Hern: Time to cancel 'cancel culture'

By Representative Kevin Hern for the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

We live in a world where people are so worried about hearing something they disagree with that they cannot abide the existence of opposing views. It’s infiltrated our education systems, our friendships, our purchases, our careers, and more.

I’m talking about "cancel culture".

This phrase has been around a while, but recent months have seen an alarming increase in the trend to silence conservatives.

I’m not offended if you don’t agree with me. If you don’t want to hear what I have to say – don’t listen. But the left has taken that concept too far. Instead of just changing the channel or picking up a different book to read, they decided that no one can listen to speech they disagree with. If they don’t like you, you are canceled.

They take it a step further by dismantling the lives and livelihoods of those whose speech they don’t like. If you’re an outspoken conservative, the left will come for your job, your business, your family, your neighbors, your education, and anyone tangentially involved in your life. 

I’ve seen conservatives have honorary degrees revoked decades after the fact. I’ve seen universities cancel seminars and classes taught by conservative scholars. I’ve seen community and industry organizations remove qualified leaders because of their politics. I’ve seen children targeted because their parents are prominent conservatives. I’ve seen friends and colleagues kicked out of restaurants because the other clientele disagrees with their politics.

Many in the conservative movement have a similar story in recent years.

I’m old enough to remember a time when a difference in political opinion wasn’t enough to destroy a friendship or end a career. At the end of the day, what mattered was shared values, work ethic, and tangible skills.

Nowadays, you can’t even buy a cup of coffee without indicating support for the CEO’s politics, the materials used to make the cup, and the way the beans were sourced.

As a conservative, the impact of cancel culture has become all too familiar. Conservative actors are dropped from their projects for refusing to espouse liberal ideals, conservative speakers are rejected from college campuses, conservative authors are banned from publishing platforms.

Each one of these examples, while not a direct violation of anyone’s First Amendment rights, indicate a slippery slope to a future where conservatism does not exist.

Take actress Gina Carano, fired from the Star Wars franchise. After her popularity in "The Mandalorian", Gina may well have been one of the most high-profile openly conservative artists in Hollywood. In an industry marked by its radical leftism, conservatives are often left out of the arts, forced to hide their political beliefs in order to be successful. 

Pop culture matters. You can snub your nose at what our teenagers and young adults enjoy, but it’s important. The music we listen to, the movies we watch, and the shows we love have an impact on our lives. Excluding conservative thought from pop culture ensures that our young people grow up thinking of conservatives as the enemy, rather than their fellow Americans.

Diversity of thought is just as important to our society as diversity of race, gender, and ethnicity. Educating our young people on a wide range of political speech is essential in the development of their own perspectives on the issues facing our country. 

College campuses have long been the premier battleground of political thought and expressions, but free speech only flourishes when you allow diverse speech. When schools cater to mob mentality and ban conservative speakers from coming to campus, every student suffers.

Most alarming to me, however, is Amazon’s recent decision to remove a conservative author from its library. (Side note: Amazon still sells Adolf Hitler’s "Mein Kampf".) This decision will have ripple effects across publishing as an industry. Not only is Amazon a tech giant, but they are unrivaled as a retailer – specifically for books. Most authors and publishers cherish positions on Amazon’s best-seller lists, because that’s where the bulk of their sales come from. If Amazon makes a practice out of rejecting conservative books, it won’t be long before publishers stop working with conservative authors, effectively silencing an important medium for conservative audiences.

Cancel culture hinges on self-righteousness. It is underscored by the inherent belief that someone else’s flaws outweigh your own. In reality, we are all sinners, equal in the eyes of God. We are all fallen, all in desperate need of our Savior’s grace and mercy. 

It isn’t my responsibility to decide that someone else doesn’t deserve success, opportunity, or community. It’s my calling, and yours, to love our neighbors – especially the ones we disagree with.

Kevin Hern serves in the U.S. House of Representatives for Oklahoma's 1st congressional district.