Why it’s time to cancel ‘cancel culture’
First they came for the statues, but I said nothing, because I wasn't an inanimate hunk of stone standing on a plinth.
Then they came for chess, Chicos, Winston Churchill, Aunt Jemima, Gone With the Wind, Ulysses S. Grant, some beer that dared to call itself "Colonial", and the TV show COPS, and, well, it all became a bit ridiculous.
Because what is being missed in the debate over "cancel culture" and its forensic examination of everyone and everything for anything that could possibly be construed as racist or "problematic" is that it is doing absolutely nothing to improve conditions for the people the left claims to want to help, while setting the rest of us at each others' throats.
Yet there is not an area of life that is immune from it.
In the US, even recipes are being rewritten under the new terms of wokeness.
There, the popular food magazine Bon Appetit this week issued a statement saying that they will be "auditing previously published recipes and articles that may not have been thoroughly fact-checked or read for cultural sensitivity when originally authored."
Given that the mayor of Bologna, Italy, Virginio Merola officially decreed last year that "spag bol" does not actually exist and is instead "fake news", we can only wonder how long one of Australia's most beloved national dishes has before it winds up in the dustbin of the un-woke.
And just as in Soviet Russia and Mao's China and countless other totalitarian hellholes of the past, those pushing the barrow for the new woke insurgency judge everything as to whether or not it advances their revolutionary aims - rather than whether it improves the lives of others.
The ridiculous thing is, Australian taxpayers are funding this.
On Wednesday, The Daily Telegraph reported that Australia's national broadcaster, which perpetually cries poor despite scraping by on a budget of well over $1 billion taxpayer dollars per year, was trying to get chess cancelled because the white pieces traditionally move first.
Australian economist and former Australian Chess Federation representative John Adams told the newspaper he received a phone call Tuesday afternoon from an ABC producer wanting to have "a conversation of white going first - and the racial context of whether white should go first."
You can see the producer's point. Rules stating the player playing white starts the game is exactly the sort of pernicious, structural racism that would have been engineered into a board game that developed sometime before the 7th century in what is now northwest India.
This is not the first time, by the way, that the left has been triggered by chess's white-moves-first conventions.
In what is still remembered as one of the most cringe-inducing statements ever uttered on ABC's Q&A, way back in 2010 Peter FitzSimons told a haunting story about playing chess with his son.
"And with my son, not long ago, I was playing chess and I was white and he was black and I was winning and he started crying", Fitzsimons recalled.
"And I said, `Why?' And he said, `Because this reminds me of what happened to the Aboriginal people.'"
That may have been a decade ago, but today the confected controversy over chess is a perfect metaphor for the way an increasingly radical left is seeking out ever more marginal things to be angry about in their attempts to flip over the board of society as we know it.
Because if you squint hard enough, you can find something to be offended about in anything.
Had the ABC wished, they could have instead had a go at Scrabble because it insists on proper spelling of words accepted into an official dictionary.
This despite there being a growing school of thought within of leftist academia which suggests that teaching, or expecting, people to use "proper" English is in itself racist and a mark of privilege - thus making games like Scrabble "problematic".
Likewise, the people who yesterday tried to cancel Gone With the Wind for supposedly glorifying slavery and the Confederacy (having clearly never watched the movie, because it's pretty explicit about the South losing bigtime) may tomorrow try to ban "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" from the classic rock airwaves.
But for all the activists' talk of trying to unpick and tear down the "structural racism" that is supposedly foundational to countries like Australia and the US, not one of these frenzies will do anyone one bit of good.
A multinational conglomerate changing the name of a candy won't do anything to close the gap of economic or educational opportunities for Indigenous Australians.
Middle class and largely lily white Twitter types debating who goes first in chess or whether a movie that by the way showcased a performance by Hattie McDaniel that would make her the first black woman to win an Oscar should be disappeared down the memory hole won't make any difference to the homicide rate in Chicago.
All they'll do is offer a few people and corporates the false hope of staying ahead of the mob for another news cycle - while setting the rest of us that much more against one another, with ever less common cultural clay to hold us together.
Perhaps we need a new rule to deal with all this.
No individual or corporation should set out to deliberately offend anyone.
At the same time, no one should set out to actively take offence - on their own or someone else's part.
And if you're going to advocate for "change", make sure it actually makes peoples' lives better.
Catch James Morrow on Outsiders every Sunday morning at 9am on Sky News Australia.
Originally published as Why it's time to cancel 'cancel culture'