Six signs that show you're not being criticized; you're being canceled.
A lucid guide from one of the most lucid writers around. Thank you. It helps in two directions: for those who are cancelling or being cancelled, it shows what this entails, and for those who are offering or receiving legitimate criticism, it shows how this is not the same as cancelling.
Cancelling seems to have become a knee-jerk reaction; even those with no particular stake in the issue take part in it. My second book received some angrily dismissive reviews on Goodreads from people who clearly hadn't read it and didn't know what its arguments were. Were they ganging up on me? I doubt it. Did they have anything personal against me? As far as I know, they were strangers. They might just have been annoyed with the book title or summary--and annoyance is enough of a provocation.
Some of this knee-jerk cancelling may come from the pressure (especially online) to have an opinion about everything and to share it quickly and widely. "We want to hear your voice!" "Join the conversation!" But why? Shouldn't a person have room to form thoughts in private?
Much cancelling is deliberate and premeditated. But much of it seems to be impulsive--and so one possible remedy is to slow the impulses down. Your list can come in handy here as well. Before posting, people can ask themselves: Am I trying to shed light on an issue, or am I trying to punish or harm someone? Am I thinking and acting from my own knowledge and conscience, or am I following others' lead? Am I focused on the questions at stake, or on personal matters? Am I trying to come to a better understanding myself, or have I already decided that I am right, no matter what anyone else might say? If the answer to any of these questions is the second option, then the person should hold back and think the matter over some more.
These points are fine, but written more for the public intellectual, academic, outspoken professional, celebrity and others who are more or less wearing targets on they backs. But the culture of canceling is broader. Democrats have pushed single-issue organizing to 'recruit' voters for over 40 years. And all those groups fighting for women, minority, and gay rights as well as the environment, health care, criminal justice reform etc. have competed with each other for funding and followers. Like academics are always thinking of new angles on a subject to get published, advocacy groups tend towards narrower and purer objectives. A younger liberal cohort that assumes certain 'truths' that are popular assumes those issues are also resolved, therefore not subject to any more debate. But in politics, as we've seen with the current Administration, nothing is ever completely resolved. At the same time, liberals have faced take-no-prisoner conservative wedge issue. Both fed on the other resulting in where we are now. Cancel culture is a product of these dynamics. Cancel culture is exactly that. it is a cultural phenomenon trying to replace politics with ideology, a no win propositions. A politically astute newspaper doesn't force out an editor that allows an op-ed by Tom Cotton to be printed. It prints the Cotton op-ed and let's its reader tear it apart. Politically astute people want to understand their opposition better than they understand themselves. i was pissed off when the opportunity to hear David Remnick take on Steve Bannon was canceled. A political culture that blocks out criticism is brittle and juvenile. It won't last.
What we now call "cancel culture" is just "culture" in many academic fields. This is especially the case where faculty embrace an understanding of themselves, their teaching, and their research as progressive or radical. What I suspect many non-academics who have long defended the humanities as a crucial training ground for critical thinking don't know is that students in many disciplines are taught, and believe, that the instruction they receive in this worldview is "critical thinking." That is, critical thinking doesn't require knowing and assessing different perspectives on difficult questions or considering the ways in which facts complicate belief systems. It only requires that we learn the right answers, hold those around us to those answers, ignore (or, better, denigrate) "facts," and punish those who refuse to submit for undermining safety and doing harm. Cancelling is just the end result of this process.
This article needs more concrete examples of the negative consequences people have faced as a result of these “cancelling” campaigns. In what cases have cancellers succeeded in deplatforming their targets? A journalist is mentioned, but no context is provided. What happened to the philosopher that was the recipient of the wrongful, ignorant criticism made against her paper? I’m concerned that we’re seeing republican politicians beginning to do-opt this term to guard against legitimate criticism, and I fear it will only get worse.
Institutions currently enable these zealots. For me, that's the crucial point. What can be done to combat large organizations from firing people this mob targets? Perhaps some sort of organization to systematically stand up to them in courts of law and public opinion, modeled along line of the ACLU? Develop counter institutions? There have been radical leftists in the West for 250 years. They've always wanted to tear down the system, never listened to reason and are now explicitly beyond reason. No use confronting them. The institutions need to suffer for enabling them. Again, how can this be done?
A good article, but I take issue with the comment that the retraction of scientific articles is "deservedly controversial". Most retractions are because of falsified data or manipulated images, and therefore a retraction is surely the only honest way to proceed.
Thank you. Well-said.
For quite a while now it seems that people are reveling in "the right to be offended." Instead of offering criticism or rebuttal they seek refuge in being offended. Perhaps this morphed from the longstanding political correctness theme that has existed for the past generation. In any event it's now morphing into cancel culture , to no one's benefit.
Good article, but it would have been even better had the author noted that Adam Schiff and Adam Nadler could just as easily substitute for DT in the sentence "One of many reasons Donald Trump is a menace to democracy is that he views truth instrumentally, as something to use, abuse or ignore depending on the needs of the moment."
This is a good article and I share the author's concerns and perspectives. But I am struggling to find a boundary between socially acceptable discourse and ideas appropriate for social approbation. Almost no one thinks that open followers of Richard Spencer should be welcomed into polite society and most people would agree that supporters of Steven Pinker should. But there are many cases in between. And social pressures (petitions, boycotts , etc.) must have some role. (I am not referring to government censorship of speech here). Not every publication needs to publish every idea, for example.
I am deeply concerned about pervasive social censoriousness. Social media amplifies outrage and makes it frictionless to accumulate social capital through empty displays of virtue. But it seems to me that the important question about cancel culture is not "if" but "when". I can't find a satisfactory answer and wonder if others have thought about this.