Bed Bath & Beyond cancels Jack-o’-lanterns over blackface complaints
While our prime minister can survive a blackface scandal, the same can’t be said for these pumpkins.
Bed Bath & Beyond has removed all black Jack-o’-lanterns from their shelves after a News 12 uncovered complaints that a law firm’s display had generated outrage.
If you reward something, you get more of it.
If you punish something, you get less of it.
It’s one of the most basic precepts of human nature, and it should be the bare minimum level of knowledge a government official possesses in the execution of their duties.
It’s the entire reason we have laws.
We punish behaviour that is illegal, in order to discourage that illegal behaviour.
Of course, no system is perfect, and we don’t want a “perfect system”, particularly not in a democracy.
But it has to work most of the time, particularly when the illegality is obvious and potentially damaging to the entire nation.
And when it comes to “rewards”, often the reward is in the elevation and respect of those who act in a way that helps that country and makes Canada a better place.
That’s what the majority of community members and the ELECTED Wet’suwet’en Chiefs were doing when they worked to get a good deal for their community, approved the Coastal GasLink pipeline, and worked to help encourage jobs and prosperity.
They followed the rules. They worked for the good of their community.
And what did they get in return?
They got betrayed by Justin Trudeau and the Liberals.
Meanwhile, the radical blockaders–many of whom don’t even represent the Wet’suwet’en community–broke the laws, are damaging Canada’s economy, and are ignoring repeated court injunctions.
In short, they broke the rules, and they’re working against the good of their community.
And what did they get in return?
They got rewarded, by Justin Trudeau and the Liberals.
Trudeau has elevated them, offered meetings, sent a Minister to talk to them, and has in effect given them control over the country by refusing to enforce the rule of law.
Now, as you read at the top of this article, when you reward something you get more of it, and when you punish something you get less of it.
And the consequences are clear:
Trudeau has shown that illegal protests will be rewarded with a gain of status and an ability to meet with government leaders.
Trudeau has also shown that the majority of community members who followed the rules and followed the laws will be ignored and betrayed, with their majority voices drowned out by the more extremist minority.
As a result, Canada can expect more and more illegal protests, while fewer communities will choose to follow the law.
You can already imagine what a massive disaster that will be.
Roxane Gay thinks Jeannine Cummins should go cry into her publishing contract. After Cummins’ publisher Flatiron Books cancelled her American Dirt book tour due to death threats, Gay said that was basically no big deal because lots of authors receive death threats. Gay dismissed the concerns of Flatiron and Cummins, saying that it’s “important to acknowledge the death threats people receive for daring to have opinions, for daring to be black or brown or queer or disabled or women or trans or any marginalized identity.”
Gay made the remarks at Antioch University in Culver City, CA, when she spoke on a panel with author Myriam Gurba as part of #DignidadLiteraria (#LiteraryDignity), a movement that emerged after the publication of American Dirt. The purpose of #DignidadLiteraria is to hold the publishing world accountable for not publishing enough stories by and about the Spanish speaking people of the Americas. This panel was part of a national week of action organized by the hashtag’s founders Myriam Gurba, David Bowles, and Roberto Lovato.
Cummins’ book was the subject of much initial fanfare. It was on The New York Times’ highly anticipated book list. It was a pick for Oprah’s Book Club. Movie rights were sold before the book hit digital shelves and Cummins received a seven-figure advance. All this indicates that the book was going to be a literary circle darling. Instead, it has created a crisis in American publishing.
While there were some positive initial reviews, most of the notices for American Dirt were incredibly damning. Once word got out why the book was no good, critics could not stop dishing on the white author who had the audacity to write a story about a Mexican mother and son running for their lives to escape drug cartels.
The complaints were that Cummins shouldn’t have written the story, that the story wasn’t hers to write. The authors who trashed her book know that the story sprang from Cummins’ imagination and that she spent years researching the subject. And primarily, the harsh critics of American Dirt were other authors, like Gurba and Bowles, who take issue not only with the work itself, but the fact that it was published at all. They’re using it as a bludgeon with which to beat the publishing industry into submission to identity politics.
It’s possible, however, that some of the reviews were written by people who hadn’t read the book. For example, this Jezebel review from Shannon Melero notes that “There is no sense throughout the book that Cummins is familiar at all with the landscape of Mexico, outside the names of towns. At times it reads as if she was purposely vague on the description of a neighbourhood so that the reader could imagine they were anywhere else. But the lack of specificity is precisely why such a book appeals so massively to a mainstream white gaze: they can put themselves in the story and imagine they are practicing a type of empathy, when in fact they’re just perpetuating erasure.”
Journalist Jesse Signal points out many passages that show the specificity of the location Cummins writes about.
This is not the first time a book has been trashed by people who probably didn’t read it. A year ago, Amélie Wen Zhao’s unpublished novel Blood Heir was brought up on charges of being racist. It was mostly a play to get people to buy the books of the complaining critics, instead of the one that received the big advance and heavy push from publishers.
In Gurba’s review at Tropics of Meta, she writes that she was predisposed not to like the book based on a publisher’s letter, and she hates it thoroughly. “Unfortunately, Jeanine Cummins narco-novel, American Dirt, is a literary licuado that tastes like its title,” Gurba writes eviscerating both Cummins and the work. “Cummins plops overly-ripe Mexican stereotypes, among them the Latin lover, the suffering mother, and the stoic manchild, into her wannabe realist prose. Toxic heteroromanticism gives the sludge an arc and because the white gaze taints her prose, Cummins positions the United States of America as a magnetic sanctuary, a beacon toward which the story’s chronology chugs.”
For this review and for speaking out, Gurba says that she received threatening messages as well. To Gay, the threats Gurba received are more worrisome than the threats Cummins received.
“People need to realize what real censorship looks like,” Gay said. “They need to understand how unsafe it can be to challenge authority and the status quo. These are not things that should be taken lightly, nor should this level of harassment be dismissed as mere trolling. You never know when one of those so-called trolls is going to take his rage from the internet into the physical world.”
Ideally, well-known authors would decry all threats made against authors for their work. Gay was asked about the intimidation that caused Flatiron to cancel Cummins tour. “This woman is going to be set for life,” Gay said to the panel. “This book is going to earn royalties in perpetuity, and so it just reinforces what publishing already knows, which is as long as white people are translating the experiences of people of colour, it will sell very well.” Perhaps she thinks that the threats don’t matter if the author is successful.
To publicize the threats made against those authors who wrote against American Dirt, an online “death quilt” was organized so everyone could see. While Gay is saying that this is what “real censorship looks like,” neither bad reviews nor cruel missives from internet trolls are what censorship actually looks like. Censorship looks like a political and cultural ideology that demands adherence to rules about who is entitled to write what due to the fact of the genetic background. Locking people into prisons of ancestral experience is what censorship looks like, whether it comes from government or organized advocacy to correct publishers for transgressing these rules.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has cancelled his trip to the Caribbean after receiving backlash online on Sunday after it was reported he was still planning to go on the trip, despite Canadian cargo and passenger trains being shut down for the greater part of two weeks.
The Canadian Press reported Sunday afternoon Trudeau was still intending to go on the trip to the Caribbean, so it appears Trudeau backed out last minute.
The Prime Minister’s Office released a press release Sunday evening, less than 24 hours before his flight was supposed to take off to Barbados.
The PMO stated that Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne will go to represent Canada instead.
Trudeau was planning to continue his world tour to try and secure Canada a seat at the United Nations Security Council.
Last week Trudeau was in Africa and Europe trying to drum up support from foreign countries for the UN vote on who will get the seat. The prime minister was criticized throughout the week, including when he indicated Canada would be willing to help develop an African country’s oil and gas sector at the same time Canadian protesters are trying to shut down parts of Alberta’s oil and gas industry. Trudeau was also criticized roundly for shaking and bowing to Iran’s foreign minister a month after the country shot down a plane killing 57 Canadians and for not returning home sooner as the #ShutDownCanada protests continued to go on unabated.
Grocery, agriculture, retail sectors have all been affected by the protests. Some major cities also receive their chlorine for water treatment from CN Rail trains, which could mean drinking water in major cities may run out. Other cities rely on getting their propane to heat homes from trains.
Via Rail predicts over 83,000 passengers were affected and over 400 trains trips were cancelled due to the protest blockades over the past two weeks.
This is the 5th installment in a series analyzing cult manipulation strategies, as they apply to the social justice movement. Read the rest of the series here.
Have you noticed cancel culture getting more and more extreme lately? A few years ago, men would get mobbed on social media for allegations of real-life sexual assault. Now people are getting mobbed online, not for what they say or do, but for merely liking someone else’s tweet. Now people are mobbed not for their own opinions, but for simply suggesting that other people should have the freedom to express one.
Cancel culture is becoming more and more extreme, because it has to. This is because cancel culture isn’t about holding people accountable or upholding social mores. Instead, it’s about feeding the social needs of the people doing the mobbing.
The social justice movement behaves in the same way as traditional cults that immerse people in a closed social environment (such as a university) and then make them completely dependent on a system of social rewards and punishments.
Of course, social rewards and punishments are normal in any society. But in the regular world, there are lots of ways people can gain social rewards like praise, love, and social status; they can do well in their job, or volunteer in the community. They can develop a good sense of humour, or create art, or spend time with family or friends.
In cults, the methods for gaining any kind of love or status are limited to behaviours that benefit the cult leadership. The social need for love and acceptance is a very real human need. Therefore, if obedience to the cult is the only way to fill this need–and avoid being shunned or banned by the group–then you’re likely to comply. This is compounded by your isolation from outside norms and information.
One of the methods for gaining acceptance in a cult is learning the cult doctrine. The other methods include whatever else leadership wants, such as recruiting new members, or fundraising, or–in the case of social justice–mobbing and harassing anyone who does not comply (“cancel culture”). In fact, the more complicated and contradictory the cult doctrine is, the easier it is to control people. We can see this in the increase in the extremeness of cancel culture, which is happening alongside an increase in the complexity of social justice doctrine. And social justice doctrine is very complicated indeed.
For an example of the complexity of these rules, consider social justice’s teachings on other cultures.
Indigenous are being oppressed by “cultural genocide”–the decline and loss of their culture. If you’re a non-Indigenous person, DON’T make any traditional Indigenous art–that’s “cultural appropriation”, and it’s oppressive. Or it might even be “cultural genocide” outright. Remember, we need to celebrate other cultures, but we can’t actually experience those cultures ourselves.
White women wearing Black hairstyles or feathers or chopsticks in their hair is oppressive. But making food from other cultures is cultural appreciation, which is a good thing.
Listening to music outside your culture is ok, but producing it is NOT OK, as we see here. Even when it’s between Indigenous groups, performing another culture’s musical concept is a grave evil, which must be protested through a boycott. Boycotting the rare avenues that promote Indigenous music is thus the appropriate way to fight cultural genocide (AKA the decline of Indigenous music). Now, all of this is the fault of colonization, and “colonizers” (i.e. non-Indigenous people) need to move over to make room for Indigenous peoples. But also, we need more immigration to bring even more non-Natives here, and any criticism of immigration methods or levels is racist.
Got all that?
Hopefully you do, because you need to understand it in order to gain love and status from your peers. If you slip, you’ll be shamed (but not completely mobbed) by someone telling you to “please educate yourself” before you commit further sins against the social order. You’ll be told that you’re wrong, but if you object or ask why, you’ll be shamed further, because expecting an explanation for why you’re wrong is asking for “emotional labour” from an oppressed person–another sin against the group.
Thankfully, there’s a solution that’s easier than mastering these convoluted rules and getting shamed for asking questions. You can simply join in an online mob to shame someone else who is stepping out of line. You can gain love by doxing someone or joining a boycott or harassing someone out of a job.
And herein is why cancel culture is becoming more and more extreme. It’s not about enforcing moral standards. That’s why the bar for moral progressive standards is becoming increasingly restrictive. The constant in all of this is cult members’ need for love, acceptance, and status, which can be fed through online mobbing.
If the moral code of social justice remained stable over time, people would get used to the rules and avoid breaking them. Then we would run into a shortage of people stepping out of line. It sounds ridiculous, but people stepping out of line is an actual resource–and a finite one at that. This is one of the areas where you see a distinction between the people who voluntarily agree with social justice ideals, and people under control of the cult. We all have social needs, and members of the cult are limited in how they can achieve them. One of those limited ways is through joining a mob.
And this is why we have people actually searching through Mark Hamill’s like history on twitter.
Because in a cult, hate is love.