Sometimes I wonder if everyone has gone mad, if there are any adults left in the room?

It’s 2022 and we’ve just been through a really challenging pandemic. Many died, many more got sick and many more than that had their lives changed irrevocably. Instead of taking a deep breath and looking on optimistically as COVID starts to fade, it seems the lunacy is ratcheting up. If a country like Canada can spawn the largest truck protest in history against mandates and government tyranny, then you know we’re in a bad movie. Canada, for heaven’s sake!

Here in South Africa, we live in a country where most people aren’t sure they’ll get a meal today; where jobs are scarce and where more than a third of our people depend on welfare (in other words, they depend on the one-third who have jobs) for survival. We have homelessness, child-headed households, gender-based violence and people setting parliament on fire… but if you went on Twitter, that’s not what gets people fired up. Oh no, on Twitter it’s all about MacG and pronouns, someone being racist, bigoted or somehow offensive, the EFF, AfriForum, Duduzane Zuma’s swag and cancelling Joe Rogan. Of course, they’re pretending – none of those people are actually wounded by a tweet, scarred by some celebrity’s behaviour, or genuinely upset about pronouns. It’s all acting, and it gets you some attention online for a short while.

By now, cancel-culture is a well-established reality. When I first had my run-ins early on in my career, it was in its infancy. By now, they’ve tried to cancel me so many times I might hold a record for surviving it, but I’m not alone – and according to some, within the next ten years everyone will get cancelled – including you.

In just the last week, Whoopi Goldberg said some stupid things on The View (which is a show that none of us should look to for history lessons anyway), and now her job is on the line. Joe Rogan quoted someone using the “n-word” in a podcast 9 years ago, and now he’s a racist that must be slaughtered. Armies of trolls are combing the internet to find everyone’s worst moment or statement in order to line them up for the firing squad after a show trial on Twitter. Unless you choose to be ignorant, you can see this is a co-ordinated, outrage-addicted, manufactured diversion that seems to be working. Unfortunately it also proves that humans have learnt nothing since “witches” were burnt in Salem in 1692.

One casualty of these kangaroo courts will be the truth, the other will be good people who don’t say things that fit the narrative.

Anyone who has read more than one history book, spent a few hours talking to someone they respect, or heard a compelling argument against their position knows that the only way for us to evolve and improve is by conversation. Only by engaging respectfully, discussing the tough issues of our time and hearing opposing viewpoints, will we have any hope of dying smarter than we were born. Unless we do these things we also won’t go anywhere exciting as a species. Without open dialogue, humanity is doomed to the much more rudimentary communication tools of baboons or chimpanzees.

I have been watching cancel-culture develop like a cancer as people who are either so convinced they’re right, or so terrified they’re wrong, seek to shut down those they disagree with. One side seems wholly incapable of winning arguments or even taking the risk of being wrong that they won’t risk a casual discussion over things like masks, vaccines, lockdowns, racism, transgenderism, individual rights or even Keynesian economics. Some of these topics are outright verboten in some circles. Any discussion outside of the orthodox opinion is akin to religious heresy – and even by association with someone who has a nuanced approach, you’re found guilty of misinformation or disinformation.

Your alarm bells should always go off, whether you’re a free-speech absolutist or not, when someone tries to control what you hear or see. History will show that they’re never the good guys, but some people have become willing Stasi-agents for the forces that wish to control you. It is made painfully clear by the cancel-cult types that they don’t wish to discuss any of it. You must submit, or face their wrath and accept your destruction. Also, when you apologise (as so many have done), they never forgive you… so don’t bother.

Among the many names that have been assigned to me over the years, “anti-vaxxer” has now been added, despite the fact I’ve received two Pfizer shots of the vaccine. The truth doesn’t matter to this bunch. It’s part of a cult signalling to each other that they are the “good” people. When sponsors get scared of the Twitter mob and cancel sponsorships, they miss the golden opportunity for facilitating dialogue and fostering understanding and development. I’m reminded of this poem:

There was a young lady from Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside
And the smile on the face of the tiger

If you think apologising or giving in to the cancel-cult will save you, you’re just hoping to be eaten last. The hysteria and outrage addiction has now reached such fever-pitch that Joe Rogan (without doubt the most successful media personality in the world) is facing an uncertain future. He’ll be fine, of course, because his audience is so enormous that he’ll be able to take them anywhere, even if Spotify cave to the mob. His hundreds of millions of listeners are like a decentralised cryptocurrency that can’t be controlled by governments or mobs, and they represent a threat to those who wish to control us. If you’re not starting to decentralise your own work, life and dependence on structures, then I’m afraid you’ll eventually fall too.

When we started almost eight years ago, we wanted it to be a platform where people could talk, where we could argue about things we’re passionate about, and where we could share points of view without being censored – to entertain, to inform, to inspire and to empower. It is one of the few remaining spaces where all are welcome, where nobody needs to watch what they say, where nobody needs to lie to fit in, or be ashamed of having an unpopular opinion. We’re not going to give in, we’re here to stay, and I’d rather stand with the people I disagree with, than feel safe in a crowd that’s obviously wrong.

Onwards and upwards… always.

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