A common criticism of the ultra-progressive Left is that its culture warriors now resemble the right-wing ideological enforcers of yore, excommunicating those deemed to have sinned or performed heresies. Indeed, anyone older than 30 or so should have at least a dim memory of the social conservatives who wanted every aspect of American society—from universities, to the media, right down to the content of children’s television shows—hewing to the same family-values prayer book, and who led campaigns to censor violent video games, rap music, and edgy Hollywood entertainment.
In 1996, Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole called out Time Warner for publishing hip hop music whose lyrics glamorized violence against police officers. (“I would like to ask the executives of Time Warner a question: Is this what you intended to accomplish with your careers? You have sold your souls, but must you debase our nation and threaten our children as well?”) A quarter-century later, it’s progressives demanding the cancelation of movies and TV shows that present the police in any kind of positive light (and numerous other “problematic” themes). Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post, a former colleague of mine, wants us to “shut down all police movies and TV shows. Now,” or at least radically rewrite the scripts to portray police in a more negative light. Networks obliged by canceling shows such as Live PD. After 32 years on the air, the show Cops was axed by Paramount Networks in the wake of the protests that followed the May 25th killing of George Floyd.
It’s the same puritanical spirit that prevailed during the heyday of the Moral Majority, except that it’s been marshalled in service of a different faith. And you can hardly blame disaffected progressives, such as Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, for declaring that the “left is now the right” when it comes to smothering cultural and intellectual pluralism.