No One is Entitled to Friends
You’re not ‘canceled’, you’re just an asshole
When Donald Trump was elected president, the Republicans who voted for him were distraught that family and friends suddenly wanted nothing to do with them. Apparently, it hadn’t occurred to these voters that supporting a racist misogynist sociopath would be a dealbreaker to the people in their lives who found such qualities horrifying.
They couldn’t fathom being shamed for doing something shameful. Can’t anyone just disagree anymore? Sure I wore a ‘fuck your feelings’ shirt, but unfriending me on Facebook is a step too far! This bleating outrage has been rotting in the brains of conservatives ever since.
From countless columns and cable TV segments to actual legislation, ‘cancel culture’ fury dominates Republican discourse. So the latest entry into the ‘free speech’ canon—a New York Times op-ed from a college student upset that her classmates occasionally disagree with her—was no surprise. Such pieces are commonplace, and can even be springboards into full-time careers mining conservative victim-complexes for a hefty paycheck.
Like so many her predecessors, the op-ed’s author claims there are “steep” consequences for those on college campuses with unpopular political opinions—but names zero actual consequences.
The offending censorious behavior? During one classroom discussion her peers “shift[ed] in their seats.” Another student relayed a class debate where “a succession of people, one after each other, vehemently disagree[ed] with me.” Not exactly the stuff of nightmares. The young writer’s main gripe, however, is that she and her like-minded friends now prefer to have conversations behind closed doors, in hushed tones—or say nothing at all—rather than deal with social backlash.
Essentially, she can’t say every single thing she wants without people thinking she’s wrong (and maybe even a bad person).
And that’s what is at the heart of so many of these ‘cancel culture’ complaints; conservatives don’t just want to be bigots, they want to be bigots with friends. They want to say terrible things and still get swiped right on; they want to support legislation that puts people’s lives in danger and somehow still get invited to parties.
But here’s the thing: Expressing unlikeable views often makes you unlikeable. That’s not censorship, it’s life.
What people call cancel culture is really just run-of-the-mill social and moral consequences—which have been around forever. A society decides what kind of values they find important, and which they find intolerable. You are more than welcome to be on the wrong side of history, but it certainly doesn’t entitle you to friends.
Besides, the issues that conservative college students see as classroom fodder aren’t a debate to most people—they’re matters of life and death. So while some of the most powerful people in the country play victim—often from the pages of national news outlets and platforms that reach millions—those who are actually hurt by political rhetoric, or outright oppressed, are ignored.
If young conservatives want to make more friends, or be in classrooms where their peers aren’t repelled by them, they should consider that perhaps the problem isn’t everyone else. And that maybe, just maybe, the world isn’t really against them—it’s just moving on without them.
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