Americans of varied political stripes have watched the spread of “cancel culture” with growing concern.
In a recent article published at Forbes.com, Professor Evan Gerstmann wrote: “There is no single accepted definition of cancel culture, but at its worst, it is about unaccountable groups successfully applying pressure to punish someone for perceived wrong opinions. The victim ends up losing their job or is significantly harmed in some way well beyond the discomfort of merely being disagreed with.” Gerstmann accurately points out that “victims of cancel culture are generally not powerful people. They are often vulnerable people who suffer devastating harm.” In July 2020, the Cato Institute published survey results indicating that for 62% of Americans, “the political climate [prevents] them from saying things they believe.”
On January 19, 2021, Focus on the Family fell victim to “cancel culture” when its publication, The Daily Citizen, was locked out of its own Twitter account. Twitter’s action provoked outrage from Christian organizations across the country. The reason for the lockout? The Daily Citizen had supposedly violated Twitter’s rule against “hateful conduct.” The Daily Citizen’s offending tweet read as follows: “‘On Tuesday, President-elect Joe Biden announced that he had chosen Dr. Rachel Levine to serve as Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of HHS. Dr. Levine is a transgender woman, that is, a man who believes he is a woman.’” This, of course, is not a hateful comment; it is a plainly truthful one. So what’s the problem?
Twitter’s rule against hateful conduct states that users “may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.” Nothing about The Daily Citizen’s tweet promoted violence, threatened anyone, or harassed anyone. However, a more detailed version of Twitter’s hateful conduct policy states the following: “We prohibit targeting individuals with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category. This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.” This language isn’t a model of clarity, but it seems to indicate that Twitter finds it “hateful” to state that a male who identifies as transgender is, in fact, a male.
Twitter is not a government entity, so its policy is not unconstitutional; it’s just outrageous and dishonest. Like too many others, Twitter deems it “hateful” for a person to express views that fail to match up with the self-created moral code of the American left. Speaking the truth is not an act of hatred, and speaking the truth is what Christian believers are called to do—even if doing so results in the loss of our social media privileges.