Fox’s Brian Kilmeade says Russia, China, and Iran ‘plow through’ cancel culture because ‘they actually know what the threat is’

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Fox News host Brian Kilmeade Roy Rochlin/Getty Images
  • Fox host Brian Kilmeade suggested authoritarian countries don’t have a problem with cancel culture.
  • Kilmeade said Iran, Russia, and China “plow through” cancel culture.
  • All three of the countries Kilmeade cited have well-documented records of violently cracking down on dissent.
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Fox News host Brian Kilmeade on Wednesday suggested that US adversaries like Russia, China, and Iran are not dealing with cancel culture because they have systems of government that don’t permit it.

“Russia and China, our chief adversary I would argue – and Iran – they’re not going through this cancel culture. They plow through it. I don’t want their system of government, but they actually know what the threat is out there,” Kilmeade said.

All three of the countries Kilmeade cited have well-documented records of violently cracking down on dissent. Freedom of expression is severely limited by the governments in Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran, and criticism of their authoritarian leaders or challenging the values promoted by the state could land a person behind bars or worse.

In Russia, for example, President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic, Alexei Navalny, was recently arrested (just months after being poisoned) and sentenced to three and a half years in prison; a journalist was jailed for a joke that referenced a rally for Navalny. China’s Communist government has one of the world’s most sophisticated surveillance dragnets to shutdown and punish dissenters, and both its regime and Iran’s have repeatedly responded to protests with lethal force.

-Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) March 10, 2021

Kilmeade’s implication that authoritarian countries are not dealing with cancel culture conflicts with assertions from Republican leaders that such places are the ultimate perpetrators of it.

Former President Donald Trump in a speech last year said cancel culture is “the very definition of totalitarianism.”

GOP Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee in a Fox News op-ed last month wrote, “Cancel culture eerily similar to Communist China playbook to control its people.”

In the US, First Amendment protections allow for broad discussions across American society on an array of issues.

In recent years, America’s history of racism – and ongoing problems with – has come to the forefront of the national discourse. By 2020, polling showed a record number of Americans, who composed a vast majority, agreed that racism was a major problem in the US. This has faced fierce pushback from Republicans and right-wing media outlets like Fox News, especially when it’s involved discussions on removing monuments to past American leaders – including proponents of slavery and racism. GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida in remarks last July referred to this as “cultural genocide.”

It’s within this context that discussions of “cancel culture” have largely emerged. As Insider digital culture reporter Rachel E. Greenspan defined it, cancel culture is “the idea that people too often pile onto others for bad behavior.”

Some contend cancel culture doesn’t actually exist, and that people are simply being held accountable based on the evolution of values in America. But those who are concerned about it, such as Kilmeade, essentially see it as a person or thing being unfairly ostracized in a way that’s damaging to free expression.

Skeptics of cancel culture say that conservatives have taken a very selective stance on it, noting that Fox News and Republicans were not up in arms about the repercussions Colin Kaepernick faced in his NFL career for protesting police brutality.

In 2021, the American right-wing obsession with cancel culture has reached new heights.

A recent move to stop the publication of six Dr. Seuss books with racist imagery has sparked a fiery debate among American conservatives. Fox News hosts like Tucker Carlson have painted the development as an existential threat to America, and Republicans in Congress have railed against it. Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers have excoriated their GOP colleagues for focusing on Dr. Seuss amid a devastating pandemic.