The attempted cancellation of Richard Hanania: Why I think he will be OK

As the Huffington Post attempts to cancel his book deal in light of some decade-old ‘extremist’ remarks uncovered online, Richard Hanania reflects on his past and the evolution of his political views, and the renunciation of his old views: Why I Used to Suck, and (Hopefully) No Longer Do.

I am optimistic he will survive this unscathed. Rod Dreher, taking a more critical view, predicts his book will be cancelled, “I expect that his forthcoming book will be cancelled in light of the new information (and you really have to read the link in the first graf to read how awful they were).”

My more optimistic take is, this isn’t 2012-2017, so cancellation is not going to work as well, if at all. Many authors and academics have their own platforms and incomes, such as Substack, Twitter, and donations. Also, after years of hoaxes and other fake news, the left’s credibility is damanged, even among other leftists. Outside of a handful of insular journalists and activists, as if there is much of a distinction between the two anymore, no one takes Huffington Post or Vice as seriously anymore. If this were 2010, yeah, such a story could be career-ending for its intended target, but not anymore. Now it comes off as major pearl clutching and desperate. It’s like, “We would otherwise agree with you, except the definition of racism and racist has been expanded to include everything and almost everyone, so it means nothing now.”

The reason I’m the target of a cancellation effort is because left-wing journalists dislike anyone acknowledging statistical differences between races. My mistake in a previous life was assigning collective guilt based on certain undeniable facts. Leftist suppression on these issues has clearly backfired, and we have to work towards getting to a place where we neither deny reality like much of the political establishment does

No, he was targeted not for his beliefs, which are not even that uncommon or that extreme (there are many people who hold more extreme beliefs online), but because he got too big too fast. And despite holding such views, has mainstream credibility (being published in major publications) and credibility among centrist elites and wealthy donors. The left saw an opening after the Disqus data dump, and the book deal was the final straw. The left are not going to waste their time going after targets that have no mainstream credibility or whose ideas carry no currency among elites. The goal is to get Musk, Thiel and other important people to disavow Mr. Hanania out of self-preservation (because the assumption is that self-made billionaires somehow have to answer to the media’s opinion about what is racist or not), which, again, is not going to happen, but will have the opposite effect of only strengthening such support among donors and elites.

This is not even early 2021, when Jan 6th could have been a line that had been crossed too far when maybe you had to disavow, but now the battlelines have been clearly drawn between the woke and the un-woke, and anyone who is un-woke is a potential ally, no matter what (even Kid Rock has been conscripted into the light beer woke wars). Elon Musk’s buyout of Twitter established this as so, as not only being avowedly anti-woke but turning Twitter, which is bigger than any legacy media company, into an extension of that. Huffington Post is still operating under the mistaken assumption that outrage still works as well now as it did from 2010-2020. It does not when, like racism, it’s expanded to include everything, and the response even by your own readers on Twitter is an incredulous, “…marginal figure made mean comments online a decade ago…so what?”

The Obama era of drone airstrikes under the guise of liberation, and a successor whose voters cannot even muster the enthusiasm to even pretend to like the guy, has made even liberals jaded of the whole ‘liberalism project’. Not to mention, cancellation does not work anymore. We can clearly see that targets of cancellation, such as David Shor, rebound and recover by leveraging platforms and generating new support out of sympathy. It’s like, “We’re supposed to be destroying these people’s careers, but they only recover to new highs.”

I just told you that I see myself in many anonymous writers and twitter accounts, and instead of that eliciting sympathy, I just write them off as hopeless cases.

I disagree here about anonymity. As a caveat, when I say that cancellation does not work or the media’s credibility is shot, I mean among other elites and academics. Employers have the discretion to fire for even the most trifling of reasons, and do. Academics, pundits, and ‘thinkfluencers’ are hard to cancel, because, again, they have large platforms and support from other academics, elites, and pundits, forming a social network of sorts between a ‘web of reciprocation’ such as podcast appearances, donations, re-tweets and other promotion. The fact that David Frum and other writers still have such lucrative careers and large platforms despite being so wrong about the Iraq War, among other things, is evidence of such. If you are not part of that network and are at the whim of fickle employers , cancellation can and does work, in which anonymity is your only defense. If you get fired from Chipotle for re-tweeting an anti-woke joke or for believing that there are only two genders, you cannot ‘dm’ your podcast buddies for a plug or rely on reader donations: you’re hosed (unless, I guess, Elon will help you out).

He argues that his more optimistic message stands in contrast to the negativity or ‘doomerism’ of the alt-right:

Having gone through all that turmoil, America’s economy remains strong, and for all our problems, each of the potential alternatives from Chinese technocracy to Islamist theocracy to Putinism has to be considered an utter failure. The Year of Fukuyama, or as everyone else calls it, 2022, only confirmed the direction I was already leaning in.

The thing is, despite being on the non-mainstream ‘right’ (I’m not going to say alt-right because I think the brand has been damaged, in agreement with Hanania), I agree with all of this. Despite the ‘rise of authoritarianism’ and the ‘spectre of socialism’ (favorite attention-grabbing headlines often reused by the media), that liberal democracy and elections are still intact and not going anywhere. Trump did not in fact ‘overthrow democracy’ as he is often accused of doing. I agree also that despite endless predictions and pronouncements otherwise, that Fukuyama’s legacy is still intact, as much of a lightning rod for criticism that he has become. Same for Pinker: ‘enlightenment values’ have proven surprisingly resilient and have withstood all rivals and challenges, at least in the ‘West’.

Same for the US economy, ‘cultural, military, and economic hegemony’, and US stock market being head and shoulders above the rest of the world, as much as some of us may wish for the sun to finally set on the “American era”. I don’t see China or Russia as substantial threats to this. Putin cannot even take over a tiny piece of land, let alone recreate the USSR. Compare that to Hitler’s overnight takeover of countries. In early 2022 the alarmist media likened Putin’s invasion to the German annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938; how poorly that aged. I agree also that Bitcoin has no future, and is not a substitute for the dollar/fiat system, nor a hedge against inflation. I agree about being tough on crime, and how crime rates differ among groups, and I don’t see any reason to have to apologize for acknowledging this. You cannot try to fix social problems by pretending that they do not exist, or it they do, that they are distributed evenly or equally. Sometimes I too feel like I suck, but I hope I do not lose a book deal over it.