The Push to 'Cancel' Dave Chappelle Was Silly and Stupid | Opinion

The following is a lightly edited transcript of remarks made by Jason Rantz during a Newsweek podcast debate on Dave Chappelle and cancel culture. You can listen to the podcast here:

Dave Chappelle did his third stand-up special—it's kind of a one-man show for Netflix. And he dared to say something that some people disagreed with. Now, obviously, if you're an activist group that agrees with what he says, you love it, and you won't say anything—but the second that you might be slighted in even the smallest way, you go on the attack. He made comments about transgender issues. He took a position that isn't factually inaccurate—that biology exists, that gender exists. And as a result of his commentary, LGBTQ activist groups called for his head. They wanted the show to be pulled from Netflix before then saying something to the extent of: "Well, okay, we don't really want it pulled. This isn't cancel culture. But you don't want to show up and have a conversation with us, so we're going to cancel you anyway." It's an interesting viewpoint and strategy that folks on the Left are currently taking.

We saw this exact kind of thing happen on the Right about 20 or 30 years ago. And even actually sooner than that, I remember when "Glee" was on and there were groups like the Parents Television Council saying: "There's a gay character. We have to take that off of TV!" So now we went from taking off gay characters to saying if you say anything that we might disagree with in the community, then we're also going to try to take you off. It's a weird role reversal. Both positions were wrong.

Dave Chappelle speaks onstage during the 36th
Dave Chappelle speaks onstage during the 36th Annual Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on October 30, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

It's not so much the negative thing that happened to Dave Chappelle in the sense that he doesn't really care, right? I mean, he's been pretty open about not caring what some small group of people think about his comedy. I think that the issue is more societal. It's not about Dave Chappelle. It's about the next people who might want to express themselves in a stand-up special or in any way that they're not allowed to take certain positions, with the fear that they're going to have a group of folks show up outside of their distribution center for what they do—in this case It was Netflix, to get them to not continue the stream. So there is a domino effect of this kind of a response for content that is clearly appropriate.

But even pushing that aside, comedy—and comedy specifically—is supposed to be about sort of this uncensored look at life and your take. So when people show up with a mob, the stand-up comedian or anyone will then in the future say, well, maybe I shouldn't express myself this way. So it creates a sort of self-censorship.

Number two, Netflix might not be willing to resist caving for the next stand-up comic, who doesn't have Dave Chappelle's brand and its power. That's what really this is about. It's about the future—not necessarily the present, although we focus on the present because that's literally happening right now. We can respond to it. But we know what happens when you try to bully people into silence, because it's all contrived.

In this case, many of the people who were complaining about the content didn't actually see the content. This wasn't based on not liking it or saying it was or it wasn't funny. It was "we disagree." And that's the difference. I certainly have no problem with people just saying: "Hey, we don't like your stuff. We're not going to watch it." But they were calling for people to boycott it. They were calling this idea out that you are endangering the lives of people, so you better not keep this content on air. It's an absurd position. I'm unaware, perhaps something has happened that I'm not aware of yet, but I'm not currently aware of anyone who watched the Dave Chappelle special and started to bash transgender people. There was no violence as a result. On the Left, we've seen this move from "silence is violence" to "words are violence" to "actual violence is not violence, except when we think it is." They're not taking any sort of consistent stance. I think that this is not merely the marketplace reacting—the marketplace doesn't need a mob that shows up outside of a business to actually react to the content.

Jason Rantz is a frequent guest on Fox News and is the host of the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH Seattle, heard weekday afternoons. You can subscribe to his podcast here and follow him on Twitter: @jasonrantz.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.