What on earth is “cancel culture”?

March 29, 2022 • 1:15 pm

In a new piece in the Dailiy Beast, authors Komi German and Greg Lukianoff define what they mean by cancel culture (the best definition I’ve yet seen), show how pervasive cancel culture is (and worsening), and identify the Perpetrators of Cancellation. There is, however, one flaw connected with identifying the perps.

Both authors work for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), an estimable organization that fights for free speech on campus, and is too often criticized simply because of their identification of free speech as the most important academic value.  (The Progressive Left, unlike traditional liberals, isn’t that keen on free speech since it’s said to “harm” some people, and by “harm” they mean “offend”.)

The bona fides from the article:

Komi T. German is a research fellow at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). She earned her bachelor’s degree with highest honors at the University of California, Davis, and her doctorate in social psychology at the University of California, Riverside.

Greg Lukianoff is the President and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), co-author of the New York Times bestseller The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, and author of Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate.

I’m not a credentials-promulgator, but one can at least have confidence in these authors’ statistics, which largely support their contentions.

Click on the screenshot to read.


While people often argue about whether “cancel culture” is real, you don’t often see that term defined. For example, the writers of the famous 2020 letter in Harper’s decrying cancel culture were criticized because many of them were well off and weren’t in danger of being “cancelled”. But the letter’s point was to defend those who were in danger of professional damage from speaking their minds, not to defend the lettter’s signers.

What is “professional damage”? Well, the very concept of free speech not only allows but welcomes pushback. Very few, despite what the New York Times asserts, thinks that “free speech” means “freedom from criticism”—even harsh and ascerbic criticism. Like German and Lukianoff, I prefer civil dialogue rather than social-media pile-ons, but those pile-ons themselves aren’t “cancel culture.” Rather, the definition I prefer is that given by German and Lukianoff (henceforth “G&L”). The bolding below is mine; the definition is theirs:

But just because the term has been grossly overused doesn’t mean we should give up on its popularly understood definition—which aptly describes a real (and growing) problem. This is the measurable uptick, since around 2014, of campaigns to get people fired, disinvited, deplatformed, or otherwise punished for speech that is—or would be—protected by First Amendment standards. That’s “cancel culture.”

Cancel culture, then, is the culture of trying to harm someone’s career or silence or otherwise punish them professionally for issuing legal speech—speech permitted by the First Amendment. Of course private universities don’t have to allow First-Amendment-protected speech, but they should, and we all should insofar as we’re able.  Cancel culture exists not to promulgate open debate but to effect retribution and punishment. When you see people trying to shut someone up, cancel a speech, or call for someone’s firing because of what they said, that is cancel culture.

I can’t think of a better definition. Here’s where to draw the line: examples from the authors:

We say “would be” because the First Amendment does not apply to private companies. So, while the NFL was free to punish Colin Kaepernick, and The View was free to suspend Whoopi Goldberg, these are still examples of cancel culture under our definition, because the subjects of each controversy engaged in expression that “would be” protected, were the First Amendment standard to apply.

What happened to Ilya ShapiroDavid Shor, and Kathy Griffin? Cancel culture.

I would add to that Don McNeil and James Bennet of the NYT, the University of Chicago’s Dorian Abbot (deplatformed), and any number of professors fired or disciplined for speech that offended the woke.

What happened to Andrew CuomoJeff ZuckerHarvey WeinsteinJan. 6 rioters, and the Russian military? Not cancel culture, despite their cries to the contrary.

If people call for your firing or disciplining because you committed a crime, or are likely to have committed one, that is not cancel culture. And, I suppose, if what you’re accused of involve acts rather than protected speech, and are so serious as to make your job no longer tenable, that, too, could be cancel culture.  But I think the line is fairly clear.

I’m not sure what to do about people whom others want to damage professionally, but who are immune to damage because they’re already wealthy and respected—people like J. K. Rowling and Woody Allen.  It’s okay to try to boycott their books, but not so okay to try to get publishers, as in the case of Allen, not to publish their books.

A few points made by G&L (their quotes are indented)

It’s pervasive. 

But The New York Times’ claim—that “[h]owever you define cancel culture, Americans know it exists and feel its burden”—was not outlandish. Far from it. Our own research corroborates it.

“Since 2015, there have been 163 investigations, 117 terminations, 109 suspensions, 48 resignations, 45 censorship incidents, 33 demotions, 18 retractions, and 13 mandatory trainings—all for ideological reasons.”

survey commissioned late last year by FIRE, where we work, found that 73 percent of Americans are familiar with the term “cancel culture.” Of those, nearly 60 percent believe “there is a growing cancel culture that is a threat to our freedom”; only 25 percent do not. Additionally, 70 percent of those surveyed said they were afraid to say what they believe because they were worried it could impact their job or standing in school.

Other surveys of the American public have produced similar findings.

The UK-based Legatum Institute found that 50 percent of academics in the U.S. feel the need to censor their own political beliefs while on campus. These academics are making a prudent decision; more than one in three faculty admit they would discriminate against conservatives when making hiring decisions. Moreover, nearly one in four social science or humanities faculty—and almost one in two social science or humanities Ph.D. students—surveyed in the U.S. supported at least one campaign to dismiss a dissenting academic.

Simply put, study after study decidedly shows cancel culture not only exists, but also that, in too many places, it is thriving.

Cancel culture is getting worse.   

The authors give a lot of cases, some of which we know about, that involve true cancellation on campuses. But that doesn’t show the problem is getting worse.  The second paragraph below, however, does: in the last two years there have been 283 cancellation attempts, while over the last seven there have been 563 total. That is, almost exactly half of all cancellation attempts over the past seven years have taken place in just the latest two years. If one assumes that cancelation rates are equal over time, that’s surely a statistically significant increase.

Note, however, which direction the cancellations coming from—something the authors downplay in the rest of their article (my bolding below):

Since 2015, we documented 563 attempts (345 from the left, 202 from the right, 16 from neither) to get scholars canceled. Two thirds (362 incidents; 64 percent) of these cancellation attempts were successful, resulting in some form of professional sanction leveled at the scholar, including over one-fifth (117 incidents; 21 percent) resulting in termination.When Greg joined FIRE in 2001, the idea of one tenured professor being fired for protected speech seemed impossible, yet since 2015 there have been 30.

The problem has only gotten worse, particularly over the past few years. Just since the start of 2020, there have been 283 cancellation attempts. Scholars are canceled most often for expressing a personal opinion (338 incidents; 60 percent), encouraging discussion of sensitive material (145 incidents; 26 percent), or presenting a scientific argument (136 incidents; 24 percent).

Actually, it doesn’t concern me too much whether cancellation attempts are getting worse, though they surely are. There are already enough of these attempts to chill speech among a large proportion of college students and professors, not to mention the general public and the media.

But it’s in the next assertion where the authors seem to be a bit evasive.

Where is cancel culture coming from? 

G&L seem to imply that the cancellation attempts come mostly from the Right, while the Left claim to be victims. Only in the paragraph above do they say the truth: that cancellation of scholars is mainly from the left (61.2%), while only 35.8% come from the Right.  (2.8% come from neither side.). Judging from this, at least on campus it’s mostly the Left promulgating cancel culture.

But G&L spend most of their time indicting the Right—mainly for their attempts to pass “muzzling laws” forbidding teaching stuff like Critical Race Theory (I agree with FIRE that these laws are a bad idea).  Here’s what G&L say:

The perpetuation of cancel culture is bipartisan: Conservatives criticize it, while practicing it; progressives deny it, while being victims of it.

Over the past year Republican legislators introduced a series of anti-critical race theory (i.e.,“divisive concepts”) bills seeking to restrict teachers’ ability to teach topics related to race and sexuality. These bills, when applied in higher education contexts, are almost always unconstitutional.

Though conservatives talk a good game about defending “free speech” and decrying “cancel culture,” hypocrisy among the movement is not new. In 2017, three Nebraska Republican legislators sponsored a bill to protect free speech on campus, then called on the University of Nebraska to fire graduate teaching assistant Courtney Lawton for her progressive political activism.

Meanwhile, some progressives remain so committed to denying cancel culture is a problem they won’t even admit it exists even after they themselves are canceled.

But surely the perpetuation of cancel culture rests more on the shoulders of those who cancel others, not those who say they were canceled. It is true that the Right passes most of the muzzling laws, which often prohibit First-Amendment-compatible speech, but G&L blame the Left for perpetuating “cancel culture” only by saying they’re victimized by it. Yet their own data on deplatforming and disinviting given in bold above show that the Left perpetuates cancellation more often than they’re victims of it.

In other words, G&L are downplaying the responsibility of the Left. Why? I have no idea except that The Daily Beast is a Leftist venue that surely doesn’t like to indict its own side.

G&L further give the game away when they talk about the “elites” who really keep Cancel Culture going. Who are the “elites”? Mostly people on the Left:

When elites seek to control the terminology, they often do so for the purpose of signaling in-group membership. Doing so often excludes the vast majority of Americans from the conversation.

For example, although the term “Latinx” is popular within our news mediaentertainment industrycorporationspolitics, and universities, Pew Research found that only 3 percent of Latino adults use the word. It is an example of what James Carville calls “faculty lounge” language. As author Helen Pluckrose points out, modern social justice advocates derive power from controlling language. As the language changes, people who use an outdated term or phrase are quickly dismissed as ignorant or uneducated.

. . . When elites seek to control the terminology, they often do so for the purpose of signaling in-group membership. Doing so often excludes the vast majority of Americans from the conversation.

This is not just an implicit indictment of the Left’s role in cancel culture, but an explicit one. Who are “social justice advocates” but the Left? Who perpetuates the use of “Latinx” but the Left? Who creates “faculty lounge language”? The Left, as James Carville noted in his refreshing diatribe.

In the end, German and Lukianoff have written a very useful article. It gives the best definition of “cancel culture” that I know of, shows that it’s rampant and growing, and that it damages the First Amendment as well as all civilized discourse. We need to take that to heart and stop trying to get people fired for issuing speech that doesn’t abrogate the First Amendment.

But it’s a crying shame that G&L’s article is marred by what I view as excessive deference to the Left and excessive blaming of the Right.  I am not saying the Right is blameless, of course. All the laws they’re passing do perpetuate cancel culture in its true sense. But the Left seems more to blame for the culture as a whole, and at any rate my audience is not on the Righ. I’ve alwaysI see my brief as trying to clean up my end of the political spectrum. Remember, the elections are coming in November. While I can and have called out the Right’s mania to pass laws restricting what can be taught, there are plenty of other people willing to do that. What we need are liberals to keep other liberals from cancellng people.

53 thoughts on “What on earth is “cancel culture”?

  1. …campaigns to get people fired, disinvited, deplatformed, or otherwise punished for speech that is—or would be—protected by First Amendment standards. That’s “cancel culture.”

    I think one of the most important words there is “campaigns.” It is normal and frankly good for individuals to speak their mind in opposition to the speech of others. Part of the problem with CC is the use of social networks to create a bandwagoning, virtue-signaling, faddishness/fashion behavior – the oft-cited “madness of crowds.”

    Without these social feedback loops – where one person causes ten or a hundred or a thousand people who know little about the subject to send some vociferous objection out into the ether, to yell about ‘harm’ when 5 minutes ago they didn’t even know the speech was happening – calls to cancel a speech or book or person would not be a problem. Let’s take Woody Allen’s book for example. There’s a huge difference between Ronan Farrow talking to the publisher to voice his complaints (not a problem; legitimate criticism), and thousands of people reading Farrow’s social media post and deciding they are going to complain also, based on little more than Farrow’s tweet (problem; complaining about Allen as a fashion, a madness of crowds). After all, if these folks really had a beef with Allen having a voice after his various family actions, why didn’t they complain before Ronan’s tweet?

    And I think the same is true for all sorts of people and things – be it Rowling or Shapiro or your local professor. We must find a way to separate out and destroy the ‘fad’ aspect out of this, so that people are still free to criticize but not socially rewarded (or punished) for the trivial copying of other people’s criticisms. Because it’s not the critiques that are bad, its the massive, lemming-like bandwagoning of them.

    1. I agree that social media pile-ons definitely contribute to cancel culture, but it seems to me that it’s the nature of the Beast — and that the Beast is itself a bastard child of free expression. Someone writes an article. This article is posted in Joe & Jane Average’s Twitter feed. Joe & Jane are offended, put their laptops on their respective laps, and twit the author. Opinions freely expressed. Not cancel culture.

      Multiply Joe & Jane by thousands, and it’s a social media pile-on. Cancel culture. “I’m being targeted.” Yes … and no. If the author is fine hearing from Joe & Jane, at what point does it become a campaign against him? Does it depend on whether they heard it discussed in a thread of like-minded people? Frankly, I’ve no idea. If they’re not writing the author’s boss or doing anything else but complain, is it Joe’s fault there were thousands, and is it Jane’s fault that the author became so rattled they had to cancel their Twitter account? The Beast is what it is.

    1. That one is too rich for words. Spokesmen for the Third Reich no doubt accused Czechoslovakia, and
      then Poland, of attempting to cancel Germany.

    2. If this is what cancel culture is then I’ve been misled up to this point. Let us continue to cancel Russia.

  2. It is important to note the right wing’s version of ‘cancel culture’ goes well beyond banning offensive books and critical race theory and into far more disturbing territory. Voter restrictions and gerrymandering (which now appears to have majority support in the Supreme Court given the recent Wisconsin ruling) are the obvious cases. Also gaining ground at high levels are fringe constitutional theories such as allowing state legislatures to appoint their own electors – contrary to voting results. Look closely at Arizona and Georgia to glimpse the near future of U.S. election processes.

    1. These actions you mention are true, but don’t fall under the authors’ definition of “cancel culture,” which is the deprivation of an individual of jobs, freedoms, etc. for speaking the unspeakable. Gerrymandering constitutes actions against groups. If you read my post, you’ll see that I agree with the authors. The things you mention are all bad things that the Right does, but it’s not what I was talking about

      1. Jerry, how would you respond to the hypothetical situation of a college professor, in their spare time, espousing ideas about innate differences in intellectual ability between different racial groups?

        On the one hand, definitely 1A-protected speech; on the other, this is speech which seems to run counter to the promise of most (all?) colleges to provide a non-discriminatory learning environment. At what point do statements made in the professor’s private life begin to cast a shadow on their professional conduct? And at what point (if any) should the professor’s speech impact their employment with the college?

        1. Well, such “spare time” speech (or any such speech not in the classroom) would not actually “run counter to … a non-discriminatory learning environment”.

          It would only be a discriminatory learning environment if that professor treated students of particular racial groups less favourably. So it should only be an issue for their employment if there is actual evidence of that unfair treatment of students.

          1. It would be somewhat reasonable to suspect that such teacher might not be able to teach or grade all students fairly. Moreover, on hard data grounds discrimination is not likely to even be detectable at statistically significant levels in anything but the largest class sizes or unless you collect multi-year data…in which case, the damage has already been done. For these reasons, I think academia should probably apply the standard, more conservative, corporate and government concepts of “avoid even the appearance of impropriety.”

            But there are a number of different workarounds. For a big lecture class, TAs may do much of the grading anyway….so just make that the official method for his classes. Or blind the tests before he sees them. Or you can limit the professor to graduate and topical classes..

            Academic freedom is important, and I think there is room for such folks in science and social science departments. But we don’t have to be blind to student concerns over how they might be treated or educated from such a professor. So for such folks, the Uni might need to think about a ‘tailored’ approach to balancing classes taught, research, and the like. Heck if Behe and Lehigh can coexist, then there’s got to be a way that academics like Hernstein or Murray (authors of “The Bell Curve”) can coexist in academia, too.

            Banning them is not good. Sticking our heads in the sand about it is not much better. So do what academics do best: brain your way to a workable solution.

    2. If early-morning bleary-eyed memory serves me, from listening to NPR station WAMU this morning there is a problem with Democrat gerrymandering in Maryland.

  3. > It’s okay to try to boycott their books, but not so okay to try to get publishers, as in the case of Allen, not to publish their books.

    There’s a slippery slope, and I’m really not sure where the difference becomes critical.

    There is a particular religious book I dislike; the book’s publisher generally publishes religious books. At that point, there is little difference between boycotting the particular title, the author, or the publisher. If 100% of the publisher’s books are religious, I will certain avoid them. How about 50%? 25%? 10%? Now, imagine if the e-book is hosted by Amazon, and its publicity site is served by Cloudflare, Then the question becomes when it is inappropriate to boycott whether it is inappropriate to boycott them for the same reason, and whether that boycott constitutes a fundamentally different attempt to get them to stop publishing the book.

    I don’t know. I’m left with a lot of uncomfortable positions and more questions than answers. There is not a solution here I am happy with. Overall, boycotts just seem tasteless to me (but maybe that opinion will change); as much as I disagree with the politics and religiosity of a particular fried chicken fast food chain, I am not boycotting them. I don’t use a particular social network platform, but I don’t call it a boycott. I just don’t know.

    1. For me, the difference is: are you boycotting the book because you personally have thought through why you’re doing it and have a personal reason to do it? Or are you boycotting it because someone on twitter told you about it and you thought it sounded like the sort of thing you ought to do?

  4. And, I suppose, if what you’re accused of involve acts rather than protected speech …

    That case law interpreting the First Amendment Free Speech clause has long drawn a distinction between speech and conduct, with only the former being protected.

    The exceptions to this general rule involve expressive conduct — such as dance or wearing armbands — which is protected by the First Amendment (since it involves the communication of ideas), and certain types of verbal acts — such as screaming in someone’s face or defacing property with graffiti — which, while it may involve speech, in the sense of the use of words, does not depend on the content of the words, so lies outside First Amendment protection.

  5. tweetI mostly agree with all this but have a few points to make:

    1. While cancelling someone’s career is an obvious case of cancel culture, it shouldn’t be a requirement that the damage be to a profession.

    2. Attempts to assign cancel culture the Right or Left runs the risk of it being made into a partisan issue. The two sides do cancel different things in different ways, of course, but cancelation is a bi-partisan activity.

    3. Social media pile-ons can be cancel culture. The key here is “pile-on”. It implies a punishment not commensurate with the offense. More on this below.

    My definition of Cancel Culture is the practice of attempting to punish an offender beyond merely expressing one’s opinion. Those who practice it are not satisfied with societal norms of punishment and seek to maximize it. This fits in well with the CRT folks as they don’t feel society is doing enough to combat structural racism so they seek to take the law into their own hands. This also fits with those on the Right who don’t like where mainstream modern culture has taken us and want to punish people according to their own “conservative” rules.

    The concept of free speech is not only that people can speak their minds without fear of being jailed by the government but that disagreement should be limited to expressing an opposing opinion. It expressly does not include preventing the person from speaking or stopping others from hearing. Going beyond normal dislike is cancellation. You can attempt to rally others to your side but only with arguments relating to the subject not by using mob tactics.

    Imagine a speaker on a soapbox carrying forth with silly ideas. You can set up your own soapbox and counter their ideas but you can’t use a megaphone to drown the speaker out, kick the box out from under them, or claim that the crowd has a duty to harm the speaker because they belong to some group.

  6. New York city council removed statues of Teddy Roosevelt, the founder of the US environmental movement, and Thomas Jefferson, the man who coined “separation of church and state”, from the city.
    A bunch of not-so–prominent persons in astronomy departments tried to rename James Webb sapce telescope Harriet Taubman.
    A bunch of entitled students shout down speakers at the world’s most prestigious law school-the title of the event being, freedom of speech! You really can’t make this stuff up.
    That is all cancel culture. It is a frontal assault on freedom of conscience and expression.
    I would imagine atheists would be the first photo recognize this. After all, didn’t we have to hide in the closet (and many of us, still do) out of fear that if someone finds out what we believe or don’t believe, we will unemployable? How is that any different than people who don’t dare talk about work place harassment with mandatory training based on material from Ibram Kendi and Robin D’Angelo, and for the exat same fear-cancelation?
    Alas. We won’t help others just as other won’t help us.

    1. “That is all cancel culture. It is a frontal assault on freedom of conscience and expression.”

      Not to mention diversity, equity, inclusion, (any more? Or three sounds more catchy?) of thought, expression, and ideas.

    2. Removing statues of long-dead politicians wouldn’t meet the authors’ definition of “cancel culture,” as you can’t fire Jefferson or Roosevelt, but it is certainly nothing more than performative signaling.

      Likewise an attempt to get the JWST named after Tubman. Not cancellation, but performative. Folks are well within their right to lobby for such a change. I have no problem with such an attempt, provided the advocates don’t try to get people fired for refusing to agree with them.

      1. “Removing statues of long-dead politicians wouldn’t meet the authors’ definition of “cancel culture,” ”

        Not in letter, true.

      1. She used the pole star to guide slaves to freedom. (Of course,not a contribution to Astronomy, but rather an application of Astronomy).

    3. > A bunch of entitled students shout down speakers…

      Were they actually entitled to shout down the speakers? Or did they just feel entitled? Entitlement is a 100% legitimate condition: the handicapped are entitled to special parking spaces. Self-entitled drivers are not entitled to park in a handicapped space. (Sorry, using ‘entitled’ instead of ‘self-entitled’ is currently at the top of the list of Words and Phrases I Detest, and the usage seems to be becoming more widespread.)

  7. And Princeton’s Professor Eddie Glaude described the law school shout down (and other like occurrences) as examples of civil disobedience on Morming Joe, Monday (MSNBC) to add another meaning such events..

    1. Why is Glaude the go-to guy on this? He should welcome his lectures being interrupted by such noble “civil disobedience.” Am reminded of Christopher Hitchens raking him over the coals (for Glaude’s “unctuous tones”) on Christopher Lydon’s show, “The Connection,” IIRC.

  8. When the bandwagon of cancellations by the performative Left got rolling, 7 or so years ago, the
    wagoneers did not perceive that they were playing with fire—which they brought down on themselves (and everybody) in the form of the new repressive measures now being enacted by Republican state governments. The entitled Lefty students, and their faculty enablers, imagined that they could create little east Germanys in their academic enclaves— oblivious to the simple fact that they were not living in east Germany. Their obliviousness was nurtured by the bubble of uniformity they inhabited in student activist groupuscules and in the faculty lounge.

  9. I’ve read enough Lukianoff to know that he is fully aware that much of the cancelling comes from the left, so I’m as flummoxed as PCC by the downplaying of this. There are a few hints in the text about the progressive/leftist roots of many cancellations, but they are subtle and not as direct as his call out of the right.

    The authors did mention progressives who denied cancel culture even as they were cancelled, so perhaps their plan is:
    Step 1) Get progressives to admit cancel culture exists (even if they believe it’s perpetrated by the right)
    Step 2) Once progressives accept the existence of cancel culture, perhaps they’ll begin to recognize it when folks on “their side” do it.

  10. Greg Lukianoff USED to be a more credible, valuable and intelligent early opponent of woke nonsense as early as that blow up in Oregon with Bret/Heather Weinstein (2015-ish).
    Unfortunately he went a bit off the rails, equating it to a threat worse than the right wing and consequently he proudly voted for Trump. No self respecting old school liberal with his head screwed on could do that. Woke is a problem, a big one and it is too unopposed, but the right wing is a greater threat.

    I wrote an article lately criticizing this “Asian hate-crimes crime wave” which doesn’t actually exist.

    1. Your description of someone who votes for Trump solely because he’s against Wokeness also applies to James Lindsay, one of the original anti-Woke warriors. Are you sure that Lukianoff voted for Trump? Do you have a reference?

      1. I don’t, Paul, but he wasn’t quiet about it. Quite a few people commented on it at the time.
        It shocked me.

        1. hahaha. No worries, thanks for the compliment. It isn’t actually my site. A few places publish my crazed articles (like Forbes on the right!) but I’m usually at Democracy Chronicles.org They’re an international style, democracy and democratic system based, left of center website. Pretty good audience.

      1. My apologies. I was sure. When and if I find some evidence I’ll post it here. Otherwise we better bet on my bad memory for now…

  11. The number of cancelations of either “side” must be weighted by how many scholars of that persuation are in the total set. Since academia is heavily skewed leftwards, which is often brought up, it would mean that right-wing cancel culture is far more active. I recall that in some disciplines, lefties are a supermajority, and yet they report cancelation attempts as “345 from the left, 202 from the right”.

  12. I find the fixation on Woke Leftism strange given there are no legislative acts in their favor that I am aware of compared to what the right is rapidly enacting into law – voter suppression and gerrymandering as obvious examples. We are also seeing fringe constitutional theories gaining traction, such as the idea that state legislatures have the power to toss out election results and determine the outcome they prefer. The 2020 election aftermath of Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, and other states are ominous signs of what’s to come. This is far more menacing than left wing mob-like behavior on social media or college campuses. It is the right that intends to do what is, in my opinion, the ultimate cancellation of free speech.

    1. Once again we hear the complaint that I’m concentrating more on the Left than the Right. First of all, woke legislation is pervasive as well: the new revisions of Title IX, all the emphases on ethnicity-centered curricula, and so on. Further, this post is about cancel culture, not other political activities. If you won’t like the concentration on Woke Leftism, I suggest you don’t read this site. But, as I repeatedly ask readers, please don’t tell me how to slant my posts.

  13. “But G&L spend most of their time indicting the Right—mainly for their attempts to pass ‘muzzling laws’ forbidding teaching stuff like Critical Race Theory (I agree with FIRE that these laws are a bad idea).”

    How is that different from keeping creationism out of schools?

    1. > How is that different from keeping creationism out of schools?

      There is a constitutional separation of church and state blocking creationism in public schools. There is not a separation of politics and state, which is why public schools still teach subjects like civics. In any case, I just don’t want public school teachers deciding what they want to teach; they have to follow the state curriculum, which is still limited by the bounds of the state and federal constitutions. We have seen too many cases of teachers running amok and behaving badly.

      1. “…separation of church and state…”

        (If eg. Velikovskism became a popular fad in schools, there’d be no legal grounds to keep it out?)

        But yeah, trying to show that Wokeness is a religion wouldn’t get you far. Showing that it’s basically racist could work.

    2. The difference would surely be that creationism is not a credible alternative to evolution. While you can make a strong case for covering the Book of Genesis as literature or mythology it is clearly not a theory that can be covered in science class. Discussions on racism can belong, in the classroom, under, for example, history or social studies.

      1. Woke ideology isn’t confined to just sociology and history, and I’d question whether it even belongs there.

    3. A distinction is necessary here – teaching to evaluate and understand knowledge or thinking, and “teaching” as memorization, … and on down the line to brute force indoctrination.

      1. Some educational terms that will help you express that are Bloom’s Taxonomy and Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS). It made the news ten years ago when the Texas GOP (Legislature and Department of Education, too IIRC) rejected HOTS and Critical Thinking Skills for undermining ‘traditional’ family-instilled values.

        We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.


  14. ProfCC: “What we need are liberals to keep other liberals from cancelling people.”

    Late to the party here. I just have a small, somewhat banal observation to make. Liberals don’t cancel liberals, or anybody else. They believe in what used to be an accepted truism: “I may not like what you say, but I’ll defend your right to say it.” It’s the illiberals who do the cancelling.

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