The not so original Cancel Culture

The buzz word nowadays is ‘Cancel Culture’ the definition of this phenomenon according to WikiPedia is

-Cancel culture (or call-out culture) is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – whether it be online, on social media, or in person. Those who are subject to this ostracism are said to have been “cancelled”-

However cancel culture is nothing new. It does appear to resurface every once and again. Although the current ‘woke’ generation may think it is a socially very responsible thing to do, it is far from it.

The problem with cancel culture it only cheery picks elements of the truth in order to pursue a political philosophy. It also is more an ideology which is endorsed by both fringes of society, The far and extreme right and also the far and extreme left. You only have to look at the call out for banning of the Teletubbies ,by some far right evangelists in the USA, because it supposedly encouraged homo sexuality- Tinky Winky was allegedly a gay icon.

On the other hand there were calls for the books of Laura Ingalls “Little House on the Prairie” to be banned, by far left socialists, because if allegedly encouraged racism.

These are just 2 examples of the more current cancel culture phenomenon. As I said this however is nothing new. Back in the 1920’s there was a call for the banning of some movies because they went against the moral values of the wider society. Especially when there was nudity involved

A still of Annette Kellermann from A Daughter of the Gods (1916).

What many people nowadays don’t realize is that the first movie to win a best picture Oscar (the 1927 silent film “Wings”) had both male AND female nudity. In 1922, after several risqué films and a series of off-screen scandals involving Hollywood stars, the studios enlisted Presbyterian elder Will H. Hays to rehabilitate Hollywood’s image. Initially it started of with a list of 36 self-imposed “Don’ts and Be Carefuls,”

But soon that was no longer enough and the Hays code was introduced in 1934 and lasted for 34 years. The Hays Code was so strict that even the display of cleavage was controversial. There were some exemptions like in documentaries and comedies where some nudity was involved. Like the 1963 comedy “Promises! Promises!” starring Jayne Mansfield

We may not have the Hays code anymore but nowadays we have the “Community Standards” set by Social Media platforms such as Facebook, where it is possible toe get porn sent you via anonymous sources as spam and there seems to be no rule for that, however posting a topless picture of a wife or girlfriend on the beach is seen as totally offensive, but it is never explained who is offended by it. Or in my case where I was banned for posting a meme of Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler and his daughter actress Liv Tyler.

So far these examples have been relatively harmless but social media is becoming more and more the source for many of these cancel culture events. People just are not interested in educating themselves with all the facts. I totally condemn all racism, and I mean all racism. No one in their right mind will deny that there was slavery but slogans like “White Privilege” or “Black lives matters” will not help fight racism, in fact it will do the opposite. Of course we need to look at the history of slavery, but we need to look at all the history.

It is true that white slave traders went to Africa where they got slaves, but it mostly wasn’t them who captured the slaves. That was mainly done by other Africans often from other tribes.

This is a front cover of a London news paper a printed in 7 December 1889, of Tippu Tip, or Tippu Tib an Afro-Arab slave trader, ivory trader, explorer, plantation owner and governor. He worked for a succession of the sultans of Zanzibar. Tippu Tip traded in slaves for Zanzibar’s clove plantations. As part of the large and lucrative ivory trade, he led many trading expeditions into Central Africa, constructing profitable trading posts deep into the region. He bought the ivory from local suppliers and resold it for a profit at coastal ports.

Although he owned thousands of slaves and sold them for a profit , I haven’t heard anyone ask for him to be cancelled. He is not the only African slave traders there were many.

As for the aforementioned the banning or cancelling books like “the little house on the prairie” or a series of books of Dr Seuss really is nothing different then the 21st century version of book burning.

On April 8, 1933, he Main Office for Press and Propaganda of the German Student Union (DSt) proclaimed a nationwide “Action against the Un-German Spirit” Yes indeed the student union, supposedly educated people who actively encouraged fellow students and citizens to destroy books.

Of course the subject of History itself is under scrutiny and has been already cancelled in many schools.

We should all learn from the mistakes in history. We should also respect our differences and embrace them. But not by cancelling it but by debate and education. and especially education in History.

If we give in to these extreme philosophies on each side of the political spectrum we will make the same mistakes again. My biggest fear is that , and I mean this sincerely and genuinely, if we look at everything from just one side we will be contributing to a genocide we have never seen before.

May 10,1933- Book burning.

Book Burning

A scary thought crossed my mind this week. What some Social Media outlets are doing nowadays, is basically the digital version of book burning. Regardless how valuable a post might be, or even how inoffensive it is when the moderators don’t like it , it will get banned,or digitally burned so to speak.

On May 10,1933 German university students burned upwards of 25,000 volumes of perceived “un-German” books, foreshadowing an era of state censorship and control of culture. On the evening of May 10, in the majority of German university towns, right-wing students marched in torchlight parades “against the un-German spirit.” The scripted rituals called for high Nazi officials, professors, university rectors, and university student leaders to address the participants and spectators.

may 10

The books ranged from Bebel, Bernstein, Preuss, and Rathenau through Einstein, Freud, Brecht, Brod, Döblin, Kaiser, the Mann brothers, Zweig, Plievier, Ossietzky, Remarque, Schnitzler, and Tucholsky, to Barlach, Bergengruen, Broch, Hoffmannsthal, Kästner, Kasack, Kesten, Kraus, Lasker-Schüler, Unruh, Werfel, Zuckmayer, and Hesse. The catalogue went back far enough to include literature from Heine and Marx to Kafka. But also books from H.G Wells,Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf.

What amazes me most about this, these weren’t uneducated people doing this but students and lecturers, and other academics willingly participating in the destruction of scientific research and history.

books collected

These academics had become the moderators of what could or could not be read.

It is true history does repeat itself.

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Twelve Theses-When students encouraged the destruction of History.

twelve

One of the most effective weapons to fight antisemitism and racism is critical thinking. What scares me though, is that there seems to be less and less people who have this ability. Or maybe it is just a case that those who think critically are silenced.

This blog will be about a historical event , but I can’t ignore the fact that it has similarities to what is slowly creeping in today’s society. Often critical thinking gets confused with criticizing news reports or studies etc., but that is an incorrect assessment. Critical thinking is merely not accepting everything you hear automatically, but rather analyse the data and ask questions where needed.

One of the key ingredients for critical thinking is knowing history. There is currently a trend in  several countries, to take  history out of the school curriculum. However if you forget your history, you forfeit your future.

Books

In April 1933 German Student Association called for German university students to destroy all “un-German” literature. Basically they wanted to sanitize history to suit their own traditions and philosophies. According to them everything which was not in line with the Germanic ‘values’ ,and especially anything Jewish,was deemed tainted and had to be purged.

They published what they called “Zwölf Thesen wider den undeutschen Geist,-twelve Theses Against the Un-German Spirit”. The document was published in several German media. Below is an English translation of the text.

” Twelve Theses Against the un-German spirit!
1. Language and literature have their roots in the people. It is the German people’s responsibility to assure that its language and literature are the pure and unadulterated expression of its Folk traditions.

2. At present there is a chasm between literature and German tradition. This situation is a disgrace.

3. Purity of language and literature is your responsibility! Your people have entrusted you with the duty of faithfully preserving your language.

4. Our most dangerous enemy is the Jew and those who are his slaves.

5. A Jew can only think Jewish. If he writes in German, he is lying. The German who writes in German, but thinks un-German, is a traitor! The student who speaks and writes un-German is, in addition, thoughtless and has abandoned his duties.

6. We want to eradicate lies, we want to denounce treason, we want institutions of discipline and political education for us the students, not mindlessness.

7. We want to regard the Jew as alien and we want to respect the traditions of the Folk.

Therefore, we demand of the censor:
Jewish writings are to be published in Hebrew.
If they appear in German, they must be identified as translations.
Strongest actions against the abuse of the German script.
German script is only available to Germans.
The un-German spirit is to be eradicated from public libraries.
8. We demand of the German students the desire and capability for independent knowledge and decisions.

9. We demand of German students the desire and capability to maintain the purity of the German language.

10. We demand of German students the desire and capability to overcome Jewish intellectualism and the resulting liberal decay in the German spirit.

11. We demand the selection of students and professors in accordance with their reliability and commitment to the German spirit.

12. We demand that German universities be a stronghold of the German Folk tradition and a battleground reflecting the power of the German mind.

The German Student Association.”

Although these theses did not themselves expressly call for book burning, it is what triggered the book burnings across Germany and Austria in May 1933. This was only a few months after the Nazi party had taken power.

Frankfurt

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Sources

USHMM

Library Arizona