Cancel Culture: A Serious Satire

For my PhD studies at Harvard, I had to choose four “sub-fields” for my oral exams. Among the four, I selected Modern Jewish History. I then took a course with one of the most dynamic teachers I have ever had the privilege of hearing: Prof. Yosef Yerushalmi. His most famous book (the core of our course) was “Zakhor” – “Memory in Jewish History.”

It strikes me today in our era of “Cancel Culture,” that the Jewish approach to history is diametrically opposite: we are commanded to remember the past. This is not to say that Jews glorify anything heinous in the past. Quite the opposite! The Bible commands us to actively remember the past, especially if immoral or otherwise disastrous. Other than the High Holidays, that’s the basis of almost all Jewish holidays and fast days: Passover (freedom after centuries of slavery), Purim (Haman), Hanukkah (assimilation), Tisha B’av (Temple destruction, twice), 17th of Tammuz (breeching Jerusalem’s walls), the Fast of Gedaliah (assassination of Jewish viceroy), and so on. Even more germane is the commandment to publicly remember what Amalek did to the Israelites in the desert – a passage read every pre-Purim Sabbath. Indeed, this passage is particularly “paradoxical” because it demands that Jews “erase the memory of Amalek” by recounting every year what they did way back then! In other words, the Jewish approach to “canceling” is remembering!!

In that latter spirit, and as a protest (also quintessentially Jewish) against Cancel Culture, I decided this time to do something very different: pen a quasi-serious satire of Cancel Culture, taking place in the relatively distant future, but looking back at the present. Call it a “future memorial” if you wish.



October 2071

“Hi Gramps. How did your genetification treatment go today?”

“Pretty well. Instead of 75, my biocell-age is down to 52. Should be able to run the marathon next week in under two and half hours. How’s college going?”

“Actually, better than I thought. We spend half our time outside the campus.”

“Virtual classes from afar?”

“That’s a good one! No, we’re into historical justice activism.”

Historical justice? What’s that? In my day, we were into social justice.”

“Well, it’s almost the same thing. But instead of fixing the contemporary system, we are pointing fingers at past injustices.”

“Interesting. But how does that help us change things today?”

“If we let the historicriminals of the past maintain their visibility, we can’t deal with the foundations of today’s injustices.”

“Did you say historicriminals? Is that one word or two?”

“Wow, gramps, don’t you receive any BrainBook news these days?”

“BrainBook. What’s that?”

“It’s the relatively new way of social mediating – based on Machine-to-Brain communication. Sort of a neuronal Facebook.”

“Sorry, too newfangled for me. I’ll stick to reading books. Anyway, the news is too depressing; haven’t gotten any in a few years. Much better for my blood pressure.”

“Have it your way. In any case, historicriminality is all about important people in the past who influenced or caused serious harm to society or lots of individuals.”

“For example?”

“Last week our class did some serious research about the major meat producers. A few of my friends didn’t even last an hour. Can you imagine that people once killed animals and then ate them? How gross and cruel can you get? When we got to augmediated clips of early 21st century slaughterhouses, one acquaintance fainted, and a few others couldn’t continue.”

“What was the purpose of that research?”

“To go through all Wokeapedia items that covered such murderous companies and their founders or major corporate managers.”

“And then?”

“And then to Cancel all the ones we could find.”


“Come on, gramps. You may be a bit old, but you’re not senile. From what I understand, the idea of Cancel Culture started when you were about my age. We can’t allow historicriminals to be glorified or even memorialized. That just preserves and continues the long chain of immorality.”

“So you just say ‘delete’ and Wokepedia erases these people?”

“It’s not that simple. We’ve got to show that each of these individuals caused great suffering or evil. But with universal genemeat consumption today, that’s a lot easier. Public opinion is on our side.”

“Anything else that’s harder?”

“You bet!”

“Like what?”


“Excuse me? Did you say Jesus? What did he do wrong?”

“Gramps, do you know how many Jews, Moslems and other non-believers were tortured and murdered by the Church as an institution, not to mention Christian believers who took matters into their own hands without Church encouragement?”

“So Jesus was to blame for all that? Don’t tell me that you…what did you call it… ah yes, Canceled him?”

“In principle, we could have. Your generation did a great job eliminating Columbus, so why not Jesus?”

“Why not, indeed.”

“Well, here’s a surprise for you. At first, we thought to do exactly that. But you know, college is for learning stuff. We discovered that Jesus wasn’t at fault at all – in fact, he wasn’t even a Christian!”

“You don’t say! A ‘surprise’, indeed.”

“That sounded like sarcasm, Gramps. That’s not like you.”

“Sorry. There are some things that old fogies like us are aware of, that your generation seems to be ‘discovering’ anew.”

“In any case, turns out that Jesus was Jewish to the very end. It was one of his students—”


“Right, disciples. The one called Paul that really started Christianity as a religion.”

“So, what did you people do then?”

“Well, there was a huge battle to Cancel city names with ‘Paul’ in it. Minnesotans put up a furious fight. We lost that one.”

“So ‘Paul’ is saved?”

“Are you kidding? Of course not! We put the name Paul on our Cancel baby list.”

“Baby list?”

“The baby name list. Once a name gets put on that list, almost no one will call their child by that name.”

“Sounds pretty draconian to me.”

“Gramps, don’t be such a hypocrite. When you were growing up, how many American or European kids were given the name Adolf?”

“So St. Paul and Adolf Hitler get the same treatment?”

“Not yet. We’ve succeeded in Canceling the word Hitler from all U.S. education textbooks. That probably won’t happen with Paul.”

“You can’t win ‘em all, I guess.”

“Right. But we’ve scored quite a number of major successes.”

“Like what? Or should I say: like who?”

“Well, if we got rid of Hitler, we had to do the same with Stalin and Mao. You know, some historians argue that both of them led to more people dying than Hitler! Scary.”

“China and Russia went along with that?”

“China, yes. Ever since the Third Revolution, they are willing to join in expunging historicriminals from their records too.”

“But Russia not?”

“Ever since Putin’s grandson took over, their history has become sacrosanct.”

“I wasn’t aware he had a grandson.”

“See what you could learn if you’d be on BrainBook? Putin’s son was Kirill Shamalov, and his son is Shamalov, Jr. But we prefer to call him shame, no love.”

“That’s a good one.”

“Thanks. Who says we historic justicians don’t have a sense of humor?”

“Not me. Any other campaigns you’ve been part of?”

“Yeah, the biggest one of all – climate warming deniers. What a massive project! You wouldn’t believe how many climate deniers there were.”

“I sure would. Remember, I lived much of my early life in that atmosphere.”

“Good pun, Gramps!”

“Unintended, I assure you. Who’s the leading historicriminal of this campaign?”

“Well, we had so many names that it took us a long time to decide who was disworthy, and on the other hand who we ought to leave alone.”

“Disworthy? Is that a new term?”

“Not at all. Boy, you really haven’t been following the news for a long time. It’s a mashup meaning whoever is worthy of dissing.”

“And the disworthy winner was?”

“President Trump. It wasn’t that he was any more forceful in his denial than others. But he came much later than most of the others, at a time when the evidence was already overwhelming. And despite that, he not only stuck to his guns on the issue but also pushed his government agencies to allow for more pollution. Can’t get more disworthy than that.”

“Must have been easy to Cancel him all over. One of the history books I read recently called him the worst U.S. President. Not sure how they measured that, but it seems you guys weren’t the only ones on his case.”

“Gramps, please don’t use that expression.”

“On his case?”

“No. You guys. Language has to be gender-neutral.”

“OK, sorry again. Bad habits die hard.”

“Sure. But that’s why we’re cleaning up history. To clear the air: language, people, movements – everything and everyone who don’t deserve to be remembered.”

“What’s next? You’ve got two more years of college.”

“Are you kidding? The list is almost endless. Two years won’t be enough to Cancel everything disworthy.”

“Almost endless? Just give me another example or two. That will suffice.”

“Across the country, our college movement will be taking courses next semester to Cancel warmongers.


“Yeah, those leaders who pushed their nations into unnecessary wars. You should know – some of them lived close to your generation: LBJ in Vietnam, George W. Bush in Afghanistan and Iraq. They weren’t as bad as Hitler and Stalin, but still their actions were unconscionable.”

“I suppose you’re also going after some non-Americans too. Like Théoneste Bagosora.”


“Too complicated to explain for now. He’s African – from a country called Rwanda. You should… what did you call it?”

“BrainBook it?”

“Right. You rely on the brain; I’ll rely on the book. Anyway, what he did is enough material for another semester’s Cancel work.”

“OK, sounds worthwhile.”

“You mean disworthwhile.”

“Are you trying to be funny? This is serious stuff we’re doing.”

“I agree. It’s very serious.”

“By the way, this Rwanda fellow. Which other country did he attack?”

“His own.”

“His own country?”

“His own countrymen…I mean countrypeople. You know, sometimes civil wars are far worse than wars between nations.”

“Really? I wasn’t aware of that.”

“That’s what history is for. So, after you’re done with the warmongers – what then?”

“For next year, we’ve convinced the Union of American colleges to offer Cancel Courses on the anti-vaxxers. Crazy movement. Hard to believe that people won’t learn from history.”

“Learn from history?”

“Sure. Until the 19th century, hundreds of millions of people died from cholera, smallpox, bubonic plague, typhoid and other infectious diseases. By the late 20th century the vaccines almost entirely eliminated those diseases. Not to mention the mutating Corona viruses this century – finally got that under vaccine control a few decades ago.”

“You forgot this century’s malaria and AIDS vaccines.”

“Didn’t forget them. I could add the universal flu vaccine and a few others. But you get the idea, Gramps. And despite all that, there are still people out there who are against vaccination!”

“I suppose you’re right. I think we can both agree that remembering the details of history is important.”



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