She wrote that she agrees with the criticisms circulating on social media. “I vehemently disagree with the notion that cultural appropriation is not real – it exists and it causes real harm. Further, Canada is ‘exhaustingly white and middle class’ not because white writers are afraid to write stories they don’t ‘know,’ but because white writers don’t get out of the way and make space for the multitude of stories to be told by those who aren’t white and middle class.”
This disgusting display of bigotry, ignorance, and cowardice has seen little push back from anyone of note in the writing or journalistic communities. It is, of course, obvious why: no one wants to be the next target of the mob. This week, however, the editor of another Canadian magazine, Jonathan Kay of The Walrus, rashly expressed concern over these intellectual witch hunts, and promptly fell victim to one himself:
Late on Thursday night, a number of high-profile people in Canadian media had seized on Mr. Kay’s tweet as inspiration for the creation of a real Appropriation Prize, a move which inflamed many who were already upset by Mr. Niedzviecki’s essay.
Mr. Kay criticized the move to create an actual prize – tweeting it “went too far” – but held firm on his position that “the idea of turning cultural appropriation into a sort of thoughtcrime that demands shaming and censorship” is, “problematic.”
On Saturday afternoon, Mr. Kay debated the issue on CBC News Network with the pop-culture critic Jesse Wente, who told host Carole MacNeil: “We have to acknowledge there is a history of appropriation, that appropriation is institutionalized in Canada. Not just cultural appropriation, but appropriation of land, of our lives, that this is the very foundation of what Canada is based on, including laws that were written specifically to enforce cultural appropriation.” He added that “this manifests itself now in a media that is woefully lacking in inclusion, that is ill-prepared to have these debates, that doesn’t have [Indigenous] representatives, especially at the highest levels.”
While Mr. Kay agreed with many of Mr. Wente’s points, he argued, “There is a legitimate debate to be had about where the rights of artists to imagine other cultures end, and the rights of those other cultures to avoid appropriation begin. That’s a real live debate and it doesn’t help the debate when you take one side and cast them all as a bunch of racists, which I argued was essentially the tone and meaning of the TWUC Equity Task Force tweet.”
Hours later, Mr. Kay resigned.
To sum up: 1) "Cultural appropriation" is a load of horse pucky and everyone knows it. Those who pretend it isn't do so for generally one of two reasons: either they want to use it as a cudgel to try to knock down those who are more talented or successful than they are, or they're afraid of reprisals if they don't go along with the mob.
2) Being offended or having your feelings hurt doesn't give you the right to stifle someone else's freedom of expression. I'm a Christian, and pretty much any depiction of Christianity by the entertainment industry is inaccurate, negative, and frequently offensive in the extreme. I don't enjoy this, but so what? I have the option to not watch, and to criticize- which I frequently do. What I don't have the right to do is try to stop them from writing and producing works which I don't like.
3) If your response to words and opinions you don't like is to try to ban them and destroy the careers of those who dare utter them, you aren't just wrong or misguided, you are a bad person.
4) There's no point in trying to appease social justice warriors, because it can't be done. They live to be offended: it's an ego and/or power trip for them, so once they get one demand met, they just move on to the next grievance- like locusts devouring and laying waste to everything in their path. Far better to take a principled stand right from the start and at least retain your self-respect.
As in the Reign of Terror, eventually even those who agree with the cause but aren't seen as being radical enough will be purged. 20th century dystopian literature generally portrayed the rise of totalitarian regimes as coming from the right side of the political spectrum. It is becoming increasingly obvious that at this time, it is the leftists who are intent on removing personal liberties and cracking down on fundamental freedoms. Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible as a response to the McCarthy trials. If he were writing it today it would reflect university campuses and social justice warriors, hysterically accusing dissenters of thought crimes and calling for their destruction, while others cravenly go along with the madness, hoping to avoid being targeted themselves. It's a sad state of affairs.