Young Americans may return us to a culture of compassion and forgiveness.
My wife and I are Boomers with 3 Gen Z kids living at home attending public school and 3 Millennials out of college and somewhat employed and mostly married. The differences between them are stark! There is no polite way to say this, our Millennials-- I love them dearly!-- are perpetually pained narcissists living, suffering, and sighing in a terrible un-woke world of patriarchal oppression, gender fluidity and matcha tea and sour beer. Our Gen Z kids, on the other hand, are sarcastic skeptics who trust nothing their staid parents, woke teachers or pained siblings tell them. Our Millennials are post-truth gullible Derridians; our little Z's are concrete Francis Bacons. All 6 of them scare us. But I do very much like that our young Baconians have learned to get along with their older siblings while not agreeing with much they say, but nodding politely as if they did. They learned that skill in school in Cultural Literacy classes. Pretense is survival for Gen Z. I expect a radical cultural transformation when these kids get to college. They live online, have been lied to about everything, they know it, and they seem simply to be biding their time until they get their hands on the reins.
Alas, the canceling has always been done by a small fanatic group. Majority opinion or no, people are afraid to express their views, including on cancel culture. I’m not seeing people going after the cancelers.
While it is heartening to hear that some of this dangerous stifling and shaming of thought and expression is generational, I fear the damage has been done and won't be easily undone because it has become institutionalized. The sizeable chunks of folks in older generations who *don't* find the stifling and shaming ethos problematic include many of the people who run organizations and institutions and create laws.
I hope you are right. My nieces and nephew, all Gen Z, are the "wokest" people I know. I love them dearly but am very conscious of what I say after they found my statement that "Rioting is bad" offensive and "problematic." I'm hoping they grow out of this but the jury is out.
I've been expecting a reversal. I'm not sure it will come sooner or occur later, but having lived through the very real cultural revolution that occurred in the US around 1980 I reckon the current mania is bound to peak and seek another mean.
That being said, your numbers are not necessarily encouraging. It is not surprising that a majority of each cohort sampled find "cancel culture" more or less abhorrent. But "cancel culture" is characterized by how tiny minorities weaponize their outrage to get their way. "Cancel culture" will fade only when other participants in contemporary culture find the backbone to resist this tyranny of the minority.
I personally don’t take solace on the poll numbers based on the fact that “cancel culture” hasn’t ever been as popular as social media would lead one to believe. The problem is that for “cancel culture” to work all it needs is a small but vociferous and notorious minority of people who have gravitas with those in power. Andy Ngo has spoken and written at length about this and his hypothesis that you don’t need a particularly big number of people to cancel someone, just need a small group of militants enabled snd empowered by those in control (who they themselves may fear being canceled unless they comply).
It's not entirely clear to me what the author means when he says, "It’s possible that the same thing that pulled us into the current culture of censorship, intolerance, and polarization—generational change—will be the thing that pulls us out of it." The opening paragraph points to Haidt's hypothesis that the "iGen" generation, those born after 1995, is responsible for, "driving rising hypersensitivity towards political differences and skepticism about free speech." But the youngest cohort from this group, ages 13 - 16, are also the least accepting of counter culture. So, if it was the oldest group within Gen Z* (those who went to college in or after 2013) who ostensibly exported the culture of hypersensitivity from campus to the corporate world, why is it millennials who are the most supportive of it and the youngest subset of Gen Z who are the least? What does it mean that "generational change", which got us into this mess, will be the same thing that brings us out of it?
I hope this doesn't sound accusatory. I just didn't walk away from reading this with a better understanding of why counter culture is starting to lose steam.
*clarification needed: Haidt calls generation "iGen" those born in or after 1995 which is at odds with the definition found later on that marks the boundary between Millennials and Gen X at 1997.