“Do we have the same considerations for the interpreter who also worked for the Trump White House and more than likely has the same ideological leanings?”
Here at LI, we’ve been covering the creep of cancel culture from our nation’s universities into our society.
Generally speaking, the trend moved from shouting down conservative voices on campus to the demand for “safe spaces” where leftist college children could play with Play-doh and blow bubbles to hide or recover from exposure to ideas that challenged and/or conflicted with their own.
It wasn’t long before this idea that wrong think was unacceptable and must be eradicated manifested itself in Twitter mobs combing over old tweets, interviews, etc. for “racist” and [insert whatever]phobic statements. Once “evidence” of a person’s deviation from woke orthodoxy was found, the mobs would howl, protest, and boycott until that person was fired from their job. Before long, they didn’t have to howl or protest or boycott; they just had to tweet to, call, or email the targeted person’s boss, and the person’s life was destroyed.
It appears we have now entered an even more sinister stage of this ideological witch hunt. There is no need to find a decades-old quote; instead, all that is needed now to get one cancelled is “evidence” of support for President Trump, Republicans, or anything to the right of Stalin. A literary agent, for example, was fired for having accounts on Paler and Gab.
The latest victim of this guilt by association manifestation of cancel culture is sign language interpreter, Heather Mewshaw.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 26, 2021
Some random Twitter user somehow recognized Mewshaw from her work with Right Side ASL and decided that she was unfit to translate for the Biden administration.
This interpreter used to do work on Right Side ASL on Facebook. You want to find them? Can't. They aren't on Facebook anymore. But they had a site on Gab. See the picture below. pic.twitter.com/JMLgaJvIHW
— Jon Henner (@jmhenner) January 25, 2021
But I am wondering if this interpreter who shall be unnamed is appropriate to work for the Biden government? I personally cannot trust the integrity of her interpretation. That means I have no reason to trust what the Press Secretary says if it's coming through her hands.
— Jon Henner (@jmhenner) January 25, 2021
Note that there is not even a hint of a whiff of a suggestion that Mewshaw in any way misrepresented what was being said at the presser. Just her suspected affiliation with the right is enough.
The Democratic Coalition has jumped on the bandwagon.
"A TIME Magazine investigation found that Mewshare manages a group of ASL interpreters that provide translations for videos that embrace right-wing ideals, including some that peddled baseless election claims and vaccine misinformation."https://t.co/EmD1gBMbql
— Democratic Coalition (@TheDemCoalition) January 30, 2021
Heather Mewshaw, who Psaki introduced on Monday as “today’s interpreter, Heather,” also appears to manage a group of ASL interpreters who provide sign language accompaniments to right-wing videos. Some of these videos have featured vaccine misinformation, conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol, and false claims about Michelle Obama being transgender, according to a review of social media posts by TIME.
. . . . Mewshaw’s group, which was originally known as Right Side ASL and had pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and far-right app Parler, changed its name to Hands of Liberty after its previous Facebook page was deleted in November. “Sad News: Our Facebook Page, Right Side ASL Backup, has been flagged for violating community standards and will be taken down at any time. It’s up to Facebook to decide. Not us,” read a post on the Hands of Liberty ASL page on Nov. 17.
. . . . The Hands of Liberty interpreters are volunteers, according to the group’s social media accounts, and each video features a disclaimer saying that the video does not belong to them. “This isn’t our original video. Hands of Liberty provides, upon request, ASL interpreting accommodations to the Deaf community for inaccessible online video content. This service is provided by volunteers,” the disclaimers read. “Remember that censorship is considered an act of violence and oppression that causes trauma to everyone involved.”
. . . . While the group frequently solicits requests from the public, the vast majority of videos it has chosen to interpret, with the notable exception of the recent White House press conferences, are right wing or pro-Trump in their sentiment. In a Jan. 20 video titled “Thank You President Trump From the Right Side ASL Team!,” Mewshaw signs along with a compilation video of Trump dancing to the song YMCA.
. . . . “I was honestly surprised,” Jon Henner, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina Greensboro who studies ASL and is deaf, said in an email. “For me, it would be problematic for someone who has aligned herself with alt-right discourses to be the public face of the White House for the deaf communities and people who are curious about ASL.”
Having gone on for 12 paragraphs about Mewshaw’s “alt right” radicalism for appearing to support a duly-elected president, Time finally admits that there have been no allegations of her inaccurately or inappropriately translating anything.
Mewshaw holds three certifications from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), a national membership organization for interpreters. There is no indication that Mewshaw has signed inaccurately at the White House or in past work, and no one TIME spoke with alleged that she had.
But they quickly get back to their purge the witch message.
Regardless of a specific violation, Henner says the incident shows the importance of hiring the right ASL interpreter for the situation. He does not believe it’s possible for any interpreter to be completely free of bias, which is why it’s important to understand what someone’s beliefs are when deciding whether to trust them to get a message right.
“Pres. Biden selected Jen Psaki to be the White House Press Secretary because Kayleigh McEnany would not be an appropriate choice because of who she worked with, and her ideological leanings,” he said. “Do we have the same considerations for the interpreter who also worked for the Trump White House and more than likely has the same ideological leanings?” [emphasis mine]
“More than likely” thinks wrong thoughts is the new bar for cancellation. Let that sink in.
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