It’s a classic sci-fi trope, unfolding in real time.
A scientist creates a frightening new life form, and in the third act, the monster turns against its creator.
The monster in this analogy? Cancel Culture and its awakening tendrils.
The scientist? Mainstream journalists who applauded the woke revolution, ignoring conservatives who warned of its pernicious impact on the arts.
A curator even wrote a book on the subject.
Have the journalists, who have directly fed Cancel Culture over the past few years, realized the error of their ways? May be.
Cowardice at Sundance: Why was ‘Jihad Rehab’ canceled? – The Atlantic https://t.co/2eLXbrdhVQ
—Josh Kraushaar (@JoshKraushaar) October 27, 2022
It started late last year at The New York Times and The Atlantic, two reliable liberal outlets. Each covered Cancel Culture’s attack on “Jihad Rehab,” a documentary that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last year.
“Jihad Rehab,” directed by white filmmaker Meg Smaker, followed a group of Islamist militants passing through the rehabilitation center in Saudi Arabia. The film criticized America’s war on terror policy and offered sympathy to so-called enemy combatants. He, however, refused to water down their crimes.
The film won pre-release accolades and that seal of approval from Sundance. Smaker couldn’t help but dream of what might happen next for his film.
Then a wave of criticism swept in, claiming that “Jihad Rehab” put its subjects at risk and shared dangerous Arab stereotypes. Even worse? A story set in the Muslim world should not be told by a white woman.
Sebastian Junger for NR:
Inside the shameful cancellation of Jihad Rehab https://t.co/gAWLZuOSDo
— Jack Crowe (@jackrcrowe) October 14, 2022
The movie was canceled, period. Sundance apologized for screening the documentary and first supporter Abigail Disney furiously backpedaled. SXSW, a cutting-edge film festival and music showcase, has canceled its “Jihad Rehab” screening.
National Review published a scathing article by filmmaker Sebastian Junger defending Smaker against the woke crowd. This is hardly surprising, given the outlet’s conservative bona fides.
Except his outrage didn’t happen in a vacuum. The Times and Atlantic both rallied behind “Jihad Rehab” in no uncertain terms.
Their combined cover helped “cancel” the film, now dubbed “The UnDacted”. The film has screened multiple times in recent weeks and could get a mainstream release this year.
Variety, a liberal outlet that generally backs the forces of Cancel Culture, then stepped in. The site shared a provocative story related to the ‘Jihad Rehab’ kerfuffle, claiming that the film’s cancellation had a ripple effect on the festival landscape.
Now, no one wanted to schedule a movie that could ignite the woke crowd. The result? Safer film festival selections to avoid online controversy. It’s the antithesis of a festival’s goal, which is to bring stimulating art to audiences without worrying about box office results or poor reviews.
Variety leaned into this reality.
In fact, this quick reflex to capitulate underscores an unspoken new modus operandi in which festivals – once the bastion of provocative push-button fare – are desperate to avoid controversy and the wrath of any identity-focused Twitter mob.
The article allowed Terracino, a gay Latino filmmaker, to complain about the festival’s rejections of his new film due to its inflammatory nature.
“My gay main character [is initially] transphobic, which I wanted to explore – transphobia within the gay community – and they had a problem with that… He says he was also asked, “Why does your Latino leader have to hook up with a white woman? I was really surprised by that one. Here I am, a gay Latino filmmaker, and I have to answer about bulls’ racial politics? »
Once again, a liberal outlet not only called out Cancel Culture, but called its impact detrimental to free speech. It’s the kind of right-wing narrative sites that regularly adopt, like The Daily Wire, The Federalist and Breitbart News.
Mainstream journalists, by comparison, dared not flirt with this view until recently. They often take the opposite approach, suggesting these stories, and the artists deserved cancellations.
It’s in their tone, their narrative framing.
Recall how the press covered Cancel Culture’s attacks on Dave Chappelle and Joe Rogan, comedians who the mob tried to silence for sharing views considered anathema to the progressive mindset. Journalists sided with offended parties while showing little empathy for artists trying to share raw opinions and jokes.
The next journalistic shoe to fall remains the most shocking.
The New York Times has just published a scathing op-ed by its former editor, Pamela Paul. She marked the third anniversary of the Cancel Culture campaign against “American Dirt” with deep regret.
Jeanine Cummins’ novel drew praise from Stephen King and Oprah Winfrey, and it seemed like a new literary sensation had been born. That is until a Latina scribe starts an awakened war against “Dirt”.
What happened next ?
Death threats. Cancellations of press tours. And a chilling veil over the literary world.
Looking back, it is clear that the “American Dirt” debacle of January 2020 was a harbinger, the moment when the publishing world lost confidence and gave up its moral authority to the worst impulses of its detractors… This fear now hangs over every step of a process loaded with questions about who can write what, who should do blurb, and who can edit what looks like a minefield. Books that would once have been greenlit are now ignored; sensitivity readers are used regularly; self-censorship is endemic.
This is everything conservatives and fair-minded liberals like Bill Maher and John Cleese have been warning about for the past five years.
Now, suddenly, it’s print-worthy in the New York Times. Did Ben Shapiro sneak into the Gray Old Lady’s editorial office when no one was looking?
Paul adds that the novelists retired at the time, fearing their old work would be revisited and declared problematic…or worse. The same scribes also worried that they couldn’t write new stories that “dared to cross the newly reinforced DMZ lines of race, ethnicity, sex, and gender.”
It is clear that the liberal press is finally waking up to the impact of woke culture on the creative arts. We are now told what is at stake if the Cancel Culture revolution continues unchecked:
- The ability to share new stories
- The desire of artists to step out of their cultures to tell stories that speak to our collective humanity
- The power to provoke and offend
None of this is new. What’s new, however, is how the liberal media is suddenly saying it out loud.
Terracino’s latest comments to Variety about the implications of the Woke Revolution are telling.
“I think a lot of artists of color are going to miss this woke ideology very soon.”
Perhaps the same goes for the scientists, uh, journalists, who brought the awakened monstrosity to life.
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash