Robert Gehrke: From New York to Salt Lake County, these politicians blame ‘cancel culture’ for their misdeeds

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Gehrke.

Every day it seems brings more news of disgraceful behavior by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Some of it is sexual impropriety, some of it just boorish and abusive behavior, some of it is official malfeasance.

There have been calls by dozens of New York politicians, Democrats and Republicans, for the governor, once mentioned as a potential presidential contender, to step down — and he should.

But I nearly threw my phone at the wall Friday when I saw him play what has become the most overused trump card for anyone trying to avoid accountability: Blame “cancel culture.”

Cuomo was fending off the latest calls for his resignation, saying New York politicos are forming opinions before an ongoing investigation is complete, but he vowed that he wouldn’t resign. The voters, he said, “know the difference between playing politics, bowing to cancel culture and the truth.”

(John Minchillo | AP) New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Blaming “cancel culture” has become the excuse du jour, a “get-out-of-accountability-free” card.

We saw that closer to home with Salt Lake County Councilman Dave Alvord’s atrocious social media tirade where he claims “the left” won’t be happy until “we each have light brown skin … until there are no males, no females … until we are all bisexual and in noncommitted relationships,” until we live in pods, nobody has children, nobody smiles and “until we are as miserable as they are.”

To Alvord, it seems, letting people live their lives and seek happiness on their own terms — whether they have brown skin or are bisexual or don’t have children — is an attack on his fragile white, heterosexual maleness and, somehow, his ability to smile.

It’s patently absurd. Yet when he was the focus of justifiable outrage, he hid behind the “cancel culture” canard.

“My post was meant to engage discussion about where ‘cancel culture’ is heading, which I believe has a dangerous destination,” Alvord wrote in a subsequent non-apology, in which he literally said he would like to “apologize for any who misunderstood my intentions” — as opposed to apologizing TO people who understood and objected to what he was saying or apologizing FOR his own stupidity.

But, hey, just blame “cancel culture” and everything is fine and it all goes away — except it’s not. It’s not fine and it shouldn’t just go away.

Taking responsibility for one’s actions and owning the consequences are important lessons. Sending a child who draws on the walls to his or her room is not cancelling that child’s expression.

We can’t send Alvord to his room, but people can object and should be able to express their disagreement with his views and disappointment with his ignorance. When Cuomo has one former employee after another saying he harassed them or acted in a sexually inappropriate manner, it’s not about cancelling him, it’s about accountability.

We also need to be clear about what “getting cancelled” is not.

The political right — which perfected the art of “cancelling” views with which it disagreed, is now perfecting the cancel culture grievance. Fox News in particular, seems oddly hung up on slapping the label on just about everything.

To the talking heads on Fox, the estate of Dr. Seuss deciding to stop selling certain books with racist cartoons in them is being cancelled — not people who care about his work caring for his reputation. Disney letting parents filter movies like Peter Pan with racist stereotypes was getting cancelled.

Uncle Ben, Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth were supposedly cancelled. Even Pepe LePew got cancelled when the lecherous cartoon character was taken out of the movie “Space Jam.”

Each example is a business, on its own, acknowledging a problematic past and trying to do better.

And while the parallels between the famously predatory skunk and the governor of New York are perhaps fitting, conflating them in any way trivializes the gravity of Cuomo’s alleged misdeeds.

But that’s kind of the point. Any time the term “cancel culture” is trotted out the intent is clear: Diminish the views of those who feel they have been wronged — they’re just politically correct snowflakes who can’t handle the truth. It rationalizes the wrong, avoids addressing the core issue, and finally, turns the criticism of one’s often abominable behavior against the critics.

It’s a label, like “fake news” was before it, intended to shut down discussion and to avoid accountability and consequences. It’s a feeble attempt often used to defend the indefensible and we should call it out as such. Better yet, we should cancel it, altogether.