HuffPo denies that “cancel culture” exists

HuffPo, one of the biggest exponents of “cancel culture”, now has published one of its longest articles claiming that such a culture doesn’t exist. The piece is a long and unconvincing response to the letter published last week in Harper’s (and four other international venues). That letter was simply a call for open debate, and “cancel culture” (CC) was defined implicitly in the piece. I’ll reproduce just a small section of that letter, and I’ve put the characteristics of “cancel culture” in bold. Note that the letter calls out these characteristics on both the Right and on the Left, though the signers, mostly Leftists, concentrate on their own end of the political spectrum:

. . . .The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.

The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty. We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes. Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.

In other words, the “cancel culture” represents the cumulative effect of bullying and intimidation that, in the end, makes people who oppose the reigning ideologies afraid to speak. The culture prizes intimidation above discussion, seeing everything, à la critical theory, in terms of power imbalances. The culture is enacted by threatening the reputations and livelihoods of those who say what you don’t like to hear.

The Harper‘s letter deliberately omitted specific examples of CC transgressions, but it’s not hard to think of some. Those opposed to this reasonable letter were peeved that no examples were given, but that would have derailed the discussion into the pros and cons of specific cases—indeed, that’s what HuffPo does in its piece—rather than decrying a climate of increasing censoriousness and, on the Left, the hardening of ideological positions into those for which no dissent is permitted. The punishing of those who dissent from “approved ideology” is what CC is all about. One instantiation, not mentioned in the letter, is the recent tendency to pull down statues, even those of the Founding Fathers, because those founders transgressed modern norms (e.g. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and even statues, like “Progress” at the Wisconsin state Capitol, that have no connection to ideology at all).

Read and sneer.

 

Here’s author Hobbes‘s thesis:

On Monday, 153 prominent writers, academics and public figures signed their names to a statement entitled “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate.” According to the signatories, “The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.”

While the letter itself, published by the magazine Harper’s, doesn’t use the term, the statement represents a bleak apogee in the yearslong, increasingly contentious debate over “cancel culture.” The American left, we are told, is imposing an Orwellian set of restrictions on which views can be expressed in public. Institutions at every level are supposedly gripped by fears of social media mobs and dire professional consequences if their members express so much as a single statement of wrongthink.

This is false. Every statement of fact in the Harper’s letter is either wildly exaggerated or plainly untrue. More broadly, the controversy over “cancel culture” is a straightforward moral panic. While there are indeed real cases of ordinary Americans plucked from obscurity and harassed into unemployment, this rare, isolated phenomenon is being blown up far beyond its importance.

Here are Hobbes’s beefs against the letter. I won’t quote him extensively as you can check my contentions yourself. Any quotes are indented, while my words are flush left.

1.) Cancel culture is a “reactionary backlash” by the “conservative elites” who try to magnify their grievances into a national crisis.

This is of course complete bunk. The signers of the letter were, by and large, on the Left, and decry actions by others on the Left. And, as the letter notes, the Right has long been guilty of restricting ideas itself, although the bulk of CC actions limned in the letter come from the Left.  For an example, go through the last decade of college-speaker deplatformings at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. If there is ever such a thing as a “cancellation”—which HuffPo denies exists)—it is the silencing of speakers by deplatforming them. The majority of deplatformings in recent years have come from the Left, though around a third are from the Right.

2.) The examples of cancellation given in the Harper’s letter are bogus, representing something other than cancellation. First, that letter doesn’t even use the words “cancel culture.” More important, it gave no examples—deliberately. But that doesn’t stop HuffPost from guessing about what the writers were thinking of. One was James Bennet, the op-ed editor of the New York Times, given his walking papers after publishing an editorial (one that the paper initially defended) by Senator Tom Cotton. Cotton endorsed the use of the military to monitor demonstrations and quash violence—a stand that I opposed, but one worth debating.  After enormous social-media pushback from readers, as well as a laughable claim by some NYT staffers that Cotton’s editorial made them feel “unsafe” (this is the trump card of the Perpetually Offended), the paper put in caveats and then fired Bennet.

HuffPo writer Hobbes says this isn’t “cancellation” because the paper admitted (after the pushback!) that it had erred, so Bennet’s firing represented not cancellation of his job, but due diligence by the paper. What a joke!

Hobbes:

While the op-ed did inspire widespread criticism, Bennet’s resignation is not a case of social-media censorship. The Times’ itself admitted that the piece “fell short of our standards” and represented a “breakdown” in the paper’s editorial process. Bennet eventually admitted that he hadn’t even read it before publishing it.

Yes—after staffers beefed and the public kvetched. Absent that, Bennet would still have his job.

But it gets worse: Hobbes says that Bennet wasn’t canceled because, after all, he’d transgressed before by publishing ideologically unsavory views:

And beyond Bennet’s incompetence, there is the simple question of accountability. Even before the Cotton op-ed, Bennet hired climate change deniers, neglected fact-checking and printed “pro-mercenary” articles by private military contractors. Are the signatories to the Harper’s letter really saying that Times readers and employees should not have expressed their frustration with these obvious breaches of ethics?

No, the signatories aren’t saying at all that people shouldn’t be able to speak up against what they dislike. Remember, the Harper’s letter says this: “We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought.” Is that not clear enough, Mr. Hobbes? The signatories are saying that people’s jobs and reputations shouldn’t be on the line for bringing up issues that are worthy (to some) of debate.

Hobbes cites other examples, only to knock them down, but his view that this is just robust debate is not supported. Debating someone like Cotton is not the same as firing the person who publishes his words.

3.) Rich people or public figures aren’t subject to cancelation anyway because they get their views expressed.  Hobbes:

Consider the following two examples of “cancel culture” run amok:

  1. David Shor, a polling researcher, is fired from his job for sending a tweet summarizing the findings of an academic study.
  2. Gillian Philip, a children’s book author, is fired by her publisher after adding “I stand with J.K. Rowling” to her Twitter profile.

While they may look similar on the surface, these cases in fact have little in common.

First, the person being “canceled.” It makes no sense to apply the same standard to public figures and random citizens alike. Philip, unlike Shor, is a public figure. She is a bestselling author and is surely aware that her political statements will affect her standing among her target audience and her publisher. Let’s not be coy about this: Declaring support for J.K. Rowling in July of 2020 is a de facto statement that you agree with her controversial, unpopular views on transgender people.

Public figures certainly have a right to express their controversial views. Readers have the right to react accordingly, and publishers have the right to take these views into account when deciding which books to publish. That’s why it’s called, as “cancel culture” critics love to point out, the “marketplace of ideas.”

So far, there is no indication that private citizens are being held to the same standard as bestselling authors.

Of course they are! Do I need to name James Damore, Bret Weinstein, Heather Heying, Peter Tatchell, and many others to show how private citizens are treated when they transgress? Many of the damned expressed views with which I disagree, but firing or demonizing them is not the way debate is supposed to happen. Further, the attacks on both public figures and private ones, with the public figures still remaining rich (e.g., J. K. Rowling), all help create that climate of intimidation so pervasive in the U.S. (especially on campuses) and the U.K. Campus surveys repeatedly show that conservative students are afraid to speak their minds (see here, for instance). Why, if not for cancel culture?

4.) The actions that constitute cancel culture are limited to the Left.  Hobbes is lying here, as a simple reading of the letter shows.

5.) The authors of the Harper’s letter propose no solutions to ending cancel culture. I would have thought that the solutions were clear: stop bullying people on social media or firing people, or, like Vox writer Emily VanEerWerff, trying to resolve disputes by getting your opponent—a colleague in her case—demonized and fired.

In the end, Hobbes admits that he has a chip on his shoulder, for his own attempts to promulgate the “truth” were ignored by the “gatekeepers of the elite media”—a group he characterizes as “overwhelmingly white, male, straight, and cis.” What happened is when the “Ebonics” kerfuffle happened some years ago (“Ebonics” is the name for African-American English, which some schools proposed to teach), Hobbes tried to show that the controversy was overblown. The elite media ignored him, and that left him with a bad taste about a group of editors who confected, says Hobbes, a “moral panic.”

So he’s got a beef. But what that has to do with the signers of the Harper’s letter, who are not editors of elite media, but public figures, eludes me.

Hobbes ends with this rant:

“Cancel culture” is nothing more than the latest repackaging of the argument that the true threat to liberalism resides not in lawmakers or large corporations but in overly sensitive college students and random social media users. It is no more sophisticated than the “war on Christmas” and has the same goal: to imply that those pushing back against injustice are equivalent to the injustice itself.

Some of the signatories of the Harper’s letter know this and some of them don’t. All of them should have known better.

My response is to quote Andrew Sullivan: “We are all on campus now.”

_________

For another far-Left attack on the Harper’s letter, see this piece in In These Times. A quote from author Hamilton Nolan, who shows that he has no understanding of what the letter was trying to say.

I say this, of course, in the context of today’s letter, published in Harper’s and signed by more than 100 of the worst people in the world of public intellectualism, titled “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate.” The letter is certainly not about any reasonable definition of “Justice,” and is about Open Debate only to the extent that people who make very healthy salaries arguing in public for a living seem to have a bizarre aversion to being argued against. This aversion, I’m afraid, now borders on the pathological. We have entered a brave new world in which those waving the banner of “Free Speech” accuse their opponents of being unable to take criticism while waging a histrionic campaign against anyone who dares to criticize them. Accusing your opponents of doing exactly what you are yourself guilty of is a classic propaganda technique. It works well, unfortunately.

 

43 Comments

  1. DrBrydon
    Posted July 11, 2020 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Are the signatories to the Harper’s letter really saying that Times readers and employees should not have expressed their frustration with these obvious breaches of ethics?

    I think that the HuffPo is letting its bias show; the examples they cite might be a violation of HuffPo’s own ideological view of who should be published, but they aren’t examples of ethical breaches.

  2. prinzler
    Posted July 11, 2020 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Hamilton Nolan: “people who make very healthy salaries arguing in public for a living seem to have a bizarre aversion to being argued against.”

    The Harper letter authors do not have an aversion to being argued against, and they explicitly said so in the letter (“The restriction of debate . . . invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation”). To mistake arguing against something considered harmful to society as an aversion to being argued against rises to the level of religious blindness and projection.

    • revelator60
      Posted July 11, 2020 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      Much of the “criticism” of the letter is really ad hominem criticism of its signers. I’ve lost tracks of all the horrible things they’re been called, but “old people who don’t like being criticized” is one of them. That charge is usually made by young people who enjoy destroying folks less ideologically pure than themselves and who would like to have the older people’s jobs and prestige. Part of the reaction against the letter is a symptom of “intra-elite competition.”

      It does not occur to such critics that the letter’s signers (some of whom are old enough to remember what went right and wrong in the 60s and how important free speech was) might be people genuinely concerned at how super-heated and condemnatory our culture has become. The signers are speaking out of behalf of those who feel too vulnerable to do so.

  3. Historian
    Posted July 11, 2020 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    “More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms.”

    This is the key sentence in the Harper’s letter. It pinpoints what is the source of the problem with cancel culture. It is not that there are people who use social media to accuse falsely or not other people of engaging in some heinous thought crime. This is to be expected in a technological world where any person anywhere at any time can spout off on any topic. There is nothing that can be done about this and except for persuasion nothing should be done about it. As misguided as many of their attack pieces may be, the authors are entitled to free speech.

    The real problem is that the institutional leaders, as the letter calls them, are so easily intimidated by the social mob (or maybe it isn’t even a mob, just a few people who pontificate on issues they know little about). These leaders, some tormented by liberal guilt, others who are scared that their businesses may be damaged, assume without any real evidence that the rantings of the social media folks are backed up by huge throngs. Hence, without taking the time or effort to analyze whether the complaints have any merits, the leaders take the easy and lazy way out by disciplining the supposed offenders. This is a shameful abdication of their responsibility as leaders. Perhaps the letter will buck them up, but I wouldn’t count on it.

    • Posted July 11, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      [Sorry to post this twice. Here’s where it should have gone.]

      That is reasonable for some institutions but not all. Many who have customers and shareholders, for example, do have to worry about community opinion, even if unfair. Those Wokies who are calling for heads on pikes when people express opinions they don’t like must bear most of the responsibility. They are the ones in the wrong here.

    • phar84
      Posted July 11, 2020 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      Well said Historian. It’s a marketplace (of ideas) when institutional leaders base their decisions on the bottom line. Wokes have a right to demand cancelling.

      • Posted July 11, 2020 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

        “Wokes have a right to demand canceling.”

        Sure, they have free speech just like the rest of us. I have the right to say something they don’t like and they have the right to call for my head.

        This is NOT about free speech as all parties do not fear imprisonment or physical punishment for speaking out. However, is it fair for someone to lose their job because they expressed a reasonable, arguable opinion that just happened to differ from Woke orthodoxy?

        • phar84
          Posted July 11, 2020 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

          It is about free speech if someone has to worry about their job when expressing an opinion. And wokes don’t fire people or cancel events.

        • Posted July 14, 2020 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

          Or, is it fair to be sbouted off stage, have fire-alarms pulled to cancel events, etc.?

          The latter is a crime in some places, from what I understand! That’s one weird form of civil disobedience! Not to mention very dangerous to everyone, even bystanders.

  4. savage
    Posted July 11, 2020 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Cancel culture reminds me of free speech in Communist East Germany.

    The term “censorship” was never used by the authorities. There were few outright bans on publications. Artists were supported by the government. And who would object to restrictions on anti-fascist propaganda?

    And yet it was common knowledge that disagreeing with established views could ruin one’s life. The op-eds of different journalists were oddly similar. Ordinary people had to monitor their language when talking to their relatives on the phone. Promotions and privileges were reserved to compliant citizens.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted July 11, 2020 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      And yet it was common knowledge that disagreeing with established views could ruin one’s life…Promotions and privileges were reserved to compliant citizens.

      Excellent point.

  5. CCC
    Posted July 11, 2020 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    They are so biased they don’t even see the consequences of their actions.

    People should really be more self-aware of what they are doing and be less judgmental of others.

  6. Jon Gallant
    Posted July 11, 2020 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    The magazine describes Hobbes’ slot as follows: “Michael Hobbes covers the new economy for HuffPost.” The “new economy” must have no connection whatsoever with the universities and colleges. I daresay that everybody in academic life is aware that the prevailing cancel culture has led to most people walking on eggs in class, in meetings, and in everyday speech.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 11, 2020 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

      New speak, new economy….

  7. Posted July 11, 2020 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    That is reasonable for some institutions but not all. Many who have customers and shareholders, for example, do have to worry about community opinion, even if unfair. Those Wokies who are calling for heads on pikes when people express opinions they don’t like must bear most of the responsibility. They are the ones in the wrong here.

    • Posted July 11, 2020 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, this comment was meant to be in response to Historian’s suggestion that institutional leaders should fight back.

  8. Mark Joseph
    Posted July 11, 2020 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    I know, or at least suspect, that HuffPo is anti-empiricism (they probably think it’s some sort of colonialist repression of others’ lived experience), but nevertheless, I’d suggest an experiment:

    Have them have someone like Milo, Charles Murray, Steven Pinker, or even Ayaan Hirsi Ali to write a column in their rag. Then they’ll be able to find out, first-hand, whether or not “cancel culture” exists.

    Even better if they could arrange to have one of them invited to give a speech at a college campus.

  9. eric grobler
    Posted July 11, 2020 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Has anyone heard of the bizarre case where there was a New York City education zoom meeting and one of the white male participants had a friend’s black baby on his lap, and in a subsequent meeting a hysterical female council member accused him of racism!

    Her accusation:
    “It hurts people when they see a white man bouncing a brown baby on their lap and they don’t know the context! That is harmful! It makes people cry! ..”

    When he asked her why it is racist as a white man to have a black baby on your lap she said:
    “Read White Fragility! It’s not my job to educate you!”

    • Posted July 11, 2020 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I’ve heard of it. No idea if it’s true though. It sounds like it could have been made up but there are lots of things that sound fake these days that turn out to be true. We are living in strange times.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted July 11, 2020 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

        Poe’s Law, or corollary thereof.

      • eric grobler
        Posted July 11, 2020 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        I looked into it, genuine unfortunately.

      • Posted July 12, 2020 at 9:52 am | Permalink

        If it’s fake, the actors were pretty good.

    • Mike
      Posted July 11, 2020 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

      The protagonist in that video showed extraordinary patience and restraint. I wanted to see how he handled things through the end of the video, but I felt myself getting more stupid the longer I listened to his antagonist deny call him a racist while admitting that she said he displayed racist behavior. So I had to stop. I am a bad person…

      • Filippo
        Posted July 12, 2020 at 5:46 am | Permalink

        ” . . . I felt myself getting more stupid the longer I listened to his antagonist deny call him a racist while admitting that she said he displayed racist behavior.”

        I contemplate the antagonist’s reaction were the situation that of a black second grader, of their own volition, hugging a white teacher, and whether the antagonist would berate the teacher in front of the student, or admonish the student for hugging the teacher.

  10. George
    Posted July 11, 2020 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    There is a daily vlog, In Lieu of Fun, co-hosted by BenjaminWittes (of Lawfare) and Kate Klonick of St. John’s Law. On Friday, they did a show with Jonathan Rauch (who signed the letter) and Alex Shephard of the New Republic who has been attacking the letter. You can see the discussion here:

    • eric grobler
      Posted July 11, 2020 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      I get “Video unavailable” – what is the name of the channel?

      • George
        Posted July 11, 2020 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        The youtube channel is “In Lieu of Fun”
        https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8lKFNnYE1War3a41Q41fMw

        • George
          Posted July 11, 2020 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

          The episode in question is 106. I have become a big fan of this vlog.

          The first episode I watched was 85 with Kathlenn Belew, a history professor at the Univesity of Chicago. She writes about the history of white nationalist movements,
          https://www.kathleenbelew.com/

        • George
          Posted July 11, 2020 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

          The episode in question is 106. I have become a big fan of this vlog.

          The first episode I watched was 85 with Kathlenn Belew, a history professor at the Univesity of Chicago. She writes about the history of white nationalist movements,
          https://www.kathleenbelew.com/

        • eric grobler
          Posted July 11, 2020 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for the link, must say I like Jon Rauch but dislike Alex Shepherd

  11. JB
    Posted July 11, 2020 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    The irony here is that many pro-cancel-culture folks are saying, “cancel culture doesn’t exist and if you disagree, my friends and I will see to it you never work again.” They don’t use these words, but that’s the message.

    Also implied quite often is, “Nice career you got there. Be a shame if anything were to happen to it.”

  12. Jon Gallant
    Posted July 11, 2020 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    The point made by poster #4 raises a deep
    sociological question. The GDR’s repressive climate was imposed from above by the ruling Socialist Unity Party, behind which stood the USSR and its army. Our present climate of repression seems a spontaneous growth, spreading from below! How did it come about that academics created their very own GDR, and something akin to their very own STASI in the forms of social media and local bureaucracies? Of course administrative self-aggrandizement plays some role; but no Red Army stands behind all the Vice-Provosts of Diversity and the Archdeacons of pronoun choice. The ivory tower did this to itself.

  13. pablo
    Posted July 11, 2020 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Huffpo: “Who are you going to believe? Us? Or your lying eyes?”

  14. Greg Esres
    Posted July 11, 2020 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    imply that those pushing back against injustice

    No one objects to people pushing back against injustice; what they object to is their methods of doing so.

    There are two common methods that have differing levels of illegitimacy:

    1) Deplatforming. This is the lesser of the two evils, because they’re right: those deplatformed generally do have other platforms from which they can speak and it doesn’t affect their ability to earn a living. However, it does reflect poorly on those who do the deplatforming, because it shows them unable to offer effective counterarguments.

    2) Getting people fired. This is dirty pool. People can get fired by expressing opinions outside their workplace that have nothing to do with their competence to do their jobs. Not only is this unjust for the victims, it has a silencing effect on everyone else who wants to keep their jobs. And, once again, it reflects poorly on those who advocate this tactic; it shows they aren’t able to battle on equal terms on the field of ideas.

    • Posted July 11, 2020 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      +1

    • Raymond Cox
      Posted July 11, 2020 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      I think we can add 3) – removing people from positions of responsibility without actually depriving them of their income. The argument is that they make minorities (or women, who may actually be a majority) feel “unsafe”.

  15. Robert Van Orden
    Posted July 11, 2020 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Cancel Culture exists. For sure.

    There is an institutionalized mechanism for suppression of view point. The institutions in question are the Western Style Universities.

    I don’t knock Western Universities. I went to one myself and learned a fair amount.

    I’m not a fence sitter, but I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water.

    LOL. I hit a number of platitudes.

  16. Raymond Cox
    Posted July 11, 2020 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Why do so many people cravenly apologize when criticized on social media? This simply encourages the bullies. It would be good to have more say, “This is my considered opinion, shared by others, and I am not going to change it because it does not agree with a few activists”.

  17. Filippo
    Posted July 11, 2020 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Hobbes: “Declaring support for J.K. Rowling in July of 2020 is a de facto statement that you agree with her controversial, unpopular views on transgender people.”

    That is, controversial and unpopular with the Hobbesian crowd, whose own views, I take it, could never possibly be “controversial, unpopular.”

    Does Hobbes say that trans women can menstruate, conceive and give birth? That sex is a social construct, not a biological reality? Nothing “controversial” about that claim.

  18. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted July 11, 2020 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    The ‘In These Times’ article really is nauseating. That awful, snarky habit some people have of describing entirely normal people with whom they have disagreements as ‘the worst people on earth’…I really find that the ultimate in lazy, nasty rhetoric.

    But this stood out: “It is the standard issue argument for “free speech” as wielded only by those who already have power.”

    …well, who else is supposed to argue for free speech besides those who have the mouthpiece and influence to do so? And is he surprised that we don’t tend to hear free speech arguments from people who aren’t hugely famous?
    This is the Bad Wig fallacy(TM) – the idea that because you only see bad wigs, therefore good wigs don’t exist. But by definition you’re not going to notice a good wig, and by definition we’re not going to hear from non-famous free-speech supporters either.

    Actually, I haven’t checked the data on this but I’d bet that most people are in favour of free-speech. It’s only a handful of people in positions of privilege who tend to hate free speech – everyone else, as much as we tend to be hypocrites about it, has a vested interest in its continued existence.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted July 11, 2020 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      Very clever; I’ll remember and use the Big Wig fallacy™.

      I appreciate this post, others like it, and the replies, as I learn much that I can use in resisting the fascists of the left, much as I already know something about resisting those of the right.

  19. davelenny
    Posted July 11, 2020 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    If HuffPost and Hobbes can dismiss cancel culture as anecdotes rather than data, my epistemological question for them is, ‘Was Floyd’s death anecdote or data?’

  20. Heather Hastie
    Posted July 12, 2020 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    All I can say is I agree with Jerry.

    I’m getting so tired of those on both the far left, and far right. They’re as bad as each other in their own ways, and equally incapable of recognizing it.

    We all need to be able to look in the mirror, and think through any arguments people might make against our own views. Then, we need the courage to change our opinions if we need to.


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