Why we must not abandon intent.

Featured image by Derek Σωκράτης Finch. Follow the link for more of this artist’s work.

Quick aside before I begin my rant. The featured image title is “Their sole intent is to impress.” Not that it matters much, but in the words of Marge Simpson,

Marge Simpson Cartoon Animated cartoon Animation
From Know Your Meme

One of the things that I am noticing with the cancel culture movement is the stripping away of intent. Donald McNeil Jr, recently let go from the New York Times, had used “racist language,” (the n-word) and other language that was considered sexist and racially insensitive, per reporting from the Daily Beast. In the article, they report that the Times had “found [McNeil] had used bad judgment by repeating a racist slur in the context of a conversation about racist language. The Executive Editor, Dean Baquet, had stated “I authorized an investigation and concluded his remarks were offensive and that he showed extremely poor judgment, but it did not appear to me that that his intentions were hateful or malicious.”

This did not, of course, stop the newsroom from demanding that he was fired. Regardless of the contributions, regardless of his body of work, and regardless of the intent of the comments made, he was canceled. Intent has no place in the modern cancel culture.

From Gina Carano’s remarks comparing the banning of conservatives to similar persecution from the German citizens in the 1930’s and 40’s, to the removal of books from Amazon that don’t coincide with the current ideological dogma, intent doesn’t matter.

This is a dangerous road to travel down. Many of our laws, and the punishments for violating the law, figure in intent. The differences between first, second, and third degree murder for example, which will be made a target in the upcoming trial of Derek Chauvin, the officer charged in the death of George Floyd. He is, in my opinion, overcharged, and has a fair chance of being found not guilty. This is unfortunate, because while I do think there is a case for some sort of criminal action for excessive force, the outrage and subsequent elevation to second-degree murder, is too much. I don’t believe that there is intent there.

In today’s world, intent doesn’t matter, and that makes for a nightmarish dystopian reality. If you say something that offends the mob, do something that has even an incidental connection to any of the cultural “phobias” or “isms”, then you are as guilty as someone who intends to violate them. It is a naked powerplay, and it must stop. The consequences for living in such absolute terms are the deconstruction and collapse of all our rights, freedoms, and values. Laws will become meaningless, and everything will revert to how the world was before this latest glorious experiment in democracy: a zero sum game based on power and control.

That is not a world in which I wish to live.

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