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Liberal Media Wake Up to Horrors of Woke (But Is It Too Late?)

NY Times, Atlantic, Variety fear Cancel Culture’s crushing impact on art

It’s a classic science fiction trope, one playing out in real time.

A scientist creates a frightening new life form and, in the third act, the monster turns on its creator.

The monster in this analogy? Cancel Culture and its woke tendrils.

The scientist? Mainstream news reporters who cheered on the woke revolution, ignoring conservatives who warned of its pernicious impact on the arts.

One conservative even wrote a book on the subject.

Have reporters, who directly fueled Cancel Culture over the past few years, realized the error of their ways? Perhaps.

It started late last year at The New York Times and The Atlantic, two reliably liberal outlets. Each covered the Cancel Culture attack on “Jihad Rehab,” a documentary that debuted at last year’s Sundance Film Festival.

“Jihad Rehab,” directed by white filmmaker Meg Smaker, followed a group of Islamic militants going through Saudi Arabia’s rehabilitation center. The film criticized America’s War on Terror policies and offered sympathy to so-called enemy combatants. It refused to sugar-coat their crimes, though.

The movie earned pre-release raves and that Sundance seal of approval. Smaker couldn’t help but dream of what might happen next for her film.

Then a wave of critics swarmed, saying “Jihad Rehab” put its subjects in danger and shared dangerous Arab stereotypes. Even worse? A story set in the Muslim world shouldn’t be told by a white woman.

The film got canceled, full stop. Sundance apologized for screening the documentary, and initial supporter Abigail Disney backpedaled furiously. SXSW, an edgy film festival and music showcase, canceled its “Jihad Rehab” screening.

National Review published a stinging piece by filmmaker Sebastian Junger defending Smaker against the woke mob. That’s hardly surprising, given the outlet’s conservative bona fides.

Except its outrage didn’t happen in a vacuum. Both the Times and Atlantic rallied behind “Jihad Rehab in no uncertain terms.

Their combined coverage helped “uncancel” the film, now dubbed “The UnRedacted.” The film has been screened multiple times in recent weeks and may enjoy a traditional release this year.

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Variety, a liberal outlet that typically supports Cancel Culture forces, stepped up next. The site shared a provocative story tied to the “Jihad Rehab” kerfuffle, saying the film’s cancellation had a ripple effect on the festival landscape.

Now, no one wanted to program a movie that might inflame the woke mob. The result? Safer film festival selections to steer clear of online controversy. It’s the antithesis of a festival’s purpose, to bring challenging art to the public without worrying about box office results or nasty reviews.

Variety leaned into that reality.

In fact, that quick-to-capitulate reflex underscores a new, unspoken modus operandi in which festivals — once the bastion of provocative, button-pushing 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 his new film’s festival rejections due to its incendiary nature.

“My gay lead character [is initially] transphobic, which is something I wanted to explore — transphobia within the gay community — and they had an issue with that… He says he was also asked: “‘Why does your Latino lead have to bond with a white woman?’ I was really taken aback by that one. Here I am, a gay Latino filmmaker, and I have to answer about bulls*** racial politics?”

Once again, a liberal news outlet not only called out Cancel Culture but framed its impact as detrimental to free expression. It’s the kind of narrative right-leaning sites routinely embrace, like The Daily Wire, The Federalist and Breitbart News.

Mainstream journalists, by comparison, wouldn’t dare flirt with that point of view up until recently. They often take the opposite approach, suggesting these stories, and artists deserved cancellations.

It’s in their tone, their narrative framing.

Recall how the press covered Cancel Culture attacks on Dave Chappelle and Joe Rogan, comedians the mob tried to silence for sharing views considered anathema to the progressive mindset. Reporters sided with the offended parties while showing little empathy for artists trying to share raw opinions and jokes.

The next journalistic shoe to drop remains the most shocking.

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The New York Times just published a blistering op-ed from its former Book Editor, Pamela Paul. She marked the three-year anniversary of the Cancel Culture campaign against “American Dirt” with stark regret.

Jeanine Cummins’ novel earned early raves from Stephen King and Oprah Winfrey, and it seemed a new literary sensation was born. That is until one Latina scribe started a woke war against “Dirt.”

What happened next?

Death threats. Press tour cancellations. And a chilling pall over the literary world.

Looking back now, it’s clear that the “American Dirt” debacle of January 2020 was a harbinger, the moment when the publishing world lost its confidence and ceded moral authority to the worst impulses of its detractors … This fear now hangs over every step of a fraught process with questions over who can write what, who should blurb and who can edit permeating what feels like a minefield. Books that would once have been greenlit are now passed over; sensitivity readers are employed on a regular basis; self-censorship is rampant.

It’s 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 fit for print in the New York Times. Did Ben Shapiro sneak into the Old Gray Lady’s editorial department while no one was looking?

Paul adds how novelists stood down at the time, fearing their old work would be revisited and declared problematic … or worse. The same scribes also worried they couldn’t write new stories that “dared traverse the newly reinforced DMZ lines of race, ethnicity, gender and genre.”

It’s clear the liberal press is waking up, finally, to the impact woke culture has on the creative arts. We’re now being told what’s at stake should the Cancel Culture revolution continue unchecked:

  • The ability to share fresh stories
  • The willingness of artists to reach outside their cultures to tell stories that speak to our collective humanity
  • The power to provoke and offend

None of this is new. What’s fresh, though, is how liberal outlets are suddenly saying it aloud.

Terracino’s final comments to Variety on the implications of the woke revolution are telling.

“I think a lot of artists of color very soon are going to regret this woke ideology.”

The same may be true of the scientists, er, journalists, who gave life to the woke monstrosity.

UPDATE: Deadline.com, as reliably liberal as most entertainment outlets, regurgitates late-night monologues that reflect its world view.

So it came as a shock to see the site celebrate Bill Maher for comparing the woke revolution to China’s “struggle sessions” of yore.

Again, this is no accident.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

8 Comments

  1. Why are they so afraid of the Twitter mob? I thought they were leaving Twitter because of Elon’s free speech mandate and going to Mastodon. It’s increasingly clear that they are all over the place with Cancel Culture and they really don’t care about free speech at all. Their politics always end up with censorship. Just like conservatives need to create alternative social media, out-of-date liberal progressives need to find new safe spaces. Will this new “progressive free speech” audience splinter? Depends if they were cancelled and it sticks.

      1. Pretty sure it’s about how Liberals think unless those mentioned are actually Conservative like Bill Maher and Meg Smaker. Typical Liberal logic is “who me?”

        1. 20 years ago Bill Mahr was considered a hard core liberal. Things have shifted so far left he’s considered conservative now. Just some perspective.

          1. He’s still a hard core Leftist just with a little more logic. That doesn’t make him a conservative.

  2. Hollywood is not only trying to silence conservatives, they’re trying to silence WHITE PEOPLE, which may explain the relative decrease of non-liberal voices. However, there is an elephant in the room, the music industry, where it seems if you don’t pander(or at least appeal) to R&B, Rap or “electro-pop” audiences, they won’t sign you, let alone play your music.

  3. Excellent column; thank you!

    Where was the “blistering op-ed” by cowardly Pamela Paul in the year 2020? 2021? 2022? HA! They’re all covering their butts now, as if it isn’t perfectly obvious that they trashed the NY TIMES DECADES AGO.

    No, wait! They went on a “blistering” one-day strike in December. What Courage! Dan Rather now stands on Eighth Avenue outside of the Port Authority hell hole, holding his megaphone, barking out “Courage!”

    It worked. Give that man a cigar.

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