Space Alien Accusations
Accusations are an attempt to threaten, not an invitation to debate.
One night before she met me, my wife was walking home alone at night. She passed a homeless man sitting on the street who asked for change. He seemed potentially dangerous so as a single woman walking home alone at night my wife said nothing and kept walking. The man became angry and yelled at her as loud as he could “YOU’RE A SPACE ALIEN!” My wife continued walking and went home.
What she didn’t do was stay and debate the man about whether or not she was a space alien. The man was mad that she didn’t give him money. The accusation wasn’t a serious claim, but an attempt to threaten and insult her according to the deranged logic of his mind because he was upset she wasn’t doing what he wanted. He was clearly unwell. There was no possibility of any meaningful exchange and it would have been unsafe to stay.
In my previous writing, I have compared “cancel culture” to a cultural version of how street people accost law-abiding citizens in public spaces. Instead of calling them “space aliens,” cancel culture accusations take the form of political buzzwords like “racist,” “antisemite,” “transphobe,” etc. Like a homeless person shouting “you’re a space alien!” these accusations are not an invitation to debate but an attempt to assert dominance over someone, make them feel unsafe, and get them to do what the shouter wants. Just because the shouter smells better (sometimes) doesn’t mean they dynamics are not the same.
Despite knowing that one should keep walking when threatened by a homeless person, many well-meaning liberal people mistakenly believe that one should engage with “space alien” level accusations when they’re made on social media rather than the streets. They suggest the solution to cancelation attempts is to just “have the debate.” Debate what? Whether or not you’re a space alien? There is no debate to have. The purpose of these accusations is to threaten everyday people into doing what the shouter wants. Staying to debate shows weakness. Keep walking.
Why should anyone have to endure such threats merely for walking the streets? Every major American city I’ve seen has this problem. Likewise, every person I know who has voiced their opinion on social media has dealt with cancelation attempts. People want to be able to walk the streets safely. Unfortunately, many cities have ceded their public spaces to this type of shouter. Instead of protecting citizens, police arrest those who respond to threats. Likewise, spaces for public discussion have been ceded to cultural accusers. Those who police cultural spaces often act as enforcers for “space alien” level accusations rather than defending the people they threaten. While it is possible to tune out this abuse, why should we have to?
The behavior shouters engage in is already illegal. The story my wife shared with me is comparable to an attempted mugging. The man demanded money. When he didn’t get it, he threatened someone. Those who make “space alien” level political accusations demand a cultural currency that is not theirs. They’re both asking for your “change,” one political and the other in coins. Stopping this racket first requires recognizing it for what it is. You can’t debate a mugging. Instead, threats must be addressed through the law. Where they cause damage, legal action can be taken. All that is required is the will to do so.