normals” among us, the non-famous who happen to be thrown into the spotlight? Apparently, the public fights back—King’s donations only increased after Calvin’s quasi-hit piece.
Perhaps this phenomenon is because the evisceration of King at the hands of a local newspaper for two tweets he wrote as a 16-year-old strikes fear in the general public, who may begin to wonder if they too wrote something vulgar and objectionable as teenagers that would repulse them now. Perhaps it’s evidence of society growing tired of the constant cycle of outrage that rarely seems appropriately tempered to the alleged offense.
For all intents and purposes, King’s dramatic success despite being trapped in the jaws of cancel culture represents a revenge of the normals. Leftists may be able to “cancel” Hollywood figures—the stereotypical heroes—by scraping together the appropriate amount of “dirt” on a given star, but it seems that this approach has less purchase on non-celebrities, especially when they’re backed by their communities. Indeed, among many, the reaction to King’s tweets was initially disgust, followed by appreciation for his transformation into someone who would never pen those tweets.
There’s a certain kryptonite for cancel culture, and it’s the public’s capacity to humanize. In attempting to “cancel” a local hero via exposing vulgar tweets he wrote at age 16, social justice warriors invited the public to humanize him. Although King’s tweets are in no way excusable, the public appreciated the chance to witness the personal growth evinced in his very public apology.
Therefore, in attempting to “cancel” King, it seems cancel culture “killed” him instead. And sometimes, as with Faulkner and Hemingway, it’s okay to kill your heroes. And sometimes, they resurrect themselves.