“Canceling” people who disagree with you over ordinary political issues is bad for civil society. Ruining someone’s life because he wore a MAGA cap or tweeted something stupid or supported the wrong initiative creates an oppressive environment for open discourse.
“Canceling” people who sign petitions and hold up signs that openly celebrate or justify the targeted, brutal murders of women and babies, on the other hand, is good for civil society. Stopping malevolent ideas from being normalized is good. Exercising your First Amendment right to free speech and free association to shun and call out people who spread odious ideas in public life is a moral imperative.
Because people who walk around ripping down posters of kidnapped children and women aren’t pondering the future of a “two-state solution” or the Gazan refugee situation, they are moral degenerates. In the same way you wouldn’t hire the guy who stands in front of Disney World waving around a swastika flag, you shouldn’t hire someone who marches with a sign that reads “from the river to the sea.” Both convey the same sentiment. The ethical line is bright and obvious. If you don’t see it, something is broken in you.
Though I’m not a fan of mobs, I’ve never been a big critic of cancel culture, either. Looking back, I could find only one piece I’ve written on the topic — and it concerned itself with double standards. It’s a slippery term. And there is facet to the debate that’s often overlooked. Americans have no obligation to associate with those who attack their deep-seated values. To hire someone who signs a pro-Hamas petition can be an endorsement of that outlook. Your company is not an open social media platform which exists as a forum for debate, it has a reputation and customers. (Not that I believe the state should be able to compel social media companies to host opinions, either.)
And it’s not as if you asked these people to give you their opinion on genocide. They did so by their own volition. The Harvard petitions blaming Jews for their own murders were signed and released for public consumption. They were released before Israel had even counted the dead, much less invaded Gaza. If law students were celebrating 9/11 on 9/12, would New York firms have a responsibility to provide them with gainful employment? No, they would be rejected in the real world and compelled to get jobs in academia, where such views are welcome.
Of course, the contention that “pro-Palestinian” advocates, or even those who talk about Israel as if it was some authoritarian proto-Nazi state, are being mass canceled is a myth, anyway. They fill the op-ed pages of major newspapers and cable news. They dominate campuses. They aren’t canceled. They are rewarded. When someone like “porn star” Mia Khalifa was “canceled,” it is because she was quite literally rejoicing in the murder of innocent people in real time.
Ibrahim Bharmal, who one suspects is dumber than the average internet prostitute, is the editor of the Harvard Law Review, not some rando trying to wind people up on the internet. He is out there physically and verbally abusing a Jewish student during a pro-Hamas rally on campus like some kind of Brownshirt. Does Harvard have a responsibility to have him on campus? Why should a firm with Jewish partners — or any decent people — hire him?
Harvard, by the way, has assembled a special task force to help students who signed pro-Hamas statements deal with the blowback. Apparently some people are under the impression they’re the only ones allowed to speak.
The notion that anti-Israel pundits are concerned about double standards, by the way, is risible. You might recall that Harvard rescinded its offer to pro-Second Amendment Parkland kid Kyle Kashuv, ostensibly over things he tweeted as a 16-year-old. No one cared. Today, Georgetown thinks it’s fine to cancel Ilya Shapiro for a single inarticulate tweet but it will not cancel a professor who complains online about “Zio bitches.” The New York Times cancels an editor for running a column from a sitting senator but hires a writer who praises Hitler (true story).
When I say I’m a free-speech absolutist, I mean it. The state should do absolutely nothing to inhibit or censor pro-Hamas Americans from expressing their opinions. Free speech isn’t contingent on your position. Hate speech is free speech. The government has no business prodding or even suggesting limitations on our rhetorical interactions. Even outside state intervention, we should be upholding the values that promote free expression. We can peacefully coexist with colleagues, neighbors and friends who hold contradictory opinions within the normal parameters of political debate.
Likewise, Americans have a right to use their freedom to call out and disassociate themselves from people who take the side with nihilistic murder cults.