Canceling “Cancel Culture”?

Peggy Noonan’s unusually (even for her) peripatetic end-of-year Wall Street Journal column (Warren Zevon and impeachment??) ends with speculation about whether the “wokerati” at the core of “cancel culture” are going to get their comeuppance sometime this decade: “Everyone with an honest mind hates them. Someone will finally move effectively against them. Who? How? That will be a story of the ’20s, and a good one.”

Maybe Ricky Gervais has fired the first big shot at the progressive fortress, though Dave Chappelle’s comments about “the alphabet people” in his Netflix comedy “Sticks and Stones” also upset all the right people. The climax of his monologue at the Golden Globe Awards the other night—his admonition not to make political speeches—reminded me of Paddy Chayevsky’s similar plea at the Academy Awards back in the late 1970s:

The thing about humor is that it eventually gets around to targeting whatever is the established orthodoxy of the time. It is inevitable that today’s stifling woke culture of the progressive left will increasingly come in for ridicule from mainstream comics. Sheer opportunism guarantees this outcome, as both Chappelle and Gervais are proving, and both have likely added to their fan base with their decision to train their sights on the wokerati.

I have never paid much notice to Ricky Gervais before this week, and there is no reason to suppose he is a conservative in any meaningful sense of the term. But as the scene is explained in a recent interview with Andrew Doyle (better known as Twitter’s “Titania McGrath”) in The Spectator:

The idea that comedians have a responsibility to convey ‘the right message’ is more prevalent than ever. Following the announcement that Ricky would be returning to host next month’s Golden Globe awards after four years away, he was taken to task by one young American critic for his supposed ‘transphobia’ — I put to him that this is the kind of charge that could have been laid by Mary Whitehouse at the height of her ‘Clean up TV’ campaign 50 years ago. ‘Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it?’ he replies. ‘The new puritans aren’t 60-year-old women in twinsets and pearls, the Christian right trying to make us turn off our televisions because they don’t like it. It’s a younger crowd with trendy haircuts, who you’d think would have left-leaning liberal sensibilities, who have invented this new term “hate speech”.’

Many of Ricky’s detractors take issue with the jokes he told about Caitlyn Jenner while hosting the 2016 Golden Globes, but he is adamant that he has always supported trans rights. ‘There are many trying to say the subject of the joke is the same as the target, but it’s not. The word “transphobia” has been watered down through misuse. It couldn’t have been done better by real transphobes.’

The whole interview makes for great reading, but I especially like this line: “Before the digital era, he says, ‘we couldn’t read every toilet wall in the world. And now we can’.”

I have a hunch that the Golden Globes not only will never invite Gervais to host again (though it would be a huge ratings booster for next year’s show if they did), but that there will be a pressure campaign to vet next’s year’s host and the host’s monologue, and perhaps even a boycott organized by Hollywood A-listers who can’t stand to be mocked. Thus providing more fodder for comedians. Let the counter-revolution begin, and let it be televised!