A movement seeking to “erase” Donald J. Trump has emerged since he left the presidency.
The on ramp for this initiative is Trump’s perceived responsibility for the January 6 Capitol Building riot.
Today’s wave of purging the public space of sculptures and statues of people now deemed unacceptable is a new form of social repression.
Cancel culture extends this beyond statues to a person’s reputation, job or potential for being hired, possibility of publishing, doing business of any kind, seeking to silence voices through social media. Do not hire lists of previous Trump administration staff are being created, which Karl Rove said was way too far and compared the blacklists to public shaming.
One MSNBC analyst tweeted: “No book deals, no fellowships, no sinecures, no board seats for any of the henchmen and collaborators. No pundit gigs, no lecture circuit, no congressional runs, no professorships.”
Yet, “for over a century, publishers have played a leading role in defending free speech. In the 1920s, they challenged efforts to ban novels that became American classics. Random House defied obscenity laws to publish Ulysses. During the Cold War, publishers and librarians pushed back against efforts to censor “subversive” books and magazines by issuing the Freedom to Read Statement. In 1988, Viking Penguin published Satanic Verses and defended it from the Ayatollah’s fatwa and a worldwide campaign of terror.” Now, publishers are eagerly joining the cancel culture.
What many are now trying to do to people who worked in the Trump Administration is not unlike Amish shunning, an ultimate form of social avoidance for perceived crimes, or in this political instance for holding views not considered aligned with the prevailing acceptable narrative, or for daring to associate with someone now declared persona non grata by media and cultural elites.
“Near the end of Pharaoh Thutmose III’s reign, between about 1479 and 1425 B.C., members of his regime attempted to erase the memory of Hatshepsut, his predecessor, co-regent and mother. Statues of Hatshepsut were smashed, her obelisks covered, and her cartouches removed from temple walls. As Egyptologist Joyce Tyldesley told the BBC in 2011, Thutmose III could thereby “incorporate her reign into his own” and claim her accomplishment as his own. He could rewrite history.”
Obliterating the condemned in ancient Rome was called "damnatio memoriae," condemnation of memory, to be forgotten in official records, “to remove every trace of the person from life, as if they had never existed.”
Stalin removed the statues of other Communist leaders as he solidified his position in the Soviet Union. Ukraine dismantled 1,320 statues of Lenin after its independence, and renamed roads and structures named under Soviet authority.
Guy Beiner argued that iconoclastic vandalism entails subtle expressions of ambiguous remembrance and that, rather than effacing memory, such acts of decommemorating actually served to preserve memory. In other words, it backfires; erasing history doesn’t work.
The Scarlet Letter
Whatever one thinks of Mr. Trump or whatever one considers his culpability or responsibility for the Capitol riot, this new effort to erase him has more to do with seeking to banish certain ideas and values than it does about January 6.
Proof of this is the Lincoln Project’s blacklist, pursuing all known associates who were doing their jobs on behalf of the American people, so they will be “held accountable & not allowed to pretend they were not involved.”
This blog is Not about defending Donald Trump; he can take care of himself. This piece is about the well-being of a free, open, and pluralistic society. If groups can “erase” Trump or anyone who worked for or was associated with him, then they can do this to you.
And the point is, why should this be done at all? Cancel culture is based upon fear not freedom, power not persuasion. Trust the people, the free marketplace of ideas. If people don’t want more of Trump, they can act accordingly in the market. If they don’t want to buy a Trump staff person’s book, then they don’t have to buy the book. But others should not block its publication preventing those who want to buy the book from acquiring it. And so it goes.
Freedom is always the best option.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021
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