Andrew Cuomo and the Real Definition of Cancel Culture
In his Friday announcement that he would not be resigning as a result of the mounting series of sexual harassments claims against him, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “I won’t bow to cancel culture.”
Cancel culture is a real problem in this country, but Cuomo’s citing of it, trivializes it and makes it harder to fight. Responding to the threat of cancel culture by seeking to combat it with a culture that does not believe in consequences for wrong doing risk dangerously swinging the pendulum to the opposite extreme.
Furthermore, Cuomo’s definition of cancel culture is not even correct. There are three types of “cancelling,” none of which apply to Cuomo.
- Cancel Culture Based Around Political “Crimes”
Cuomo is accused of sexual harassment, which is something that is rightfully considered to be a moral wrong. Cancel culture believes in punishment for political crimes. These are much more ambiguous, because while everyone can agree that some things are racist, sexist, or simply bigoted, not everyone agrees that some other things are racist, sexist, or simply bigoted.
So, while most people can agree that adults who do and say bad things — former Rep. Steve King, for example — should be held accountable for their actions, the problem with cancel culture is that the definition of bad is always changing in ways that are not agreed upon.
2. Cancel Culture as Petty, Vindictive, and Unforgiving
Another defining aspect of cancel culture is that, because of its political nature, it is a sort of false religion that focuses on sin, but without any chance of redemption. This is commonly seen in the cancellation of teenagers. There are multiple stories of colleges revoking acceptance from teenagers over some real or alleged transgression, often because some self-important tattletale brought the controversy to their attention.
It’s not just colleges, sometimes its public figures like athletes or journalists, who are still quite young who have their old tweets or Facebook posts “discovered” from before the days before their entrance into the public sphere.
But, the point of being a teenager is to grow up and learn so that you are ready to become a functioning adult member of society. Teenagers have been doing and saying stupid and offensive things since homo sapiens first wondered out of a cave. The only difference now is the internet documents said stupidity for all to see for all time. It should be the role of adults to teach them what is and is not morally permissible. Sometimes that means punishments, but it does not mean they need to have their life upended unless they show no remorse — former Arizona Coyotes fourth round draft pick Mitchell Miller, for example.
There are other times were people simply project motives onto people. Remember a couple years ago when people claimed with absolute certainty that cadets at the Army-Navy game where flashing white power hand signals at the TV cameras and wanted West Point and the Naval Academy to take action, but anyone who has ever gone through middle school, immediately recognized it as the circle game? That same hand signal is also the universally recognized as the ‘OK’ hand gesture, just because some white nationalists appropriated it for their own twisted reasons, does not mean that everyone who flashes an “Ok” signal, is shouting “white power.” In fact, 99.9% are not.
Andrew Cuomo, on the other hand, is a 63 year old man. He is not young enough to be considered naïve about such things nor is he too old to be considered a harmless flirt. He has been accused of sexual harassments by multiple women, which indicates a pattern of behavior. If by this point in his life he does not know what is and is not acceptable when it comes to talking to women about their romantic lives or touching them, then that’s on him. As for his explanation that he was just teasing, again there’s a time and a place for everything and at work with younger subordinates is obviously not that time or place.
3. Cancel Culture as Run by Outsiders
A final aspect of cancel culture is that those doing the cancelling often have little to no relationship to the actual real or alleged offense. People who do not watch certain shows or TV channels, but want them off the air; journalists “discovering” other people’s old tweets so they can get clicks for their stories; people demanding somebody be fired for a company they do not work for or expelled from a school they do not attend.
On the contrary if a company fires someone for sexual harassment, racism, or other moral wrong, that is different than if some random internet person demanding they be fired for some political thought crime or simple misunderstanding between the two people of the opposite sex.
But, Cuomo’s boss is the people of New York. As a public official, he’s not some random person who somehow got on the wrong side of the internet mob, he’s not a journalist or a political commentator who people would love to jump on any reason to get him and his ideas out of the public square. He’s not the victim of a smear campaign or of a lack of due process in the court of public opinion, we have photographic proof of wrongdoing.
Cancel culture is absolutely a threat in this country as people use it to silence opponents and make themselves feel morally superior at the same time, but proponents of cancel culture would love to portray opponents of it as desiring a system of unaccountability for wrongdoing. Andrew Cuomo just made that easier for them.