Act Like You’re Better Than the Cancellation Mobs

· Political

I once saw a lone cape buffalo in Africa hold off a small pride of lions for the better part of half an hour. They had managed to separate him from the rest of his herd, and I was so sure they had him. But those puny, lazy, pack-hunting amateurs didn’t know what hit them. That buffalo charged straight into them, shook them loose, and relentlessly chased them off one by one. When they came back, he did it again. By the end of the fight, it was bleeding and limping, but proudly on its feet while the lions scattered like rats, and even abandoned the sickly old lioness who had to slowly rejoin them after watching from a distance. It was awesome.

But enough about ravenous animals. Let’s talk about something worse.

I am a 30-year old man under six feet tall who weighs less than 150 lbs. I max out around my weight, but for most of high school I had trouble just benching the bar. And while I’m agile, long-limbed, and can do pull-ups and push-ups all day, and hold my own in a fight in my weight class, there is pretty much no scenario in which I would be physically imposing to an adult. There are women who can pick me up and body slam me and men who can curl two of me. With a lifetime of martial arts training and discipline behind me, I do a lot to stay in shape, remain healthy, and remain aware. But if I was walking down the street, and you managed to notice me, you would not likely think of me as a threat.

If, however, there are a hundred of me in one place, black-clad with bandannas, shades, helmets, and two-strapped backpacks, you wouldn’t be wrong to be concerned. This is Antifa – a scattered yet strongly funded and legally well-insured, headless white organization full of gangly imps and blubberous wildebeests who break things that can’t fight back, vandalize property, smash glass, attack citizens, policemen, and politicians, and harass non-members – all with the ironic goal of resisting fascism. Although they claim to fight for the oppressed black and brown person, you’ll rarely see a black or brown person in their company. They are young, from wealthy and middle-class families, full of self-esteem issues, college enrolled and taking to the streets during recess from their critical theory seminars, and cementing the greatness of their education by all the books they like to burn in public and statutes of abolitionists and civil rights heroes they like to topple.

If you lead a peaceful political demonstration, and along the way Antifa manages to infiltrate your assembly, hide among your numbers, and use your fellow protesters as human shields against the police or law enforcement, your protest is no longer peaceful. Or at least, it’s about to morph into something you never intended it to be. And while every now and then Antifa skirmishes with a group that’s also just as deserving of several concussions and broken limbs (such as the members of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017, Proud Boys, “Groypers” (whatever the hell that is), klansmen, Identity Evropa, etc.), you are generally best served dismissing them and labeling them terrorists. Because they are.

But as imposing as they may look in a big group, as much as they like to promote fear and intimidation from all the photographs and videos of their destructive handiwork in big cities, they are laughably weak. Most of them, if thrown in jail for an hour or handcuffed to a table in a police interrogation room would need a new pair of pants. They’ve probably shot every Nazi there is to shoot in a video game. But most of these LARPers would turn into mush and tears if you pointed a gun in their faces. If suddenly cut off from the rest of their pack, most of them would shrivel and flee if forced to fight alone. These children who attack others and call it “consequences” have never themselves faced any consequences.

I bring all of this up because you may be easily deceived into thinking that a mob in cyberspace meaningfully differs from a mob in the street – or a pride of lions. It doesn’t. For every dozen or so milkshake tosser on the street, there are thousands of like-minded lunatics on social media eager to play their part in an epic pile-on. They endeavor to cure their loneliness, depression, and sex deprivation by participating in ritualistic shaming and stoning of people who have not seriously wronged them. Cancel culture is alive and well, a product of their energy and desperation to belong. Without it, they’d have to reckon with the fact that they’re no one at all. Instead of facing you through a screen, they would have to face themselves through a mirror, and realize that their failures and shortcomings in life are their own doing.

This is not simply a left-wing thing either. Plenty of supposed conservatives meekly try their hand to mimic the behavior when it suits them. The mob mentality is strong and alluring, especially in today’s political era where cultural bonds are so often built around the superficial commonalities of “identity.” It sounds pathetic because it is.

But the cyber mob is hungry and insatiable, constantly on the prowl looking for anything and anyone upon whom it can unleash its impotent rage and vengeance. Do not presume that just because you actually did nothing wrong or close to deserving of the infamy and persona-non-grata status, that the majority will treat you with charity or proportional mercy. Do not think that they are looking to you for an explanation, clarification, and contextualization, as though the public internet is akin to a civilized exchange over tea. These people are not looking to forgive you or help you. They’re looking to hurt you. They’re out to demolish your life for the schadenfreude and to feed their delusion of righteousness. They’re out to ruin you to enjoy a brief fleeting taste of power they have rarely truly known, yet are now hopelessly addicted to.

The more you appease them, the worse the punishment will be. The more you think of them as rational human beings deserving of grace and dignity, the more they will betray and disappoint you. There is no apology, no admission, no “moment of learning,” no bargaining or reasoning, and no submission to their demands that will satisfy them and get them off your back. They will trace your sin back to your birth and upbringing, branch out to your friends, peers, family, and loved ones, and cancel them for the association. Any business that capitulates to them by firing the suspect employee or changing the name of their product will be further probed and suspected. For every inch you give them, they will charge a mile. You can strip naked and prostrate yourself before them, and give your life savings to their favorite PACs. None of it will matter because it isn’t their goal. Their goal is cruelty and tar.[1]

They will only stop if they get bored because there is nothing left of you remaining, or if someone else with fresher bait for cancellation comes along and lures them away. Or… if you take a lesson from that buffalo; stand your ground and fight back.

If you wish to survive a cancellation, the surefire way out is to attack and dismiss your assailants with all the condescension and arrogance you can muster. It will take courage, grit, and fortitude, and you will not get out clean. But that’s the real world for you.

Whether you’re already well known or a nobody whose name is now trending for the entire world to click on, you must embrace and draw strength from your individuality. Then you must project and parade it in as big a way as you can. Do not admit wrongdoing. Even if what you actually did that sparked the attention was wrong, don’t admit or apologize for any of it. Not to them. You don’t owe them an explanation or an apology. You don’t owe them a service or an answer. You didn’t intrude upon their feeds and lives. They intruded upon their own feeds and lives and simply used you to do it. Meanwhile, you’re a busy and sophisticated person with a life, and you have neither time nor inclination to bother with the likes of them. While they whimper their grievances and belch soft puffs of fire and brimstone from their attention-starved bellies, you are neither impressed nor intimidated. You cannot be moved or hurt by them. And if you’re a woman, these boys are just acting out the puny erections they have for you, just like all the other gross guys you spend your life warding off because you’re attractive and classy. You are above and beyond them.

Stow your fears and insecurities, and act the part. Fake it and flex. Straighten your spine and stand tall. Meanwhile, get smart: secure your house and accounts, lay low for a bit, keep your kin in the loop, and, if you must, get a gun (as well as tactical and safety discipline training).

But most importantly, do NOT continue to engage with these cretins after you drop your mic. The strategy I described above is primarily suited to a single statement, or small handful of them and no further. So don’t be like Donald Trump and get yourself equally addicted to fighting them to the point where you become just as frivolous. If you’re going to pretend that you’re too important for these self-appointed fatwā declarants, then act like it.

All of this is going to hurt while you’re in it. And if you’re a good person, it will discomfort you immensely to adopt this posture. But whatever you think of their opinions or of what they did that initially drew the cancellation mobs to them like moths to a flame, J.K. Rowling, Dave Portnoy, Joe Rogan, Gina Carano, Dave Chappelle, and Trader Joe’s (off the top of my head) have all given us templates for how to survive. They didn’t just survive because they’re well known. Plenty of well-known people are still recovering from their cancellation. They survived because they fought back. They didn’t back down.

And in so doing, they revealed that their attackers had nothing. They thought they were kings and queens like the lions of folklore, and instead turned out to be as incapable as lions often are in real life. They were as defeated as the pride against that awesome buffalo, and their pride suffered for it. They were as emasculated and reduced to helpless sobbing as akin to any Antifa brat in the back of a squad car.

You can do all of this too. The cancel mobs have an inflated view of their strength. Show them yours, and you’ll survive them.

– Vivek

[1] Unless you’re anti-Semitic. Then the mobs will immediately forgive you and even help you conceal your indiscretions from anyone else. Funny how hateful people work that way.

3 Comments

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  1. Stirling

    Nice! Very clear-sighted on the phenomenon of Antifa and cancel mobs, and insightful on how to deal with them.

    The Antifa uprising was attempted in 2016, but foundered on government agencies wising up and banning and enforcing bans on wearing masks to protests. They are too chicken to do anything if they can’t be anonymous. The current Antifa activities are ongoing because Covid gives them an excuse to hide their identities behind masks.

    Another good tactic to fight the mob is to make their identities known and public.

  2. brainsnorts

    i agree with nearly everything you have to say regarding cancel culture. however, i don’t know how fair it is to equate antifa with cancel culture in general. first, your depiction of antifa’s workings is at least occasionally the opposite. very often, it’s right-wing groups that infiltrate peaceful protests to create trouble and make BLM and/or others appear responsible. that’s been documented. i’m not sure what you claim has been documented. possible, i just haven’t seen it.

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