Richard Menger

Richard Menger MD MPA is a neurosurgeon and a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He is a lead editor of the textbook Economics, Business, Policy of Neurosurgery. He is currently the Chief of Complex Spine Surgery at the University of South Alabama and is on the faculty of the neurosurgery and political science departments.   

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I write scientific spine papers and health policy works. Again, I feel called to step out of that lane as the cancel culture religious cult is rising again.

NFL kicker Harrison Butker, a traditionalist Catholic, recently gave an invited commencement address at a traditionalist Catholic private liberal arts college where he expressed traditional Catholic viewpoints. This includes views on the current state of the Catholic Church, Covid-19, President Biden, abortion, homosexuality, birth control, and gender roles.

The media is crafting a narrative that fits their ideology to cancel him. It’s as if, somehow, his religion matters in regard to his ability and right to kick a football.

I stumbled upon this organically. Previously, I had only heard of Butker, again, for his ability to kick the ball through goalposts during football games. I was absorbing my typical news content, and the headlines were brutal.

Either Butker or his speech were labeled as “sexist,” “dehumanizing,” “misogynist,” “completely outrageous,” “demeaning,” “antisemitic,” and “homophobic.” I am probably leaving off some intersectionality, but you get the gist.

I didn’t think all of that could possibly be true. So, I did something unique for most of us in 2024: I watched the original content so that I could make up my own mind.

My distinct conclusion is that the cancel cult either hasn’t seen the video or they are being completely intellectually dishonest.

It’s a typical play from the cancel culture playbook.

Quote out of context, use labels, assume moral superiority, focus on strawman argumentation, and, after that is achieved, use pure ad hominem to split debate into a black-or-white scenario allowing everyone to jump on the bandwagon. It’s kind of like reading one of those “common logical fallacies” posters that often hang on an undergraduate philosophy professor’s office door.

Some 220,000 people have signed a petition to dismiss the kicker from the Kansas City Chiefs. How many people actually watched or read the address?

If one watches the video, even though one may agree or disagree strongly, it’s clear that Butker loves and respects his wife and his family. He’s not the best public speaker, and he becomes emotional and teary-eyed delivering comments about his family. He states to the Catholic women in the crowd at a Catholic college that:

Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world… And, it cannot be overstated that all of my success is made possible because a girl I met in band class back in middle school would convert to the faith, become my wife, and embrace one of the most important titles of all: homemaker.

He describes “homemaker,” in the context of his own wife, as one of the most important titles, but not the only title, for women. He also turns around then immediately to state that his first priorities are as a husband and father, not a football player or entrepreneur. For sure, it’s controversial and highly disagreeable to some or most, but it’s not dehumanizing.

He also spent a large amount of time criticizing the leadership of his own church. He conjured up a Theodore Roosevelt-type mantra to “do hard things.” He attacked the culture of violence only then to be criticized for not properly attacking the culture of violence. He criticized DEI only then to be told that he should be grateful for DEI because Patrick Mahomes is his quarterback.

The trial is over, and he has been declared guilty of a thought crime.

A major challenge for this jury of the virtue signaling mob is that the NFL has actual criminals who actually hurt women. Where is the outrage and where are the hit pieces?

In March, Rashee Rice, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver, crashed his Lamborghini while drag racing at over 100 miles per hour. He crashed into a car with a mother and young child. He left the scene before making sure everyone was okay. He’s charged with aggravated assault and eight criminal charges.

But that doesn’t fit the narrative.

Last season, 20 different NFL players were arrested.

Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Kareem Hunt, Jerry Jeudy, Damien Wilson, Mario Edwards, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, Xavien Howard, and Johnny Manziel, to name a very select few, have actually hurt women or, in certain circumstances, children.

There is a question whether they were wearing their official pink NFL merchandise at the time of the abuse or not.

Butker was an invited traditionalist Catholic speaker for a small traditional Catholic college graduation speaking to a Catholic audience. If you don’t like what he has to say, it’s okay just to disagree with him.

The critical question is: Why is the mob so angry?

It means he’s poking at something real, something threatening, and something that is making them uncomfortable. That’s exactly where we should be having the greatest discussion, debate, and competition for ideas. Betsy Stevenson and Justin Wolfers noted the paradox in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy that as objective measures of accomplishment increased for women over the past 35 years, subjective happiness declined absolutely and relatively to men. As a father of three young daughters, that’s alarming. The cause certainly has debate; let’s have those hard discussions to make things better.

The other problem is that Butker infiltrated the inner circle. The Chiefs are primetime. They won the Super Bowl, and their star player is dating the world’s most popular person. Butker has ideas, and those ideas have been deemed so dangerous that they must never see the light of day. In the cancel culture religious cult, thou shalt not tip the sacred cows. Best to shut down and not to engage.

This is a typical totalitarian zero-sum game.

To be very clear, I am not arguing for or against his viewpoints. I’m asking, based on the evidence, who are the actual narrow zealots intent on mandating that everyone worship at the one true altar that can never be questioned?

A quick look at the instant replay of this story makes the answer abundantly clear.

One thing that remains positive is that this saga will end with a whimper. The market will win. I refer to this Milton Friedman quote often: “The great virtue of a free market system is that it does not care what color people are; it does not care what their religion is; it only cares whether they can produce something you want to buy.”

And Harrison Butker can still kick a football better and longer than anyone.

Additional Reading:

A Neurosurgeon’s View on Cancel Culture and Virtue Signaling by Richard Menger

Psychologist Explains the Unhealthy Incentives Behind ‘Cancel Culture’ by Brittany Hunter

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