Cancel culture is claiming its latest victim. And this time, it’s an entirely apolitical small business based in Syracuse, New York.
Over the years, Rail Line, an indoor and outdoor venue, has hosted everything from marijuana markets to pet adoption fundraisers to gay weddings to Libertarian Party events to fundraisers for Democratic politicians. But it was its recent rental to a controversial conservative-leaning group, Moms for Liberty, that has set off a firestorm and led to a vicious campaign against the business.
The event took place on July 27 and featured black conservative speaker Adam Coleman. But it sparked controversy from its very announcement. While the Syracuse chapter of Moms for Liberty had previously had multiple events in the area that went off without incidence, this event was publicly announced shortly after the national Moms for Liberty convention generated controversy, and seems to have been caught up in the broader backlash to the group.
“When the event hit social media, Rail Line suffered an onslaught of venomous vitriol and harassment including reviews, emails, calls and social media attacks spreading false information and outright, intentional lies,” the business said in a statement provided to BASEDPolitics. “Initially the intent was to force us to cancel these groups. There was a protest organized out front. When it became clear to the attackers that we would not be bullied, they continued online activity in an attempt to cause maximum damage to our small business.”
“Rail Line has never—and will never—give in to harassment, terror, and bullying,” the statement continued. “We will listen to and consider viewpoints submitted and expressed in a respectful and professional manner. Sadly, a tactful and respectful approach was severely lacking from the groups of individuals opposed to this event.”
The event itself was aggressively protested.
“We’re not political,” Rail Line manager Shawn Hannon, who is personally involved in Libertarian Party politics, told BASEDPolitics. “We’re just an events space. We host events.”
Hannon was shocked at the level of vitriol he encountered at the event.
“There was a dude three inches from my face screaming ‘fascist’!” he told me. “I didn’t expect the hatred. There was venom coming out of these dudes.”
In the aftermath of the event, the business has been flooded with politically-motivated negative reviews on Google and Yelp, social media comments, emails, and phone calls.
One reviewer left a one-star review and wrote, “Actively support and host known hate groups. Do not give this place a dime. There is no space for Nazis in Syracuse.”
“Nice place for a Nazi hatefest,” one commentator wrote.
“Been twice,” another said. “Won’t return. Can’t support anyone that hosts a hate group.”
“There is *always* a need to shut down nazis and fascists and dangerous conspiracy mongers. They are a cancer, and need to be destroyed before they grow and cause more harm,” another social media commentator wrote.
“Wowza… hate speech isn’t free speech,” another added. “It really needs to come with more consequences.”
Unfortunately, Rail Line has already lost business because of the backlash. Syracuse University canceled a planned event in response to the online outrage. And another client who Rail Line has hosted multiple times in the past is considering canceling as well. That’s right: This apolitical business is facing an attempt to put them out of business because they hosted an event featuring people with ideas progressives dislike.
Firstly, the backlash to Moms for Liberty on display here is itself unreasonable. They are undeniably a right-wing group, and one can certainly agree or disagree with their advocacy on the issues. I certainly don’t agree with them on everything.
But the idea that they are a “Nazi group” is a baseless smear.
It emerges from the fact that one subchapter of Moms for Liberty quoted Hitler in a newsletter, citing his infamous statement that “He alone, who OWNS the youth, GAINS the future.” Yet quoting someone has never been considered an endorsement of them—especially when clearly being done to negatively portray the idea being expressed, i.e., indoctrination of the youth, something the group sees itself as fighting against.
It was still probably unwise for one subchapter to quote Hitler at all in their materials. (Hence why they apologized). But it was obviously in no way an endorsement of Nazism or some sign that they are a “hate group.”
The only other justification for this smear is that the once-respected Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled Moms for Liberty an extremist group. But anyone who has followed the SPLC in recent years knows that they have become wildly biased and that their designations no longer have any credibility. The FBI even said in 2017 that it no longer considered the SPLC a reliable source.
So, while critics can certainly disagree with Moms for Liberty’s agenda, the entire outrage is over-the-top to begin with. Yet even if one does object to—or even hate—Moms for Liberty, it would still be unfair and unwarranted to try to bankrupt a venue that simply rented out event space to them.
Doing business with someone is not—and can never be—considered an endorsement of their ideas and beliefs. As evidenced by their past work with everyone from marijuana venders to gay couples to Democratic politicians, Rail Line is providing a service to the public, not endorsing the group’s ideas.
The ability for people to trade with others regardless of their personal differences is a key part of collaborative capitalism. It enables win-win exchanges and economic growth. But the poisonous mindset of those who are trying to punish Rail Line, that’s found more broadly in Cancel Culture, would erode this important avenue for social cooperation and balkanize our society.
There are many words for that. But “progressive” simply isn’t one of them.