Bret Weinstein understood, more than most, that compliance with the mob isn’t considered optional. And the compliance is neither nuanced nor subtle. Disagree with a single point of the far-left’s ever-changing and extreme agenda, and you’ll be stuck with a label.
Labels sound fairly innocuous, all things considered. After all, how harmful can words truly be? These words, however, have the power to overtake your entire identity in the eyes of others. They can tarnish your reputation, cost you your job, and even threaten your safety.
Chaos at Evergreen
Cancel culture has existed in this country for years on college campuses. Nowhere was that more apparent than at Evergreen State College, where campus-wide riots arose in 2017 when a biology professor named Bret Weinstein found himself on the wrong side of the student body over questioning an allegedly optional event.
The Evergreen campus had, for years, engaged in a voluntary “day of absence,” in which students and faculty of color would leave to highlight the important role they play on campus. However, in 2017 it was decided that, rather than non-whites leaving, it should instead be the white students. The idea was that the white and non-white students would engage in separate, specifically tailored events discussing race on campus.
Weinstein was uncomfortable with this idea, and decided to send an email to the faculty and staff, stating: “There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and underappreciated roles….and a group encouraging another group to go away. The first is a forceful call to consciousness, which is, of course, crippling to the logic of oppression. The second is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.”
The reaction of the student body was aggressive, to say the least. Weinstein was labeled a white supremacist, and protests broke out across the school. Along with calls for sweeping reforms in regard to how race was handled on campus, the students were calling for Weinstein’s firing. Physical alterations occurred between Weinstein and protestors, with no aid from campus security. Weinstein alleges campus security was told not to intervene, neither to stop violence nor calm protestors.
Although he attempted to continue his classes, pressure and threats from protestors made it impossible. The protests further interfered with the classes taught by his wife, evolutionary biologist Heather Heying. The pair resigned and sued for $3.8 million, ultimately receiving a judgement for $500,000. After leaving Evergreen, Weinstein started Dark Horse Podcast, in which he uses his experiences and background in science to discuss cancel culture.
An Unheard Prophecy
The protests at Evergreen State College were a Cassandra-esque prophecy we naively ignored, believing these things wouldn’t happen outside the insulated and hyper-leftist bubble of academia. Before it was widely understood, he became aware of the dangers of the woke mob, providing a blueprint for what we’re experiencing today.
To the Evergreen mob, past leftism is not enough to save you. Weinstein is far from the expected victim of cancel culture. He is a self-proclaimed progressive who is incredibly sympathetic to the fight against racism and even participated in Occupy Wall Street, a movement that helped lay the groundwork for the current period of unrest.
Even now, he is still substantially leftist, in favor of wealth redistribution and steadfastly against class divides, which he perceives to be the root of the problem. Today, no amount of progressivism or demonstrated sympathy to their causes will ever satisfy the left mob. No one can be sufficiently woke; the crowd has come for people based for both imperfect agreement or past transgressions.
The situation at Evergreen further demonstrated the dangers of a lack of police presence. When there is no one to maintain order, things get dangerous. Rioting across Evergreen was a microcosm of the violence and looting in many major cities across the country.
As for the future, Weinstein does not have too much hope. There is a sizable fear that we have gone too far as a society, as the intense, compromise-free cancel culture has left college campuses and penetrated the mainstream.
In a 2019 documentary about Evergreen, Weinstein said, “This isn’t about free speech, and this is only tangentially about college campuses. This is about a breakdown in the basic logic of civilization, and it’s spreading. College campuses may be the first dramatic battle, but of course this is going to find its way into courts. It’s already found its way into the tech sector. It’s going to find its way to the highest levels of governance, if we’re not careful. It actually does jeopardize the ability of civilization to continue to function.”