Young people should heed Barack Obama’s warnings about “militant wokeness,” said John Daniel Davidson in TheFederalist.com. In a speech at his foundation last week, Obama admonished young activists for thinking the way to create change “is to be as judgmental as possible about other people” and to call them out on social media. In an ambiguous world, the former president said, denouncing both adversaries and insufficiently woke allies is a mistake. “If all you’re doing is casting stones,” Obama said, “you’re probably not going to get that far.” Obama is right, said Chris Cillizza in CNN.com, but you have to wonder if perpetually outraged “cancel culture acolytes” are listening. For them, there are only good people “who agree with me on all things,” and bad people who must be fired, shamed, and shunned.
Obama sounds like a cranky Boomer to me, said Ernest Owens in The New York Times. What people of Obama’s generation so blithely dismiss as “cancel culture” are young people who are objecting to being marginalized by people with “bigoted or backward” views. We’re not the bullies; “we’re trying to push back against the bullies.” Hashtag campaigns like #BlackLives Matter and #MeToo are really no different from the “picket signs and petitions” used by previous generations. It’s disappointing to see Obama so worked up over this, said Jacob Bacharach in TheOutline.com, but “not surprising.” Naïve confidence that he could kill political opponents with kindness crippled his presidency, yet Obama still clings to the fantasy that progressives would achieve more if only they were more courteous.
The real victims of cancel culture are not powerful bullies, said Jonathan Zimmerman in The Philadelphia Inquirer. All of us are now prisoners of a culture in which “a single errant phrase can render you a pariah.” A 2018 survey found that 54 percent of college students think it’s dangerous to share unpopular opinions—for good reason. Take Andi Moritz, a Bryn Mawr freshman in 2016 who made the mistake of asking on Facebook if other students were going to a nearby Trump rally. She was cyberbullied into dropping out of college—“in other words, she was canceled.” That’s just wrong. “The only thing that will keep cancel culture going is for the rest of us to keep quiet about it.”