Think “cancel culture” is a fabrication? Think again.

This letter in Areo (click on screenshot) gets the point of the Harper’s letter in a way that many outraged people and offended intellectuals didn’t. The author, who asserts that he’s a “nobody”, isn’t really: his Areo bio says this:

Angel Eduardo is writer, musician, photographer, and designer in New York City. He has been published in The Ocean State Review, The Caribbean Writer, and Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, among other publications. See more of his work at angeleduardo.com.

But never mind who he is.  His point is that, as Steve Pinker mentioned, the letter wasn’t there to protect the speech and hegemony of the many intellectuals who signed the letter; it was to call attention to a culture that demonizes and, worse, injures the livelihoods of “regular” people who committed ideological transgressions, usually on the Internet. This isn’t in the interest of debate or of producing “counterspeech”, but in the interest of hurting your opponent.

Eduardo now has put his career in danger, for in the Areo letter he says that while he believes in the principles of Black Lives Matter, he often finds their rhetoric “confused, dishonest, and based on misinterpretations of the data.”  Also, while supporting trans people, he says “I cannot deny my own understanding of the science behind biological sex.”  Those two statements—or even one of them—are sufficient to stuff him into the meat grinder of cancel culture. Now, he says, A target is on his back, but he had sufficient courage to write the article, and to say this:

That’s the fulcrum on which the Harper’s letter turns: I could be wrong about everything, and I am willing to hear the reasons why, but I must be given the chance to be wrong. I must be able to not only express my opinions, but to know that my life won’t crumble around me because I happen to be in disagreement with the crowd. We must grant one another compassion and the benefit of the doubt, despite our basest instincts and the social media platforms that cynically incentivize them. I’ve been wrong nearly every day of my life, and there hasn’t been one instance in which I didn’t become a better person for having learned through compassionate correction. If I’d been afraid to speak or act, or if I’d been met with righteous anger instead, I might have never learned at all.

There’s more, but you can read it for yourself. I want instead to highlight one of the links Eduardo gives below:

In the wake of the Harper’s letter, I’ve witnessed flabbergasting displays of casuistry. Critics have attacked the motives and character of certain signatories, as though accusations of hypocrisy—whether justified or not—could invalidate the principles within the letter itself. Many have argued that the cancel culture the letter decries doesn’t even exist, despite seemingly unending examples.

Of course I had to see the link, for many critics of the Harper’s letter beefed about the nonexistence of cancel culture. After all, they wrote uncomprehendingly, all those people who signed the letter didn’t get canceled; they were just defending their right to oppress others who—the beefers claimed—couldn’t speak up because they were marginalized. (The idea that marginalized people have no voice cannot be supported given the outcry and changes following the murder of George Floyd.)

Anyway, the author of the list, who runs the EverythingOppresses Twitter site, put up ten examples of “cancel culture” (non-famous people having their lives and careers damaged, mostly through firings), and then offered to give ten other examples for each 1,000 followers he/she accrued—up to 150. There are now about 7500 followers, and at the site below (click on screenshot), you can see the list.


There are now 101 examples, and I’ve looked at them all. While some don’t really fill the bill (semi-famous people simply being attacked, with calls for them to be fired), and other folks weren’t really fired but were piled on by social-media mobs, most of them do count as real examples of “cancel culture.” Not only were people’s businesses wrecked and their careers damaged, or they got fired, but I can’t imagine any of this happening 30 years ago. The closest example I can think of in our time is the red-baiting that took place during the McCarthy era. But even that wasn’t comparable because the career-wrecking was mostly done by the government and Congress, not by private citizens.

You’re already familiar with many of these examples if you’ve read this site, but I’ll give a few, and if you click on the screenshots you can read the evidence. Some of them are truly horrific examples of mob mentality. Yes, you can be attacked by the outraged if you criticize the MeToo movement, Black Lives Matter, or if you say something that, however obliquely, can be interpreted as racist, but counterspeech is simply a demonstration of free speech. Pushback on social media is often distressing, but I can’t say I oppose it. What makes these examples odious are the blatant attempts to ruin people’s livelihoods by communicating Ideological Malfeasance to people’s bosses. And yes, boycotts aren’t illegal, but they can be misguided and overblown, as many in the list are.

Here are a few examples (again, click on screenshots to go to the relevant news article). Remember the Burrito Truck Cancellation?

I wrote about this one, too:

One link here to represent all four cases:

You know of this incident:

Although there’s controversy about why Google fired James Damore, it seems pretty clear it was his response to the “diversity memo” that did him in. Regardless of whether he conformed to “received wisdom,” he shouldn’t have been fired:

Young adult fiction is a hotbed of Cancel Culture activity. The author gives a number of examples, but here’s an overview:

Remember this one?

Surprisingly, one of the most fertile hunting grounds for the Offense Police is the “knitting culture”: social-media websites connecting those who knit. Here’s one ludicrous example of hounding after an innocuous statement (another example is here):

And you surely remember the Gibson’s Bakery incident, in which Oberlin College decided to rouse its students by accusing the bakery of racism when in fact there was no racism in evidence (the bakery won a huge judgement against Oberlin, which behaved despicably). There are two screenshots with separate links:

Don’t forget how Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying were hounded out of The Evergreen State College (NYT story by Bari Weiss):

Are ten examples enough? (Remember, there are over a hundred.) Let’s make it an even dozen. The next one is particularly odious, and you may not know of it:

To finish off, let’s not forget how Harvard Law Professor Ronald Sullivan was kicked out as head of an undergraduate residential house for having the temerity to join Harvey Weinstein’s defense team. No matter than Sullivan had done a lot in the past for marginalized students; his presence was making students at Winthrop House feel “unsafe” (a word that should raise a red flag):

These, and most of the rest of the examples, clearly show that people’s lives have been damaged or even ruined by social-justice mobs not even offering counterspeech (they often take their positions as un-debatable), but simply baying instead for people’s jobs.

I don’t have a strategy to counteract this kind of climate; all I can suggest is that we stand up against it every time we see it. Given that the liberal media and many other powerful positions are now occupied by woke students who imbibed their ideology in woke colleges like Oberlin and Harvard, it’s going to be a long battle.

91 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Seems a bit of rhetorical self-deprecation (a rare enough commodity in today’s social-media world) for Angel Eduardo to refer to himself repeatedly as a “nobody.”

    But even if that’s accurate, based on the quality of his essay, he’s destined not to be a nobody for long.

  3. Posted July 19, 2020 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    No surprised here, but a very good resource to pull out examples. ‘Break glass in case of CC debate.’

    I think that CC does apply to prominent figures as well and so those examples can also be fairly used. The Twitter mobs don’t make a distinction.

  4. John Donohue
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    There is a massive sky of tragedy hanging above all these examples. I invoke it even if it might seem to diminish the contemporary cancelling …

    It is real cancelling: the death of very courageous thinker, going back 2.4 million years to the origin of our genus, who was shunned, persecuted, isolated, and eventually murdered in the name of orthodoxy.

    Giordano Bruno, Socrates, Hypatia of Alexandria, Galileo, Aristotle (exiled for saying ‘prayer does not work,) all the women ever burned alive for asserting their power, and every “counter-revolutionary” or “enemy of the people” forcefully re-educated or slaughtered by the collectivist political philosophy of the Soviet Union, The People’s Republic of China, and the Nazis.

    And every member of genus homo cast into slavery and held there in the name of power.

    The Cancel Culture now running wild in the world shares the same root as the monsters of these atrocities.

    • Posted July 19, 2020 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      Well, there is CC and then there is murder.

    • Posted July 19, 2020 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      I hear you but it sounds like a bit of a slippery slope sort of argument. Using it against CC would be committing an offense similar to the one they commit.

      • John Donohue
        Posted July 19, 2020 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        It’s not much of a “slope,” since BLM adherents have murdered people (in addition to killing businesses and careers)

        The slippery slope is good people not raising voices against it. Jessica Doty Whitaker, for instance.

        • Posted July 19, 2020 at 11:55 am | Permalink

          Like another commenter said, that would be murder not cancellation. It is not reasonable to accuse an entire movement (Cancel Culture) with the behavior of a few.

          • John Donohue
            Posted July 19, 2020 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

            I am not saying “equivalent.” I’m saying “the same root.”

            CC project and all the collectivist projects I listed have the same root.

    • savage
      Posted July 19, 2020 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      Since we are a social species, having conformist views was selected for.

      The best conformist is he who is not even aware of how he arrived at his opinions and cannot fathom that there might be true and not outright immoral opinions outside of the mainstream.

      I suspect that many of the anti-fascists and anti-racists of today would have been horrendously conformist in Nazi Germany, contrary to their beliefs about themselves.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 19, 2020 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

        Mebbe so. But it’s today’s actual fascists and racists who would’ve happily been at the pointy end of the Nazi spear, backing their boy Adolf right from the jump with the Beer Hall Putsch.

  5. DrBrydon
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    While people might protest that cancel-culture isn’t real, here is a story from the LA Times via Yahoo that is calling for the “Star Spangled Banner” to be cancelled. The author doesn’t feel the need to explain what that means. I think this usage confirms the existence of cancel-culture. (To save everyone from having to read the whole thing, the author suggests as a replacement “Lean on Me,” with no apparent consideration given to “Pick Yourself Up.”)

  6. Posted July 19, 2020 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Who will cancel the cancelers?

  7. jezgrove
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Did the Gibson family receive their payment in full yet, or is Oberlin still trying to fight it?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 19, 2020 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      The case is on appeal to Ohio’s Ninth District Court of Appeals. The primary briefs were filed last month, and the case is awaiting oral argument. Oberlin has appealed the verdict and judgment. Gibson’s Bakery has cross-appealed seeking to have the jury’s original $44 million judgment (later reduced by the trial court to $25 million) reinstated.

      • Posted July 19, 2020 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        I think the eldest Gibson has since died. Oberlin will keep appealing, I think, until it has to fork out the dosh.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted July 19, 2020 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, I think that die has been cast; any chance of a settlement likely evaporated with the filing of the briefs.

          Looks like it’s balls-to-the-wall all the way now.

          • merilee
            Posted July 19, 2020 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

            There’s a lovely little hiking trail near Whistler, BC, which leads to Balls-to-the-Wall Falls. And incidentally we saw a Momma bear and two cubs nearby.

      • jezgrove
        Posted July 19, 2020 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, Ken – just as I feared.

  8. Jon Gallant
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    The fabled post-war period of McCarthyism and red-scare was mostly drummed up by government agencies, such as certain congressional committees, and a few right-wing organizations, such as the American Legion and American Business Consultants Inc. By and large, it lacked the seemingly large (or at least vociferous) public and the air of vigilantism that defines today’s cancel culture.

    Having been a college student during the waning days of the McCarthy period, I can testify that this period was distinctly less intimidating than the current campus atmosphere. Maybe the best analogue to the current situation is the mass hysteria in Europe which led to the bizarre Children’s Crusades of 1212. If this parallel is close enough, perhaps we can look forward to Twitter mobs of undergraduates marching to the beach near Evergreen State, where they will expect the sea to part before them.

  9. Patrick
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    “But never mind who he is.”

    You’re never going to get Woke with that attitude! How could you possible consider an argument without first knowing the race, gender, and politics fo the person making it?

    /s (Sarcasm tag for the reading comprehension impaired.)

  10. Charles A Sawicki
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Once we get rid of tRump and his minions, the woke represent the next danger to Democracy which needs to be confronted.

  11. Charles A Sawicki
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Thanks! Great resource for the activities of the woke.

  12. merilee
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    “Eye-opening” is a no-no??.

    • Keith
      Posted July 19, 2020 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      So is “blindspot” from what I heard in a zoom meeting a couple weeks ago. To my mind, the term describes an anatomical feature of the vertebrate eye, where the optic nerve and blood supply interfere with light detection on the retina. We all have them. But someone decided the term is ableist.

      • merilee
        Posted July 19, 2020 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

        For real??

      • rickflick
        Posted July 19, 2020 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

        It also means that someone seem to be unable to understand an aspect of an issue or to see how important it is. Which nicely describes CC itself. However, it’s clear the offended ones simply are responding to the word “blind” which happens to be part of the very useful term. This suggests there are a lot of terms out there that will eventually become targets of the offended. Boardwalk is also ableist, isn’t it? Busboy is not inclusive. Deadend is a slam against those who have “passed away”. One favorable outcome of all this is that the dictionary will be slimmed down to the point that the illiterate will no longer see it’s display as a severe micro aggression.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 19, 2020 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      None are so blind as those who refuse to see a metaphor for what it is.

      • merilee
        Posted July 19, 2020 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        ✔️❗️

      • rickflick
        Posted July 19, 2020 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        I think the works of Shakespeare are doomed.

        • jezgrove
          Posted July 19, 2020 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

          I think Will is safe, what with all the crossdressing siblings…

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted July 19, 2020 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

            I’ve been thinking about what you said regarding 81-year-old Ian McKellen playing Hamlet. How’d they come up with anyone old enough to play Gertrude and Claudius?

            • revelator60
              Posted July 19, 2020 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

              They could cast a pair of skeletons. Granted, skeletons are usually taciturn, but the sidekick of former talk show host Craig Ferguson was an animatronic talking skeleton named Geoff. Maybe Geoff and one of his female friends could audition for McKellen’s production?

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted July 19, 2020 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

                Maybe if they just keep digging long enough in the graveyard where the skull of poor Yorick was found.

              • merilee
                Posted July 19, 2020 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

                Alas🙀

            • merilee
              Posted July 19, 2020 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

              How ‘bout that old guy who just got knighted by Liz.

  13. Historian
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    There is an immediate danger, potentially of great consequence, that may flow out of the excesses of the cancel culture frenzy. Namely, it is fodder for Trump. Democratic strategist Ruy Teixeira cautions that “there are a large number of voters who are currently on the Democratic train who will be tempted to get off in the future if Democrats do not clearly dissociate themselves from the movement’s excesses. Dislike of Trump can only go so far in keeping Democratic voters Democratic.” However, by definition, zealots do not care. Unable to see beyond their own particular concerns, they have little concern about the broader consequences of their actions. As far left radicals have thought for more than 50 years, they believe the revolution is right around the corner. They can’t comprehend that Americans are generally conservative in nature, believing in reform, yes, but to take place incrementally and cautiously. That is, for most Americans their beliefs oscillate around the center of the political spectrum. And for those not in the center, many more lean far right than far left. Just as the radicals of the 1960s misread public sentiment,thereby helping Nixon win in 1968, so do the young and the foolish of today.

    https://thedemocraticstrategist.org/2020/07/teixeira-how-cancel-culture-threatens-dems/

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 19, 2020 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      I think the electoral demographic at stake here is college-educated white suburbanites (especially women). Trump has been shedding their support since taking office (partially accounting for the blue wave of the 2018 midterms) and has lost them irretrievably, I think, by his botching of the COVID crisis.

      But Democrats risk squandering their gains with this group (which tends to grow more conservative as it ages) to whatever phoenix arises from the ashes of Trumpism should they be seen as catering excessively to the woke.

      • AlTazim
        Posted July 19, 2020 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

        I don’t know about Trump losing them irretrievably: my parents (late 50s) are in the paradigmatic suburban Bushite-to-Biden demo, and while they are unhappy about the coronavirus response from Trump and back in May were saying they could never vote for him, now they don’t see any indication that Biden and the Democrats more generally has any answers to lead the country out of its current crises, and may only intensify them. A wrinkle: my parents grew up in the city in the 60s and 70s, and fled from it during the 80s as crime spiked, so they are spooked by the energy on the Democrats concerning placing more limits on the police. We will probably see a number of suburbs go back to red in 2020 until the Democrats get less woke (hopefully by 2022) due to these kinds of suburbanites, the ones who remember the mid-late 70s through early 90s and having to put a lock on your steering wheel every time you parked within a two hour walking distance of downtown.

  14. Posted July 19, 2020 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    “I don’t have a strategy to counteract this kind of climate; all I can suggest is that we stand up against it every time we see it.”

    Yes, it is a tough problem. I’ve been thinking about it. One thing that may help is slapping a consistent label on their behavior. “Cancel Culture” (CC) seems like a nice one. Lawsuits are another good tactic against certain instances of cancellation. Consistently heading off the inevitable charges of “racist” or “whiteness” before they are used seems like a good idea.

    Perhaps the biggest weapon to use against the Woke is to constantly point out that their tactics endanger the very agenda they claim to support. It enhances Trumpist arguments, brings ridicule to anti-racism, and alienates potential allies to the anti-racism effort.

    I sense that a lot of people are now coming out against Cancel Culture. Obviously, there’s The Letter but I sense a definite rise in awareness of the problem. Like you say, it will be a long slog.

    • Patrick
      Posted July 19, 2020 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      Pointing out that their tactics are counterproductive would work if Wokism were a rational movement. It is not. Numerous articles have drawn the parallels between Wokism and religion. For the terminally Woke, this is a battle of good versus evil, and the positions they define as good are not to be questioned. It’s a damn holy war, that no one will win.

      • Posted July 19, 2020 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        I think with any battle like this, you have to imagine that there are large numbers of people that haven’t thought this Woke thing through completely or have doubts about it. They are the ones we should be targeting, not the diehards. Same thing with convincing those that voted for Trump in 2016 not to vote for him in November. You aren’t going after those that attend Trump rallies but those that voted for him because all their neighbors did, believed having a businessman in the White House might be something worth trying, or hated Hillary.

        • Patrick
          Posted July 19, 2020 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

          I hope you’re right about the percentage of diehards being low. One big concern is that many people are afraid to speak against them for fear of being cancelled themselves. I also hope there will be a tipping point where most people tell the Woke Scolds to go pound sand, but they’re not going to go down easily.

          My prediction is that Trump will lose for a variety of reasons, not least that Biden isn’t despised the way Clinton was. If the Woke are still a force in the Democratic Party during the 2022 midterms, they could be a factor in the House and Senate flipping to the GOP.

          • Posted July 19, 2020 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

            I think many of us have fears of the Hard Left wing of the Democratic Party causing a rapid swing back the other way. Some of us were happy to see a relative centrist in Biden win the nomination. The Woke will continue to try to make inroads into the political system and we’ll have to fight those battles.

    • Steve Gerrard
      Posted July 19, 2020 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      It’s easy to think that it’s the same people doing all the cancelling. There will be some involved with two or more, but for the most part it is different people every time. It is different schools and businesses, and in different states. Students involved two years ago may have graduated by now.

      You could convince everyone whose done one not to do them again, and still have almost as many new ones come up from new people. As long as the idea is floating around out there, I’m not sure it will ever stop, unless it becomes ineffective because no one gets fired anymore, or something like that.

      • Posted July 19, 2020 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        I agree. It is everywhere. Some of my acquaintances say things that sound very Wokish and I’m not associated with a university. I don’t know how deep they are into the cult because I don’t really want to find out.

        Still, the ideas behind Wokeness seem so obviously bad that I still have hope that it will fade quickly. It only has to morph into everyday anti-racism and drop the bullying aspect of their behavior. The academic stuff, the various “studies” and Critical Race Theory don’t bother me so much as they are mostly just bad ideas which they have a right to hold, and we have a duty argue against. It is the destroying of people’s lives if they don’t toe some invisible line that must go.

  15. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    I do not deny all of this CC stuff and the damage it can do but shouldn’t we admit the cause of nearly all of it. And what is that cause? The internet and all the platforms that support this stuff. Most people that surround this CC shit storm are addicted to the internet and spend much of their time on their smart phones and ipads and other electronic devices following it all. When you say, can you imagine any of this 30 years ago, heck no. The technology was not yet there taking over the lives of people. 70 years ago many people thought the TV was going to destroy people’s minds and in some ways it did. Hell, it brought us Donald Trump. But now what is Twitter and Face book and all the rest going to do to society? Just ask yourself, people here at this web site on a regular basis. How much time do you spend here and what are you giving up to be here.

    • Posted July 19, 2020 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      I disagree entirely. Sure, having greater and greater ability to communicate makes things happen faster and faster. However, it is both good things and bad. Blaming it on the technology allows people to dodge their own responsibility. Twitter doesn’t make the Woke want to shut their perceived enemies down. They are the ones responsible for their actions and their statements. Do you really suggest that we shut down the internet or just Twitter and Facebook? You ignore all the good that is done on those platforms. Take a lesson from Pinker. It is a human failing to look only at the bad news.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted July 19, 2020 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        You seem pretty upset that someone said something unkind about the internet. You seem to take it personally? I am only pointing to the cause or the vehicle that helps to make idiots out of many people. You tell me how any of this CC action could take place without the internet and the platforms that allows them to rant on and on. It would not happen and did not happen. Oh, you might see some of it going on around universities but that would be about it. You explain it if you can but don’t accuse me of saying burn down the internet – I never even hinted at that.

        • Posted July 19, 2020 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

          “You tell me how any of this CC action could take place without the internet and the platforms that allows them to rant on and on.”

          Nothing happens without the internet these days. If you don’t want to “burn down the internet”, what do you suggest? If you take Twitter down entirely, someone will create something similar or the traffic will move to another site. If you are thinking that Twitter adopt some rules that will help, suggest them. I think a lot of people would like to stop the spread of disinformation and conspiracy theories. However, we must be careful or the Woke will suggest that every Twitter account’s owner have their race and gender certified so that they can target their cancellation efforts more effectively.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted July 19, 2020 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

            People need to be educated as to what is causing all of these crazy and unpleasant things to happen. Just like bullying on line has cause many kids to suicide. Created a big business in pornography. And yes, allowed the CC culture to run rampant over the network platforms. It has allowed voter influencing to reach dangerous level beyond any thing that is good. For people like Trump who live in the world of conspiracy, twitter is his device. I am only reminding you and others that this stuff did not happen in empty space. If I get the answer, I’ll let you know.

    • Jonathan Dore
      Posted July 22, 2020 at 12:56 am | Permalink

      In its first 15 years the world wide web pretty much did what Tim Berners-Lee envisaged: it was a world of websites, where people who had a passion for something created online resources that other people found useful. It was a force for good. So it’s not the internet generally that’s the problem, and not even the world wide web: it’s specifically social media that has proved to be the enabler and spreader of online mobbing. If Facebook had merely remained a place for people to reconnect with long-lost friends, it could have been fine. Twitter I’ve always thought ridiculous (and well named), but if it had merely remained a way for celebrities to make announcements to their fans, it might have been fine too. But it seems to me that the unmediated, unmoderated cacophany of ignorance, idiocy and bigotry that these platforms have allowed, and often encouraged, far outweighs any benefits they might have.

  16. FB
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    The illiberal left is not only denying that Cancel Culture exists, they think that those examples of “cancelling” are actually examples of advances in civil liberties. We already had freedom of speech, which is great, but now we need censorship of bad ideas, which is even better. Does that make sense? “Freedom to express only good ideas”, it doesn’t seem oppressive to me.

  17. ethologist
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Even the Harper’s Letter itself exemplified the presence of “cancel culture” in the choice of who was allowed to sign it. The instigator of the letter, Thomas Chatterton, has acknowledged that journalist/bombthrower Glenn Greenwald was not asked to sign the letter because other signatories (the implication is that it was a majority, since Chatterton says he was “outvoted”) didn’t like Greenwald’s views. My head is exploding.

    • Posted July 19, 2020 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      Doesn’t something similar happen when any letter like this is written? For a letter like this to actually get published and to have the desired effect, they have to limit those who sign it and the length of time to devote to the process. Calling it an example of Cancel Culture is unfair and unproductive, IMHO. How do you suggest they should have done it?

      • ethologist
        Posted July 19, 2020 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        The implication (which is open to interpretation) of what Chatterton is saying is that the idea of considering Glenn Greenwald as a signatory was floated and then rejected because other signatories objected to his views on issues separate from that addressed in the letter. If so, then you have to admit that there is a strong surface similarity between a signatory objecting to Glenn Greenwald being a co-signatory and a NY Times journalist objecting to the publication of Tom Cotton’s op-ed arguing for extra-constitutional police action. To protect from a charge of hypocrisy, they should simply have included Glenn Greenwald (assuming he would have wanted to sign it).

        • Posted July 19, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

          Maybe but we weren’t party to those conversations so it is pretty hard to know precisely if Greenwald’s views were irrelevant to those of the letter or if those were the real reason to not ask for his signature. And, as ethologist explains eloquently, it is not cancellation if the “damage” done to Greenwald is only preventing him from signing the letter.

          • ethologist
            Posted July 19, 2020 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

            Same could be said about Tom Cotton had his op-ed not been published?

            • Posted July 19, 2020 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

              Many people produce work that is not published in their publication of choice, or not at all. That’s not cancellation.

          • Filippo
            Posted July 19, 2020 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

            Perhaps Greenwald will yet notify the world (if he has not already done so) if he agrees with the letter.

    • aburstein
      Posted July 19, 2020 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      This is such a dumb argument, I can’t believe anyone is actually suggesting it. Not being asked to sign a letter isn’t “cancelling”, and anyone with a few brain cells knows that. There aren’t any consequences for someone not being a signatory on a letter.

      Not being asked to sign a letter is even less consequential than having someone criticizing you on Twitter, and even that isn’t “cancelling”.

      Aside from the obvious fact that every single collaborative effort is going to have some people who are excluded from that effort, so by your logic, every collaborative effort is an example of cancel culture too.

      • ethologist
        Posted July 19, 2020 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        Maybe it’s because I’m “dumb” (and thanks by the way for keeping the tone of the discussion right up there with the best of the internet), but I don’t follow the argument. The Tom Cotton op-ed is commonly cited as an instance of where “cancel culture” would have acted had people gotten their way and prevented his op-ed from being published. Is the argument that Cotton’s canceling would have had bad consequences for him? What would those consequences have been?

        • ethologist
          Posted July 19, 2020 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

          Isn’t the key issue about silencing voices because you disagree with them?

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted July 19, 2020 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

          aburstein criticized your argument as “dumb,” rather than make an ad hominem attack on you personally.

          The tone may have been harsh, but the point is legitimate: a letter such as that which appeared in Harper’s loses its force if the signatories aren’t curated in some manner.

          Not making the cut is hardly the equivalent of being “cancelled.”

          • ethologist
            Posted July 19, 2020 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

            But doesn’t the same point apply to other contexts where “curation” plays a role in who is offered a specific forum for their views? Op-Ed pages at NY Times? Lecture hall at a university (e.g. Charles Murray at Middlebury, Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley, Richard Spencer at MSU)? How do you reconcile a need for curation with an argument about speech being totally free?

            • Posted July 19, 2020 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

              The problem with the speakers on campus that were de-platformed was that they were first given a platform by a faculty member or campus group but then not allowed to speak by others. It wouldn’t have been a problem if they had never been invited to speak. That would be similar to having a publication turn down an article. Nothing wrong with that. It happens all the time. However, once someone is given permission to speak, their ability to do so should not be prevented solely because some people on campus don’t like them. That tramples on the rights of the inviters and all who wanted to hear the person speak.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted July 19, 2020 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

              Yes, curation plays a role in those fora; no one can demand to be published in the NYT op-ed pages or to be heard at a university lecture hall. Those are by invitation only.

              On the other hand, anyone can set up a soapbox and declaim to their heart’s content at Speakers’ Corner or an equivalent public forum.

              You ask me “how do you reconcile a need for curation with an argument about speech being totally free?” By recognizing that the “free” in “free speech” means something different from the “free” in “free beer.”

        • Posted July 19, 2020 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

          Tom Cotton wasn’t cancelled, the NYT editor who approved Cotton’s article was the victim.

          • ethologist
            Posted July 19, 2020 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

            This seems like a distinction without a difference; I think it is fair to say that Bennett was “canceled” at least in part because he didn’t suppress Cotton’s speech in the way people wish he had. But in addition to that, I believe that Bennett admitted that he didn’t even read Cotton’s piece before approving it, so he showed that he wasn’t really doing his job properly. And by the way, I think Cotton’s article was utter garbage, that the NYT discredited itself by publishing it, but that it wouldn’t have been a suppression of speech–and would not have harmed Cotton–if he had been denied the platform of the NYT Op-Ed page. But I don’t subscribe to the Times any more, so my opinion means very little in this regard. This is also a side issue to the point about whether the writers of the Harper’s letter were being hypocritical by saying that speech should be free while also (apparently) sparing themselves an association with Glenn Greenwald because of positions that he takes on various issues.

            • Posted July 19, 2020 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

              I don’t think Cotton’s piece was as bad as you think it was. I think a lot of people, me included, thought that if Cotton wrote it, it would contain a lot of things to object to. However, it didn’t really. I’m not saying I agree with everything he said.

              I suspect that Bennett didn’t lose his job because he didn’t read Cotton’s paper, even if it was true. Everyone who has a connection to the paper seems to agree that he was pushed out by his Woke fellow journalists for even considering publishing something from Tom Cotton, a Trumpish idiot who happens to be a US Senator. I see no reason to think otherwise.

      • darrelle
        Posted July 20, 2020 at 8:00 am | Permalink

        I agree.

    • FB
      Posted July 19, 2020 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think that that’s an example of “cancel culture”, but it is an example of hypocrisy.

    • Keith
      Posted July 19, 2020 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      I don’t see how not inviting Greenwald to sign the Harper’s letter is a cancellation. It sounds like in the discussions on whom to include, Greenwald was omitted, but we don’t have any details on how the proposal or the editorial decision came about. Greenwald has a long history of making bad faith arguments when it suits his political objectives, so in my view, this is a good reason to exclude him.

      • revelator60
        Posted July 19, 2020 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

        Indeed. How could Greenwald be cancelled from something he was never actually a part of? However, I am curious why the letter’s organizers didn’t want Greenwald onboard. As far as hot potato figures go he couldn’t have been more “problematic” than someone like J.K. Rowling, whose presence distracted many critics from the letter’s substance.

  18. Posted July 19, 2020 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    One can hope that one fine day there will be a “Have you no sense of decency?” moment, marking the end of CC fashion-ability.

    We still need the Woke, imo, because they have helped move the ball. But they need to not be ruled by a Twitter mob mentality.

    • Patrick
      Posted July 19, 2020 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      I share your hope for a “Have you no sense of decency?” moment, but I disagree that the Woke are of any positive value. Their views are based on critical race theory and identity politics. They are nothing more than racists with anti-Enlightenment views.

      • Posted July 19, 2020 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

        I expect this is a matter of personal experience, although I don’t expect I am the only one. It is from them some of their more articulate moments that I had come to realize the depth and perniciousness of ‘structural racism’, for example. The extremist ills that you mention are certainly real though.

        • Posted July 19, 2020 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

          Yes, structural racism certainly exists in some form or other. It certainly can’t be eliminated by fixing a few things, but it also can’t be fixed by throwing everything out and starting over, which the Cancel Culture seems to want to do.

    • Posted July 19, 2020 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Wokeism is harder to attack and excise than McCarthyism because the latter was like an identifiable tumor in the form of Joseph McCarthy and HUAC. Wokeism is more like a metastasized cancer.

      • Posted July 19, 2020 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        Yes, McCarthy was stopped by one person saying “Have you no decency, sir?” and causing an avalanche of agreement. CC is so distributed that it can’t be stopped so easily. I suspect the best we can hope for is that people start seeing it for what it is and gradually its followers will lose power and interest. Kind of like the decline of religion or racism.

  19. Malgorzata
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    There is an interesting article about the parallels between the woke America in 21st century and Russia in the middle of 19 century. Here is the link in case somebody would be interested:
    https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/woke-america-russian-novel

  20. neil
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    A thing that suddenly resurfaced in my head was this controversy which erupted in the science fiction community six years ago. i’m sharing the link, and although it may seem only tangentially relative, it crossed my mind that much of the behaviour of (some of) the ultra-woke at the moment seems to fit a pattern.
    Basically, they seem little more, to me, than the gangs of snide and ruthless bullies we all remember so well from, well, initially school, but they find their niches everywhere; individuals who just, for no reason other than that they can, just want to cause pain.
    Anyway, see what you think; this certainly seems to fit in with the modern way of the world:

    http://laurajmixon.com/2014/11/a-report-on-damage-done-by-one-individual-under-several-names/

    • Posted July 19, 2020 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      I didn’t read the whole thing but two thoughts struck me: (1) yes, it’s the bullying with consequences that is the most egregious and (2) we should not allow people to hide behind multiple online identities. This second thing is not so easy to legislate. To not allow anonymity would be bad. Even this sci-fi writer goes under several names. Perhaps anonymity needs to be disallowed on certain kinds of platform or with different rules for anonymous identities. Hopefully this could be worked out. The ability for people to slam others while dodging consequences is just unfair.

      • jezgrove
        Posted July 19, 2020 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

        I agree absolutely. I also didn’t make it through the minutiae of the report, but read enough to see how damning it is. The ability to use multiple anonymous sockpuppet identities online is definitely an enabler of this sort of abusive behaviour.

        • jezgrove
          Posted July 19, 2020 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

          Some countries are introducing verifiable online citizen identity procedures, which could perhaps form the basis of a “one person, one username” protocol? https://futurescot.com/swiss-single-online-identity/

          I’m not sure how a secure non-governmental global registry would work, but I believe that we already do something similar with internet domain names. Though my suggestion is doubtless hopelessly naive…

  21. M. Johnson
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    McCarthyism was a minor oppression compared to the breadth of the oppression of the Cancel Culture.

    “Inside every “progressive” is a totalitarian screaming to get out.”

    David Horowitz.

    • tomh
      Posted July 19, 2020 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      “McCarthyism was a minor oppression compared to the breadth of the oppression of the Cancel Culture.”

      That’s an incredible statement. McCarthy ruined thousands of lives over many years.

  22. revelator60
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Some notes on Cancel Culture…

    The Left won the Culture Wars and now the far Left is policing culture to hunt down heretics. Why such fervor? Four reasons:

    1. We live in an increasingly polarized age. As the Right and Left square off, their most extreme elements decide “you’re either with us or against us.” Those with heterodox opinions are naturally the first victims. If you want a world of perfectly round holes, than not only square begs but imperfectly circular ones must be tossed aside and repudiated. Trump’s presidency has taken polarization to further extremes, but it was on the rise even during Obama’s terms. Despite being a centrist, Obama excited the frenzy of the far right and this increase in polarization was matched by the far left.

    2. Intra-elite competition, in an economy increasingly inhospitable to the middle class, means that fights over privileged employment and cultural positions will become increasingly vicious and will be waged with whatever weapons come in useful for toppling competitors and established figures. Increasingly large numbers of people are going to college and getting degrees and then fighting over increasingly fewer jobs. Living standards and social mobility have decreased in the United States. Cancel Culture and woke ideology are a way of either keeping one’s privilege or forcing out competitors for it.

    3. The modern internet allows extremists to band together and makes themselves look more influential and populous than they really are. We have seen countless times how unrepresentative Twitter is of reality. Most Americans do not think in alignment with Twitter. But Twitter is where many members of the cultural elite congregate, so the media pays attention to it, more attention than it should.
    I hope that the rise of substacks and the return to blogging will hopefully decrease the power of twitter. We also need to find new modes of funding to keep newspapers alive.

    4. The rise of therapy culture and identity-based culture increases a sense of victimization and balkanization. Citizens are encouraged to feel that they are damaged people constantly oppressed and victimized by the more powerful. Power and responsibility are always held by OTHER people. Only the victim is morally pure. In this atmosphere, anyone identified as an oppressor is instantly hounded by people conditioned to think of themselves as morally spotless because they are oppressed, usually on the basis of their identity (but less often class).

    So what can be done about the problem? If Biden wins (fingers and toes crossed!) than polarization in the US will probably decrease. Biden is a calming figure, someone who is not an ideologue. He does not push the buttons of the left or right that Trump, Clinton, or Obama (because of his race) did.

    But Biden’s election will not be enough. In power he will need to take steps to improve the lot of the working and middle class. This country needs more jobs—and America needs to have a mission again. It needs a sense of purpose and vocation again. Americans need to feel engaged in a national mission that benefits everyone, regardless of identity. A massive infrastructure replacement program might be a first step. More money needs to flow through the economy to everyone, not just global corporations.

    When citizens feel as if they have little political or economic power, they retreat into the politics of identity and the overheated politics of oppression. So there need to be ways to increase the civic participation of Americans. Cancel Culture is a symptom of American decline and will get worse as long as his country keeps sledding downhill.

  23. jezgrove
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    As David Mitchell writes in a humorous piece in The Guardian: “Cancel culture is vital to filling our virally emptied days, when there’s nothing else to do because we’ve been forced, among other things, to cancel culture. There’ll be no ballet or theatre, or indeed nightclubs or parties, for the foreseeable, so it’s the perfect time to get ahead with sticking it to anyone who you reckon phobes something you phile or philes things in a way that’s wrong.” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jul/19/restaurant-no-shows-are-people-i-can-really-sink-my-teeth-into

  24. John Reynolds
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    When all you are down to for outrage is the skin color of the person selling you a taco from a cart, you’ve got a pretty good life, and you are living in a pretty good place.

  25. Jonathan Dore
    Posted July 21, 2020 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Today’s new example:

    “Solent lecturer sacked after claiming black men ‘need all the help they can get’.

    He said he “had a soft spot” for young black men because they were underprivileged and without fathers so “need all the help they can get”.

    He also claimed that “Jewish people are the cleverest in the world” and “Germans are good at engineering”.

    https://thetab.com/uk/soton/2020/07/21/solent-lecturer-sacked-after-claiming-black-men-need-all-the-help-they-can-get-84504


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