Have we hit peak cancel culture?

Back on Friday, as I was scrolling through Twitter, I hit on this thread that has now made headlines in the mainstream news outlets:

You can read a Guardian report about why this has become such a big deal here. But for those who can’t be bothered, the salient facts are as follows.

The new chancellor of the exchequer – Rishi Sunak – took a (presumably) light-hearted, otherwise entirely innocuous photograph of himself making tea for his team working on the budget. In the tweet (as you can see) he happens to be holding a large bag of Yorkshire Tea, a well known English brand, an said, ‘nothing like a good Yorkshire brew.’ This, apparently, sent Twitter into meltdown.

Typical of some of the more publishable responses are these:

Even mainline politicians got involved in the nonsense:

Should you be inclined, you can scroll through twitter yourself and get the gist of what is going on. But, essentially, there have been calls to boycott Yorkshire Tea because the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who some people evidently don’t like, happens to drink it.

And here, we have reached peak cancel culture. For it seems that calls to ban, boycott and cancel are no longer limited only to those with whose views you vehemently dislike. Nor is it just for those who provide space – without endorsing the specific views – of people you dislike. Now, there are calling for bans and boycotts of brands and products used by people you dislike, even if that brand has neither endorsed the person or their views and knew anything about them using their products.

As several comments on Twitter pointed out, the logic of this would press us quite far:

Others have pointed out that he also uses roads, supports the existence of schools and – for all the outrage being poured out on the platform – is a Twitter user himself. A boycott of Yorkshire Tea because the Conservative Party Chancellor drinks it would push us to boycott an awful lot of other stuff too.

The introduction of such a policy would also have to be Gestapo-like in its implementation. As a number of people have pointed out, we would have to insist that people show their party card at the checkout before they can purchase any given product. Only approved persons may purchase their preferred brand. The position really is as ludicrous as it sounds.

It would seem the overwhelming majority of people – certainly from the comments I have seen – recognise just how ridiculous these calls to boycott Yorkshire Tea are. The Chancellor is not ‘endorsing’ the product and the brand are not linking themselves to the Conservative Party. A Tory minister just happens to have taken a photograph of himself with it. Most people appear to see these calls to boycott for what they are – puerile and fatuous.

I do hope that this nonsense will lead others to consider the wider ramifications and foolishness of cancel culture. I hope that people will connect the dots and see that the threat to boycott Yorkshire Tea over this is similarly foolish and carries problems wherever it is implement including, for example, banning Franklin Graham from speaking at venues that exist for the propagation of different views. I hope it leads people to see how cancel culture more widely is not the good they think it is and that it tends to have deleterious effects on society.

I hope, but I am not really hopeful.