Over Thanksgiving, along with the leftover turkey carcass, I was compelled to throw out a significant part of my identity.
For 20 years, I have been a proud member of The Cavalier Daily community—the student newspaper of record for the University of Virginia.
For seven years, in fact, I served on its alumni board, overseeing outreach and recruitment efforts at a pivotal time in the paper’s 130-year history, when its long-term sustainability and survival were rarely assured.
It was a mutually rewarding arrangement, lending me valuable experience and insight in areas that my day-job didn’t offer. Around the two-year mark, I realized I had spent more time on the alumni board than I had actually writing for the paper.
I rose to the rank of vice president and felt privileged to work with such talented students on their way up the ladder, as well as fellow alumni including Pulitzer-winners and other titans of the media industry who had attained the utmost measures of journalism eminence.
But as with many college-campus and media institutions, the CD—once a hallmark of independence and free expression at a school which prided itself on being founded by Thomas Jefferson—continued to drift farther away from those values in recent years.
The growing ideological rift, along with other changes in the paper’s practical needs and objectives, led me to step aside from the board when I could no longer meet the demands of the volunteer commitment.
Nonetheless, I continued to take pride in the legacy I had left behind—until a Nov. 18 opinion column convinced me that it was all for naught.
Free To Be Fascist
The column, titled “Stand up to your racist family,” encouraged students during the approaching holidays to accuse their Republican relatives of every reprehensible label imaginable, simply for the thought-crime of supporting President Donald Trump.
Like many so-called progressives since the Nov. 3 election, the author insisted that the same democratic processes and institutions that the Left once fiercely insisted upon—such as election recounts and challenges—were now vehicles of fascism.
Ironically, the dangers that Trump, in their warped worldview, manifested could only warrant one logical reaction: All good progressives must put party over family.
In response, I drafted my own letter, pushing back on the irrational conclusions of the op-ed.
The young woman who responded—unknown to me from my previous capacity, but whom I quickly identified as a female (and a liberal) by the pronouns thoughtfully provided in her email signature—dismissed my submission with what appeared to be a form reply.
“Thank you so much for taking the time to send along a guest column,” she/her wrote. “We at The Cavalier Daily truly appreciate it when members of the community take the time to share their work with us. Unfortunately, we will be unable to move forward with the publication of your piece at this time. If you have any questions, I would be happy to address them.”
A bit of back-and-forth later, the student editor offered to reconsider if I would cut my 1,000-word tome to 400 words. But it was too little, too late. I already had disavowed my ties to my former publication.
And with that, I canceled cancel-culture.
I later told my liberal friend of nearly 15 years—a former mentee, currently serving as the CDAA board president—that “as a guardian of traditional journalism values the best lesson I can offer the current CD staff is to hold them intellectually accountable.”
But doing so is not a task for the weak of heart or the faint of spirit.
A Lose–Lose Ultimatum
For conservatives, leftist cancel-culture has become something of a catch-22.
In case any have forgotten their high-school literature classes, the term—denoting a type of paradoxical conundrum—derives from Joseph Heller’s eponymous World War II satire.
The protagonist, a B-25 bombardier named Yossarian, finds himself in a Kafkaesque nightmare of military bureaucracy, which keeps adding to its mission quotas each time the end is in sight.
Yossarian notes along the way that he would have to be crazy to continue flying missions, but that the only way to escape the fate is for him to plead insanity.
I have felt something similar in my response to dear friends, colleagues and associates who have become afflicted with Trump Derangement Syndrome—particularly during the period in and around the election.
But only one side appears to be interested in gathering all of the information and evaluating its merits. The other has used baseless claims of “disinformation” and “no evidence” to justify further burying its head in the sand.
Those refrains have ricocheted repeatedly throughout the Left’s echo chambers—from damning evidence against the Deep State in the Russia-collusion hoax, to the proof of the Biden family’s corruption as revealed by Hunter Biden‘s laptop, to the authoritarian lock-downs and panic-mongering over the coronavirus, to the slow-motion train-wreck of vote fraud.
Those who dare to engage left-wing dogmatists in debate are presented with only undesirable outcomes in their personal and professional relationships. On the other hand, allowing the madness to continue unchecked will inevitably effect the rapid demise of American democracy.
A Festering Mindset
Some liberals, to be certain, continue to act in good faith. Sadly, their minds have been damaged beyond repair due to a lifetime of programming in the doctrinaire radicalism that emanates from our own educational system.
They earnestly believe that institutions such as the federal bureaucracy and corporate media are inherently honest entities looking out for the country’s best interests—not profit-seeking robber-barons coerced by an anti-American, globalist influence.
But many on the Left appear to be, at best, willfully ignorant—driven by an unjustified sense of smug superiority. They are rewarded for their denial of reality (and, oftentimes, self-interest) by a boost in social capital.
It’s an exchange somewhat reminiscent of the Skinner box, a notorious psychological experiment to demonstrate concepts like conditioning and learned helplessness in rats and pigeons, but with social-media “likes” supplanting food pellets in return for their coquettish virtue-signaling.
Among the aristocrats, this social-reward system has been going on since at least the era of Ayn Rand.
As anyone who has attempted to read Atlas Shrugged can attest, it’s one of several belabored points that establish the central tenets of her objectivist philosophy.
But under the heavy hand of political-correctness and its grotesque step-child, cancel-culture, the absurd waggle-dance of these power-hungry elitists has become something far more pernicious and sinister.
Taking their lessons from the failures of the Bolshevik revolution, America’s idle classes have found that their survival depends upon courting what Marx called the Lumpenproletariat—a class of ambitious but information-deprived individuals who can be easily manipulated.
Having never been presented with any alternative, these underprivileged masses are justifiably angry at what they consider to be “systemic” oppression and injustice—while failing to recognize that they are the ones feeding that system.
Sadly, the fatal flaw in democracy is its built-in self-destruct mechanism if enough of the population is either deluded or bribed into burning it all down by the wealthy and powerful players who stand to lose the most from equality.
Thankfully—with or without my little nudge—it seems there is hope yet for my college paper.
After Campus Reform caught wind of the controversial column and spread the story to other outlets, including Breitbart, the student editors did, indeed, receive substantial backlash.
On Nov. 28, the CD published a 690-word student response, titled “Tolerance is a two-way street.”
I don’t envy its author, who now, undoubtedly, will have to endure the intolerant fallout while walking around Grounds.
However, I can assure her—and others like her—that the last remaining guardians of American democracy will continue the fight to preserve her place at the table in future discourse, whatever the cost may be.
Follow Ben Sellers on Parler at parler.com/profile/Sellers.