No one is canceling Dr. Seuss. On the contrary: he’s being well-served.
Still, this decision by the company, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, presumably made rationally and in response to the demands of the free market, has prompted a full-on right-wing freakout. The story got top billing on Fox News and has been burning up right-wing Twitter. It’s being jammed into the same lazy narrative that has overtaken the right, where any criticism or change, including from companies refreshing their brands or seeking a more diverse audience, is “cancellation.”
Instead, they’re whining about Dr. Seuss. They’re ginning up cheap outrage rather than trying to improve their viewers’ lives. And they’re making a lot of money while they do it.
These are not real stories. Taking Aunt Jemima off of a syrup bottle, rebranding Mr. Potato Head or changing the name of the Washington football team, doesn’t tell us anything foreboding about our culture other than the fact that, like all cultures, it evolves. America is becoming more racially diverse, and as a result, many Americans have a lower tolerance for racism. Traditional gender roles, long shifting, continue to shift. Companies that are trying to sell their products into this changing market respond.
But the American right has become the all-out party of gender and racial grievance, and they are hyper focused on two things: maintaining power, and not actually being held accountable for governing.
That’s why they obsess over culture war stories like Dr. Seuss: There’s no legislative solution (unless they want to nationalize the children’s book industry), so there’s no way for the Republican Party to have failed to deliver on a promise; there’s only finger-pointing at perceived enemies (liberals, wokes, Democrats), which rallies the troops. What are they being rallied for? They’re not quite sure — but they know who they’re against.
In the meantime, the one thing Republicans do seem interested in legislating is voting rights, which they are on a national campaign to scale back — they’ve put forward a whopping 253 bills in 43 states that would make voting harder. And they’re fueled by the lies of former President Donald Trump, who has claimed, against all evidence, that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Those claims eventually resulted in an attack on the US Capitol that left several people dead and some 140 police officers injured, but Trump’s party has decided to embrace his message, not reject it.
It would be funny and sad, this sputtering anger at an ever-changing world, if so many people weren’t taking the rage-bait, and if it weren’t coming at the expense of actually improving peoples’ lives.
And conservatives think the top story is Dr. Seuss? If that’s where we all turn our attention, how convenient for them.