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Cancel Culture Is Clobbering the Left
How it can achieve this if it doesn't exist is a mystery to me.
If cancel culture weren’t real, why would so many people on the left have to keep saying so? At the moment this not-real phenomenon is being directed at a bunch of Harvard students who posted an offensive statement on the night of the Hamas massacre. It’s more difficult to pretend cancel culture is a myth when you’re getting clobbered by it. In my latest, I defend the old-fashioned liberal principle that if somebody says something you don’t like it is not OK to subject that person or that person’s institution to bullying, as various obnoxious rich people are trying to do at both Harvard and Penn. You can answer the argument, or you can ignore it; you may not suppress it.
Obviously there are limits. I don’t propose we apply this principle to somebody who shouts Sieg heil! or sings “Carry Me Back To Old Virginny” in a crowded campus cafeteria. The more appropriate response in these cases is to tell the offending Nazi or racist to shut the fuck up. But America is going through one of its cyclical epidemics of shaming and ostracism based on nothing more than somebody saying something that other people don’t agree with. The cowardly reluctance of universities and corporations to face down a mob, real or imagined, plays into this, and many people end up losing their livelihoods. That the Enlightenment principles of reason and tolerance were dreamed up by privileged white European males does not discredit them. The Puritanical impulse to condemn and expel (actually, Daniel Bell blamed the Methodists, but set that aside) was also dreamed up by privileged white European males, but that doesn’t seem to discredit it, perhaps because it’s always assuming new forms.
You can read my New Republic piece on this subject here.
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