Or, to put it otherwise: ‘cancel culture makes liars of us all’.
The current fad for toppling statues of the great and the good when their ‘goodness’ is found to have been mixed with ‘badness’ is chilling in its implications. Yesterday, it was Edward Colston. Tomorrow, it may be John Newton, Winston Churchill, or even Mother Theresa herself. And are you quite sure that there is not something lurking in your Twitter account that will not, one day, be held up to your eternal shame?
Giles Fraser writes passionately and persuasively:-
The new, highly secular ‘cancel culture’ represents an extreme form of righteousness that has all the moral power of a certain kind of protestant Christianity, but none of the basic scaffolding of redemption on which such Christianity is built. And morality without forgiveness or redemption is a frightening, persecutory business.
Part of the problem with the cancel culture of modern identity politics is that it makes the confession of sins so much more difficult to achieve. Or, to put that in a more secular idiom: how can we all confront the various forms of racism, sexism, homophobia and so on that we harbour within, when the consequences of any form of public admission are devastating and toxic?
There’s a sort of furious moral vigilantism that encourages its adherents to trawl through our public utterances — in order to condemn and shame us in the high court of Twitter. Against this digital shoaling of the mob, any protestations of rightful innocence are impossible to make, and the fear of being targeted makes any exploration or confession of our hidden failings terrifying to contemplate.
Cancel culture makes us hide in fear. It makes us publicly pretend we are better than we are. It turns us all into liars — and the more we fear the exposure of our failings, the more we point the finger at others in the hope of misdirecting the anger of the crowd.
Hate the sin, love the sinner. This phrase is often trotted out in evangelical circles, and it has become too much of a cliché. But nonetheless it neatly summarises a kind of firewall that developed in some Christian circles to stop legitimate anger at injustice spilling over into some kind of endless personal attack upon the perpetrators. And it enables us to explore our own failings so much more easily.
The problem is that, under Christian culture, we used to believe that wrongdoers would get their ultimate comeuppance when they faced the divine after death. From such a perspective the final administration of justice would be carried out by the ultimate righteous judge who knows all the secrets of our hearts.
But this God is now dead in popular culture. And so the consequences of our moral failings have to be reckoned with in this life — otherwise we would get away with them without any sort of censure. In other words, the God that would judge us all with fairness and kindness has been replaced by the high court of the digital trial. And once sentence has been passed, there is no coming back, ever. That is what it is to be cancelled.