Thoughts on Joe's Cafe and cancel culture

On June 1, 2020, the date when people planned to gather in Granada Hills to protest George Floyd's killing, fearful rumors began flying early. The protest was certain to be violent. The claims that it was planned as a "peaceful" protest was certain to be cover for looters. Some started spreading the rumor that "the organizers have cancelled the event," presumably with the hope of making that come true. 

I spent that afternoon trying to debunk the myths that seemed designed to suppress the event from happening. Myth debunking has, at times during 2020, seemed like a full-time job for me, starting with my pointless and overmatched efforts to argue with "the pandemic is a liberal hoax" theorists. I still find it difficult to believe that my pleas for evidence-based reasoning would so often be dismissed as radical. 

Yet I stubbornly cling to my insistence that without evidence to support them, beliefs are worthless. 

On social media, I pled with fear-spreaders not to discourage a peaceful demonstration, not to presume it would be violent before the demonstration had even begun. At 3pm, I went to the site, took video, posted it, in an effort to supply evidence that would prove the naysayers wrong. There was no looting. Protesters weren't even blocking traffic. Interviewed passersby, pro and con. 

One of the reasons I support the protests is because they are an expression of hope, growth, and the possibility of positive change. Yet the next day I saw the exact opposite sentiment being leveled at Joe's Cafe. 

"Racist! Cancelled!" read the Yelp reviews that burgeoned overnight. "Boycott Joe's!" 

The rumor mill was churning again, claiming this time that Joe and his staff of hired goons yelled racial epithets at the crowd and blocked them from the sidewalk. 

On Twitter, I repeatedly asked for evidence, and again, my pleas for evidence-based reasoning were dismissed as unreasonable. "Are you his defense attorney?" one outraged tweet demanded. I was accused of having few brain cells for not accepting a still photo of Joe standing near a garbage truck as evidence that he had yelled racial epithets at its driver. I said the incident reminded me of #pizzagate, because it involved politically tinged claims against a restaurant owner that had little in the way of supporting evidence. That too was deemed outrageous. There were alleged former employees who could testify to Joe's overt racism, video evidence too. I ran into dead ends trying to track them down (but if any former employees are willing to speak to me, my Twitter DMs are open). 

Videos from the protest day that claimed to show Joe on the street blocking protesters actually showed a man twice Joe's size and not wearing the Joe's Cafe T-shirt I had seen him in earlier, and a woman who was not co-owner Alyson. I don't know who these people are, but if you can answer my requests for  these people's identities, or can offer evidence that they were in fact employees of the cafe, and not just people on the street out front, my DMs are still open. 

After a couple of days, a video that does appear to feature Joe yelling at a trash collector did surface. The video is captioned that it proves Joe is a racist. He is waving his arms emphatically. It looks confrontational. But even after several replays, with the volume on max, because it was shot from so far away, it was impossible to make out the words that were being said. It seems like at one point the trash collector says, "I am fucking...." and then the next word is... legal? Leaving? The rest is wind noise, street noise. The narrator calls Joe an asshole. Then it cuts off. 

Multiple tweets said that looting his restaurant would be a good idea. The Yelpers declared Joe "cancelled."

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that some evidence does surface to support the claims that there is an incontrovertible history of overt racism. What then? 

Will there be a protest? And what form will that protest take? Will there be a possibility of dialogue? Will it express hope, and the possibility of growth, a demand for positive change? 

Cancel culture demands that the opposite is true: there is no room for dialogue, for growth, for change, for hope. The food at the restaurant, overnight becomes "overpriced cardboard." Your explanation that the people on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant were not employed by the restaurant becomes "obviously fake." Once cancelled, you remain cancelled forever. 

No dialogue. No hope. No growth. No possibility of positive change -- the whole reason protests exist in the first place.

Because without those things, why bother? 


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