Josh Hawley Uses National Media to Whine About Being Censored

Pop Culture

The third season of Netflix’s futuristic techno-dystopian drama Black Mirror opens with a warning against the all-consuming allure of social clout. In a peer-to-peer scoring system, citizens’ lives are dictated by a fluctuating ranking based on the good and bad interactions that they have with others—a sort of Yelp-review model, but for people to give other people 1-to-5-star ratings. These scores, logged and on display via a social networking app, are as connected to your identity as a driver’s license or Social Security number. Except that they also determine how friends, employers, and businesses treat you; where you are allowed to work; and what neighborhoods you are welcome in. The episode’s protagonist, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, finds herself stuck with a middling rating, which she’s working tirelessly to improve by thirstily seeking acceptance from the rich and popular. But her plan to boost her rating quickly falls apart when she has a very bad, very public breakdown at a wedding, resulting in the decimation of her social credit score after she’s bombarded with 1-star reviews—the life-altering incident that informs the episode’s title: Nosedive.

While the Black Mirror series is set in a near-to-distant future, Senator Josh Hawley appears convinced that he is living in such a technological hellscape due to the wave of criticism he’s facing for trying to disenfranchise millions of voters to help Donald Trump steal a presidential election. “Have you checked your social credit score lately? You might want to. Mine seems to have taken a nosedive this month,” the Missouri Republican wrote in New York Post op-ed, in which he did not cite the Black Mirror script despite seeming to crib from Rashida Jones and Michael Schur’s writing. Hawley argued that ever since he backed Trump’s “stolen election” conspiracy theory by attempting to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College win—an anti-democratic delusion that Hawley maintained even after similarly deranged Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building—he has become the latest victim of cancel culture.

Hawley is not being forced out of a 3-star neighborhood because his in-app social credit score has plummeted. Instead, the senator merely lost his book deal with Simon & Schuster—which he blasted on Fox News before getting a new deal with Regnery Publishing—and political donations from some corporations, with Hallmark requesting he return its past employee donations. And despite Hawley’s screed being featured on the Monday cover of the most popular tabloid in America’s most populous city, the column’s featured image depicts a man’s mouth being duct-taped shut with “canceled” written across it, alongside a headline that emphasizes the need to “take a stand against the muzzling of America.” (Rupert Murdoch, who owns the Post and Fox News, shares similar sentiments about the dangers of “cancel culture.”) Hawley also blasted out the op-ed to his more than half-million Twitter followers.

Many of Hawley’s critics in the media have pointed out the humor in him complaining about censorship on a platform that is read by millions. As writer Judd Legum noted, “If you want proof that America’s problem isn’t ‘cancel culture,’ Josh Hawley lied about election fraud, attempted to subvert the democratic process, helped incite a riot at the Capitol that left 5 people dead and he’s still a United States Senator.” Former Republican congressman Joe Walsh described Hawley as “One of the leaders of the ‘always a victim, always whining’ Republican Party,” while Dispatch senior editor and Time columnist David French tweeted, “Never forget his clenched fist salute to the mob that would soon sack the Capitol. And now he’s assuming the victim posture after American citizens use their free speech to disassociate from a man who tried to break America for Donald Trump, and himself.” 

Now Hawley seems convinced that his free speech is personally under attack because he is so much of a P.R. headache that some megacorporations aren’t even trying to buy him anymore and a book publisher that previously put out some of Glenn Beck and Mark Levin’s right-wing screeds is cutting him off. Only in Hawley’s reality could the possible loss of future corporate donations and one canceled book deal be a form of censorship so severe that it might as well be straight out of a techno-dystopian fantasy.

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