Disney’s Cancellation of Gina Carano for Making a Nazi Comparison is the Most Ironic Thing Ever
I was asked on my Facebook page (in my joint capacity as a free speech advocate and bona fide Joo) for my thoughts on the sacking of Gina Carano from The Mandalorian. For those who missed it, Carano apparently has some history of sharing Trumpite conspiracy theories, anti-mask material, etc. But what ultimately got her cancelled was comparing the plight of American conservatives to Jews in early-Nazi Germany.
This is the kind of event that makes me hate both sides in the culture war. I’m not a conservative, a Trump fan or an anti-masker, and often these people are annoying as hell. However, the minute someone like Carano says something a bit stupid, the wave of mass hysteria that emanates from the online Left makes me dislike the wokes far more than the person they are attacking. If anything has become clear from wave after wave of online mob outrage, it’s that the mob will happily turn on anyone, and find its justification later. I believe the online hystericals (who are backed by large parts of the media) are genuinely more dangerous than people like Carano. The mob response to people saying somewhat silly things strikes me as a far greater threat to liberalism than the actual saying of silly things.
The most serious charge against Carano was that she was antisemitic, for comparing American wokeness to the early Nazis. If comparing things to Nazi Germany is antisemitic, then pretty much everyone on the Left is antisemitic, because we’ve all done it. In fact, it rapidly emerged that one of Carano’s co-stars had, in 2018, compared the Trump regime to Nazi Germany. Apparently nobody took offence that time, and he didn’t get fired. The feelings of Jews and other minorities are wheeled out selectively when a lynchmob is in the mood for blood. So conservative claims of institutional bias do appear to be valid.
But no, comparing things to Nazi Germany is not in itself antisemitic. It may tend to get tiresome and historically inaccurate, but it is sometimes correct, and it’s not anti-Jewish (the clear exception to this rule being the game of comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, which is generally done for no other reason than to bait Jews).
Carano had shared an Instagram post with the following text:
“Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers but by their neighbors…even by children. Because history is edited, most people today don’t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews. How is that any different from hating someone for their political views”
This statement seems quite reasonable — especially as — in addition to Jews and other groups, Hitler did also persecute communists and socialists for their political views. Her post appears to be saying, in essence, “The Nazis were bad. Persecution is bad.” As a sentiment, it perhaps compares to Martin Niemöller’s famous poem, First They Came… She’s warning that when the mob is allowed to attack people unchecked, the mob will to grow in power and self-righteousness. It’s hard to disagree with this sentiment.
So Carano’s crime is at most one of hyperbole. Her sacking by Disney ironically proves her point. People are being sacked, losing their careers, being falsely labelled racist, white nationalist, sexist, homophobic, etc, and being marked out as undesirables for stating political opinions, and this is very worrying indeed. There is no due process here — Carano is officially marked out as a witch, an untouchable, the media mob joins the Twitter mob, and anyone disagreeing is also marked as problematic. There are certainly double-standards at play, and this is very worrying, because people who are forced outside of the mainstream will feel (valid) resentment, and some of those will inevitably drift towards extremist positions.
Carano’s comparison of wokeness to Nazi Germany was hyperbolic, but not without any foundation. The wave of left-wing censorship, “cancellation” and racial segregation sweeping American institutions IS reminiscent of proto-totalitarian movements. The Nazis used woke-style terminology to warn Germans that a privileged race of people (then the Jews, now “white supremacy”) is oppressing everybody else, and needs dealing with. Sure, it may be more accurate to compare this period to McCarthyism, or the Khmer Rouge, the Bolsheviks, the Cultural Revolution, Jim Crow or the rise of Apartheid, or it might be not much like any of these things, but it’s real and it’s dangerous, and it’s OK to make historical comparisons when trying to understand where all this is going.
Those with any understanding of the history of totalitarianism will worry about the rise of the irrational mob. This week we saw, yet again, many left-wing voices explaining why the foundations of liberal democracy must be attacked in order to defend them — eerily similar to the arguments of 1930s communists who unwittingly helped drive Hitler to power. The now-familiar parade of wannabe Gestapo officers (see, I did it too!) lining up to tediously explain that “free speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences” was disturbing, and in recent years has become standard thinking on the left. For me, whose social circle is more left than right, seeing my Facebook acquaintances and their friends gloating at the destruction of someone’s career, and casually attacking the very concept of free speech is far more worrying than the ramblings of anti-maskers. This imbecilic “freedom from consequence” formulation is a formula for rolling back all speech protection. In the hands of the new inquisition, it just means “Sure, say what you want, but if you lose your job, get labelled a racist, never work again, get death threats, have your house burned down, go to prison, that’s all your fault”. This reminds me of the famous “Pick up the gun” routine by the comedian Bill Hicks in which he attacked the bullying behaviour of America against Iraq, comparing it to the bullying sharpshooter character in westerns. The woke version of “Pick up the gun” is “Go on, say something that I can misrepresent as racist”.
The media, as is now sadly usual, failed to provide honest coverage of the situation, and instead played the sad game of whipping up the mob. One wonders if the media outlets themselves, many in precarious financial positions, are now afraid of disagreeing with their readers. The Independent for example, followed up with a particularly inane comment piece, claiming that Carano’s sacking was proof that cancel culture doesn’t exist. The reasoning was based on a double layer of flawed logic: first, that removing Carano from The Mandalorian was perfectly reasonable; and second that this proves that all other cancellations are also reasonable. Neither of those claims is true. The article then dug itself in deeper by suggesting (without providing any evidence) that Carano herself might have loose antisemitic links, and that this made her comment even more offensive: “… perhaps exacerbated by the US far-right’s relationship with antisemitism and neo-Nazi ideology”, and then doubled down by proposing that Carano had implicitly supported Trump and that he also has a record of antisemism (again, no link or evidence provided). This sloppy use of unevidenced smears and guilt-by-association should have no place in a journal like the Independent, which was — we should remember — a quality newspaper not so many years ago.
The most ironic part of Gina Carano’s being labelled antisemitic is that we are seeing a surge of antisemitism on the left and from black nationalists. The people who tore down Carano were silent when Louise Farrakhan compared Jews to termites, with the hint they should be eradicated. They have ignored a wave of actual antisemitism that has emanated from the peripheries of the Black Lives Matter movement. They have ignored the antisemitic views of founders of the Women’s March. In the confused ideology of wokeness, it’s racist to challenge racists that aren’t white. They did not get upset when Antifa laid siege to a bookshop in Portland, or about vandalism against a string of Jewish targets by left-wing groups. They appear oblivious to the fact that Hitler’s call on Germany to “awake” to the existence of an oppressive Jewish elite is near-identical to the woke attacks on “white supremacy”.
What should Disney have done?
The neo-witch hunters (who the economist and author Glenn Loury has neatly labelled The Elect) operate by bouncing employers into kneejerk responses. It seems that Disney overreacted to the online faux-rage and the fact that the hashtag #CancelDisneyPlus was trending. But corporations need to learn to ignore the mob and realise that the vast majority of their customers are not going to cancel their subscriptions over the personal views of an actor, especially where these views have been misrepresented. I’m a little tempted to cancel my subscription as a protest against this corporate policing of speech, but actually I really like Disney Plus (although their streaming could be a bit more reliable), so I’ll be staying.
We need to build an Uncancel Culture — one that shames corporations for succumbing to the mob. There must, of course, be space for firing people who genuinely cross lines of acceptability. But the lines should be kept tight, and not allowed to creep. We also need intelligent and brave journalism that is less inclined to follow the mob and more inclined to check facts and defend free speech. And most of all we need to develop a sticks-and-stones culture, in which not every offensive remark can become an excuse for online bullies to take down their next target. I have been aware of antisemitic speech ever since some school friends joked about sending me to the shower (and then had to explain, a little embarrassed, the gas chamber reference). I’d prefer such jokes weren’t told, but attempts to ban them would simply feed into the “Jews rule the world” narrative, which is genuinely dangerous. If we fail to stop the slide into censorship of any comment deemed offensive, we will swiftly reach a point where any discussion of the Holocaust or other sensitive subjects is simply taboo. And then, we really will be in trouble.