Ideological Bigotry and Cancel Culture at the Missouri State Fair
LOS ANGELES — At the 2021 Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, there were things to like and dislike. The corndogs were delicious. The Covid outbreak was less enjoyable. Officials set up a vaccination site with the goal of jabbing 1,000 people. Only 53 shots were administered. Yet from this vendor’s standpoint, the biggest problem with the Missouri State Fair came in the forms of ideological bigotry and cancel culture.
Cancel Culture cometh to Flyover Country
Missouri is supposed to be the heartland, an oasis of Normal America. For the most part, we can regard this depiction as truthful. Unfortunately, it only takes a loud, vocal minority of one to harm others just trying to live their lives without constant threat or constraint. This “cancel culture” — a specialty of loud, vocal and mostly leftist agitators — has morphed into a national plague.
A plague that visited this year’s Missouri State Fair.
Cancel culture involves trying to eliminate non-leftist things, people, and even thoughts from the public square. Cancel culture seeks to replace facts and codified laws with feelings and emotions not based on facts or logic. If cancel culture warriors declare something offensive, it is offensive. Simply because those cancel culture warriors say so. This circular logic is their bible. Their certitude in their own moral righteousness somehow serves as their evidence.
Cancel culture involves ideological bigotry
Cancel culture frequently involves and endorses ideological bigotry. This arises because cancel culture warriors tend to be leftists and liberals targeting conservatives and libertarians.
Conservatives and many libertarians tend to believe in leaving people alone and letting the free market resolve most matters. Including ideas. Adam Smith’s invisible hand still works quite well when allowed to function properly. It does not exclusively involve economics.
Sadly, Steven Sims never met Adam Smith
Steven Sims is the director of concessions for the Missouri State Fair in addition to serving as the fair’s unofficial self-appointed cancel culture warrior. In his first year on the job, this 20-something youngster feels in his own mind that his lofty position somehow makes him more qualified than me to understand the business I built from scratch well over a decade ago.
The night before the fair was set to open, Mr. Sims telephoned me to tell me that my display booth of t-shirts consisted of offensive designs. When he told me which designs offended him, the only rational reaction on my part was shock.
Because disagreeing with cancel culture warriors is never allowed, Mr. Sims decided, without evidence, to escalate matters. He showed up at my booth with the local sheriff. Also joining us was the technocrat in charge of the fair itself, Mr. Mark Wolfe. Mr. Sims expressed outrage that I was selling a t-shirt that expressed self-deprecating humor at being overweight. The t-shirt read: “I self-identify as trans-Slender.”
For those of you thinking, “That’s it,” yes, that’s it — think again. Steven Sims regarded that bit of humor as hate speech. When I asked him who would be offended by this, he replied, “I’m offended!”
While Mr. Wolfe was supposedly in charge, he played the role of technocrat and let his subordinates run wild. The sheriff wanted a peaceful resolution, and gave me broad latitude to make my case.
Causing “Offense” inevitably leads to escalation in the cancel culture
Mr. Sims was also offended by my best-selling t-shirt, “Stop judging women by their tops. #BackSidesMatter!” I like a woman with junk in the trunk. This is harmless.
Like many young, white, college-educated individuals, Mr. Sims was offended but could not explain why. The word “trans-slender” is obviously a play on “transgender.” But it is certainly not an attack on the LGBTQ community or anyone else. #BackSidesMatter is obviously a play on #BlackLivesMatter. But again, it does not attack anyone.
I offered several other similarly-worded t-shirts. One picture of a duck said #QuackLivesMatter. A cat t-shirt said #9LivesMatter. Intriguingly, those designs managed to survive. Mr. Sims was apparently making arbitrary decisions with zero basis in reality. Like many young cancel culture warriors awash in ideological bigotry and drunk on their own “power,” Mr. Sims did not let hard real-time evidence sway his opinion.
While he was lecturing me about offensiveness, two random women walked by, saw my t-shirt designs, and broke out laughing hysterically. They got the joke. Rather than develop an ounce of self-awareness, Mr. Sims repeatedly asked the women to move along and not interrupt his tirade.
Ideological Bigotry is costly… for the unjustly accused
Attempting to bridge the difference top technocrat Wolfe — essentially Mr. Sims’ boss — offered to refund my money. But that offer came with unacceptable conditions. They were willing to refund the cost of my booth, but not the cost of my airfare from Los Angeles to Missouri. Also, they would not refund the money immediately. They would refund it as soon as they could get to it.
Mr. Wolfe was slightly more reasonable than Mr. Sims. He saw that my #BackSidesMatter t-shirt was part of a twin set, one poking fun at each gender. The other one said “Stop judging men by their guts. #BackSidesMatter.” Then came the irony of all ironies. Mr. Wolfe said he understood that the two t-shirts were linked, but that the female one would cause more problems because “Women get far more easily offended than men.”
Just to review, a young white male was accusing me of sexism for a t-shirt that two women just found funny. His boss addressed the accusation of sexism against me with an observation that was blatantly sexist. Repeated protests on my part that women, particularly minority women, are my best customers fell on deaf ears. These two white males knew better. According to them.
Nevertheless, business is about getting things done. The amount of money to be made at the fair meant not cutting off my nose to spite my face. Mr. Sims decreed that I could sell the two offending designs. But not display them.
Banning me from displaying two of my top selling designs did cut into my profits. For the record, there was not one complaint from one single customer at the fair against me. Steven Sims offered the only complainant.
Ideological bigotry: Wrecking America, one manufactured “offense” at a time
In a world obsessed with Covid and Afghanistan, Steven Sims may not be the world’s biggest threat. Yet dismissing him as an inconsequential bureaucrat would be a mistake. Bureaucrats are only inconsequential when they are harming others. A person’s own business is his or her lifeblood. Therefore causing harm to an individual’s business becomes highly consequential. Indeed, threats to that business are highly consequential.
On a more substantial note, inconsequential bureaucrats often become consequential bureaucrats if only due to their own relentless aggressiveness. They join school boards and bully parents into accepting critical race theory (CRT). They become attorneys general and prosecutors, then use and abuse that power to selectively enforce laws they prefer. And fail to enforce laws they dislike.
In some cases, these arbitrary tyrants become governors who subject their citizens to cruel lockdowns. This is the Peter Principle of cancel culture at work.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were once inconsequential bureaucrats. Now they strive to regulate every aspect of our lives. Some once low-level bureaucrats now head up administrative agencies in Washington, D.C. These agencies range from the EPA to the Department of Education, where these unelected individuals suddenly find themselves in control of billions of dollars and seemingly limitless power over our lives.
Nasty bureaucrats running amok
From Steven Sims to the highest public officials, entrenched bureaucrats often have one thing in common. The people most likely to bully us in how we do our jobs often prove terrible at doing their own jobs. Everyday Americans would likely be more patient with bureaucrats if those bureaucrats possessed at least basic skills. In the case of the Missouri State Fair, Steven Sims proved unable to successfully set up a proper vendor building. Spotty internet access made it difficult to process customer credit card orders. This led to lost sales. Mr. Sims was apparently so busy being woke and “offended” that he neglected to administer the most basic part of his job. Which was to actually do his job.
Real leaders do not fear to seek feedback. Had Mr. Sims emerged from his bubble in order to listen to the people of the fair, he might have realized he was wrong to neglect attending to the real demands of his job instead of prowling about seeking to be offended by the allegedly un-woke. Yet bureaucrats today treat any criticism as an act of war.
Business is business
In the real world of business, the only thing that matters is getting the job done. That philosophy seems to have gone missing in the bureaucracy. The business world generally functions well. Government bureaucracies, however, tend to function badly. Steven Sims is a government bureaucrat. He receives a paycheck whether he hinders my business or not. When there is no punishment for failure, the result is more failure. Which is what defines the utter failure of governmental bureaucracy on all levels today.
The solution is for businesspeople to stand up for their interests and against ideological bigotry and cancel culture crusades waged by bureaucrats seeking only to expand their personal power and influence. Small business owners are the heart and soul of the American economic engine. Arbitrary, aggressive bureaucrats are not. Small business owners produce useful things. Bureaucrats produce nothing.
Ideological bigots and cancel culture warriors have no sense of shame
Our goal here is not to shame Mr. Sims. Shame today is no longer a quality that most cancel culture warriors possess. Instead, our goal should be to remove as many ineffective bureaucrats from their jobs until those remaining learn to develop basic competence in what it is they’re tasked to perform.
Indeed, America needs far fewer bureaucrats and many more business people in 2021 and beyond. Business requires common sense. Bureaucracy is all about ego. Most people who are talented in business do not wake up and achieve a lifelong dream of becoming a talentless bureaucrat.
The business of America is business. Businesspeople know more about their businesses than bureaucrats ever will. Before issuing regulations based on personal (and ideological) feelings, bureaucrats should be forced to check with others outside of their own cancel culture bubble. People who have not run a small business for at least five years should never be put in charge of making decisions about other businesses. People under 30 would be better off getting apprenticeships or learning a trade than becoming an instant, untrained bureaucrat. Life experience takes time. 20-year olds don’t have enough of that. Because it takes time.
Time to de-install the “offense” industry and re-install some common sense in America
#BackSidesMatter is not offensive. #TransSlender is not offensive. Both terms are funny. Neither term is hate speech. One bureaucrat should not have the right to overrule the will of thousands of potential customers. No one appointed them to do so. It is not part of their job descriptions. Or shouldn’t be.
Steven Sims called the county sheriff and nearly evicted an honest vendor from earning an honest living selling funny t-shirts that no one found offensive. Except Mr. Sims. He caused all this trouble because something “offended” him and only him.
I reminded Mr. Sims that, “We are not a society of feelings. We are a society of codified laws.” Mr. Sims came back 20 minutes later with a statement from a rulebook that mentioned threats of violence, hate speech, and other vague terms that had nothing to do with my merchandise. So far nobody has resorted to violence over a #BackSidesMatter t-shirt.
Steven Sims appears to be a fairly thin-skinned individual. Rather than engaging in honest reflection on this year’s incident, he will most likely attempt to ban me from ever returning to the Missouri State Fair as a vendor. This would not only be a loss for me, but for the Missouri State Fair as well.
Time to cancel the cancel culture and ideological bigotry
Except for Mr. Sims, normal Americans who appreciate humor, freedom, and quality merchandise sold at reasonable prices filled the 2021 Missouri State Fair with a positive, all-American vibe. Far more people attend the fair to shop with its vendors than to bond with a bureaucrat arbitrarily over-regulating the real hard work of America’s economic engine.
Far more Americans reject cancel culture than support it. And ironically, at some point, Mr. Sims will face the cancel culture mob himself. That’s because the relentless ideological bigotry of the cancel culture mob always devours its own. Only at that moment will he understand.
But when they come for him, I do not see myself being willing to speak up.
About the Author:
Brooklyn-born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist, and comedian. But he lives for football. Particularly the Raiders.