Ban, Ban Just as Fast as You Can
The Gingerbread Man
When I was a child, there was a period during which I watched many cartoons and enjoyed “The Gingerbread Man” song which detailed how a baked good came to life and taunted various animals about their inability to capture him. The chorus went:
Run, run as fast as you can
You can’t catch me
I’m the Gingerbread Man
Eventually, a sly fox tricked the Gingerbread Man and swiftly ate him when the opportunity arose. The animated baked good issued a challenge that led to his ultimate demise when he encountered a worthy adversary.
Regarding incitement to action, I asked in a blogpost entitled Provocation, “So, what will it be, dear reader—control your own behavior, allow others to control you, or perhaps something else?” The moral I perceive is that deliberate taunting in order to elicit a response or assume authority could lead to one’s downfall.
From 2012 to 2014, when attending graduate school for social work, I experienced an unexpectedly difficult period in which I was subject to social justice-oriented indoctrination. Because I didn’t think critically about conditioning to which I was exposed, I maintained a pessimistic perspective and later used the activistic techniques I was taught.
Not long after graduating, I overcorrected my course of behavior when altering my values—those principles or standards I thought were important, worthy, useful, and morally acceptable. This was done largely through anti-social justice warrior (SJW) content I sought out on YouTube.
There were many content creators during the 2015 to 2016 timeframe who used logic and reason to dispel the SJW rhetoric I was taught, and which was largely steeped in emotional appeals (e.g., If you care about oppressed people, you will protest against policy X).
Among these creators was Ben Shapiro who, with a partner, founded The Daily Wire—a conservative news and media company. A passive consumer of Shapiro’s online content, I appreciated his catchphrase, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”
When in graduate school for counseling, between 2009 and 2011, I studied Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) though neglected to use the technique during my social work education. Therefore, I subsequently admired how Shapiro’s debating style and opposition efforts regarding SJW rhetoric closely mirrored disputation in REBT.
Much to the chagrin of people in my inner circle, I began ardently questioning mainstream narratives and activist-influenced behavior which started to change the direction of society within the United States (U.S.). As such, I experienced an uncomfortable values shift.
I remained a faithful free content consumer of Shapiro and The Daily Wire for a number of years, until I heard an interview in which Shapiro seemingly admitted that libertarians, conservatives, the Right—or however one chooses to conceptualize the ever-changing collective—were losing the “cultural war.”
At present, I cannot recall the exact video in which the aforementioned statement was made. I’m glad to correct the record if my memory is inaccurate.
Nonetheless, I observed Shapiro transition from teaching his audience how to properly frame a debate to taking a hardline approach to promoting his values rather than engaging in meaningful discussion or debate. Over time, I began to see rightwing commentators assuming similar moralizing positions.
By “moralizing,” I’m referring to the action of commenting on issues of right and wrong, typically with an unfounded air of superiority. This often occurs with claiming what should, must, or ought to or not to occur.
For example, if person X doesn’t think it’s right, correct, proper, moral, or appropriate for minors to hear explicit rap music, person X may say, “Children shouldn’t hear obscene music.” However, person Y—who has a different set of values—may disagree.
I recall the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when hip hop artists were heavily criticized from left- and rightwing sources. During that time, I paid close attention to calls for banning various forms of media (i.e., music, movies, etc.), as I remember when the parental advisory label began appearing on albums.
Suppose person Y states, “Parents of children are responsible for content to which their kids are exposed and it isn’t the role of societal members to play a paternalistic role, so we shouldn’t ban obscene music.” Persons X and Y have values which conflict.
When moralizing occurs, whose values should be regarded as superior? Well-reasoned and even emotional arguments could be offered in either direction, as you may agree, disagree, or remain neutral concerning the matter.
If you would’ve asked me about use of the word “bitch” in rap music between 2012 and 2014, I would’ve assumed an SJW position and opposed what I considered to be a misogynistic term. However, post-2015, I haven’t retained the same value set and I don’t bother trying to moralize the world.
Conclusively, this is why I chose not to consume content from The Daily Wire past 2021—especially given Shapiro’s reactionary position concerning the events of January 6, 2021. Noteworthy, his take has aged like fine milk.
It was U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) who once stated, “I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.”
In this way, it would appear as though a number of conservatives have seemingly adopted similar tactics as their partisan opponents. Rather than facts being unconcerned with feelings, the rightwing cultural shift ostensibly opts for moral superiority over truth.
Nonetheless, while I don’t claim that others must not moralize or be moralized to, I simply choose not to devote the resource of my time and attention to moralizing content. As such, I continue shifting my values and attention to better suit my interests.
This is the very crux of the point at which my view diverged from Shapiro’s. He once advocated ‘small L’ libertarianism (you leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone) though perceivably has shifted to something resembling a since-you-won’t-leave-me-alone-I’ll-coalesce-with-others-and-we’ll-oppose-you-until-our-moral-position-prevails sort of position.
In 2022, it was brought to my attention that The Daily Wire commentator Matt Walsh apparently referred to anime as “satanic.” I respect that Walsh maintains his opinion and I’m unbothered that a person has different perspectives and values than I do.
While I didn’t consume Walsh’s material when historically engaging The Daily Wire content, I did watch a documentary starring Walsh, entitled What Is a Woman? with which I largely agreed concerning Walsh’s premise, as I drafted a blogpost entitled Swimming in Controversial Belief, acknowledging the same.
To be crystal clear, I consider a “woman” to be an adult-aged biological human female.
In spite of agreeing with Walsh in regards to biological sex and gender associated with the same, I disagree with his perspective concerning anime. I think he painted with too broad a brush than to merely offhand dismiss an entire genre of entertainment.
Moreover, I liken Walsh’s concern with Satanism to the moral panic of the ‘80s and ‘90s, as it regards the Satanic Panic, during which I recall religious and other authoritative entities demonizing various media sources while widespread hysteria ensued.
I recall those days and how ridiculous it was to be told I couldn’t listen to certain music, watch some shows, and enjoy specific games, all because malevolent beings were supposedly seeking to corrupt my soul. Now, it would seem as though anime is similarly the source of righteous indignation.
When stationed in Okinawa, Japan from 1997 to 1999, I was introduced to anime, manga, and hentai. Describing the differences in content between the three, one Reddit user states in the “Explain Like I’m 5[-years-old]” subreddit:
Anime is from the word ‘animation,’ and just means any television or movie from Japan. Manga is any kind of comic book- so the pictures don’t move. Hentai shouldn’t be explained to a five year old ;) But in general it’s anything drawn (anime or manga) which is pornographic.
In Okinawa, I was captivated while watching Ninja Scroll, thereafter considering myself a fan of anime and anime-style content (e.g., Avatar: The Last Airbender). As for manga and hentai, I defer to a Kevin Hart quote, as the comedian stated, “It’s very easy to just…to just say, ‘You know what, that’s not for me,’ and just find what is.”
While in graduate school for social work, I watched the anime Assassination Classroom and enjoyed it quite a bit. However, I didn’t watch the live action rendition, because I don’t prefer such content. The synopsis of the animated series is as follows:
The Earth is threatened by a powerful creature who destroyed 70% of the Moon with its power, rendering into the shape of a crescent moon forever. The creature claims that within a year, Earth will also be destroyed by him, but he offers mankind a chance to avert this fate. In class 3-E at Kunugigaoka Junior High School, he starts working as a homeroom teacher where he teaches his students not only regular subjects, but the ways of assassination. The Japanese government promises a reward of ¥10 billion (i.e. 100 million USD) to whoever among the students succeeds to kill their teacher, whom they have named “Korosensei” ( Korosens?, lit. Killing Teacher). However, this has proven to be an almost impossible task, as he has several inhuman abilities at his disposal, including the capacity of moving at Mach 20.
I love you all, don’t be afraid
Ever since we met, I told you it would always be this way
Bottle all of your emotions, all the anguish and the pain
‘Cause the time we spent together, G-d, I wouldn’t trade a day
I got to watch you grow and be a part of your development
Before you, I would do just what I wanted for the hell of it
Smile and know that light was given through your education
And the greatest gift you ever gave was my assassination
I won’t reveal spoilers of the anime herein. Still, I think it’s worth noting that a plot for students to kill their teacher—who presents as an alien with supernatural abilities and poses an existential threat to humankind—isn’t as simple as the kids-killing-their-teacher controversy of recent assumes.
Per one source, “The manga has already been banned by two schools, one in Florida and another in Wisconsin.” Noteworthy, a number of prominent rightwing pundits, including Shapiro, are said to have moved to Florida for socioeconomic and ideological reasons.
It remains unclear as to whether or not there is a correlation between The Daily Wire, sociopolitical matters in Florida, and recent anime controversy pertaining to the Sunshine State. Even if correlated, correlation does not imply causation.
A separate source expands upon the controversy, “The series includes images of students holding guns and trying to shoot their teacher, which has led to complaints from parents and teachers, as well as disputes over sexually explicit content involving underage characters.”
One imagines the entire Old Testament (OT) of the Bible is next to be banned, as Genesis 19 tells of Lot’s daughters having gotten their dad drunk and raped him after having fled from what was presumably the bloody aftermath of Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction. The OT is rife with carnage and debauchery.
Nevertheless, as a child, I learned invaluable lessons from the OT. Correspondingly, as an adult, I cherished lessons about character development and the hero’s journey from watching Assassination Classroom.
Throughout the first two decades of my life, cartoons portrayed violence and sexual innuendos. Most of these observations were realized for what they were only as I reached adulthood.
While person X could make the moral claim that it is bad, wrong, or evil for children to watch Assassination Classroom, I disagree with the moralizing conclusion. Still, person X could assume an AOC-esque stance and declare that people like me are overly concerned about being factually correct than about being morally right.
Therein is the major problem. I disagree with person X’s moral code. As well, I don’t value the Helen Lovejoy positon as it relates to a “think of the children” declaration, because I don’t think it’s the responsibility of some people to moralize others through paternalism.
Though I was once a fan of Shapiro and The Daily Wire, I’m not currently convinced that moralizing the world—the direction in which famous rightwing personalities appear to be heading—is a healthy one. Such action seems only to widen the already expansive sociopolitical chasm existing in the U.S.
As well, I remain uncertain about what was contained in the manifesto of The Covenant School shooter from last month. Apparent rumors of the trans-identifying shooter claim that the individual was allegedly seeking supposed revenge for purported anti-trans rhetoric in the U.S.
I can neither confirm nor deny such allegation, as the shooter’s own message remains hidden from the public. If one were to be charitable to the claimed—though currently unfounded—accusation, consideration of intensifying “cultural war” discourse cannot reasonably be ruled out.
The Right appears to be steadily creeping back towards the realm of censorship concerning the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Though I do not identify with the Left or Right, for a time, I at least considered rightwing commentators to approach topics in a rational fashion and appreciated their efforts.
Now, standing from a distance, I can’t tell who is who. In a blogpost entitled Unconditional Life-Acceptance, I discussed horseshoe theory and from what I currently observe, people on the Right who want to bring down the ban hammer look an awful lot like those on the Left.
I suppose Abraham Maslow was correct in stating, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail.” Who has the right to wield the force of cancellation when others opt not to affirm moral edicts with which they are taunted?
A ‘ban, ban just as fast as you can’ provocative mission may result in the unnecessary downfall of this already wounded nation. Perhaps practice of unconditional acceptance, tolerance, and rational compassion are needed more than ever.
Then again, what do I know? I’m just a mental health practitioner who enjoys anime. How about you, dear reader? Do you prefer to figuratively clock others over the head with your moral hammer, beating them into submission through sociopolitical force?
Do you find that such behavior improves your life? Perhaps you’ve realized that while you are playing “cultural war,” there is a very real likelihood that kinetic warfare—the kind of a literally violent nature—is brewing.
Truly, I hope I’m wrong about the conflict I sense is brewing. Would you like to know more about how not to fan the flames of societal unrest?
One imagines if a supernatural monster appeared and humankind faced the possibility of extinction, people would put aside their petty differences and stop rigidly demanding that others should, must, or ought to share their values. Then again, that’s a lesson one could learn from Assassination Classroom, which is apparently “satanic.”
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Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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