Unfortunately, people often act in spite of their conscience—even if they know it— and hell tends to arrive step by step, one betrayal after another. And it should be remembered that it is rare for people to stand up against what they know to be wrong even when the consequences for doing so are comparatively slight. And this is something to deeply consider, if you are concerned with leading a moral and careful life: if you do not object when the transgressions against your conscience are minor, why presume that you will not willfully participate when the transgressions get truly out of hand?
— Jordan Peterson, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life
The Lady of the House was recently stunned when a longtime friend of hers, whom I will call Rubashov, talked about a recent incident in which his favorite podcaster from Slate was “indefinitely suspended” over a Slack conversation in which he used that word, the N-word, the Slur Which Shall Not be Named, in the context of a quotation, while debating what he naïvely thought to be the open question of whether or not there were any contexts in which it was appropriate. She wasn’t stunned by the incident, which is all too typical of the infantile moral panic possessing the media-academia complex these days; it was the fact that Rubashov, rather than offer some mild dissent in defense of his favorite podcaster, was supportive of his canceling. He didn’t actually quote the old line about breaking eggs to make an omelette, but he might as well have.
What appalled her the most was how quickly Rubashov had internalized the Orwellian imperative to judge even the recent past by the shifting political standards of the present. When did this rule about not being allowed to speak or write certain words, regardless of context, come into effect? Five minutes ago? Isn’t it a bit harsh to ruin someone’s career over that? Doesn’t matter. The Committee of Public Safety has decreed it to be an offense at this moment, so it is. (Until ten minutes from now, when the new head of the CPS, having taken power in a coup, reverses the directive and orders everyone fired for supporting the former head, who stands revealed as a sexist saboteur, racist wrecker, transphobic Trumpskyist, and on and on.) Many people, forgivably or not, might be cowards in public, or in their place of employment. But it takes a special level of invertebracy to echo the party line even among friends, even when there is no risk. One wonders whether our Rubashov will go willingly to his own cancellation, secure in the knowledge that it’s all for the best that he become one more egg in the Social Justice Omelette.