Our society has been enthralled with digging up old dirt on people in order to discount their current positions. Most of us are aware of how this played out in 2018, when, in an attempt to derail President Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Democrats attempted to highlight an unproven accusation against Brett Kavanaugh. The supposed incident dated back to his high school days, but aside from a he said, she said narrative, the American people never saw any actual evidence of this occurring. Now to be clear, had that incident had any supporting evidence, it would have certainly disqualified Kavanaugh from a Supreme Court seat, but since no evidence was ever brought, it’s impossible to besmirch his name on one account alone.
While this was certainly one of the most high-profile incidents of a person’s past being brought up in an attempt to derail the rise of an individual, it certainly was not the only one. You may recall the 2019 story of Carson King, a man who held up a sign asking for beer money with his Venmo account at a college football game. King ended up receiving over a million dollars from this sign and pledged to donate all of it to the University of Iowa Stead Children’s Hospital. Anheuser-Busch and Venmo, the two companies mentioned in King’s sign, each pledged to match the donation, and a host of other companies, including his employer, pledged donations to the hospital. He was even invited to tour the Anheuser-Busch facilities. Then it all came crashing down.
Aaron Calvin, a reporter for the Des Moines Register, dove into King’s old tweets and discovered two racially problematic tweets – from when King was a teenager. This caused all of the companies who were heralding King as a hero to immediately cut ties with him. While the pledges stood, the heroic accolades died. King was viscously attacked on social media, and so-called “cancel culture” had reared its ugly and unnecessary head yet again, all because someone who helped raise over three million dollars for a children’s hospital made some racist comments when he was 16 years old. In an ironic twist, King’s supporters went back and dug up Calvin’s old tweets from his teenage years, which revealed some misogynistic and homophobic comments. Calvin, too, was eventually canceled.
I could spend the remainder of this article going through examples of cancel culture using statements and incidents from public figures’ formative years in an attempt to ruin their popularity, but I would like to focus on two high-profile shootings over the last two weeks, and how the public - and in particular, activist Shaun King - has handled each of them. The first incident was the infamous police shooting of Jacob Blake. The second occurred during a riot in the subsequent fallout of the Blake shooting, where 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse killed two men.
As new details emerge, it appears that the initial claims of Blake being a peaceful man who was shot seven times in cold blood in front of his children after trying to break up a fight is blatantly false. In fact, it appears that Blake was the reason police were called in the first place. He was allegedly harassing the woman he had recently assaulted, stole her car keys and debit card, and refused to cooperate with police, who knew he had a warrant out for his arrest. He was even physically violent with police and was able to shake off two tasers on his way to his car, where a knife was allegedly resting on the floorboard.
So how is Blake portrayed in the media? As a rapist? A thief? A violent criminal who refused to comply with officers after being tased twice? Nope. A victim. And this is where Shaun King comes in. Instead of lambasting Blake for being the scumbag that he is and for assaulting an innocent woman, he helped spread awareness for a GoFundMe page that has raised over $2 million at the time of writing. He also demanded that the Kenosha police release the names of the police officers involved in the shooting, and when they refused, he went on a successful doxing crusade to have their names out in the open. He did this before any of the actual details I mentioned were widely known to the public.
Contrast this behavior to how King handled the Rittenhouse case. In a desperate move to paint Rittenhouse as a white supremacist who was always violent, King points to an article that let us know that his high school classmates assumed Rittenhouse would be a school shooter, and that a picture of him at a Trump rally proves his white supremacist leanings. King ignores the fact that the two victims were white. He also ignores the fact that one of Rittenhouse’s victims was a convicted child molester and the other was caught on camera chasing him down the street with a gun.
This isn’t to say that both the police and Rittenhouse are completely innocent here. While I do not believe that there will be enough to convict either given what we now know, I do know enough to understand that there is nuance here, and more details will emerge over time. At the very least, Rittenhouse illegally transported a firearm over state lines, a firearm that didn’t belong to him. Oh yeah, and he shot and killed two people. But you know who doesn’t understand nuance? Shaun King. King has proven himself to be the kind of person who digs up old high school tweets in order to discredit someone he deems evil, but will ignore current facts on the ground about a person in order to publicize the picture he wants painted. The hypocrisy is unbelievable - and he’s not the only one. Anyone who was lambasting Brett Kavanaugh or Carson King over things they did in high school, while completely ignoring the current criminal rap sheet against Jacob Blake as well as the actual events leading up to his shooting, is intellectually dishonest.
The reason I highlight Shaun King though is that this isn’t the first time he’s jumped on a narrative before learning the facts. In 2018, King accused a white Texas state trooper of raping a black drunk driver- with no evidence. When bodycam footage came out exonerating the trooper, King quietly deleted his tweets and faced no blowback, despite the doxing and subsequent death threats made against the trooper as well as a different trooper with the same last name. So here you have the ultimate irony: A man chooses to dig up unrelated hearsay from the past of others in order to discredit them now, while ignoring the present-day relevant facts regarding the person he labeled a victim, all the while having done this all before - a fact we are all just supposed to forget about. Shaun King has become the most hypocritical man in cancel culture.
Izzo Zwiren is the host of The Jewish Living Podcast, where he and his guests delve into any and all areas of Orthodox Judaism.