Saturday, August 8, 2020

Why Our Current "Cancel Culture" Is a Clear and Present Danger

Photo by Brian Wangenheim on Unsplash
"Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction." So begins the listing in Wikipedia.

Intelligent people on both the Left and the Right recognize this as a serious issue and a practice that itself should not be abandoned. (EdNote: That sentence was amusing to write because there are people on the Left who do not see any intelligence on the Right, and vice versa.)

Thinking people of all persuasions recognize that the best ideas come from hearing all sides on a matter. This is why President Lincoln's cabinet was comprised of people with differing opinions. This is also why Steve Jobs, when he was with Pixar, preferred to skip meetings where decisions were being debated. He feared, correctly, that some people would only share ideas that they believed he would like, instead of the potentially best ideas, which may have been contrarian.

Here are excerpts from three articles, the first being a three minute YouTube video created from a longer podcast on this theme.

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How Cancel Culture Violates Intellectual Freedom

"An open society is a place that has a lot of intellectual pluralism," says Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of the landmark 1993 book Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought.

"Canceling comes from the universe of propaganda…it's about making an idea or a person socially radioactive."

In this short video essay, Rauch explains why canceling is different from criticism. The open society "is the most successful social principle ever invented" because it allows individuals to make errors as they seek out the truth.

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'Cancel Culture' Is a Dangerous, Totalitarian Trend

How many of us think twice before posting a legitimate message—not because the post is offensive per se, but because of the possible repercussions if some numbskull interprets it the wrong way?

We're allowing negation by society's dullest and most easily offended members. There's nothing wrong with calling BS on people's writing. It is wrong, however, to incite mobs to destroy their livelihoods.

A Letter on Justice and Open Debate

"The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty."

"As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes. We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences."

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In a lighter vein, I wrote a poem about this topic. It's titled Cancel Culture.


Ed Newman said...

After posting this I noticed that one of the editorials in tomorrow's paper was along the same lines: National View: Republicans, Democrats agree: cancel the cancel culture

Goodly said...

I agree with your viewpoint. Here's my personal take:

Ed Newman said...

Thanks for the note and link. I checked out a few of your other posts and thought this one appropriate as well.