Social Justice & Caesarism

Commentary, Culture Wars, Brian Giesbrecht

Don Cherry has now left the scene.  After decades of entertaining hockey fans, it was two words – “You people” – that did him in.  Although he later said he meant to say “Everyone”, judgement was swift and the execution was carried out on Remembrance Day.  A Canadian icon is banished. In words of James Howell: “No use crying over spilled milk.”

Why do some people who do inappropriate things get shown the door, while others who do things at least as bad get to stay?  For instance, everyone would agree that if Coach’s Corner fans had found Cherry giving his spiel in blackface that would have been a far more egregious offence.  And, yet that exactly describes just one of our Prime Minister’s many unacceptable antics. Why does a Trudeau get to stay, while a Cherry has to go?

In Roman times a simple method was employed to decide whether a defeated gladiator should live or die. The rabble audience would give either a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down”. If “up”, the defeated gladiator would live, if “down” he would die.  Our television screens now employ exactly that barbaric two-option choice to solicit our opinions – instant, emotional reactions. In our new social media world it seems we have regressed to the Roman colosseum to determine the future of people who come to the attention of the social media mob.  

Fairness and due process not required, a simple thumbs up or thumbs down will do.  

The #MeToo movement ushered in this change. The upside is that incidents of sexual 

exploitation likely have been reduced. The downside is that some innocent people have been crushed in the process.  Corporations, governments, sporting organizations and other institutions are using social media reaction to decide who to keep and who to terminate.. 

Institutions are changing their policies to protect against the risk of future sexual complaints. In some cases this has seen men not willing to even have a dinner meeting with a female co-worker, so to protect themselves against the possibility of a complaint. In other cases, women will not be hired to avoid the possibility of future trouble.  #MeToo is in it’s early stages, but already some of its consequences are quite troubling and have little to do with fairness.

A television host reminiscing about wearing blackface as part of his childhood Hallowe’en costume is terminated, while a politician who deliberately participated wearing blackface as an adult stays on. The McDonald’s CEO had consensual sex with an employee and is canned, while the CEO associated with the lethally-flawed Boeing 737 Max jet get to keep his job. We have returned to an old world mentality, one that judges instantly according to thumb direction, where fairness not to be a reasonable expectation?

And the social media mob that now appears to rule the world can almost instantly call out an actual outrage mob when it seeks to entertain itself with public ‘lynching’. How else to explain the howling horde that descended on feminist Meghan Murphy at a Toronto Library presentation – just because she delivered the scientifically correct message that a man does not become a woman simply by declaring that he is one.

A Canadian icon has been sacrificed in the name of a social justice that is not justice at all.