The outrage machine is still running, full speed ahead. This week, as the issues of the world persisted in their existence and newsworthiness, our friends in the right wing media bubble have occupied their time with an old foe: cancel culture. The works of beloved children’s author and illustrator Dr. Seuss are coming under scrutiny for racist depictions, and cartoons. The right is not having it.
The uproar arrived following Dr. Seuss Enterprises ending the publishing of six books that contain racist imagery, and a Virgina school district deciding to de-emphasize the works of Dr. Seuss in its “Read Across America Day.” Recognizing that “[r]esearch in recent years has revealed strong racial undertones in many books written/illustrated by Dr. Seuss,” Loudoun County, Virginia, has chosen to elevate other authors instead.
Perhaps this was a good idea. Or, perhaps another decision might have been preferable. I, a Brooklynite attending school in Ithaca, believe the actions of a school board in suburban D.C. seem like perfectly fine actions for that school board in suburban D.C. to take. The board “provided this guidance to schools during the past couple of years to not connect Read Across America Day exclusively with Dr. Seuss’ birthday.” They go on to say that they “continue to encourage our young readers to read all types of books that are inclusive, diverse and reflective of our student community.”
Sounds good to me. Or at least good enough? No matter what, it’s certainly not national news.
Enter Fox News.
Fox spent most of the beginning of this week devoted to the manufactured controversy. Opinion anchors ranting against the authoritarianism of the new left, while news anchors reported on those very opinions. Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) called for a congressional hearing on “cancel culture.” As the country and world face real issues, the click-hungry rightwing progpaganda machine shouted to their increasingly radicalized audience, The left has taken Dr. Seuss from us, who will they take next!
This is important to break down for two key reasons. The first is that this isn’t news worthy of national attention. Second, Dr. Seuss was not “canceled.”
While Fox was on its latest rhetorical rampage, CNN covered the investigation into the Capitol Incursion. Yes, the first time the U.S. Capitol was overrun since the War of 1812 — an event of incredible significance that so much of the country has already seemed to have forgotten about or, at the urging of Ted Cruz (R-Texas), “moved on,” from thinking about. Legitimate news sources devoted coverage to the coup in Myanmar, the cabinet confirmation process, and recovery from the deadly cold front in Texas. Fox covered manufactured outrage.
Additionally, the notion driving this partisan hyperventilation, that Dr. Seuss was “canceled,” is not true. Cancellation of individuals is a slang word with an ill-defined meaning, and even by its nebulous definitions. The man who welcomed millions of children to reading with his drawings and rhymes remains very much outside the category of “canceled” people. Loudoun County clearly stated that “Dr. Seuss books have not been banned and are available to students in our libraries and classrooms.” To say otherwise is a grave misunderstanding or, equally likely, a lie.
The American right has a policy platform so painfully unpopular that their only plausible pathway to power is the suppression of Democratic voters, while galvanizing their own voters by beating the drums of culture war. Left wing economic policy is popular. Right wing economic policy is not. 79 percent of Americans support the current Biden relief plan, including 59 percent of Republicans. Americans favor raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy in order to provide social benefits and infrastructure investment. Americans do not support the central Republican policy of cutting taxes on the wealthy, and thereby driving up national debt. If Americans voted on the issues, Republicans would lose almost every time.
I’ll always love the works of Dr. Seuss. So will the Loudoun County administrators. But when a propaganda machine masquerading as a news network decides this is the story of greatest importance, they show how the American political right has no agenda but power.
We came to college largely for the opportunity to be exposed to new ideas and engage in rigorous debate. People and groups should express their opinions and disagree respectfully. But we must know when one side has abandoned good faith entirely, choosing debate and outrage solely as sinister distractions from its agenda.
Elijah Fox is a Senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. What Does the Fox Say? Runs every other Thursday this semester.