Cancel Culture Doesn't Exist

Discussion in 'The Red Room' started by Nova, Feb 15, 2021.

  1. Nova

    Nova livin on the edge of the ledge Writer

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    This is so good you can't do it justice with selected quotes

    https://arcdigital.media/theres-no-such-thing-as-cancel-culture-887472db70b2

    • There is no such thing as “cancel culture” — there is only culture.

    • There are social mores, norms of public behavior and expression, norms and customs that both exert and absorb constant pressure and negotiation in the public square. One of the tactics of negotiation, one of the sources of pressure that shape these social norms, are public denunciations for shameful behavior.
      What else should we call the loud yelps about “cancel culture” — coming from Harper’s Magazine, coming from Fox News, coming from Congressman Jim Jordan as he bellows against a second impeachment of President Trump, coming from Senator Josh Hawley as he whinges about his book contract — except attempts to shame others for their views?
      The people who use this phrase to describe the social consequences of social transgressions are trying to create a consensus that whatever that phrase supposedly points to is, in fact, the truly shameful behavior. To quickly cry out “cancel culture” at any sign of criticism or judgment is to try to bully one’s hearers into abandoning their own ethical and moral standards and yield instead to the ethical and moral standards of those whose own behavior strays toward or past the limits of what society will bear.
      Consider the absurdity of Jim Jordan, on the floor of the House, claiming that the solemn resolve of his chamber to impeach Trump for inciting an insurrection, was a dangerous manifestation of “cancel culture,” rather than a profoundly serious constitutional proceeding.

    • Yes, Jim Jordan, with his well-known habit of looking the other way since his days as a wrestling coach, used the phrase “cancel culture” to shame political opponents into silence about Trump’s high crimes.
      Shame on those who engage in cancel culture, say those who decry cancel culture, themselves engaging in this so-called cancel culture, criticizing the critics to save themselves and their patrons from scrutiny.
      But public criticism, or the interventions of professional editors working with an author to improve his writing and reporting, or the decisions of large media companies to withdraw their agreements to publish a particular author, or the deplatforming on social media of heinous people who say heinous things—none of this is censorship, nor is it cancel culture; it’s just culture. This is how society works. This is how critique happens.


      This is how taste is shaped, and how norms are made and unmade: by social pressures from every quarter. We all face and funnel moral pressures, intellectual pressures, religious views, notions of civil order, laws, customs, clashing visions, clashing wills, economic interests, political agendas. We all, in our private lives and in our public discourse, generally live within the limits of what we and the communities we most care about belonging to find acceptable. This is social life; this is human life.

      None of this is to deny that there is ever anything problematic about the moral pressures of society. Any rural kid who has wondered if they will ever have a life beyond the horizons of what they can see on the bus ride from the farm to the high school, any queer kid who has felt the pressure to hide who they are because they expect only condemnation from the moral milieu of their little Baptist church, any weird kid or loner who has been picked on for their eccentric interests or their lack of interest in football and cheerleading, anybody who has grown up in a small town with small cultural horizons and has longed to get away—any of them, any of us, could tell you of “the coldness and the dreariness of village morality.”
      We do not wish to live in a society where we must curb our own aspirations or diminish our own identities to fit into the narrow roles that our small-town city councils or suburban neighbors envision for us.

      But for those who have access to the internet—and that’s certainly wanting for many rural and poorer families—the borders of our village have been greatly enlarged. The astonishing reach of online news outlets, social media platforms, and various content creation platforms allows us to witness and participate in a truly national conversation. We can find our affinity groups, our like-minded fellow citizens, our online friends who share our moral and ethical commitments; we can encounter, sometimes for the first time, people whose ideas run absolutely counter to our own. The very encounter with the different and the new is always a challenge and a chance — and no social pressure at work today in our broadly tolerant culture will ever prevail to homogenize or bowdlerize the dazzling diversity of ideas anyone can find on Al Gore’s internet.

      Yet even in our broadly tolerant society, the liberal vision of the individual citizen exercising his or her will in absolute moral independence is but a useful fiction, as useful a fiction as the idea of a social contract, and both are but models that mark out the boundaries of liberal political discourse. When people transgress those cultural limits, culture pushes back.

      Now, our system of government provides us protection against that very government interfering with our rights to speak our minds, even when our utterances are disagreeable or offensive to common social mores. And, thanks to the 14th Amendment, that freedom from government interference extends to our lives as citizens of a particular state or residents of a particular city or employees of, say, a local community college. This freedom is guaranteed to us and protected by law. None of that is put at risk when someone’s Twitter account is locked, or someone’s book contract is voided.

      How is it “cancel culture” for a for-profit company to respond to market pressures, or for a private media platform to decide that hosting someone’s statements devalues their brand, never mind helping to undermine the social contract itself?
      When Nike announces that it will not donate money to members of Congress who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election, following a similar decision by the Disney Corporation, what are they doing but expressing their own views and participating in political debate, exerting what influence they can on the ever-shifting terms of the social contract? Money is speech, the Supreme Court tells us, and I am sure Jordan and Hawley would agree. It is not that Nike or Disney are silencing you, gentlemen; they are simply not talking to you any more. Be grateful they don’t begin to boo.

      But, you say, these corporations are making a purely cynical, calculated decision, responding to the demands of consumers who wish to anathematize a particular political stance. Consumer pressure is canceling Republican voices!
      Well, that’s just capitalism at work, the bread and butter of liberal political economy. The market has spoken.

      • If money is speech and markets are free, are private corporations not free to speak or keep silence with their resources as they wish? Simon and Schuster are free — contractually free and morally free — to revoke Hawley’s book contract; they are under no legal or ethical obligation to publish the ghost-written drivel of the authoritarian-curious senator from Missouri. I’m sure there is an editor at Regnery Publishing who would love to work with him. Despite his whingeing to the contrary, Hawley has not been canceled, nor has his right to free speech been imperiled.

      • But here’s the thing: Hawley isn’t really worried about his freedom to speak out. He is not at all worried that his opportunity to address a wide readership can be “canceled” by Simon and Schuster; there’s an entire right-wing media ecosystem primed to echo and magnify his ideas, dark money groups ready to buy his book in bulk and push it up the bestseller lists. He will be heard, and he knows that.
        What Josh Hawley wants is not access to the public square but deference within the public square.
        It is not enough for him to be able to express his views, or to write a book, or to have his editor pay someone to write the book for him; he wants his retrograde views laundered and given the stamp of approval by a major mainstream publisher. He wants the imprimatur of intellectual seriousness and social respectability that being published by Simon and Schuster could provide. He has not been silenced; he simply has been denied something to which he believed he was entitled.
        Any time you wish to hear their views, you can find Hawley or Jordan — or Dinesh D’Souza, or Roger Kimball, or some other wizened culture warrior who has repackaged “political correctness” as “cancel culture” to capture a new gullible audience for a stale old idea — on any number of conservative media channels or social media platforms, quoted in any number of mainstream newspaper or magazine profiles.
        Indeed, sometimes a respectable publication will lend its platform to one of these bad-faith interlocutors to write a screed about how awful it is to have been canceled and silenced, thus leveraging a ginned-up grievance to reach an even wider audience.


        But our social contract no longer provides them the implicit guarantee that they will be granted a deferential audience, or any audience at all — nor does it grant them immunity from criticism. This is what they cry about. They do not fear censorship; they fear censure.
        All of the complicit, “respectable” enablers of Trumpism, of white supremacy, of sexism, of various ideologies of violence and hate — the Trump loyalists in Congress, the Fox television personalities who have laundered the president’s lies and find themselves needing to pivot in the wake of his complicity in the armed attack on the U.S. Capitol, the retrograde pundits who suddenly find themselves disingenuous ambassadors for “unity”— all are afraid of one thing: They do not fear being banned; they fear being shunned.

        They want to be lauded, to sit in places of honor, to be reputed as a wise or insightful or necessary voice — but they want all that after transgressing every norm of human decency in propping up the toxic Trump. So they circulate a coinage like “cancel culture” and try to buy their way into the discourse with counterfeit concerns, raising alarms about freedom of speech and freedom of expression — principles our culture undeniably values — when their real concern is exposure, shame, the social distancing of an audience who sees them as they are.


        This is why so many of the critics of “cancel culture” are also defenders of “culture” or “the Western canon” as a static set of texts and tastes. They do not wish to acknowledge that “culture” is not a finished project, but an ongoing negotiation. They see projects like #DisruptTexts as an assault on culture, as “cancel culture,” rather than as plain old culture at work re-examining and re-ordering tastes, styles, beliefs, mores. If culture is not something permanently enshrined, then neither are they. Society might revise its view of them and all they advocate or represent.
        The best defense is a good offense, it seems. The purveyors of the myth of cancel culture are trying to shame their critics out of shaming them. They have embraced an epithet to describe the undesirable but predictable social consequences of their words and deeds, and they try to persuade people to deploy that epithet in their defense—this is their way of exerting social pressure to reject the social pressures arrayed against them. That is how the public square works, and they are very much a part of it, though their only contribution to The Discourse of late seems to be crying that they are being excluded.

        No. They are being exposed.



        (slightly weird formatting because I copy and pasted from my Facebook thread)

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  2. Fisherman's Worf

    Fisherman's Worf I am the Seaman, I am the Walrus, Qu-Qu-Qapla'!

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    Cancel that long post.
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  3. Tererune

    Tererune Troll princess and Magical Girl

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  4. 14thDoctor

    14thDoctor Oi

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    Corporations firing employees to protect their profits is the exact definition of communism! :mob:
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  5. oldfella1962

    oldfella1962 the only real finish line

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    yeah, I really took it on the chin there. :dayton: One long convoluted bit of tap-dancing & rationalization to make the left feel better about their FUBAR morality.
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  6. steve2^4

    steve2^4 Aged Meat

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    What a well researched and articulate post.
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  7. Damar

    Damar Liberal Elitist

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    What happened to Josh Hawley was a business decision. Corporations align themselves with public figures and if those public figures do or say something incredibly stupid they distance themselves. That’s nothing new.

    Now, this author seems to be completely ignoring the cancel culture that has sprung up in the last ten years. It’s a social media fueled drive-by mob that demands heads on pikes but wants its own safe space at the same time. We’ve gotten away from the familiar liberal principle about disagreeing with what you say but fighting to defend your right to say it. I don’t think it’s going to end well for the Twitter mob because they will, inevitably, cancel themselves.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2021
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  8. Lanzman

    Lanzman Vast, Cool and Unsympathetic Formerly Important

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    Nova has drunk deep the kool-aide of liberalism. "Anyone who disagrees must be silenced!" "There's no such thing as cancel culture."
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  9. We Are Borg

    We Are Borg Republican Democrat

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    @Black Dove cancelled his subscription to Disney+ because they cancelled their contract with Gina Carano. Is he part of cancel culture because of his cancellation?
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  10. Diacanu

    Diacanu Comicmike. Writer

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    You didn't read the article then.
    These shitheels aren't being silenced, they can go to other venues, they can whip out a bullhorn, they can hand out leaflets, they just don't get to use big corporate platforms to spew their garbage.
    No one's entitled to Twitter, or Youtube, or a Disney show.
    Right-wing assholes not only feel entitled to this shit, they feel entitled to respect and deference.
    Nope, sorry.
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  11. Diacanu

    Diacanu Comicmike. Writer

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    What's more, what they're REALLY butt-hurt about, is they long for the days when abolitionists and hippies had to be the ones with bullhorns and leaflets.
    Too bad, so sad.
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  12. Jenee

    Jenee Driver 8

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    FUBAR morality?

    Morality is subjective, not objective. So, morality in and of itself cannot possibly be defined.

    Modern US Christianity says "how can atheists have morals if they aren't Christian?" to which I respond, how can you have morals if you need a higher being telling you not to do bad things?

    If anyone has FUBAR morality, it's modern US Christianity, closely followed by trump supporters.

    So, I really wouldn't be throwing stones from that glass house in which you are living.
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  13. Diacanu

    Diacanu Comicmike. Writer

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    If "FUBAR morality" means I don't smear shit on the walls of the capital, yeah, you got me.
    :shrug:
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  14. oldfella1962

    oldfella1962 the only real finish line

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    Hey, I just said that. Well imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, so thank you.
  15. oldfella1962

    oldfella1962 the only real finish line

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    Nobody on wordforge smears shit on the capitol walls AFAIK. Smearing shit does not cover (no pun intended) the entire spectrum of morality/behavior. Well, maybe it does in your basement, so I might stand corrected.
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  16. Diacanu

    Diacanu Comicmike. Writer

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    Whenever I see an OF reply in my alerts, I always mumble/whisper "hoo boy, this is gonna be painfully dumb, ain't it? :sigh:".

    Anyone else have this reaction?
    It can't just be me.
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  17. RyanKCR

    RyanKCR TOF/PA survivor

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    How can you have morals if you don't have an objective standard?
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  18. Diacanu

    Diacanu Comicmike. Writer

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    All you can ever have is consensus.

    More people believe murder is bad than don't.
    The ones to disagree are in jail, or about to be.

    Interestingly, there was more murder (and war!) in the times when people thought there was an objective morality that came from their sky-daddy.
    Funny how that whole thing backfired.
    Almost like it was thought up by primitive idiots or something.
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  19. Jenee

    Jenee Driver 8

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    Easy. For most humans, the desire to rape, murder, steal, etc., is non-existent. Some humans, despite what they have or don't have, are unable to control those impulses. That is the objective standard. If you can't recognize that, then you are probably one of the latter category.
  20. RyanKCR

    RyanKCR TOF/PA survivor

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    And if more people start to have the desire to murder, and rape and not believe they are bad, who is to tell them they are wrong and how can they justify that judgment?
  21. tafkats

    tafkats scream not working because space make deaf Moderator

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    It is interesting that after years of decrying "moral relativism," the right wing is suddenly all about "all opinions must be treated as equally valid, whether they have any basis in fact or not!"
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  22. Jenee

    Jenee Driver 8

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    You begin with a false premise. You assume "God" gave us morals. The problem with that is that "God" isn't what you think He is. The "God" you believe is chock full of inconsistencies and barbarities because He was created by humans - not the other way around.

    And, so it continues that those who are the most barbaric tend to lean toward religions in which barbarity is the staple. Just look at the death of Jesus Christ. and the movie the Passion of Christ. Any other movie that had that kind of barbarity, Christians would be yammering at the gates to get the film banished.

    But, Christians seem to enjoy that. You get off on it. You make it a cornerstone of your religion and tell small children about it.

    Christianity is not about morals. It's about barbarity. And that's why you will never understand that most people are not the same as you.
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  23. oldfella1962

    oldfella1962 the only real finish line

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    Not a "sky daddy" fan myself so I can't relate to any of that. I disagree that Trump supporters are the standard for FUBAR morality. Trump will be gone (if the fucking left can ever stop obsessing over him) eventually and over a long enough time frame all his supporters will be gone. But for now (and for probably many decades) the standard for FUBAR morality is liberalism. Notice I'm not slamming liberals because their obvious & tragic mental illness is the inevitable result of the disease of liberalism. Sometimes I forget that the poor souls can't help themselves.
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  24. 14thDoctor

    14thDoctor Oi

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  25. Bailey

    Bailey It's always Christmas Eve Super Moderator

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    Like Jenee just pointed out, you don't have an objective standard. Your morality is derived from words that came from human minds.
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  26. oldfella1962

    oldfella1962 the only real finish line

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    Good post! I have no doubt that the biblical "god" is a human concept. He's just human behavioral propensities cranked up to eleven.
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  27. Nova

    Nova livin on the edge of the ledge Writer

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    I can't be accountable if you're not thoughtful enough to recognize wilful hypocrisy when you're saturated in it. You have to do some of the intellectual work yourself.
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  28. Nova

    Nova livin on the edge of the ledge Writer

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    That's just a question of visibility because internet. You can find volumes of material from the 50's and 60's attempting to "cancel" disapproved speech, often successfully. It's not a new thing just because it's more visible.

    Nor does your remark rebut the point - you cannot both believe in the "free market of ideas" and object to the market rejecting some ideas.
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  29. Nova

    Nova livin on the edge of the ledge Writer

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    oh not at all.
    I myself am not saying anything or anyone MUST be canceled - I've stated for the record I'm ambivalent about whether Gina went so far that she HAD to be fired (my observation about her is that the same people who are outraged that she was are also the staunchest defenders of "at will" employment)

    Rather, I'm adopting what SHOULD be the conservative views - if conservatism were intellectually consistent with it's professed worldview (it's not!) which is that if you want a free market of ideas, it follows that the market may well reject your ideas. That's just how it works. It's not for any individual to say THIS comment or THAT idea or THAT public behavior goes to far, but it's certainly perfectly normal for the culture collectively to say so. Otherwise you could go to the office naked and no one could say you were wrong.
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  30. Order2Chaos

    Order2Chaos Ultimate... Immortal Administrator

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    The pedant in me completely agrees with the article. The empiricist in me says it’s entirely bullshit. You can’t unfold a newspaper, pin it to the wall, and throw a dart and not hit a story about someone getting canceled for something. That did not used to be the case. I suspect that it’s largely a matter of the erosion, largely but not entirely by people themselves, of privacy in our well-connected age.

    Back in the day, Gina Carano, for instance, would have had her public appearances limited and scripted, but she’d still have a job and no one would be the wiser. Only if she insisted on publicly making offensive statements would she actually have been fired. And that was harder back then; you needed to take out a classified ad or write a letter to the editor that actually got published. If she’d just said what she said at a dinner party, or on a phone call, even a party line, no one outside the industry, maybe even outside her employer, would ever have known. And they can work with that. Anyone see “Hail, Caesar!”? That was the old alternative to cancel culture, at least in Hollywood. Among the smarter people with politically incorrect opinions, that’s probably still how it works. But now everyone feels like they have to make their pronouncements on Twitter or Facebook, with their real identities attached to them, broadcast into the world. And it’s so much easier to search the world than it used to be; that’s the other half-(ish) of the erosion of privacy. The world is searchable, indexed, timelined, and archived in a way that it simply wasn’t 50 or even 25 years ago. You can’t hide anything.

    There’s arguably a third element that these two fronts have spawned, and that’s that we’re nosier than we ever have been. Someone says something on Twitter you don’t like and they won’t back down? You go through their entire timeline and presences elsewhere online to try to find ammunition against them. The ease of ability to do this makes it palatable to actually put in the effort to win the argument. And then let’s say you dig up something potentially racist or sexist or insensitive (or maybe it just looks that way out of context?) or whatever, then fucking JACKPOT. You send it to the media, you get them fired by threatening to send an internet mob after their employer (this is not just celebrities or politicians either). And you’ve won your argument once and for all! This is cancel culture, and to deny it is intellectually dishonest. Yes, it’s the same sort of thing that’s always existed, but at a much larger scale and massively boosted in speed and efficiency by technology.

    As they say, quantity has a quality all its own. It seems absurd that such a turbocharging of the cancellation process wouldn’t have sociocultural effects that are worth discussing, and they shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand like this article does. There does seem to be a chilling effect on good faith exploration of controversial topics, because anything can (and will) be taken out of context. And it’s very much the case that truth-seeking seems to be suffering lately, although I don’t know if that’s as much a part of cancel culture as it is performative virtue signaling and the implicit expectation thereof (eg. if a movement leader says something wrong, shut the hell up rather than correcting them if you care about the movement’s goals to demonstrate such), though they seem related to me, as cancellation is often the enforcement mechanism. It hasn’t been entirely effective, but that’s not for lack of trying (more effective in the latter case than the former). This is one reason why pseudonymity and avoiding tribalism is so important.

    That said, most of the whining about cancel culture, particularly by conservative public figures who have made statements in ways that would have gotten them canceled back in the day too, is so full of rank hypocrisy that I find it impossible to have any sympathy for them. They insist on showing their asses, and not for lack of other options. No, they think showing their asses will help them be popular among their base. (This is also creating a bimodal distribution of what’s considered politically correct to say, rather than a single one covering a broad middle, and that’s a big yikes too, but that could be another multi-paragraph post on its own.)
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