Is Cancel Culture on the way out?

February 4, 2022 • 12:45 pm

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was founded in 1913 to project Jews from defamation and discrimination and to fight anti-Semitism in America. It was once a widely respected organization, admired by both Jews and non-Jews.

Sadly, under the Presidency of Robert Greenblatt, who worked for Obama, the ADL has become much more woke: it’s going the way of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU, and Amnesty International, i.e., down the drain.  And under Greenblatt’s presidency, the ADL changed the definition of “racism” to one much woker—a definition that did not permit people of color to be accused of “racism.”  That, of course, is a tenet of CRT and wokeness—”racism equals power plus privilege”.

But somehow the changed definition reverted to the old one shortly after Whoopi Goldberg made her comment that the Holocaust wasn’t based on racism. Here’s a tweet showing the change:

I believe that this was the ADL’s old definition of racism when Greenblatt took over (the reference to Livingston’s 2021 book may have been added when the tweet reverted)

And then, some time under Greenblatt’s reign (which continues), the definition became the one below, undoubtedly a PoMo or “woke” definition that allows only whites to be racist:

After Whoopi Goldberg’s statements, suddenly the second definition was changed back to the first one, as the tweet above notes.  In the first definition, of course, Nazis can be racist towards Jews, which whey were in any meaningful sense of the word “racism”.  In general I’d prefer the word “bigotry” instead of “racism”, as the former word isn’t connected with the fraught and contentious word “race.” But so be it.

The change seems to me an improvement, and kudos to those who made the ADL ditch the new version for the old one.

Below, a good discussion about Whoopi’s cancellation by Mika Brzeninski of MSNBC, emphasizing that the cancel culture may have gone too far with the two-week suspension of Goldberg (a suspension I disagree with). Now I’m not sure what Whoopi really believes, as she walked back her apology a bit on the Stephen Colbert’s show. But in the interest of civility, let’s assume she at least has learned something about what the Nazis construed as “race”, and won’t put her foot in her mouth again. If “race” is really a social construct, as many believe, then of course the Nazis can construct Jews as a race.

Have a listen.


Both of these items were sent to me by reader cesar, who saw in them a sign that perhaps “Cancel Culture” is abating. I’d like to think that, for that culture it’s divisive and poisonous, but I’m not as optimistic as cesar. After all, these are but two incidents in a tsuanmi of wokeness and cancellation that I document frequently.

But maybe, just maybe. . . .

On this site, at least, perhas we can try to develop more tolerance. We’re all flawed human beings, just like Ed Wilson, and right now I’m working on my own tolerance, which is easier to fix than one’s flaws! But one thing I insist on is that while we shouldn’t try to demonize people so much, we should certainly fight like hell against ideas we consider bad or mistaken.

35 thoughts on “Is Cancel Culture on the way out?

  1. Here is Greenblatt’s extended explanation of why the ADL’s definition of racism has just changed. However, the ADL is now soliciting comments on the new definition and it may change again. Here is the key paragraph:

    “As a case study, take ADL’s definition of racism. A few years ago, ADL updated our definition to reflect that racism in the United States manifests in broader and systemic ways and to explicitly acknowledge the targeting of people of color — among many others — by the white supremacist extremism we have tracked for decades. While this is true, this new frame narrowed the meaning in other ways. And, by being so narrow, the resulting definition was incomplete, rendering it ineffective and therefore unacceptable. It’s true, it’s just not the whole truth. It alienated many people who did not see their own experience encompassed in this definition, including many in the Jewish community.”

    I guess it is a good thing that Greenblatt has finally “woke up.” 😊\

  2. But somehow the changed definition reverted to the old one …

    A quibble. It wasn’t a reversion to the old one, the one labelled “interim definition” is a new one, the third they have had in quick succession.

    The original said: “the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another, that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics.”

    1. Any good definition of racism needs to capture its essence, which is that 1) humanity can be carved at the joints by distinct racial classifications, and 2) the variance between these discrete groups in traits (particularly things like intelligence and other cognitive traits) is much greater than the variance within the groups for these traits.

      If you believe those two things, that leads you to evaluate some races as better or worse than others, and then greatly generalize about any individual you encounter based on their racial classification.

      For example, a POC racist could think the following: whites are the least intelligent of all the races, white people are very similar to each other in intelligence, Jeff is a white person, therefore I am smarter than Jeff.

      The original definition captures these fundamental elements of racism. The newer definition does not, because you could have people of color who subscribe to these elements but would not be considered racist.

      1. Or they could say, “all white people are racist”.

        Any statement of the type: Al X people are Y, where:
        X is an innate trait of the person
        Y is any characteristic

        Is racism nearly perfectly distilled.

        Per the Woke playbook: It is impossible for a POC to be racist against white people. (Which is the logical fallacy of special pleading.) Hence the former definition of racism by the ADL.

      2. And what it turns out that racial differences *do* exist?

        “The problem is with the line of reasoning that says that if people do turn out to be different, then discrimination, oppression, or genocide would be OK after all.” (Steven Pinker)

        1. Racial differences are obvious. Just look at Whoopi Goldberg’s face and Natalie Portman’s face to know that the first is black and the second is white. Natalie is also Jewish, but the latter is not shown on her face because Judaism is a religion, not a “race” in the sense of a group with visible physical differences. That is why the Nazis were forced to identify Jews by going through parish registers and counting how many of that person’s grandparents practiced Judaism. According to the Christian Nazis, Jesus Christ was not Jewish because he only had two Jewish grandparents.

          I subscribe one hundred percent to Steven Pinker’s phrase and I’m sure Whooopi does too. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging glaring racial differences. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that the Nazis were white and killed white Jews. What is bad is discrimination, oppression and genocide.

        2. I agree with Pinker, but perhaps you thought differently based on what I wrote?

          Let’s say that Rushdon and Charles Murray and others are correct in their assertion that some of the observed IQ difference between racial groups is due to genetic and not environmental factors. This would mean that blacks, on average, are less intelligent than whites, and whites are somewhat less intelligent than east Asians. Making Asians the most intelligent group of homo sapiens in existence, and blacks the least.

          It would not be racist to acknowledge such a fact if true. But a racist would either not understand or ignore the important caveat that these are claims based on averages…it would not mean that every Asian is smarter than every other member of all the other racial groups.

          For the record, I don’t think that Murray and others are correct about racial differences in IQ, but as long as they don’t ignore the point about averages and distributions, I would not consider them racist simply for making a case about racial differences.

          However, I do think that there is something to the claim that males and females differ in average intelligence, and I think that it favors females. Worldwide, we see more women doing better in academics and pursuing advanced degrees than men, even in countries that still have significant barriers to female education. Most learning disabilities, developmental delays, and behavioral issues come from boys, not girls. Girls seem to have, on average, more robust brains and greater intellectual horsepower than boys, and this probably carries over into adulthood. The close to 60/40 ratio of women to men in higher education is not purely environmental; it probably has a genetic component as well.

          Having this opinion does not make me sexist; however, if I were to generalize this into “all women are smarter than all men”, I would be making an error and hence could be labeled as sexist.

    2. In think the second (that CRT one) definition is parochial, it may apply to some degree to the USA, (and South Africa, or even basically the world during colonial times), but it is much less universal than the ‘original’ one if one looks at the world over the ages..

      And yes, I hope Cancel Culture, the whole intersectional, POMO, trans pandering, fundamentalist Islam smooching, woke movement is on the way out. This movement is, IMMO, the reason -or one of the main reasons- the populist (not to say fascist) parties in the US and elsewhere have such great appeal again. But I won’t hold my breath.
      However, Welch’s “do you have no sense of decency?” ended Joe McCarthy almost overnight, so there is always hope.

  3. Here is the ADL’s old definition of racism from 2020.

    Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another, that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics. Racial separatism is the belief, most of the time based on racism, that different races should remain segregated and apart from one another.

    The “interim” definition seems to be in line with the disparate impact argument in that it talks about when racism occurs rather than what it is.

    1. Thanks, DrBrydon – I believe you drew attention to the issue of the ADL’s redefinition of racism in a comment below the line when the Whoopsi Goldberg kerfuffle first took place earlier this week.

      1. Oops, I just renamed Ms Goldberg by accident, although “Whoopsi” does have a certain degree of appropriateness…

  4. It might be changing but I doubt it is going away. People live and die on the internet and that is not going to change. Nothing so far has been done to regulate it and people enjoy damaging people. About a third of our population will run over you with a car if Trump commands them. The far left has no complete wrap on this cancel culture stuff. The far wacko right has perfected it. And they have an entire TV network to back them up. Look at what they are doing to Cheney as we speak. Whoopi will be just fine and she has seen nothing to what Cheney has seen and will see. All she wants to do is save democracy – nothing important.

  5. There are/have been a lot of different definitions of race over years and among groups. As Feynman said about birds, you can know the name of a bird in every language in the world but you know nothing about the bird. I don’t know enough about WG to know what she really thinks. [ I have heard secondhand from someone who works on The View that she (like many celebrities) is not a particularly nice person to deal with.] But I do feel that jumping on someone’s words without considering context is usually unwarranted.
    Personally, black/white comes to my mind first when I hear “racism”. Yes, the Holocaust is about race, but it is such an outrageous example that it has its own name. When I hear “Holocaust” I first think “genocide” not “racism”. And when someone claims Wilson was a racist, I don’t wonder if he directed the killing of millions for their race.

    1. I’m glad you brought up the Feynman story because it illustrates one of the things that really frustrates me about this whole debate.

      Can we agree that if you round up a whole class of people throughout Europe and murder as many of them as you can before you are deposed, then you have done a very bad thing. Not calling it racism does not mitigate it one iota. The fact that it was white on white does not mitigate it one iota.

      If Whoopi Goldberg wants to define racism as white people doing bad things to black people (I’m OK with her doing that, but as a European, I’d have to disagree with her), she has to accept that there are things worse than racism. Nothing that she or most other people of colour in the USA today have experienced from racists compares to the horrors inflicted on the people of Europe by the Nazis and by the people trying to stop them. I think dismissing it as whites fighting amongst themselves is totally contemptible.

    1. I have seen clips from that show on many occassions, which was started by Barbara Walters in the 1990s?….

      It’s too often an embarrassment of silliness and “disinformation” and ignorance. It’s really amazing. Note that it’s more than that, but the quotient is nonetheless high.

    1. Sorry, but if you’re lumping me in with that group, you’re wrong. I’ve been saying cancel culture has gone too far forever. As for the correspondent, well, you’re not going to afford her at least the benefit of the doubt? SHe is, after all, the only person I mentioned.

    1. Melanie Phillips is not a former Guardian writer, she’s a former Daily Mail writer.

      That’s the same Daily Mail that supported the Nazi’s in the 2nd World War. Which may shed some light on the fact that Phillips lays the rise in anti-semetism to the Left, Blacks and Muslims, but curiously omits the neo-Nazi right.

      She’s a right-wing hack.

  6. Well on the one hand the defense of Whoopi may just be a case of cancel culture picking a too-popular target and getting a rare whack for it. A single “you’ve gone too far this time” moment does not a decline make.

    On the other hand, declines can *start* that way. The first successful protest against a powerful movement can embolden others. Bad movie quote: “If you could make God bleed, people would cease to believe in Him. There will be blood in the water, the sharks will come.” That couldn’t happen to a nicer movement.

  7. The most interesting thing to me is not merely that WG got canceled, but that she got canceled for touting a ‘view’ that is darn near foundational to the Woke.

  8. I like using the term “bigotry”, as PCC(E) mentions, since it encompasses all forms of that catastrophic failure of thought that has led and continues to lead to so many different evils in the world. Is “racism”, however defined, the worst form of bigotry, in any fundamental sense? Is xenophobia, classism, religious hatred/bigotry, other forms of ethnic hatred better, worse, equal? Or is severity best judged case by case? Ultimately, the goal should be just to try to arrange a society where humans can live together in reasonable peace and prosperity.

    Sorry, it was hard to keep a straight face while writing that last bit. Humans.

    1. Is “racism”, however defined, the worst form of bigotry, in any fundamental sense? Is xenophobia, classism, religious hatred/bigotry, other forms of ethnic hatred better, worse, equal?

      You can’t judge how bad a particular form of bigotry is without context. Is the anti-gay hotel owner who refuses to give gay couples a double bed worse than the racist who goes out on a Saturday night to beat up blacks? No? What about the anti-gay people in certain Islamic countries who take gay people to the roofs of high buildings and throw them off?

      It’s not the bigotry, it’s what the bigotry drives you to do.

  9. The TV program in question is evidently just airheads talking at one another. If flotsam from such TV programs is a big influence on the ADL’s use of language, then the ADL is already less than intellectually serious.

    In the sort of pop culture that Whoopsi seems to exemplify, the Holocaust was just white people fighting each other; the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment were just old white people doing something or other in the dead past; symbolic logic systems (like mathematics) with correct and incorrect outcomes is just another hobby that white people play with one another (and impose on others); and so on. Since all these categories are of no consequence, it follows that such things as TV, electric power, the internet, air travel, eyeglasses, insulin, vaccines, and antibiotics all turned up spontaneously by magic .

  10. My suspicion is that the bubble that the ADL folks live in kept them from realizing that their definition would cause so much outrage, once the normies learned about it.
    There is no doubt at all that the “White people bad!” definition was the result of a collaborative effort within the ADL, and was considered and approved by senior decision makers.
    It was not a typo or poorly chosen unscripted words on live TV.
    Seems likely that ADL folks still hold that view, just that it is too soon to make it public.
    People were talking about the ADL definition before the Goldberg kerfluffle. So the two issues might have come from the same lines of reasoning, but not be cause and effect.

  11. I think the ADL, rightly, is taking into account her record of being friendly to Jews. Intent matters. Mike Nichols, who barely escaped the Holocaust, loved the scene where she talked about Anne Frank so much, he directed her show on Broadway. She accurately described the damage of the Holocaust.

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