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Millennials annoyed by Nick Cave’s attack on cancel culture are really just still angry with mum and dad

Guy Birchall
Guy Birchall

Guy Birchall, British journalist covering current affairs, politics and free speech issues. Recently published in The Sun and Spiked Online. Follow him on Twitter @guybirchall

Guy Birchall, British journalist covering current affairs, politics and free speech issues. Recently published in The Sun and Spiked Online. Follow him on Twitter @guybirchall

Millennials annoyed by Nick Cave’s attack on cancel culture are really just still angry with mum and dad
The singer penned a letter branding cancel culture “mercy’s antithesis”, prompting the typical social media howling from my hideously woke generation who are abusing the only power they really have.

Nick Cave is the latest celeb to come out against cancel culture with a typically well written criticism of one of the 21st century’s more ugly pastimes. The Aussie singer was answering letters from fans on his Red Right Hand Files website when the topic arose. Responding to a couple from Florence, Italy, the Bad Seeds frontman took down cancel culture, branding it a “bad religion run amuck.”

Cave wrote: “As far as I can see, cancel culture is mercy’s antithesis. Political correctness has grown to become the unhappiest religion in the world. Its once honourable attempt to reimagine our society in a more equitable way now embodies all the worst aspects that religion has to offer (and none of the beauty) — moral certainty and self-righteousness shorn even of the capacity for redemption. It has become quite literally, bad religion run amuck.”

Bang on Mr Cave, that is as good a description of this ridiculous pastime as you will likely find. But obviously the screaming woke vultures came gunning for him, dismissing him as a “rich middle-aged white man”, cursing his name and yelling “what about racism” for some bizarre reason. As ever, they avoided tackling his point and attacked his identity instead, as identitarians are wont to do. In short, they are now trying to cancel him for calling out cancel culture, having apparently had an irony bypass. 

However, there was one thing about Cave’s critics that struck me. Obviously they were all woke liberals, that’s a given, but virtually all of them were millennial. Regrettably, I fall into that much-maligned age category having been born in 1990, and I have wondered for a while why my peers are so bloody sensitive. I have also noted that most of their targets these days tend to be so-called “boomers” who are essentially their parents’ generation.

Okay, so intergenerational rebellion is nothing new, in fact, it’s perfectly healthy and normal. But why have they chosen this particular battle ground? Why freedom of expression? Why does their rebellion involve “cancel culture” when rebellions of the past were more about freedom than censorship? When my parents were young, they played records the BBC banned at university. When I was at university, my student union banned ‘Blurred Lines’ saying it contributed to “rape culture.” Boys wore make-up because it annoyed their parents, now they want acceptance and cry foul if they don’t receive it. 

It strikes me that these middle-aged celebs are a proxy for their parents. One only has to look at the recent targets, within the last month Nick Cave, Rowan Atkinson, JK Rowling, Joe Rogan and Ricky Gervais have all had a moderate mauling by the Twitter mob. Obviously, they can weather any storm like this by virtue of the fact that they have, “f*** you money” and I think that fact may not be a coincidence, in fact, I think that’s what it is really about.

My generation largely feels shafted by “the system.” In Britain and America, millennials feel more financially vulnerable than their parents, particularly the “middle classes.” Living costs and house prices, at least in ‘prestigious’ cities like London or San Francisco, have shot up and the corresponding increase in wages for most millennials has nowhere near matched them. 

This is rough enough already for many, even before the additional factor that we are the most over-educated generation in history. Millions of us went to university just because it was the “thing to do,” which had the twin impacts of saddling people with debt, and making them resentful of being unable to get a job that they felt matched their station in life. However daft it sounds, people with ridiculous degrees in gender studies and lesbian dance theory believe they should command a premium. They don’t want to wise up to the fact that they forked out thousands of pounds or dollars for a qualification not worth the paper it’s written on and that has provided them with exactly zero transferable skills. Then, even for those who do find employment, job security has rarely been worse and we are currently staring down the barrel of the second massive recession of our lifetime.

Given all this, the one arena where they have superiority is culture, but specifically online culture. As a generation, millennials grew up with the internet, and social media came along in our teens and \we got the hang of it first. So naturally they want to police the space and got very annoyed when the “grown-ups” started to muscle in on the act. To begin with it was getting annoyed at your mum having a Facebook account and having to frantically delete all the pictures of you smoking, drinking or whatever else it was you were doing aged 16 you’d rather she didn’t see. 

But then social media morphed into the unruly beast it is today and became important. Twitter wasn’t some silly thing teenagers did, it was something presidents, prime ministers and even popes did. Facebook isn’t just a place for your photos from your holidays and drunken nights, it’s one of the world’s premier sources of news. Instagram went from an online album to a place where people become millionaire influencers. We may be on the back foot economically, but now we can shut you up, mob you, tear you down, we can “cancel” you.

That’s what this boils down to, millennials are annoyed at mum, dad, and society because it hasn’t turned out the way they planned it. As so many things are when you pull away the layers, it comes down to money, or rather lack of it, but the real tragedy is the only thing they have the power to affect is the most precious of all, freedom of thought and speech. 

Millennials have a right to be annoyed by a lot of things: the way the market is structured to keep house prices artificially high, the way currency has been debased by government overspending and quantitative easing but wages have not risen correspondingly, the way property is taxed at a much lower rate than income, jobs being sent overseas and job security dropping ever lower. And they are annoyed about these things, but they can’t do anything about them, however they can stop mum and dad (and their celebrity proxies) from spouting their “boomer” views. It is petulant revenge for being told “don’t use that language in my house.”

The problem is this is one of the things they should actually thank the earlier generation for. Those that pioneered free speech, pushed against the boundaries, said the unsayable for the sake of it. They must remember that long before they were telling people they were being “offensive” their own views were offensive, their music was offensive, their identities were offensive. But sadly, because canceling and silencing is the only power they have, they abuse it. It needs to stop, of all the things to get upset about, bad jokes and hurty words really aren’t it.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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