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How Cancel Culture Is Empowering Alternatives To Corrupt Legacy Institutions


Corporations are using their power to enforce radical cultural standards—imported into their boardrooms from academia—on the rest of the country. Look no further than the last few days at Disney for evidence. The effect, however, is to empower a new infrastructure that will challenge the dominance of legacy cultural institutions.

Ahead of Valentine’s Day, Disney-owned ABC aired a sympathetic report about OnlyFans, endorsing pornography as empowerment without any pushback whatsoever. Then Disney’s Lucasfilms dropped Gina Carano from “The Mandalorian” over a clumsy anti-woke meme she had already deleted, which was likely just the company’s excuse to expel a center-right celebrity from its ranks anyway.

Days later, Chris Harrison stepped aside from hosting “The Bachelor” after leftist complaints about his call for “grace” towards a contestant accused of racial insensitivity.

Canceling the Debate on Cancel Culture

The second two case studies share a common threat to the left—they involve high-profile arguments against “cancel culture” dogma. The effect of punishing—or canceling—the people behind those arguments is to cancel the debate on cancel culture. If I didn’t think the cancelers were too shortsighted to plan that out, it would be genius.

What happened to Carano and Harrison is deeply unjust, but they’re wealthy celebrities with money and clout who will ultimately be fine. The real victims are everyday people. You can draw a direct line from Carano and Harrison to the girl who lost her cheerleading scholarship over an old Snapchat video, or the crazy critical race and gender curricula popping up all over the country.

Corporations play a powerful role in shaping our cultural standards and precedents. They help draw the lines. Now that they’re run by college-educated millennials drunk on Robin DiAngelo, who’ve either replaced their elders or used their progressive-or-bigot binary to intimidate them into submission, major corporations are shaping society to resemble campuses.

If Harrison can’t debate cancel culture with nuance and compassion, why should a parent open his mouth at a school board meeting to protest “I Am Jazz”? Why should any company risk media backlash and a public relations headache by keeping an employee who posted a clumsy meme?

There are real consequences to cancel culture outside celebrity circles. The chilling of speech is not merely an abstract conversation, “grievance politics” for the pundit class. It’s wreaking havoc on the country and scaring real people.

New Demand Fuels New Institutions

So there’s now increasing demand for entertainment uncorrupted by leftist politics—or politics at all, in some cases. In the wake of Carano’s firing, Bari Weiss resurfaced her call for heterodox thinkers to immediately build their own platforms:

Build original, interesting and generative things right now. This minute. Every day I hear from those with means with children at private schools who are being brainwashed; people who run companies where they are scared of their own employees; people who donate to their alma mater even though it betrays their principles. Enough. You have the ability to build new things. If you don’t have the financial capital, you have the social or political capital. Or the ability to sweat.

Ben Domenech and I have documented many such efforts in our series on the New Contras, a term for the growing army of anti-woke thinkers using new platforms to capitalize on the mounting demand for authentic voices in media. Until recently, however, that list didn’t really include any filmmakers.

The Daily Wire’s new foray into film production and distribution, which kicked off with “Run Hide Fight,” is a very big deal. It got bigger this week, thanks to Disney. Shortly after Lucasfilms ditched her, The Daily Wire announced Carano would be producing and starring in a new film as part of their partnership with Bonfire Legend.

Carano brings with her to the project a largely nonpolitical fanbase of “Mandalorian” viewers, some of whom are exasperated with cancel culture and some of whom just love her as an artist and want to see more. The audience for productions created outside the traditional infrastructures of our cultural institutions is growing beyond mere Republicans. That means these projects will have the budgets and talent to compete with the quality of those legacy institutions, whether they’re in Hollywood, news media, podcasting, or even music.

I shot Bonfire Legend founder Dallas Sonnier an email to ask about the response to the Carano announcement, and whether there’s enough demand to fund big projects like this one.

“Since we announced the partnership between Gina Carano, The Daily Wire, and Bonfire Legend, the story hit a fever pitch over the weekend with press coverage from Vanity Fair to CBS, even TMZ! There were over 1700 comments on the Deadline announcements, whereas a typical article on that site garners 0-10 comments. And social media has expectedly divided in half over their support vs condemnation of the news,” Sonnier wrote back. “This is all indicative of where we are a society right now, but also proof that the demand is through the roof. Now we just have to meet that demand by making great movies that delight mainstream audiences and melt the faces of our most vocal critics.”

Advancements in self-publishing and crowdfunding tools like Substack and Patreon are propelling this movement powerfully. So too are the cancelations. Projects like The Daily Wire-Bonfire Legend collaboration or, say, Glenn Greenwald’s Substack, demonstrate to high-profile celebrities that there are places for them to land, which legitimizes and empowers these new alternatives, supported by the imprimatur of big names, and frees up everyone to create art and journalism with fewer inhibitions.

Corporations are convinced social media mobs present legitimate challenges to their bottom lines, which is why they offload people like Carano. Not only is that unjust, it’s obviously wrong, even in the case of The New York Times and Weiss. The majority of people unbothered by most allegations of political incorrectness, which typically range from flimsy to laughable, will consume the work of the canceled. They will do it eagerly, in many cases.

The future is more niches and a more splintered media landscape. While the power of these legacy institutions won’t dissolve overnight, their corruption is rapidly creating demand for alternatives, and those alternatives are rapidly creating powerful infrastructures of their own.