FPI / January 28, 2020
A conservative commentator found herself a target of “cancel culture” after she dared criticize anti-Semitic comments made by Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, two members of the Democratic Party’s so-called “Squad.”
“Cancel culture” is the new tool of the Left which aims to discredit people they disagree with and shut down speech they find offensive.
The smear campaign against Amber Athey, White House correspondent for The Daily Caller, began soon after her appearance on the now-defunct NRATV in February 2019.
“Timothy Johnson, a so-called researcher for Media Matters for America who has spent nearly a decade lying in wait for conservative pundits, was watching,” Athey wrote in an op-ed for the February 2020 edition of The Spectator. “He didn’t like that I opposed the new de facto leaders of the Democratic Party. In revenge, he posted several screenshots of inappropriate jokes about Jewish people I made on Twitter seven years earlier. The screenshots went viral. My mentions and DMs flooded with demands for an apology, calls for my firing and orders that I kill myself. Bookers reached out to tell me that upcoming television and radio appearances were canceled.”
Athey apologized for the tweets she said she posted when she was 17-years-old.
“I apologized unequivocally because I agreed that the jokes were offensive. My intention was never to hurt anyone. Of course, the people who were the angriest about my old tweets didn’t really care if I was sorry or not. In their eyes, I was a raging anti-Semite and unworthy of forgiveness,” Athey wrote.
Athey, in high school at the time, said she sent the jokes to her Jewish boyfriend.
“In fact, my then-boyfriend and I highlighted the absurdity of anti-Semitism by googling ‘most offensive Jewish jokes’ and tweeting the results to each other,” Athey wrote. “Never mind the fact that making provocative jokes is practically a rite of passage for teenagers and I was just a member of the first generation with enough technology available to post such stupid things on the Internet.”
But Athey soon realized, as many conservatives before and since have, that leftists will scour the net looking for the smallest opening to use against someone whose opinion differs from theirs.
“Timothy Johnson didn’t care whether or not my tweets revealed a hatred for Jewish people,” Athey wrote.
“The number one thing to know about cancel culture (and Media Matters in particular) is that the people who engage in it are not acting in good faith. They don’t have a deep underlying concern for racism, anti-Semitism, transphobia, ableism or whatever their cause du jour may be. An ulterior motive almost always drives them, and it is political.”
Media Matters, Athey wrote, “wanted to shut me down for criticizing ‘the Squad’, the four Democratic members of Congress who have inexplicably ascended to dizzying heights of power and influence. More generally, the organization’s goal is to silence anyone who challenges liberal orthodoxy. Rather than logically defending their positions in the public square, the new digital priesthood would rather destroy lives over decades-old transgressions, even if they have been atoned for.”
Athey continued: “This truth was memorably illuminated when surrogates for President Trump announced that they had dug up dirt on hundreds of members of the left-wing media to give them a taste of their own medicine. Instead of being disturbed that so many of their colleagues had objectionable pasts, as true fighters of bigotry would be, these journalists cried that it was unfair to use their own tactics against them. In short: how dare you leverage human error against our side?”
The list of leftist media members who in no way have had to face the same consequences as conservatives, includes The New York Times’s Sarah Jeong, MSNBC’s Joy Reid, and Media Matters president Angelo Carusone.
Jeong survived the revealing of dozens of racist tweets about white people (she left her job eventually, but the paper defended her). Reid enjoys a weekend spot on the network despite blog posts featuring homophobia and 9/11 trutherism. Carusone still runs Media Matters, an organization Athey noted says it is dedicated to boycotting “bigoted” conservative pundits, despite his own history of what his own website would call transphobic, anti-Semitic and racist remarks.
“The lesson is clear: old tweets, blogs and comments aren’t really the issue. What counts is the politics of the person who made them,” Athey wrote.
Washington Examiner culture writer Eddie Scarry, who has faced his own share of Internet backlash told Athey that “Cancel culture is only real so long as anyone gives it meaning. What hysterical people say online should mean very little, even nothing, and the moment the rest of us accept that fact is the moment we do what we should have always done: ignore the self-important online morality police.”
Athey said she chose to take the apology route “because I was actually sorry and at the time I didn’t understand that the people the apology was directed toward either didn’t believe I was contrite or just didn’t care. Saying you’re sorry (and meaning it, of course) carries little weight when our culture doesn’t value forgiveness.”
Robby Soave, a senior editor at Reason, explains the disconnect: “I think under normal circumstances, it would be ideal for the person to apologize for their mistake, we would forgive them, and that would be that. The problem is that the broader culture demands the apology but refuses to supply the forgiveness…I think the kind of people who want to cancel someone else are not really looking for an apology. They are looking for vengeance. When they get the apology, they reject it. It’s not what they were looking for.”