Home/Rod Dreher/Revolutionary Zealots Of Cancel Culture

Revolutionary Zealots Of Cancel Culture

Alexandre Lenoir opposes the destruction of the tomb of Louis XII in Saint Denis, historical sketch by Pierre Joseph Lafontaine (1758-1835). French Revolution, France, 18th century. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Here is a white Young Adult author who has canceled herself in a freakish fashion. She had an upcoming book that featured a heroine from South Carolina’s black Gullah Geechee culture. From Publishers Weekly:

In a statement released yesterday by [Alexandra] Duncan, she refers to exchanges with author colleagues following the cover reveal, which made her aware that in her “misguided attempt to write a book that was inclusive of all cultures of Charleston and the Lowcountry, where the book is set,” she participated in the “ongoing erasure of [the Gullah Geechee] culture.” Explaining that her “own limited worldview as a white person” led her to incorrectly assume she could responsibly depict this culture, Duncan said, “Clearly, the fact that I did not see the signs of the problem with my book’s premise in my research or conversations about the book is evidence that I was not the right person to try to tell this story. I am deeply ashamed to have made a mistake of this magnitude and hope my actions will not negatively affect the cause of bringing greater diversity to children’s literature.”

Duncan also addressed and rejected the misconception that the cancellation is censorship, noting, “It is wholly my decision to withdraw the book in order to mitigate the harm I have done. I have work to do to improve myself and my writing, and I will continue doing it.” She concluded the statement by suggesting that readers support Black authors and providing a list of suggested “published or upcoming YA, all of which contain elements of fantasy and folklore.”

“The harm I have done” — by writing a novel centered on a black character! This is insane. This is a cult.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that a veteran curator at the Metropolitan Museum has run afoul of the woke commissars. Excerpts:

Now, Met Museum employees are sounding their own alarm, prompted by a personal Instagram posting on Friday by the museum’s powerful chairman of European paintings, Keith Christiansen, who has worked at the Met since 1977.

Below a pen-and-ink image of the French archaeologist Alexandre Lenoir, who devoted himself to saving France’s historic monuments from the ravages of the French Revolution, Mr. Christiansen wrote: “Alexandre Lenoir battling the revolutionary zealots bent on destroying the royal tombs in Saint Denis. How many great works of art have been lost to the desire to rid ourselves of a past of which we don’t approve.

“And how grateful we are to people like Lenoir,” Mr. Christiansen continued, “who realized that their value — both artistic and historical — extended beyond a defining moment of social and political upheaval and change.”While Mr. Christiansen appeared to be arguing for the preservation of monuments, he also struck some as insensitive and tone deaf.

The post was criticized in a tweet by the advocacy group of arts workers, Art + Museum Transparency: “Dear @metmuseum, one of your most powerful curators suggested that it’s a shame we’re trying to ‘rid ourselves of a past of which we don’t approve’ by removing monuments — and, worse, making a dog whistle of an equation of #BLM activists with ‘revolutionary zealots.’ This is not OK.”

Responses to the tweet were similarly critical. “This is disgusting,” one comment said, “not acceptable.”

Read it all, and marvel. They’re going after this man because he criticized “revolutionary zealots” who try to take down art they hate — thus proving his point! But that doesn’t matter. Nor does it matter that this appeared on Christensen’s personal Instagram account. The Met’s director threw Christiansen under a bus, and then Christiansen threw himself under the same bus — to no avail. The revolutionary zealots are not satisfied with his apology.

No telling what paintings and other forms of art will be taken out of the Met now.

On the opposite coast, a truly shocking thing has happened to a federal judge. From the LA Times:

The chief judge for the Central District of California, the nation’s largest federal court jurisdiction, which includes Los Angeles and its neighboring counties, has stepped down from that post, citing his racially insensitive comments regarding the court’s top administrative official, a Black woman.

U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, who began a four-year term as chief district judge June 1, announced his decision to step down from the top post but remain a judge in an email Friday to court staff and fellow judges, and offered a public apology to Kiry K. Gray.

A federal court employee for 35 years, Gray in 2015 became the first Black woman appointed to be the Central District’s executive and clerk of court, a job that entails working closely with the chief judge to oversee court operations.

What horrible thing did Judge Carney say about Kiry Gray? More:

The controversy erupted around the time of a June 9 webinar sponsored by the local chapter of the Federal Bar Assn.

During the webinar, Carney gave an overview of his vision for his time as chief judge and discussed the protests and vandalism in several cities across the nation following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

“It’s been sad, quite frankly, seeing our courthouses vandalized with graffiti,” Carney said in the webinar.

When Carney began discussing his adjusting to the role of chief district judge, his comments turned to Gray.

“Fortunately for me, we have just a fabulous clerk of the court in Kiry Gray. She’s so street-smart and really knows her job,” Carney said.

Several who heard the “street-smart” comment or learned of the remarks afterward interpreted the compliment as having a derogatory and racially insensitive layer, and Carney acknowledged that judges, court staff and attorneys were upset.

The judge sought to explain himself: “To me, the term means a person of great common sense, initiative, and ability to work with people and get things done. It saddened me greatly to learn that some people view the term to be demeaning to people of color. I never knew that there was a different definition of the term.”

Read it all. 

That is exactly what “street smart” means! To think that there were racial connotations to it requires maliciously motivated reasoning — of which there is no shortage today. I wish Judge Carney wouldn’t have stepped down. Every time someone in authority yields to these revolutionary zealots, they make it more likely that the zealots will win.

If I were a judge, I would avoid every opportunity to speak in public. You never know how people who hate you will use and abuse your comments. What these wokesters are doing is straight out of the totalitarian playbook for destroying civil society. From my forthcoming book Live Not By Lies (which is available now in digital galley form — if you are a journalist or reviewer, email me at rod — at — amconmag — dot — com, and I’ll forward your request to the publicist to see if you quality for an advance reader copy):

Kamila Bendova sits in her armchair in the Prague apartment where she and her late husband, Václav, used to hold underground seminars to build up the anti-communist dissident movement. It has been thirty years since the fall of communism, but Bendova is not about to lessen her vigilance about threats to freedom. I mention to her that tens of millions of Americans have installed in their houses so-called “smart speakers” that monitor conversations for the sake of making domestic life more convenient. Kamila visibly recoils. The appalled look on her face telegraphs a clear message: How can Americans be so gullible?

To stay free to speak the truth, she tells me, you have to create for yourself a zone of privacy that is inviolate. She reminded me that the secret police had bugged her apartment, and that she and her family had to live with the constant awareness that the government was listening to every sound they made. The idea that anybody would welcome into their home a commercial device that records conversations and transmits them to a third party is horrifying to her. No consumer convenience is worth that risk.

“Information means power,” Kamila says. “We know from our life under the totalitarian regime that if you know something about someone, you can manipulate him or her. You can use it against them. The secret police have evidence of everything like that. They could use it all against you. Anything!”

Kamila pointed out to me the scars along the living room wall of her Prague apartment where, after the end of communism, she and her husband had ripped out the wires the secret police used to bug their home. It turns out that no one in the Benda family uses smartphones or emails. Too risky, they say, even today.

Some might call this paranoia. But in light of Edward Snowden’s revelations, it looks a lot more like prudence. “People think that they are safe because they haven’t said anything controversial,” says Kamila. “That is very naive.”

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and Germany’s 1990 reunification, the German government opened the vast files of the Stasi, East Germany’s secret police, to its victims. None of the Soviet Bloc states had a surveillance apparatus as thorough as East Germany’s, nor had any communist rivals developed a culture of snitching with roots as deep and wide in the population. Historians later discovered that vast numbers of East German citizens, with no prompting by the government, volunteered negative information about their friends and neighbors. “Across the country, people were on the lookout for divergent viewpoints, which were then branded as dangerous to the state,” reported the magazine Der Spiegel. This practice gave the East German police state an unparalleled perspective on the private lives of its citizens.

Not only will they use what you say in private against you, but as the Duncan, Christiansen and Carney cases demonstrate, things you say in public that you meant for good, or that you understandably assumed were positive, or at least neutral, will be enough to get you cancelled. There is no hiding from this mob. You might as well fight the bastards, and if you go down, unlike these three, you will go down with your dignity intact.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

leave a comment

Latest Articles