That thing that isn’t happening has happened again. Cancel culture has seemingly claimed its latest victim in Sasha White, a literary agent reportedly fired by her employer after trans activists complained about her retweeting a social media post that said ‘being vulnerable to male violence does not make you women’. Her biography on a previously anonymous Twitter account asserted that ‘gender non conformity is wonderful; denying biological sex not so’ and she had also expressed support for J.K. Rowling, a hate-figure for gender extremists. That’s that.
British feminist Julie Bindel warns that ‘women are losing their jobs, reputations, university education and livelihoods’ as a result of cancel culture, that lurid right-wing fantasy that is also totally normal and justified. Bindel describes a culture of fear among women who have the misfortune to hold the wrong views about gender:
‘In recent months, I have heard from a number of feminists living in fear of losing their income as a result of being called to task for a) refusing to add pronouns to emails b) liking a JK Rowling tweet c) questioning whether single sex workplace toilets should become free-for-all, and d) refusing to use language in official documents such as “cervix havers” and “chest feeders”. All of these examples are real. These women are all currently under investigation and risk being made unemployed and unemployable.’
This is a function of coercive progressivism: ‘an ideological project to enforce a progressive moral code through law, social convention and brute force’. Ideally, we would recognize this for the calamitous path that it is, not least because, as with all insurgent ideologies, coercive progressivism’s opponents will invariably come to mimic its tactics even as they decry its objectives.
The answer is liberalism (free speech, open debate, pluralism, tolerance and a non-partisan civil society) but in its absence opponents of cancel culture should get creative — and entrepreneurial. There is a gap in the market for a temporary solution to the threat of being fired, expelled, anathematized, deprived of income or even rendered homeless for expressing a political opinion: cancellation insurance. You can insure yourself against fire, flooding, property damage, even death, so why not against cancellation by the mob?
Who working in ideas, opinion, education, or, given cancel culture’s ever-expanding reach, almost any industry, would not want the peace of mind of knowing that they were indemnified against the worst the coercive progressives might do to them? Cancellation insurers could compete to offer the best package at the lowest price. Basic policies might cover loss of income, healthcare benefits and costs incurred retraining for a new career, while more comprehensive coverage could include legal costs should you choose to bring suit against your employer or college, or even your cancelers.
Cancelers often seize on a few prominent examples of canceled people who land on their feet and even end up more prosperous or influential than they were. This is a progressive echo of right-wing efforts to highlight outlier welfare recipients who, deprived of their EBT cards, quickly find stable work. The truth is that, while some canceleds secure a higher-paying job, make an overnight success of Substack, or can fund their way through the head-down period, most Americans lack the financial means or social connections to ride out cancellation. Fifty-three percent have no emergency savings while research from JPMorgan Chase found that, on average, middle-income households have only $2,000 set aside while low-income households have just $700. Sixty percent of millennials could not cover an urgent need for $1,000. Being canceled means being ruined financially as well as reputationally.
That is another aspect that a full-service insurance policy could incorporate: crisis communications. A cancellation agency that offered both insurance and reputation management could launch a social media support campaign, gather signatures on a petition and lobby like-minded people in public life to express solidarity. Stories would be seeded in the mainstream media getting across your version of events and framing the attacks on you as coordinated bullying and any disciplinary action taken against you as an unjust and cowardly genuflection to the mob, if not viewpoint discrimination.
The downside of anything beyond basic cancellation insurance, and specifically services that linked it to reputation salvaging, is that it would probably end up adopting the bullying behavior of the cancelers. More aggressive protection programs would inevitably offer to dig through the social media archives of your cancelers or of senior management at your workplace or institution for potentially offensive material. You would become implicated in the canceling of others and the infinite outrage generator would chug faster and spread harm wider. Yet, because cancellation not only imperils your income now but reduces your future earning potential, the demand for something more than a few months’ support to pay the rent would eventually asset itself.
Even so, the core concept of insuring yourself against catastrophic destruction to your career and public standing is sensible and, particularly where it covered legal costs, might even deter the mob from coming for you in the first place. If nothing else, cancellation insurance would allow you to write and speak freely without worrying that doing so will see you out of pocket or out on the street.