Who’s Afraid of Cancel Culture?

Matt Hoberg

Matt Hoberg earned an A.B. in Philosophy from Princeton University in 2009 and resides in Minnesota with his wife and four children in a 19th century farmhouse; these opinions are his own. You can find him on Twitter @kinder_cons and his Substack Kinder Conservative Bulletin.

Related Post Roulette

298 Responses

  1. Brandon Berg says:

    But there’s a bad side as well: maybe Jim’s remark was out of character, his account was hacked, or he sees the error of his ways and has a change of heart.

    Not only that, but often the targets of CC have done nothing wrong at all, or may even be targeted for doing good. Steven Hsu comes to mind, as do Donald McNeil and James Damore. Or Jocelyn Elders.

    The bigger issue is the chilling effect. People become afraid to risk speaking up against the excesses of Social Justice (sic) ideology, which pushes the Overton Window further to the left. This is corrupting science and public discourse.

    Ideally people would become less crazy, but I guess the next best thing is tit-for-tat counter-cancel culture. The ringleaders of cancel mobs need to be targeted for cancellation.Report

    • greginak in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      What happened with McNeil is still in dispute. It seems like far more then he mentioned one word. It’s looking like a pattern of behavior which would change things but it’s still unclearReport

    • Jaybird in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      This is where I wish we still taught evolution in schools.

      If you start populating creatures on different islands, after a statistically significant number of generations pass, you’re going to find divergent evolution taking place.

      Finches on this island will look like *THIS*, Finches on that island will look like *THAT*, and eventually you might even find that they can’t interbreed anymore.

      The more that the Overton Window gets pushed, and the faster it gets there, the more likely that Islands will be left behind.

      And soon we’re going to find ourselves with two different species of Overton Window. Windows that can no longer interbreed.Report

    • James Damore, who insulted large number of his co-workers as being unqualified? Yeah, I don’t see how that could be a problem.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        He didn’t call them “unqualified”.

        He suggested that there were biological differences between the sexes and that these should be compensated for on Google’s part.Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

          He said that they got in via preferential hiring.

          “Biological differences between the sexes” might be relevant if there were a 50% quota for female engineers. No tech company has that or anything remotely like it.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            Looking at the wiki, it doesn’t describe the same thing that you’re describing.

            Here’s a copy/paste:

            Calling the culture at Google an “ideological echo chamber”, the memo states that while discrimination exists, it is extreme to ascribe all disparities to oppression, and it is authoritarian to try to correct disparities through reverse discrimination. Instead, the memo argues that male to female disparities can be partly explained by biological differences. Damore said that those differences include women generally having a stronger interest in people rather than things, and tending to be more social, artistic, and prone to neuroticism (a higher-order personality trait). Damore’s memorandum also suggests ways to adapt the tech workplace to those differences to increase women’s representation and comfort, without resorting to discrimination.

            The lawsuit reached the point where they were going to enter discovery and then, suddenly, they reached an agreement.


            I would have liked to have seen some of the exhibits that showed up at the trial.Report

              • gregiank in reply to Jaybird says:

                Damore was a techy who was far out of depth but thought because he was a Tech Knower he could master all knowledge. We’ve seen a lot of those guys who are experts in one field sure they are experts in everything.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to gregiank says:

                No argument here!

                I’m sure if they went to court against him, they’d have chewed him up and spat him out.

                Pity that they settled and had everybody involved sign NDAs.Report

              • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                Umm yeah. Not really anything to do with my comment but layers will lawyer. And his paper was weak. We talked about it. Sexist tripe from a guy out of his depth.Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to greginak says:

                The paper was far better than any of the responses to it that I saw. There were a lot of intellectual lightweights embarrassing themselves that week.Report

              • Swami in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Agreed. The paper was better argued and more balanced and nuanced than the majority of the popular rebuttals, especially the piece that Sadedin wrote, which only managed to reinforce Damore’s points that you can’t even bring up the issue without being called names (she promptly called him all the names which can’t be used here).

                I would love to hear what specific points Greg and Mike found so egregious in the actual article.

                On a broader scale, if current trends continue* , evangelicals, conservatives and even republicans will be unable to get into a prestigious university or job. Of course, this is considered more of a feature than a bug to many of the folks on this site.

                * Thus I suspect current trends won’t continue.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Swami says:

                What trends? Are they being wrongly denied those things with increasing frequency?Report

              • Swami in reply to Kazzy says:

                The best numerical support would be the political leanings of college professors, which if memory serves has shifted from strong left majority to something in the neighborhood of twenty to one on the far left. My guess is we would find similar trends now in corporate HR departments.

                On a more anecdotal measure, I would add how multiple social media companies simultaneously cancel the President (a notable figurehead for evangelical and. Conservative thought), or how The Damore situation made it clear that conservative views were grounds for termination. All the Christians I know are convinced that they are persona non grata. Considering what they think of gays and transsexuals, they are probably right.

                Also, there is my anecdotal experience with my family members at getting scholarships and acceptance into colleges. Colleges are now routinely asking for essays on diversity. Luckily, all the young people in my family are both black and Hispanic, so it is easy for them to game by pretending the world is stacked against them. But I feel sorry for any white people trying to get academic scholarships nowadays. They better Woke Up real fast.

                I hope I am wrong, and that conservatives and evangelicals (and moderates?) are not increasingly discriminated against for their political and ethical views. This trend, if it is real, does not end well.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Swami says:

                “All the Christians I know are convinced that they are persona non grata. Considering what they think of gays and transsexuals, they are probably right.”

                Weird… almost all the Christians I know are employed.Report

              • Swami in reply to Kazzy says:

                Employed and keeping their opinions to themselves.

                My point is that I fear they will be finding it harder each year to get employment in the media, at a university, at a tech company, or to get a scholarship at a good university.

                I hope you are right that things are not getting worse for them. They are pretty much convinced it is getting worse. I will add that I think a good number of the regulars on this site would support cancelling people who think gays are disgusting sinners, or wear “All Lives Matter” hats or suggest that “Resisting Arrest Matters”.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Swami says:

                I am also one of those who thinks that anecdotes can indeed add up to become data.

                But I’m just not seeing much in the way of even anecdotes. I don’t hear or read many stories of actual discrimination that go beyond the occasional individual behaving badly.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Swami says:

                You think that Christians — merely for being Christian — are going to find it harder to get jobs?

                According to Wiki, Christians make up 65% of the American population.

                We’re going to have a hell of an unemployment problem if they can’t get jobs!Report

              • veronica d in reply to Kazzy says:

                It’s the obvious ploy used by the modern right. In fact, I probably don’t need to point it out. I think we can all see it. Likewise, I’m pretty sure those on the right know what they are doing. Nevertheless, I find it useful to shine daylight on their tricks.

                Christians don’t face systematic prejudice in America. They don’t face extensive bigotry. They’re not victims, at least not on account of their being Christian.

                Certain subsets of Christians, however, do struggle under the paradox of tolerance. No, we should not tolerate intolerance. “All are welcome who welcome all” — but certain subsets of Christians are quite bigoted against LGBT people, deeply bigoted. Moreover, many cling to regressive patriarchal ideas. So indeed, they discover that the broader culture is increasingly rejecting their intolerance, and in turn they spin this as intolerance of their religion. They’re being dishonest.

                And it’s critical you note the word “subset” I used previously. Christians in general are not overly bigoted, at least compared to the broader culture. In fact, here in the city where I live, the two most common places to see a rainbow flag are gay bars and churches — which is as it should be. Christians around here seem motivated by love and charity. I’m not a Christian, but I have a high opinion of our local clergy.

                (For the most part. There are, of course, religious bigots here too, just not so many.)Report

              • Slade the Leveller in reply to Swami says:

                “Employed and keeping their [unChristian] opinions to themselves.”Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Swami says:

                2035 reboot of Mad Men:

                Roger Sterling: “Have we hired any Methodists?”
                Don Draper: “Not on my watch!”Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

              “Reverse discrimination” means preferential hiring, e.g letting people who didn’t pass the first interview to try again. It’s no fairs.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                In general, I think that “preferential recruitment” is a fine thing. Specifically, this means having recruiters put more effort into finding candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds. That said, I do not believe in “preferential interviews.” All candidates should, as much as possible, meet the same high standards before hire.

                I’ve seen people argue that this is unfair, as it does give an advantage to minorities early in the hiring process. However, that is quite wrong. Instead, it works to mitigate the vast disadvantages that are present in the career pipeline, while not sacrificing quality.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to veronica d says:

                “All candidates should, as much as possible, meet the same high standards before hire.”

                Blind hiring results in fewer nonwhite nonmale nongenderconforming persons. (search for it, there are several studies on the subject.)

                Which, y’know, does make sense; if becoming a Top-Tier Candidate is a life-long process then of course any bigotry you encounter along the way is going to affect that. So the kid who was told that little black boys like sports, not nerd stuff, he maybe gets a football for Christmas instead of a book about electrical circuits, and then fifteen years later he is the talented solderer on the electrical project team, following the instructions written by someone else instead of being the guy who lays out the architecture, and when it comes time for the interviews his blinded resume reads “technician” and not “designer”…Report

      • Slade the Leveller in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        This was probably more a lesson in H.R. is not your friend than anything else. I work for a company with more female than male employees. If I wrote something like that, and my co-workers took umbrage, you better believe I’d be shown the door.Report

    • veronica d in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      Steven Hsu seems like a pretty bad example of “cancel culture gone wrong.” He did not get in trouble with a random Twitter mob because of statements he made when he was sixteen. Instead, the students who were under his administrative authority petitioned the university to remove him because of his ongoing connections with “race realism” and the eugenics movement. Ultimately he lost the administrative position, but he didn’t lose his tenure. He can continue to teach physics. He can continue to involve himself in eugenics, should he choose to do so. He cannot, however, continue to have authority of the research projects of students.

      It is possible to find examples of “cancel culture overreach,” but this is not one of them.Report

  2. superdestroyer says:

    The effects of race/class/gender/ethnicity should be mentioned on cancel culture. There are many things that a non-Hispanic can say/do/repost/be adjacent that will get those whites cancelled. There are much fewer actions that will be an African-American cancelled. This asymmetry creates a paradox that some groups are above criticism because they are considered below agency.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to superdestroyer says:

      nah, Emmanuel Cafferty got fired and is still fired. And the reason black men can talk all the trash they want is that nobody considered their words worth much to start with.Report

  3. DensityDuck says:

    I think the issue is less that someone might call for Joe Doakes to be fired for being a God Damn Racist, and more that Joe Doakes’s employer might actually do it. Like, that’s why Cancel Culture is a thing, because people are actually losing their actual jobs over people being mad at them on the internetReport

  4. Jaybird says:

    Part of it is that half of Cancel Culture is just so obviously dumb and clout-chasing.

    Here’s one from Superbowl Weekend:

    See? That’s one of those things that if I started talking about it at the end of the Warshington Football Team’s name change, I’d have been accused of constructing a strawman. Not even a good strawman! I mean, the Chiefs *MIGHT* have been a good strawman. The Cleveland Indians would have been in this weird “is it straw or not” man territory. But the Tampa Bay Buccs? That’s a straw man!

    Well, as it is, it seems that we were, instead, on a slippery slope.

    The other half of cancel culture seems to be powerfully vindictive and using accusations of being politically incorrect as worth cancellation over.

    Here’s what happened with Taylor Lorenz on Saturday (Taylor has since locked her account):

    Wait, you may ask. What happened? Marc Andreessen was accused of making a reference to how the guys on WallStreetBets refer to themselves. Not, you know, calling them that. Not using the term casually, but making a reference to how they reference themselves (they use the “R-word”).

    The problem is that Marc Andreesen was not the person who made the reference.

    So we’re in a place where the so-called “journalist” accused someone that she covers as having used a slur… but, it turns out, he didn’t.

    So the journalist has since locked her account.

    If we did not have a cancel culture, we might be able to have a conversation about the difference between “mention” and “use” and whether “mention” deserves similar sanction to “use”. But, sadly, we have a cancel culture.

    “Are you saying that Marc Andreesen should be able to use the ‘R-word’?”
    “Not exactly. It’s more that I’m saying that he didn’t and so accusing him of having done so in an effort to have him sanctioned is, effectively, Karening of the highest order. That’s the tea.”Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Jaybird says:

      The NYT needs to pull a Starbucks and shut down for a day to give their staff intensive training on the use-mention distinction, because this is the second time it’s come up in the past week.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        The whole “use/mention” distinction is one that makes intuitive sense to me.

        I understand that we could argue over whether it’s okay to sing along to a Dre song and that’s an interesting question (especially since we have no technology to enforce it when someone is alone in their car singing along to it).

        We have to rely on people saying stuff like “oh, I sing along to Dre songs!” and then shaming the hell out of them but that results in people being unwilling to say that they sing along to Dre songs EVEN THOUGH THEY STILL DO IT.

        So maybe we need better techniques to determine whether someone sings along to Dre songs that don’t rely on self-reporting?

        Blood/DNA tests before you buy a CD, maybe. Certain radio satellite radio stations being locked out from certain cars. Subarus, for example, should not be allowed to listen to the hip-hop station.

        Anyway, this game is iterated and, if Monopoly is any indicator, you play long enough with enough losers, you’re going to find yourself with an upside-down table.Report

      • veronica d in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        The use/mention distinction obviously exists, yet somehow I manage to talk about slurs without triggering any anger. How do I do it? Do I use magic?

        I think it’s because I’m careful in how I deploy slurs, even when “mentioned.” It’s easy. Just say “n-word” or “r-slur” instead of using the actual slur. Everyone knows what you mean. Easy peasy. If I want to note that someone said something anti-semtic, I can reference that without quoting the exact anti-semitic thing they said. I can say, “They believe the blood libel” without having to detail it.

        Arguably there is some value in direct quotes, particularly to document the full spectrum of the malice. However, not every mention needs to do this, particularly in a short article, never mind a chat group or tweet. Often we don’t need to directly quote them in the body of the text, as we can include screenshots — which for some reason are viewed differently. I’m not sure why. But it happens.

        Moreover, context matters. People who get in trouble for “innocently” using a slur are often people who — well — really come across badly in the fullness of their behavior. There is a desire to have a set of rigid, black/white (heh) rules, which involve specific acts judged in an isolated context, entirely on their surface appearance. However, communication doesn’t work that way. Just asking, “Can I sing along to hip hop lyirics?” is not an isolated question. It reveals a desire to “rules lawyer” your access to racist speech. Moreover, it’s a kind of “JAQing off,” which is a well-understood rhetorical strategy. It is, however, pretty transparent. You can do it. You can try to play innocent. However, people will see through you, and your complaints about “cancellation” won’t carry much weight.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

          Scrubs covered the sing-along thing a while back.

          I did not know that there were other terms that were similarly not allowed to be mentioned. The “r-word”, even when referring to someone else using it, is now there? I guess I can extrapolate out and conclude that all slurs belong in that category. Whether -ist or -phobic, we now treat slurs the way that kids treated curses back in the 70’s. “The D-word”, “The S-word”, and, of course, the granddaddy of them all, the “F-word”.

          We were warned not to say “dang” but “darn” was okay. “Shoot” was fine” but “crap” was not.

          Everything old is new again, I guess. I’m glad we got it right this time.

          In any case, I think that the fact that Taylor accused Marc of saying a bad word when, really, he only said “fucking” was evidence of some amount of carelessness and malice on her part and she shouldn’t really be covering him as part of her job anymore. I’m not sure she can be trusted to be the required amount of objective.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to veronica d says:

          There are two separate issues here:

          1. Is it unwise to mention a slur by name in the current sociopolitical environment?

          2. Is it bad to mention a slur by name?

          The first question should guide someone who has cause to mention a slur. The second question should guide others in responding to someone who has mentioned a slur.

          The answer to the first question is yes, because there’s a real danger of freaking out the squares and finding yourself the target of a neo-Puritan witch hunt. The answer to the second question is “No, of course not. What the hell is wrong with you?”

          If Donald McNeil had asked my advice on whether he should have said “the n-word” or the unredacted version, I would have counseled him to go with the former, not because it would be morally wrong to say the unredacted version, but because someone might get the vapors and cause problems for him.

          If the 150 signatories of the petition to discipline McNeil for mentioning a racial slur by name actually understood the use-mention distinction, they wouldn’t have have signed the petition. If Taylor Lorenz understood the use-mention distinction, she wouldn’t have tried to smear Andreessen the way she did.Report

          • veronica d in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            There is a lot I could say about this, but I’ll keep it short.

            1. It’s worth exploring why slurs are bad and then asking does “mentioning” them eliminate all of those negative effects. If it does, then fine. If, however, it does not, then it’s still wise to not directly name slurs, even when quoting others.

            As a supporting point to #1, I suggest you think about why comedians such as Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle stopped using certain types of racialized humor. In other words, what happens when a bunch of white people start repetitively quoting Chris Rock, but mainly his joke where he says the n-word a bunch of times. Why that joke? Why did it become a fascination, particularly among white people? Chris Rock is a very funny man and has many jokes that are hilarious. However, it was that particular joke that became popular among whites. Was it just funnier, or did it have something to do with being able to call (some) black people the n-word?

            This leads to point #2,

            2. The use/mention dichotomy comes from formal logic. It can be applied to natural language, and indeed linguists do so. However, natural language is not a formal system. It is not always possible to neatly arrange speech acts into 100% pure use and 100% pure mention. For example, if some loud and aggressive white dude kept quoting that Chris Rock routine at a black person, at a certain point we might conclude they’re really using while trying to appear as if they’re mentioning.


            3. Applying use/mention requires good faith from everyone involved. However, it is painfully naive to assume that racists act in good faith. They do not.

            And a big one,

            4. We lose almost nothing by not using these terms and instead strictly using terms like “n-word” for those occasions that we need to mention them.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

      Did that woman actually call for the Bucs to be cancelled? Or did she express her opinion that their mascot was problematic?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        That their mascot was problematic.

        But that’s part of the wacky thing. For a thing to be “cancelled”, what is required?

        Does the person have to say “I am calling on all good wxmxn to cancel the Buccaneers!” or is it sufficient to say “this team’s mascot is kinda problematic, when you think about it?”

        If you don’t use the C-word, can it still be Cancellation?

        From where I sit, part of the problem with Cancellation Culture is the whole floating of cancellation trial balloons periodically.

        “I’ve been reading the Grapes of Wrath and I was struck by how Tom Joad was likely to use slurs. I couldn’t finish the book after I had that realization.”

        Is that me cancelling Hemingway? Is it an attempt to cancel Grapes of Wrath? It strikes me as an example of Cancel Culture, certainly. Even though I did not use the C-word anywhere.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

          ““I’ve been reading the Grapes of Wrath and I was struck by how Tom Joad was likely to use slurs. I couldn’t finish the book after I had that realization.””

          Isn’t this (e.g., having an opinion) something people have been doing since people began peopling?Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

            Well, this is where I get into distinctions.

            There are matters of taste. You know the drill. You go to Subway. Do you get the mustard or the mayo? Do you have the cheese toasted? Banana Peppers or no? Olives?

            There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s a matter of taste. The only thing you could possibly do wrong is get ingredients that you, personally, don’t enjoy.

            There are matters of morality. This is right. That is wrong. Consent is important. Drunk driving is bad. There are other examples that could easily involve Trigger Warnings. I’m sure we can easily imagine examples that would be uncontroversial.

            Having an opinion on a matter of taste is easy and fun and anybody can do it.

            But let’s say that you don’t like something and you don’t like it *A LOT*?

            Well, in the Christian circles in which I grew up, we ascribed those opinions to God as well.

            God does not like Rock and Roll. He likes Christian Music. Rock and Roll is Immoral.

            Okay. Let’s say that we, as a society, has outgrown God?

            There are a couple of tricks that I’ve seen. One is by changing the subject from Matters of Taste to Matters of Aesthetics. It’s not that olives are *BAD*, it’s that they are *UGLY*. You should enjoy beautiful things and avoid ugly things. What does it mean that you spend your free time playing ugly games, listening to ugly songs, reading ugly stories, and watching ugly movies?

            I’m not saying you should *NEVER* enjoy something ugly, but it’s telling when someone spends all of their time marinating in the ugly.

            The other trick is to inject an uncontroversial moral issue smack dab into the middle of the matter of taste or matter of aesthetics. A couple of ways to do this but the injection of “Tom Joad uses slurs, probably” is a way to make an admirable character into a wicked one using guilt by association with this (unfounded) accusation. Another is to shoehorn some morality into a matter of taste. Oh, it’s interesting that you used “Subway” as an example of a matter of taste. Didn’t their spokesman, Jared, get arrested for unsavory reasons? Why would you support someone who would support something like that? And if you’re eating meat on your Subway sandwich, how many trees had to die to feed the animal that you’re eating? How many future children will get asthma because of the trees that you’re killing by eating meat? Do you even *CARE*?

            Anyway. Having opinions is something that people do, yes.

            But they also engage in missionary work and try to get your opinions to be like their own opinions. One of the best ways to do that is to make your opinions “bad” while their own opinions are, of course, the standard that you need to be held up to.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

              “Well, in the Christian circles in which I grew up, we ascribed those opinions to God as well.”

              So, yes, this HAS been going on forever.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                Indeed it has.

                The morality argument, in the God vacuum, is significantly different.

                (How do you deal with the lunchtable problem in your school? Or how did you when you had lunchtables?)Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                I guess I’m not seeing how it’s different.

                Can you elaborate?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                Neither the foundation nor the coherence of the moral structure is clear to me. Like, there doesn’t seem to be a required reading list where I could catch up on the various totems, taboos, and dogmas and use them to make educated guesses about what the moral structures would look like tomorrow.

                (If anything, it strikes me as Arminianism minus a deity which makes a heresy of a heresy.)

                I mean, if *I* were to come up with a set of moral structures, I could come up with a handful of moral precepts, offer a handful of books to read and meditate upon, and talk about how, if morality exists, it’s founded upon a handful of axioms and then we could extrapolate out from there and come to conclusions about whether this or that social structure would be okay (and under which circumstances it wouldn’t be).

                Hell, maybe even come up with thought experiments and add Star Trek Replicators or consciousness transfer or something.

                But the morality argument that we’re having in the current morality seems to have stopped recommending books to read.

                Anyway, how do you deal with the lunchtable problem in your school? (Or how did you when you had lunchtables?)Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                I still don’t understand nor do I know what the lunchtable problem is.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                The lunchtable problem is what happens when there is a mild preference for one’s own in-group. It manifests in schools by having the white kids all sit in the same tables, the Black kids all sit at the same tables, and the Asian kids all sit at the same tables. This is a phenomenon that I’ve seen with my own eyes (but, granted, nowhere near recently due to the fact that I haven’t been in a cafeteria for lunch for years and years and years).

                I know that you work with kids and have enough authority to decide who sits where and with whom and I wondered if you let kids pick who they sat with or if you mixed it up regularly.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                Both. What’s that got to do with anything?

                We actually studied this in school. Tatum’s book was part of the curriculum. Was actually surprised to see your link was to an article and not the book itself.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

                Perhaps his assumption was that people in a casual discussion on an Internet comments section would prefer a summary treatment of the work rather than being told “responding to this three-sentence comment requires that you complete a graduate course in race relations and the development of social attitudes in children.”

                Or maybe he’s just one of those Republican anti-intellectualist shitheads. You probably like that better. I’m sure it feels better.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                What’s that got to do with anything?

                Is little Elixevetta choosing to sit with Bentley at lunchtime a matter of taste?

                Is you saying “Nope, Elixevetta, you have to sit with Yzabel and Bentley will sit with Presleigh” a matter of Morality?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                I guess I don’t see things through the framing device of taste vs morality.

                As I see it, there are pros-and-cons to letting kids choose their own seating and there are pros-and-cons to assigning seating. An ideal approach would be to pull the as much of the pros from both while mitigating the cons.

                Is it wrong that kids (and adults) may self-segregate when given the option to? No. Are there harms that can arise from it? Yes
                Is it wrong that teachers may want to assign seating to avoid those harms? No. Are there harms that can arise from that? Yes.

                If you want a neat and tidy answer, I can’t offer you one because I don’t think one exists.

                So, to your question, for my 4-year-olds, I sometimes assign their seating and sometimes let them choose their own and sometimes let them assign each others and sometimes I push the tables together and everyone sits with everyone.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:

                I guess I’m not seeing how it’s different.

                Can you elaborate?

                Yes, we have been doing this forever, in some way or another.

                What is different is the range/impact.

                The moral scolds of my distant youth had limited range and impact. Their range extended as far as their phone tree, and their impact depended precisely upon who they held influence with [1]. If it got bad, leaving town was always an option.

                These days, the range is essentially global, and the impact can extend to every aspect of your life. Also, past actions can easily resurface to cause trouble.

                [1] e.g. Getting someone fired relied upon having sufficient influence with that persons superiors.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                “Getting someone fired relied upon having sufficient influence with that persons superiors.”

                This is kind of the whole nut of it, right here.

                Cancel culture has always existed as a tool for social control, but only available to a certain select group of people with influence and power.

                Nowadays the tool is accessible to a new and different group, which is causing quite the freakout.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Yes, it is causing a freak out among those who previously enjoyed such influence, although I’d also argue that a large proportion of those same people are more than capable of pivoting in such a way as to continue enjoying such influence*.

                That doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is less who is wielding the power, and more the range and impact and the fact that mobs are not known for appreciating proportionality and restraint.

                *I long ago realized that moral scolds very rarely adhere to the morals they scold others for, beyond what is necessary to maintain the illusion that they have the moral high ground. Thus it is easy for them to pivot from one set of ‘morals’ to another, because it’s not about the morals, it’s about the power and influence.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                We were arguing about the Al Franken sexual harassment stuff as it happened.

                Remember the Al Franken thing? It was at the peak of #MeToo.

                Was #MeToo Cancel Culture?

                I think that, initially, it was intended to be something like “we need to make it easier and safer for women, *ALL* women, to mention that they’ve been sexually harassed.”

                It wasn’t about taking down men or making them quit or whatever, it was about raising awareness of the ubiquity of sexual harassment and how we needed to change the culture.

                And accusations started coming out. And it became somewhat weaponized.

                And it turned out that the calls for so-and-so to resign after it came out that he was involved with why a handful of women said #MeToo became troublesome.

                I mean, there are credible accusations against… well, it doesn’t matter, does it?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                That makes sense. Thank you for that perspective and I would agree with that.

                But I think we need to be careful to identify who is seeking to achieve what influence.

                I remember when Aziz Ansari got caught up in the “Me too” moment when someone he went on a date with shared that it went poorly. Folks quickly descended on AA. The woman who shared spoke up to say that her intent was not to #metoo or cancel him. Rather, she was wanting to talk about her own perspective and experience on the date and, maybe, help him and others who might behave as he did understand how it was received and perhaps behave differently. As I recall, she actively pushed back on some of the calls to “cancel” him (though I’m not sure it was called “cancelling” yet back then).

                Was she wrong to share what she shared? I’d say hell no.

                The problem were the folks who swooped in. And the folks who ignored her pleas for them not to do so.

                The response to “cancel culture” seems to be its own form of cancelling: Don’t criticize anyone ever for their words or behavior or you are an evil canceller.

                Which is why I don’t understand why we are talking about an article criticizing the Bucs mascot that has seemingly gotten zero traction and which will have no effect on the Bucs organization.

                That isn’t cancel culture. That is one person’s opinion.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:

                Again, back in the day, the moral scold may have jumped on her phone tree and got the gossip mill going with, “Did you hear what Jim did to Pam? It’s Scandalous!”.

                Did Pam ask the busybody to air her relationship issues with Jim? No, but the busybody doesn’t care. Airing those issues aren’t about seeking justice for Pam, it’s about cementing power for themselves.

                Of course, it’s not presented that way. The busybody is doing it because they care about Pam, and are afraid that she’s not speaking out against Jim because she’s too nice, or she’s afraid, or embarrassed, or whatever removes her agency from the equation. And presentation in these things is important.

                Very, VERY important.

                Look at the article. The author says something very specific, mainly this:

                Yet, while this celebration of piracy seems like innocent fun and pride in a local culture, there is danger in romanticizing ruthless cutthroats who created a crisis in world trade when they captured and plundered thousands of ships on Atlantic trade routes between the Americas, Africa and Great Britain.

                There is danger? Really? People in Florida are honestly going to do what*? What actual harm has the romanticizing of dead pirates from hundreds of years ago done? Do we romanticize modern pirates because we are completely ignorant of the atrocities of the past?

                If something is dangerous, we should shut that down, right? That’s the presentation part that is asking for a cancel. The author could have said,

                “Yet, while this celebration of piracy seems like innocent fun and pride in a local culture, there is value in remembering the darker history of those ruthless cutthroats…”

                Now, it’s just a history lesson.

                *In the US, the closest thing we have to a pirate scourge right now is actually the police and CAF (technically privateers, I guess, since they operate with government sanction).

                Aside from that, the rest of the article was very informative regarding the history.

                I think a lot of people have this idea in their heads that romanticizing or glorifying something that has negatives, or was negative, means people will take it up and run with it. You see that with regards to sex, or drinking/drugs, etc.

                People who hold up Nazis, or Lenin/Stalin/Mao, or White Supremacy, are not doing it because they never learned about the negatives because everything was glorified/romanticized, it’s because they see those things as features, not bugs. They very much understand the reality, and find it acceptable.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                So one word in the piece makes it cancel culture?

                Isn’t it possible that some people are just… wrong?

                She said there is a danger in romanticizing pirates. As you point out, she is very likely wrong about that. Wouldn’t the best thing to do in response be to either A) ignore her or B) point out how and why she is wrong?

                If she called on others to boycott the Bucs or pushed local politicians to remove whatever tax breaks they assuredly get until they change their name, she has moved from offering a perspective to engaging in advocacy.

                I guess that is where I draw the line: Unless or until someone is actually advocating for direct action to change/end/cancel something, they likely aren’t engaging in cancel culture. I just don’t see how that article can be considered cancel culture. Nothing has been cancelled and nothing is at risk of being cancelled. Someone is just wrong. People are still allowed to be wrong, right?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                To bring it home, let’s say that there was someone out there who was questioning why a man would want to have a particular profession that, traditionally, had gone to women.

                Let’s imagine that they start speculating about the reasons that a guy would want to get into… oh… hairdressing or something.

                Perhaps he’s got a hair fetish. Maybe he saw Warren Beatty in “Shampoo” and thought it’d be a good way to get laid.

                Should women feel safe when they go into a salon and see a male standing there?

                I mean… why would a man want to become a hairdresser?

                I mean, I can probably think of at least a couple reasons that a guy would want to become a hairdresser (he’s good at it, for one… it doesn’t require 4 years at a $20,000/year college and, when there’s not a pandemic, you can make good money at it, that sort of thing).

                Is the person who is merely talking about this, asking these questions, just being wrong?

                People are still allowed to be wrong, aren’t they?

                Or do you see something ugly swimming under there? Something that we, as a society, do not want more of?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                Ah, here’s a good example from 8 years ago now. JJohn Green.

                You may have heard of him before. A handful of his books got turned into movies and I know that his books are so popular that they got sold in my local King Soopers on the endcaps.

                Well, back 8 years ago, a young woman wrote on her tumblr something to the effect of:

                i bet john green thinks people don’t like him because he’s a “dork” or a nerd or whatever
                when in reality it’s because he’s a creep who panders to teenage girls so that he can amass some weird cult-like following. and it’s always girls who feel misunderstood, you know, and he goes out of his way to make them feel important and desirable. which is fucking? weird?
                also he has a social media presence that is equivalent to that dad of a kid in your friend group who always volunteers to “supervise” the pool parties and scoots his lawn chair close to all the girls.

                Effectively claiming that John Green was “grooming” young women by pandering to them in his bookwriting.

                Well, he hit back at this and hit back *HARD*. He came down like the fist of an angry god and his response was disproportionate.

                The tumblr post is gone but there are excerpts at the link above.

                The excerpt finishes with:

                I’m tired of seeing the language of social justice–important language doing important work–misused as a way to dehumanize others and treat them hatefully.

                This isn’t exactly how I’d define “Cancel Culture”… that is “the language of social justice–important language doing important work–misused as a way to dehumanize others and treat them hatefully”.

                But I will say that there is a something in there that is Cancel Culture. The escalation of a matter of taste to a matter of morality. The plausibly deniable accusations of sin. The use of social justice language in a situation that calls for social justice is appropriate.

                So the use of social justice language isn’t necessarily cancel culture.

                But it shows up a lot.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

                Are young women allowed to share their feelings about a male author who writes book about-and-for teenage girls? If they indeed find something about him creepy, are they allowed to share that feeling and in turn explain why they feel that way? If other young women read that post and conclude that, yeah, that does sound kind of weird, is that okay?

                Also note, this discourse surrounded the publication of a “based on a true story” book about an actual teen girl. Are women allowed to observe how that relationship played out and how Green used it in his book and to decide that it’s kind of hinky and they don’t want to be a part of it?

                If this hurts Green’s career, is that somehow unfair? Unjust? Is Green entitled to an audience? Is it okay to criticize him, not only for his prose styling (or whatever), but for how he relates to the subjects he writes about?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                I’m pretty sure that nobody is arguing that she wasn’t allowed to share her feelings. Well, other than John Green.

                Hell, I’m sure that if she said this about one of his competitors, he could very easily have taken her side in the argument. Or, at least, argued that the other author isn’t creepy but he shouldn’t have hit back as hard as he did. Cutthroat business, YA.

                He saw coming damage to his brand and he defended the ever-living crap out of it.

                Is the argument that he shouldn’t have been allowed to argue back?

                Man, that horse ain’t in the barn anymore.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

                He’s allowed to argue back. Of course he is.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                I’m glad that we hammered out that both the kiddo and John Green had the right to do what they did.

                Wait. Was that the thing we were trying to address?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:

                One word makes the article, call it, an attempt to cancel something. Not every attempt takes hold, much like not every attempt at moral scolding from yesteryear would land. This one appears to be going nowhere, and by and large, it’s just some very useful history. So as an attempt, it fails.

                But I would still characterize it as an attempt to get something cancelled.


                Because the author is not some rando making a quick blog post or a comment on a blog post. This is a person who is a historian and an author. Language is part and parcel of their profession. They took time to plan and write this piece. I can make a fair assumption that their word choices, and how things are phrased, is very deliberate.

                And calling something dangerous that is clearly not dangerous strikes me as trying to generate a controversy, which is a significant part of the issue. I read stuff like this, and I remember the good old days of Dungeons and Dragons being dangerous.

                Now, if I wrote the author, and asked her why she thought the thing was dangerous, and she walked that back and said it was a poor choice of words; or she never said that, and some editor swapped out her original phrasing; or she meant dangerous in the sense that it risks re-writing history and we shouldn’t do that (and if I am being charitable, that is how I could read it).

                But calling it dangerous… that really jumped out at me.


        • CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

          No, that’s cancelling Steinbeck. Or not, but in any case not Hemingway.Report

    • Dark Matter in reply to Jaybird says:

      So we’re in a place where the so-called “journalist” accused someone that she covers as having used a slur… but, it turns out, he didn’t.

      But she wanted him to have said that, and it’s the sort of thing she pictures him having said, so that’s close enough.Report

  5. Damon says:

    “There is a good side to this: if what Jim said was truly bad and he continues to act in problematic ways, future employers or romantic partners will benefit from this information” Did Jim say something “bad” while on company time, or as a representative of the company? That’s the only time his employment should be at risk. What he says on his own time should not be relevant to his employer. The inevitable “what if he’s a neo nazi” trope will be used to counter this position. Well, I HAVE worked with neo nazi–for about 6 months. He kept his month shut at work and did his work. It was only through his sharing of his side gig that the staff found out about his beliefs.

    “But we should remember that crowds aren’t always right, and the people most likely to face real and possibly irreparable consequences are going to be the powerless and vulnerable” Shades of the child abuse hysteria that swept this country decades ago. “McMartin preschool case” ring any bells. This smells just like that. A wave of add ons / pile ons dragging folks to the virtual hangman’s noose. Have we learned nothing since then?Report

    • CJColucci in reply to Damon says:

      Did Jim say something “bad” while on company time, or as a representative of the company? That’s the only time his employment should be at risk. What he says on his own time should not be relevant to his employer.

      A lot of “should” there and not a lot of “is.” But if you want a regime of employment law that incorporates these “shoulds,” that will be a heavy lift, and you might want to look at just who, exactly, will be fighting hardest against it.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Damon says:

      Did Jim say something “bad” while on company time, or as a representative of the company?

      At one point the company told me, “You are sufficiently well known that there’s no such thing as ‘on your own time’ if you’re talking about communications technology.” That’s what got the Duck Dynasty guy some years back: the network’s position was that he was always a representative of the network if he was in public.

      The internet has always raised interesting questions about what’s “in public.”Report

      • Damon in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Well the Duck Dynasty guy was on a TV show with a lot of exposure. He wasn’t some corporate office drone that nobody heard of. He wasn’t a “little fish”, he was a pretty big fish.Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to Damon says:

          He probably thought he was a pretty big fish because despite playing a hick on TV, he was actually at least a tens-of-millionaire because of his family’s quite successful business. Once he was off the camera, his role was entirely different.

          In my own case, I hadn’t done anything that was a problem. TPTB were just letting me know they had decided I was a big enough fish that the rules were different. The way they were different took me somewhat by surprise — inside the company, one of my main jobs was arguing against several of the company’s long-held positions on tech.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

            At least you got the heads up that you were officially a big enough fish, and what was expected of you; rather than finding out after you started tasting shoe leather.

            ETA: My employer has been very clear and upfront that what we say online can impact our employment status, and we should keep that always in mind as we interact with social media.Report

            • Michael Cain in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              Yes, and so much of the problem with “cancel culture” is that (a) any advance warning is more implicit than explicit and (b) you don’t know who has the power. Offend someone you don’t know but who has a million followers and you have a problem.

              I try to practice what I tried to teach my children: assume that anything you write or otherwise record on the internet is permanent and public. (There are discoverable things on the internet that I put up almost 30 years ago.) And posting under the influence is always a bad idea.Report

  6. LeeEsq says:

    People in elite journalism or adjacent fields take cancel culture seriously because they are the most likely to end up on the receiving end of it. For people without a heavy media or online presence, it is less important and rather irrelevant unless Fox News got them agitated about it because it is what those liberals do.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

      So let’s break this down:

      1. It exists.
      2. It primarily affects journalism/adjacent fields and people with a heavy media/online presence
      3. People outside of #2 don’t have to worry about liberals using it effectively, they have to worry about Conservatives using it effectively instead

      A million years ago, we talked about Cancel Culture being a lot of different things but one of the things that keeps showing up is people who used to not be afraid to say things now being afraid to say things.

      Here’s us arguing about this sort of thing back in 2015 (and the comments mention the link to Vox’s story from around that time titled “I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me”.

      The arguments about the Harper’s so-called “Free Speech” Letter itself was a fascinating microcosm of the entire argument all over again.

      I think that we quite easily see stuff like the excesses of Police Brutality.

      When it comes to self-appointed cops, suddenly there’s a whole bunch of people who deny that these self-appointed cops can do anything wrong at all. Indeed, how *DARE* you compare someone complaining online to the police murdering a man calling out for his mother? WOULD YOUR EMPLOYER BE INTERESTED IN HOW YOU’RE MAKING THIS COMPARISON?!?!?!?!?Report

    • superdestroyer in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Maybe one can explain who a freshman college student is an elite journalist or in an adjacent field versus just being a white girl who was target by a gay black man.


      This is probably just one example of something that happens everyday on college campuses.Report

      • Slade the Leveller in reply to superdestroyer says:

        I don’t know if using someone who casually throws around the n word as a victim of cancel culture is your best example. Especially, someone who clams to not have known, in the 21st century, the impact that word has on people.Report

        • superdestroyer@yahoo.com in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

          Instead of answering the question, calling a white girl stupid seems to reinforce the idea that cancel culture is OK. How does one explain to a teenager that it is totally appropriate for blacks (no matter their family situation) to use the N-word but that it is a firing offense for everyone else. What about music that is playing at the school that contains the N-word.

          OK, how does one explain looking through the entire social media history of the subject of a human interest story so that the person trying to do good can be cancelled.


          • Slade the Leveller in reply to superdestroyer@yahoo.com says:

            My point was there are plenty of examples of “cancel culture” you could have picked. Your question was obviously rhetorical.

            For the record, I don’t consider it appropriate for anyone to use that word, and I’ve told my (now grown) children that. What they do with that opinion is their decision.

            I also consider social media archaeology to be a bit beyond the pale, especially in the case of people like the beer kid. As I recall, the reporter who did that paid for it with his job. Maybe his editor should have preceded him out the door.

            Businesses cutting ties with controversial figures, no matter if the controversy is real or not, is always going to be a thing. PR depts. are hardly profiles in courage. Their job is to avoid controversy.Report

            • superdestroyer in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

              The reporter was subjected to the same social media archaeology as the subject of the article and was found to have some skeleton in his closet. He was fired. Supposedly, someone else actually did the archaeology work and the report just used it.Report

          • veronica d in reply to superdestroyer@yahoo.com says:

            I would say something like this,

            “The n-word is a slur against black people. However, some black people use the word in a ‘reclaimed’ sense. They use it themselves in a way to remove it’s power. By contrast, other black people refuse to use the word at all, and feel that ‘reclaiming’ doesn’t actually work. Some use it in some contexts, but not others. It’s complicated, as racism has left deep scars on our culture, and the ongoing controversy over the n-word is one aspect of that. That said, it is best for white people to avoid using the word at all, as we aren’t the targets of the word. If reclaiming works, we aren’t the ones who get to reclaim it. If reclaiming does not work, it certainly won’t help for white people to say it. Moreover, while some black people might be okay with some white people using the word in some contexts, others will be very offended.”

            See, easy.

            How come every time someone pulls out, “How do I explain this to my kids?” it turns out to be super easy to explain it to kids.Report

            • superdestroyer in reply to veronica d says:

              But what about black males using sexist language. How does the reclaimed argument when blacks (athletes, performers, actors, etc) use sexist language. There have been black celebrities cancelled for anti-Semitic language but seems to have stopped.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to superdestroyer says:

                That’s… a totally different argument.Report

              • veronica d in reply to superdestroyer says:

                I don’t understand the question. Obviously men shouldn’t use sexist language, nor can they “reclaim” it. Is there any confusion over that?Report

              • veronica d in reply to superdestroyer says:

                I’ll say this. If a white person wants to criticize the sexism in hip hop, then go ahead. There certainly is a lot of sexism in hip hop. However, if that is the only time they seem bothered by sexism, and they don’t invest corresponding energy in criticizing other forms of sexism, people will notice that pattern.

                In turn, it is reasonable to ask how much good faith there is here. Are they actually bothered by the sexism, or else are they just anti-black and using the sexism as a cover for their anti-blackness? In other words, it isn’t racist to criticize sexism in hip hop, but it is racist if that is the only time sexism bothers them, and in turn if they stan for white sexist men and try to “rules lawyer” any criticism of mainstream white culture. The pattern is usually pretty clear.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to veronica d says:

              It should be a no-brainer that non-black people, especially if they are White or White Adjacent but even Asians, Hispanics, and different aboriginal people, should not use the N-word except under some extremely limited situations like quoting historical figures that used it in a report or thesis. Even then proceed with caution.Report

  7. Chip Daniels says:

    While the specific term “cancel culture” is new, the idea is as old as humanity itself.
    There have always been boundaries around language and behavior, enforced by social shunning and exclusion.

    What we are seeing is the adjustment of boundaries, and newly empowered gatekeepers.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I think a lot of the terror among liberal-left side and others regarding cancel culture is that the people trying to adjust the boundaries and many of the newly empowered gatekeepers don’t seem overly concerned about collateral damage. They have a very deontological cosmology and collateral damage to people who made an innocent mistake or pushed a little back against their preferred paradigm seems preferable to them than anything else. There seems to be a very you are with us or against us tone to some of them.

      The newly empowered gatekeepers have the disadvantage of mainly communicating with each other online, so they don’t seem to quite get how most not very online people, including liberals and leftists that generally agree with them on the big points, see them as being very doctrinaire at times.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

        As I’ve said before, we used to have the same thing with the Moral Majority types, they just had a much smaller area of impact because the internet wasn’t a thing yet.Report

        • JS in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          Did they? Or did we just not notice?

          Take the Hays Code, for instance. How many movies, TV episodes, etc were ‘canceled’ that way? Shows or movies never green-lit, scripts never written because the Hays code?

          And the Hays code was nothing more than WASP moralizing being pre-applied — pretty much the larger, bigger brother of the ‘moral majority’?

          They didn’t cancel it after it was shown — they strangled things in the cradle.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to JS says:

            That’s a fair point, and one of the reasons I strongly object to any kind of hate speech laws or other speech codes. It’s just another way to exert control.Report

            • JS in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              And then we get into “What’s cancelling and what’s consequences”.

              I once watched a man being escorted out of his job, loudly decrying “BS PC culture” for his firing. (He’d sent quite a few unsolicited dick pics to coworkers, despite being warned several times).

              He believed he was cancelled by the mean speech codes of his workplace. He truly believed it.

              How can you tell the difference? If you’re in the marketplace of ideas, and your idea doesn’t sell very well because the vast majority of buyers find it repugnant — were you cancelled, or just unpopular?

              If you wander into a restaurant stinking of sewage because your religion forbids bathing, and you’re tossed out — was your religion cancelled?

              if you’re tossed off Twitter for repeatedly calling for violence, or doxing, or otherwise violating the ToS — is that cancelling or consequences?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to JS says:

                That depends on what is socially acceptable. It also depends on what constitutes protected speech (and where it is protected). A private workplace can have speech codes, a public university can not, and we should not desire public spaces to have such things.

                So dick pic guy is SOL. Yes, he’s being cancelled, but not because of speech codes, but because that’s legally harassment. The fact that he can’t comprehend that is of little consequence, especially since he was warned.

                If the marketplace of ideas (MOI) declines to listen to you, you aren’t cancelled. If someone in that marketplace attempts to silence you (get your account banned, etc.) simply because they think your ideas are dangerous or hateful*, that’s a different ball game.

                If you walk into a private business stinking of BO, you can get the boot. But you can’t, for instance, get kicked off the sidewalk.

                *My concern is, as JB mentions a lot, that matters of taste are cloaked as matters of morality. I’m a libertarian leaning guy, so I have a lot of criticisms of leftist ideas. For instance, I am not a fan of Affirmative Action. Not because I don’t think the inequality it wants to address isn’t real, but because I think the execution is poor. Now my ideas may not find much traction in the MOI, but should I be kicked out of the market if some subset of participants decide that my criticisms are veiled racism?

                Where we draw that line, between crap ideas and speech that has the potential to be causing actual harm, it’s a lot fuzzier than I’d like it to be, and that lack of clarity allows for all manner of bad acts.Report

              • JS in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                “That depends on what is socially acceptable.”

                So cancel culture is okay if a majority is behind it? Like a regular one or a super majority? Or is there some other method for determining what is “socially acceptable”?

                I mean to be fair, it used to be middle to upper class WASPs determining that — the Hays Code as noted was literally society (or some element of it) determining what was acceptable, so maybe “majority rules” is progress.

                If you lose your book deal for inciting insurrection, is determining whether you’ve been cancel cultured based on what percentage of Americans agreed with the decision?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to JS says:

                “So cancel culture is okay if a majority is behind it?”

                Not exactly. The problematic part of CC, as others have mentioned here and there, is that the things a person can get cancelled for are often highly subjective, poorly defined, and not widely understood. It’s essentially a cluster of moving targets that some minority has decided is bad and they’ve managed to convince just enough people online to agree with them that they can cause trouble. It’s the squeaky wheel problem.

                But not every “cancellation” is a squeaky wheel. Some of them are in response to behavior that has some degree of objectivity, has clearer definition, and is widely understood to be bad behavior (like sending dick pics to coworkers). We just don’t think of those as cancellations as such. The reason they aren’t is because society has decided, either through law, or policy, or just the general ebb and flow of social mores & norms, that something is bad, and the vast majority understands that the something is bad.

                The only reason CC is even a thing these days is because the internet has allowed it to be so. Small groups can make themselves appear larger than they are, at least for a short amount of time. And subgroups can attempt to impose the social mores and norms of that subgroup upon the rest of society (with varying degrees of success, depending on how much other groups are willing to boost the message*). In a way, CC is a way to test the waters of changing norms, and if that is all it was, I’d yawn and go back to my book (norms change, water is wet…). It’s when those testing the norms engage in mob punishment for violating the norm that we have a problem.

                *I’m sure the ProudBoys would love to be able to cancel people, but they tend to not be successful at it because the things they want to cancel for are already understood as perfectly acceptable, so they don’t get much traction from anyone outside their bubble.Report

  8. Jaybird says:

    There’s one trick that I see over and over again.

    Two people are having an argument over a matter of taste. An argument that has happened a million times.
    “Is Tom Brady the greatest Quarterback ever?” and, perhaps, “Is Tom Brady the best athlete ever?” and people start arguing over whether Michael Jordan was better at basketball than Tom Brady is at football. (Or Tiger Woods was at golf.)


    There was a scene in The Amazing World of Gumball that does a good job of showing this dynamic:

    The worst excesses of Cancel Culture are the way to shoehorn “NO THIS IS A MATTER OF MORALITY AND IF YOU DON’T AGREE YOU’RE IMMORAL TOO!” into conversations that were taking place entirely in the realm of matters of taste.

    I mean, was Jordan better at basketball than Brady is at football?

    It seems such an innocent question.Report

    • CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

      A lot of people say a lot of stupid stuff. Someone is wrong on the internet, chapter 54,378.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

        While I appreciate that you want to defend people saying stupid stuff, my issue is not the people saying stupid stuff, it’s the people saying stupid stuff that gets other people fired and/or does damage to their lives.

        Indeed, if we, as a society, took the attitude “people gonna say things, that’s life” when people said things, we wouldn’t be having this conversation in the first place.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

      That isn’t necessarily a moral argument.

      I mean, people have long made the same argument about Babe Ruth.

      “How can Babe Ruth be considered the best ever when his dominance came against a league that limited the competition?”

      It’s basically the same argument, just dressed up a bit.

      And no one is trying to get anyone fired. They’re offering a DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE.

      You seem pretty bothered by folks offering different perspective.

      Almost as if you wished people didn’t offer them.

      Maybe they should stop doing that.

      Maybe they should be cancelled.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        I might be unclear as to what “cancellation” means, currently.

        Does it mean “disagreeing”?
        Does it mean “disagreeing with vigorously”?
        Does it mean “trying to get fired?”

        Because if we are in a place where when *I* disagree with someone else, then I am hypocritically engaging in Cancel Culture and when they try to get me fired, Cancellation Culture isn’t really a thing, then we’re in an interesting place indeed.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

          Who did Bucs lady try to get fired?Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

            I’m relatively sure she didn’t try to get anybody fired.

            Was my (theoretical) statement about being unable to finish Grapes of Wrath because I couldn’t get rid of the image of Tom Joad using slurs trying to get someone fired?

            They both strike me as examples of Cancellation Culture, though.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

              So despite not trying to get anyone cancelled, saying, “I don’t like this thing for reason X” is still an example of Cancellation Culture?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                “I don’t like olives” is not Cancellation Culture.

                “God finds olives to be sinful” is Cancellation Culture.

                “The American tendency to appropriate Mediterranean flavors and effectively colonize them has never been adequately interrogated. We need to consider whether eating olives is racist.” is Cancellation Culture.

                “But they’re all just people giving their own opinions!” is one way to look at the three sentences, I guess.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

                not cancel culture: “you think olives are gross? lol”
                cancel culture: (getting 500 twitter followers to leave one-star reviews on Amazon for Jenny Rickersen’s book because you think that when she said olives were gross it suggested racist opinions regarding persons of Mediterranean descent)Report

              • Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:

                How about…

                “Jenny thinks olives are gross. Here is why she’s wrong.”

                Is that cancel culture? Because to me, it doesn’t seem like cancel culture at all. But others are pointing at such things and saying it is exactly cancel culture.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                It depends on “here is why she’s wrong”.

                Is she wrong because olives are savory? Is she wrong because garlic pimento stuffed olives make martinis better?

                Is she wrong because she’s racist for not liking olives? Does she think that olive skin is ugly? Does she use slurs? You know that people who say that they don’t like olives are really using a secret code, right?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                Um… okay?

                Let’s say Jenny tweeted “Love me a Greek salad but hold the olives! BLECH!”
                And let’s say TwitBot420 replied “Yo, Olives are the best! You gotta be nuts to prefer your Greek salads without them!”
                Well… seems like the usual banal Twitter nonsense that doesn’t deserve the time of day but let them have at it.

                Let’s say Jenny Tweeted “Love me a Greek salad but hold the olives! I don’t want nothing on my plate that might have come from the dirty Middle East and the monsters who live there.”
                And let’s say TwitBot420 responded: “Damn… sounds like the only thing saltier than a good olive is Jenny’s take on Middle Easterners. That’s some racism right there.”
                Is this cancel culture? I dunno. Sounds like Jenny said something offensive and got called on it. Isn’t that how free speech works?

                Third scenario:
                Jenny: “Love me a Greek salad but hold the olives! BLECH!”
                TwitBot420: “Jenny hates olives because she is an Islamophobic racist monster.”
                CC? I dunno. But TwitBot is undeniably wrong and undeniably an asshole. Does it matter if we call it CC or not?

                CC just seems lke a really blunt instrument when we’d be better of just describing things as they are.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                Well, I think that it doesn’t matter what we call it but if we’re using the term and it refers to one thing when you go to my employer for my transgressions and it’s what you call it when I merely disagree with you in a public forum, I think that we want to hammer out what the bad thing is that requires the gaze of Sauron’s Eye and what the banal things are that do not fall under Sauron’s jurisdiction.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

                not cancel culture: “Jenny thinks olives are gross. Here is why she’s wrong.”

                cancel culture: Since most of the olives in the USA are produced by nonwhite farmers, Jenny’s statement is clearly an expression of racial bigotry. You and 500 followers all tweet “@conhugeco did you know that your employee Jenny does not see any problem at all with expressing pro-white-supremacy sentiments on the Internet? maybe nonwhite persons should think twice about buying @conhugeco products?”Report

  9. greginak says:

    This a good and fair look at defining CC. To much of the discussion ends up as a worthless partisan moral panic. Most the real problem seems to standards changing and the ease of people being idiots on the internet.Report

  10. Is the state GOPs censuring people like Mrs McCain and Liz Cheney for not being Trump bootlickers cancel culture?Report

  11. Marchmaine says:

    I think it is interesting to me that the OP is more of a process/phenomenon post that specifically avoids content… and we have a natural tendency to try to skew it back to content. We can all say (even conservatives) in a particularly platitudinous way that culture and norms change… maybe we disagree on some norms maybe not on others. But…

    I don’t think the issue is content, the issue is process.

    I’m not much of an enlightenmentarian, but burning the enlightenment process(es) to arrive at (post-)enlightenment ends? That’s what this is really about. I don’t think it ends well and we’re no where near the end.Report

  12. Burt Likko says:

    1. Should there be social (or cultural, if you prefer) sanctions for undesirable actions (including statements)? We used to call this phenomenon “shame.”

    2. If so, which actions merit the sanction of shame?

    3. What is the sufficient quantity of shame needed to punish and deter the shameful conduct?

    The issue seems to me to be a combination of a shifting, evolving understanding of the answer to question #2: some things that used to be considered shameful are not any longer (e.g., homosexuality) where other things that used to not be considered shameful are (e.g., racism).

    As for question #3, it’s true that social media does now for many more and more obscure people than mass media did in the past, but it is no different: people build up a head of outrage about a thing, and through a positive feedback loop of social behavior work themselves up into a lather about it. Social media has catalyzed, but did not create, this phenomenon.

    Yes, certain behaviors should be the source of shame. In particular, behaviors that cause harm to others. This is how society enforces its norms.

    I suspect a lot of the contemporary anxiety over cancel culture comes from a combination of a) an appreciation of the degree to which shame has been catalyzed, and b) a fear that one’s own habitual behaviors have fallen out of step with prevailing norms of what is and is not shameful.

    Where do we go from here? I hope we remember concepts of grace and forgiveness and appreciation of the universality of mistake-making. In other words, the thing to do about cancel culture is to remember how to make and accept sincere apologies.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Burt Likko says:

      “I hope we remember concepts of grace and forgiveness and appreciation of the universality of mistake-making.”

      You are significantly privileged to be able to make this statement and expect it to be taken seriously.Report

  13. Was calling the athletes who knelt for the anthem sons of bitches and calling for their firing cancel culture?Report

  14. Chip Daniels says:

    As a fan of period pieces, its interesting to compare modern social media to the way social boundaries were enforced in previous generations.
    Like Dangerous Liaisons, Age of Innocence, or House of Mirth, where one’s social standing and livelihood were made or destroyed by gossip and popularity.

    Or how those in power wielded it with callous disregard for the effects it had on those below them; Like the storyline in Downton Abbey where a army major and kitchen maid were discovered in a compromising position. She was dismissed without hesitation, her life ruined while he went on to rejoin society.

    Because the rules were gamed and weaponized and ended up not even serving their intended purpose, which was to create a society built on respect and dignity.Report

  15. North says:

    I think this is a good encapsulation of Cancel Culture. My personal take is that both institutions and also people in general will need to adjust to it. I would expect/hope that institutions will become more jaded about tempests in the twitter teapot. The stark reality is that twitter/social media can generate a couple of weeks of twitter/social media noise about a given outrage du jour and that will in turn generate a certain amount of contact with a company or institution demanding a meatspace response but if that outrage and those demands are ignored then twitter/social media will move on to the next shiny object in short order with no significant consequence to the meatspace company or institution.
    So hopefully two things are going to happen:
    -People are going to adjust their online behavior to account for the new realities. Hopefully in most cases it means they’ll be more careful about what they say, more conscious about how what they stay will be preserved forever. Maybe this will prove salutary for online discourse in the long run.
    -Institutions are going to start paying less attention to online outrages. This hopefully will allow people in general to begin sloughing off the really out there nonsensical cases of cancel culture.

    But until that happens, well the screaming will go on, it’s gonna be a jungle out there and twitters gonna twit.Report

    • CJColucci in reply to North says:

      Now, North, you can’t go spoiling everybody’s fun like that.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to North says:

      “-People are going to adjust their online behavior to account for the new realities. Hopefully in most cases it means they’ll be more careful about what they say,”

      it is amazing to me that you present “people should be more careful about what they say” as though it’s a good thing that we should all be happy about

      “Maybe this will prove salutary for online discourse in the long run.”

      more likely it will lead to people claiming that, e.g., the Internet Archive was hacked and fake posts inserted into the archives of their weblog

      “-Institutions are going to start paying less attention to online outrages.”

      but then they wouldn’t be ~allies~Report

      • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Corporations are going to find more and more symbolic victories to hand out and paint those who oppose this or that real corporate policy as being opposed to the symbolic victories.

        Like if Nestle came out with a Trans Lives Matter candybar.

        “What about the child slavery?”
        “Hey, everybody! Look at this bigot who only has one ‘attack helicopter’ joke!”Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

          Like I remember when one of Boeing’s older executives was “convinced to retire early” as a result of some supposed scandalous behavior, and it was touted as a major victory for the #metoo movement, and I’m like “the dude was in his seventies, he was looking for an excuse to retire anyway, the only thing he’ll feel bad about was that he didn’t get to fly whatever program he’d been hanging around to watch…”Report

          • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

            Was Al Franken “Cancel Culture”?

            What I remember at the time was a great deal of frustration about his particular case. It was so long ago and, yes, it was inappropriate but it was just once. And then other voices started popping up saying “it wasn’t just once” and then everything hit the fan.Report

      • North in reply to DensityDuck says:

        *shrugs* Dunno what ta tell you DD. I don’t think much of cancel culture myself even though I’m ostensibly from one of the new brahmin clans. If I could wave a magic wand and put cancel culture back in its box like it was a decade ago, I’d seriously consider it but I don’t see that ever happening. Social mores are simply changing. We’ve always had things you don’t say aloud where everyone can hear you or it turns out poorly for your interests. What those things are is just shifting and where/how you say them is also shifting. Anyone who claims something like cancel culture never existed is either delusional or dishonest; it’s just got new rules, new arbiters and new venues.

        As for allyship- I suspect the cachet of that is gonna vanish pretty fast if it isn’t vanished already while the value of a good employee is pretty much gonna stay the same. I am dubious that institutions will continue leaping like they’ve been burned every time a teenager starts a week-long twitter freak-out.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to North says:

          I am dubious that institutions will continue leaping like they’ve been burned every time a teenager starts a week-long twitter freak-out.

          While I am tempted to agree, I find myself laughing nervously and saying “any day now!”Report

          • North in reply to Jaybird says:

            Remember the early Aughts? Scam email was going to destroy us all and leave all our seniors penniless. What happened? Improved spam filters and people stopped being so credulous towards things they got in their emails.

            And remember, what we’re betting for is that people will grow older, get more cynical and grow jaded. That is historically a pretty safe bet.Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to North says:

              “Remember the early Aughts? Scam email was going to destroy us all and leave all our seniors penniless. What happened?”


              What happened was that people pretty much stopped using email for anything. Like, the number-one advice you get about email these days is “don’t click on ANY link you get in email, ALWAYS just go to the website and log in and check your Account Messages…”Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to North says:

          “I don’t think much of cancel culture myself…”


      • Slade the Leveller in reply to DensityDuck says:

        it is amazing to me that you present “people should be more careful about what they say” as though it’s a good thing that we should all be happy about

        Should everyone, though? It used to be you had to get old to get away with losing your filter. Now you can just claim you’re anti-PC.Report

        • I think that there are multiple conflicting messages out there.

          It is important for you to say what you think. Bring your whole self to work! The freedom to be creative includes the freedom to be wrong!

          Don’t stick out. Don”t get noticed. The nail that sticks out is the nail that gets hammered back down.

          And we can easily come up with examples that are outrageous on both sides of this.

          “Are you saying that he should be able to express his political thoughts at work?!?!?”
          “Are you saying that she should not be able to express her political thoughts at work?!?!?”

          If there’s a set of rules that explains that it’s okay for someone to put up a BERNIE SANDERS!!! poster in the breakroom and nobody complains but when *YOU* put up a Hillary Clinton 2016! poster up, people point out the “No Controversial Posters In The Shared Space” rule in the handbook, you might see that something is up.

          “Make sure that you’re in the overton window and DON’T TRY TO WIDEN IT unless you’re this person, that person, or in service to *THIS* position” is a rule that is out there and pretty regularly enforced.

          But it’ll find itself resented.Report

  16. Saul Degraw says:

    Part of any conflict like this is about shifting demographics and cultural mores. As Burt notes above, homosexuality used to be considered a shameful and evil act but now it is not. However, there are still lots of Americans that see it as shameful. I think these people are wrong. They also lack a lot of power that they had during my childhood and early 20s. Last year, Nabisco launched a series of marketing campaigns that supported preferred gender pronoun use and were pro-LBGTQ. Social conservative Rod Dreher had a meltdown over this. However, Nabisco felt no need or benefit to walk back its marketing campaign but this feels like a relatively new development. I’m old enough to remember when ads featuring same-sex couples were subject to quick and fierce national boycotts and the brands walked those ads back quickly.

    I suppose one issue that is that anything is prone to overuse and some cartoon examples and it is easy to nutpick those. The SF School Board recently got itself into the news because it stripped a bunch of names of schools for being problematic. These included George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The overwhelming majority of liberals I know consider the SF School Board acting in a fully headdesk way but it won’t stop conservatives from trying to make it a cheap point on “Look at what those liberals in San Francisco are doing.”*

    *IMO if you cannot name a high school after Washington or Lincoln, you can’t name a high school after anyone.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      The overwhelming majority of liberals I know consider the SF School Board acting in a fully headdesk way but it won’t stop conservatives from trying to make it a cheap point on “Look at what those liberals in San Francisco are doing.”

      Is there any evidence that an early outlier of behavior in San Francisco that Every Reasonable Person in the rest of the country saw as headdeskable would go on to become an established norm a decade later?

      If there are precedents, I can easily imagine that people who are irrationally attached to Abraham Lincoln might find themselves pre-emptively defending their elementary schools even though George Floyd Elementary School would probably be more appropriate for everybody involved to the point where I’d wonder why someone would be opposed to it. Would they be able to defend *NOT* naming a school after George Floyd without sputtering in anger and engaging in personal attacks?Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I agree with Saul but note the irony that refusing to name a school after Lincoln is considered outrageous, but naming countless schools after Jefferson Davis was once considered entirely reasonable and stripping those names is still considered outrageous by a lot of folk.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        Is the idea that we might someday become a society that says “but naming countless schools after Abraham Lincoln was once considered entirely reasonable and stripping those names is still considered outrageous by a lot of folk” something that you find scary?Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

          I don’t find changing mores scary at all, just part of the normal ebb and flow of society.Report

        • pillsy in reply to Jaybird says:

          Not only is it not something I find scary, I don’t see why anybody else would find it scary, either.Report

          • CJColucci in reply to pillsy says:

            Some people scare easier than others.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to pillsy says:

            I don’t find the changing of a name from this to that to be particularly scary.

            This week the school is named after the guy who funded it, next week we name it after a Space Shuttle that blew up (HOW COME WE NEVER NAME SCHOOLS AFTER THE SPACE SHUTTLES THAT MAKE IT BACK SAFE), and the week after that we name the school after someone who was in the news more recently, and in a year we can say “it’s 2022… why is the school still named after this guy that nobody even remembers anymore?”

            That’s all well and good.

            What I find scary is the attitude that says “I cannot comprehend why someone would have admired Abraham Lincoln to the point where they named schools after him”.

            Let’s look at the exact phrasing we used above:
            “but naming countless schools after Abraham Lincoln was once considered entirely reasonable”

            I remain someone who thinks it’s reasonable to name Yet Another Elementary School something like “Lincoln Elementary”. I’m not saying I like it. I’m not saying it’s my first choice for the school.

            I’m someone who merely thinks it’s reasonable.

            And moving to a society that does not think it reasonable for Abraham Lincoln’s name to be in the hat for whatever the new school is going to be called is, yeah, scary.

            It’s not the picking X over Y. It’s the saying that the people who pick Y are not being reasonable in doing so (you don’t even need to hear their purported reasons to know that they aren’t reasonable) that is scary.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

              So you can’t put yourself in the mind of a person who considers Lincoln a tyrant and war criminal in the War of Northern Aggression?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I can. My argument was not “I cannot imagine thinking this”. My argument was that the societies that actively think such things are scary.

                Is it your take that such a society wouldn’t be scary?Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                My point was that such a society isn’t a hypothetical, it exists right here, right now, all around you.

                For that matter, you are a part of it. Swap out “Osama Bin Ladin” for “Lincoln” and tell me if you think that is reasonable, and if not, do you scare yourself?

                I mean, we all have limits and boundaries to our understanding, beyond which we just can’t imagine holding such a belief.
                And we are always going to run into people whose boundaries are wildly different than ours.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Chip, my argument was not “I cannot imagine a society that would X”.

                My argument remains “I would find such a society scary”.

                Would you find such a society scary?Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:


              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Really? You wouldn’t find a community that said Lincoln was a tyrant and war criminal in the War of Northern Aggression to be scary?

                Have you merely never been in one?Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’ve been personal friends with people who thought that way. Like, who earnestly argued that slavery wasn’t so bad, type of people.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:


                But what was the original question?

                Is the idea that we might someday become a society that says “but naming countless schools after Abraham Lincoln was once considered entirely reasonable and stripping those names is still considered outrageous by a lot of folk” something that you find scary?

                It’s not the one-off person who believes this or that immoral thing.

                It’s the community where not believing that immoral thing is considered unreasonable.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                You’re the one who said you find such a society scary, not me.

                Once again, that community existed, and still does, depending on your values of “immoral”. It isn’t some weird hypothetical that we need to imagine.

                I don’t find it scary, but then again, I am not in it.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Yes, I did and do.

                It’s why I’m not opposed to changing the names of Jefferson Davis Elementary to Abraham Lincoln Elementary.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        IMHO, we shouldn’t be naming public schools after anyone, ever. You want a school named after you, start a private school and make it successful. I see zero reason that any public building should have any persons name on it, unless it’s the door to their office.

        Imagine if instead of the White House, we had the Donald J Trump Presidential Residence Building. Just rolls off the tongue, don’t it.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          I feel like this is either an elegant solution or a cop-out. I go back and forth on which one it is. Naming after civic leaders seems reasonable to me.Report

          • pillsy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            It’s a cop out, but a lot of having a functional liberal democracy is knowing when to cop out.Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to pillsy says:

              The question is how far do we go for our cop out. I am largely of the view that most of American politics revolves more on issues of race than class. I would also agree that our politicians can and have done acts which are beyond the pale. Deciding to strip the names of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln from high schools is the cartoon version of cancel culture.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Exactly. Given that no person of import is likely without some manner of disreputable history, just avoid elevating persons by granting their names to public buildings.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Most Americans have more strong patriotic feelings towards Washington and Lincoln. One major problem of the contemporary college educated liberals is that they severely underestimate the amount of genuine, unironic patriotism that exists in the United States; especially among non-whites.

                The woke left seems to believe that you can teach history without any unifying narrative or sense of patriotism. Even Biden’s “we have ideals that we didn’t always live up to” seems to much for them. They might be wrong on this.Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to pillsy says:

              Also the head of the SF School Board is only 30 years old!!!Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            My problem with naming public buildings after people is that it elevates an individual for what is essentially political reasons, and doing so is bound to rankle somebody’s feathers, because even saints manage to piss people off.

            I take similar issue with naming things like Naval warships after people.

            It would be less offensive if a school was named after someone who was very important to the educational system of that community, or in the case of Naval ships, the persons chosen were persons of importance to the Navy* (heroes, well regarded Admirals, etc.). But we can’t seem to respect such modest limits.

            Therefore, I am of the opinion that we just shouldn’t.

            *Naming a ship after Gabby Giffords pissed me off to no end. Not because of her politics, but because she has zero connection to the Navy.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          In the English speaking world, I guess because of language limitations, schools seemed to be named after people deemed wothy of emulation, geographic features, or are numbered. A lot of people seem to find having a bunch of Oakland High School Number 16 depressing. Having a school named after somebody famous or some sort of geographic feature seems preferred.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

            There are 170,000+ words in the English language, and we steal new ones every day. We don’t seem to have trouble finding official and unofficial names for neighborhoods based upon adjectives and geographical names, I’m betting we can easily avoid using personal names.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              It’s possibly more due to our spelling system rather than anything else. The Japanese and Chinese can just combine some characters and get something that seems educational and poetic at the same time. Super Achievement High School just sounds humurous at best and kind of pathetic and demeaning at worse.Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              “There are 170,000+ words in the English language, and we steal new ones every day.”

              Cultural appropriation much?

              “You’ve named this Poinciana High School, are you aware of the implications of that name? That plant is not native to North America, it was brought here by slave-owning settlers! Clearly you are trying to indoctrinate minority students with the white-supremacist notion that their cultural history is meaningless because capitalist colonizers can simply uproot it and transplant it as they choose…”Report

          • Chip Daniels in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Maybe they should follow the practice of colleges, museums and churches and offer naming rights to benefactors.

            “Don’t miss the big game when Shamwow High meets their crosstown rival Cardi B Prep.”Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              I only wish you were kidding. I half expect that to be a thing any day now.

              And, just to be totally classless, it would be the Shamwow Rags vs the Cardi B WAPs.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              Like Oxbridge Colleges or British Public Schools. Most of those don’t have bad names. We can take the ones that don’t have much of a Christian connection like Balliol or Eton and use them for American school names.Report

  17. pillsy says:

    I agree with this in broad strokes, and I especially agree with this part:

    Can we make it better? Maybe. While we can’t make everyone online be perfectly objective or always respond proportionately, one small step would be for employers to strengthen norms and processes for responding to complaints about employee social media use and related actions that can be targets of cancel culture.

    When you get down to it, the actual online “cancellations” involve people not doing very much at all. This is usually true in a normative sense, but I really mean it in a more descriptive sense: they’re complaining on social media. Once upon a time, “writing a sharply worded letter” was regarded as the height of futility, but at some point confining that angry letter to 280 characters and maybe throwing in a GIF of a Simpsons character started to terrify people.

    People should be less terrified. Specifically, institutional decision-makers (be they managers, editors, or academic disciplinary bodies) should be less terrified. A lot of cancellations seem to be panicky reactions to people getting angry, and that seems doubly true of the more egregious instances.

    Also, I don’t think it does much good to conflate “cancellation” with “writing dumb opinion columns”. The incentives are different, and the results tend to be as well.Report

    • North in reply to pillsy says:

      That is a great point! I wonder if there was a point in history when a letter writing campaign could get a person fired in a community? Cancel Culture is simply that writ on a larger scale with lower cost and figure counts for the participants.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to North says:

        Back in the 1970’s, Don Novello wrote “The Lazlo Letters” and, if I recall correctly, opened the book with a story about how he was working for a particular department in a particular company that was Right-Sized after getting a minuscule number of letters. Something like one or two.

        And he turned that into a comedy bit where he’d write various luminaries (the president, the vice-president, James Kilpatrick) and offer crazy advice and jokes to use on the campaign trail. Of course, after the book was printed (in 1977) it became a *HUGE* best-seller and then *EVERYBODY* started writing the White House.

        But anyway… apparently large corporations took those letters very, very seriously. One letter represented X thousands of people, so the formula went.Report

  18. Jesse says:

    “Cancel culture” has always existed, especially in times of great social change.

    For instance, think of the change in office culture from the late 50’s to the early 80’s.

    I’m sure there were plenty of bosses, who were well-meaning, but screwed up when it came to the changing mores, when it came to a workforce that was less white and less male, and either ended up not getting a promotion, or in some cases, even fired, even though what they had said was perfectly OK to say in 1962, but it got them fired in 1979.

    That was ‘cancel culture’, but the difference is in 1979, that same person couldn’t write an article in Quillette about it was proof that free speech was dead.

    The actual reality is that in times of great social change, some eggs will get cracked, and honestly, OK. Obviously, we should have a wide ranging social welfare system to help people, but you’re never going to have social change without some mistakes being made. It’s just today, we can see every mistake that happens when it comes to social changes, and think it’s proof that actually, this social change is happening way too quickly, and these damn hippies – I mean SJW’s are destroying society.

    Also, as I always like to note, exponentially more people have been canceled, even in the past couple years, for asking their boss to pay them according to the law, or allow them to have the breaks they’re legally allowed to have, or attempting to begin to organize a union. Including women and minorities.

    But for some reason, the story of a Target clerk suddenly having their hours cut, or getting the worst shifts after mentioning the idea of a union within earshot of a boss doesn’t get as much play with centrists and conservatives, for some reason.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Jesse says:

      To add to this, was it cancel culture when folks could (can?) be fired simply for being gay? Was it CC when BIPOC and women could be denied jobs or promotions on account of their race and gender? Was it CC when Jews were denied access to certain country clubs? Is it CC when folks don’t get hired because of questions about “culture” and “fit” with a wink and a nod?Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:


        Was that good?

        Was that a good time, something we should try to bring back?

        Was that an attitude we should encourage and emulate?Report

        • Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Firing people for being assholes is not emulating refusing to hire people for being Black, gay, female, etc.

          Unless, of course, you think there is something asshole-y about being Black, gay, female, etc. Do you?Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

            Brother, you might want to think twice about normalizing the idea that “we fired him because he was an asshole” is an acceptable defense to charges that You Fired Him Because He Was Black.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to DensityDuck says:

              We fired him. Yes, he was black, but he was also an asshole, and that is why we fired him.Report

              • CJColucci in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Exactly. “We fired him because he was an asshole” is an entirely appropriate, indeed normal, defense to a claim that “You fired him because he was black.” At any given time I will have on my docket a couple of such cases. The proof problems can be tricky, but we often win them, usually because the plaintiff is, in fact, an asshole, and makes it apparent.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to CJColucci says:

                How do you handle the subjective? One persons asshole is anothers driven/blunt/painfully honest employee?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                This gives a great deal of power to Karen.Report

              • CJColucci in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                All I can say is that entire professions have developed around doing just that and do it with a fair degree of success. Besides, the “asshole” defense can be established either by: (a) showing that the employer was motivated by the sincere but admittedly subjective belief that the employee was an asshole, whether correct or not, rather than race/sex/sexuality; or (b) establishing to the admittedly subjective satisfaction of the jury that the employee is, in fact, an asshole. Employees cooperate with the second strategy remarkably often.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to CJColucci says:

                “Employees cooperate with the second strategy remarkably often.”

                I imagine they would.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:

              I’m confused… you don’t think employers should be able to fire people for being assholes?Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

                Were they fired for being gay? No, they were fired for being an asshole.
                Were they fired for being black? No, they were fired for being an asshole.
                Were they fired for being female? No, they were fired for being an asshole.

                And if it seems like all the assholes who get fired are black or gay or female, well. You’ve got some problem with a private company choosing who it can associate with?Report

              • CJColucci in reply to DensityDuck says:

                People can be fired for being assholes. They can’t — no matter how much certain folks here and elsewhere regret it — fire them for being gay, black, or female. Now, nobody is required to accept at face value the “asshole” explanation, just as nobody is required to accept at face value the “gay/black/female” explanation. And if a disproportionate number of your supposed “asshole” firings are of gays, blacks, or females, there is good reason to disbelieve the “asshole” explanation.
                All of this is elementary-level stuff to anyone who has been around the block a time or two and can tie his own shoes. Even you probably know it.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to CJColucci says:

                “if a disproportionate number of your supposed “asshole” firings are of gays, blacks, or females, there is good reason to disbelieve the “asshole” explanation.”

                aaaaand there it is. Thanks for playing, everybody, good night!Report

              • CJColucci in reply to DensityDuck says:

                DD, this is dense even for you. You start out making the flat-out-wrong assertion that there is something abnormal about defending against a claim of discrimination on a legally-prohibited ground like race, sex, or sexuality by denying that that’s why you did it and saying that you did it because the former employee was an asshole, which is a legally-sound defense, extremely common in practice, and frequently successful.
                Do you actually dispute that the defense is legally sound and common and successful in practice? No, you don’t.
                Then you suggest that people making the “asshole” defense often lie. Indeed they do. Who ever said otherwise? Assholes claiming discrimination on legally-forbidden grounds often lie too. Disputes about who is telling the truth are what makes lawsuits. Nobody has to believe anybody.
                Then you make the obvious point that if too many of your “asshole” firings are black/gay/female, the “asshole” claim might not be believed. Indeed it may not. And nobody thinks otherwise. At least if they think at all.
                You’ve managed to prove that you can tie your own shoes. Congratulations.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to CJColucci says:

                It is enormously amusing watching you expend so much effort arguing that we can, e.g., refuse to bake a cake for someone so long as we say “he’s an asshole” and not “he’s a gay asshole”.Report

              • CJColucci in reply to DensityDuck says:

                You’re welcome, but it’s no effort at all. Simply recognition of the right lie to tell. You’d probably be surprised to see how many litigants tell the wrong lies because they don’t know the right ones. I have a case right now that we’re going to win because the plaintiff doesn’t know the right lies to tell and, therefore, has committed himself to a story that, even if true, wouldn’t entitle him to win. But you might be gratified — or maybe you wouldn’t be — to see how often telling the “right lie” doesn’t work.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to CJColucci says:

                gotta say, bro, “you can get away with discrimination so long as you tell the right lies, and that’s just how the world works” was not the line I expected to hear from the principled intellectual liberal side of the tableReport

              • CJColucci in reply to DensityDuck says:

                You have a problem distinguishing between describing facts about the world and expressing approval of them. Do you disagree with my description? Not that I can see. If it makes you feel better, though, it’s not enough to tell the right lies, you have to make people believe them. That isn’t easy.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Jesse says:

      “[T]he story of a Target clerk suddenly having their hours cut, or getting the worst shifts after mentioning the idea of a union within earshot of a boss doesn’t get as much play with centrists and conservatives…”

      It’s surprising how you’re not citing Emmanuel Cafferty here. That really says something to me, that you wrote this whole post and didn’t once mention his name.Report

      • CJColucci in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Cafferty’s case is now where it belongs, in the legal system, and we will probably get a fuller account of why Cafferty was fired. Most, though not all, of the public commentary simply assumes that Cafferty’s own account is accurate. His employer, however, has cited other reasons, including, for example, being somewhere in his work truck that he shouldn’t have been — at a demonstration where the power company had no business reason to send anyone.
        Who is telling the truth? Who knows? Maybe we’ll find out relatively soon. At the moment, we haven’t much to go on. To some of us, that would be reason not to make him Exhibit A for anything just yet.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

          Man, that “people are going to have opinions” thing didn’t last as long as I thought it would.Report

          • CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

            Huh? Of course some people are going to have opinions, which is their right. And there are actual facts, some known, most, at this point, unknown — at least to the people so eager to have opinions. Others are willing to wait. The value of an early hot take is, in my view, much overrated, but others may differ.
            If you are aware of some facts other than what Cafferty says he was fired for, go ahead and enlighten us. Or don’t, since it’s just people spouting opinions. And, in some views of the matter, facts are irrelevant.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

            …I gotta say, “where there’s smoke there’s fire and I’m sure they wouldn’t have done that without a good reason” was not the pushback I was expecting on this particular example.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

              Who gets the “THIS IS A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE!” treatment?

              Who gets the “well, you have to understand…” treatment?


              • CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

                Jaybird, I know that as a high-volume hot-take contrarian you have to have opinions on all sorts of things you don’t actually know much about, and, therefore, have to work with a small set of all-purpose tools, but, as the saying goes, to a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
                The basic facts of the Cafferty case are disputed, and, as far as I can tell, you don’t have any special insight into what really happened. To some of us, what really happened matters, and that is likely to get hashed out in the near future. Once we have a better handle on what really happened, those of us who care about such things will be in a position to bloviate somewhat responsibly. There’s no “principle” or “well, you have to understand” at stake yet.
                But some folks aren’t willing to wait. Fine, but if you want to use something as Exhibit A, and no one knows what the Exhibit actually says, you take your chances that it won’t read the way you think it reads.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

                I agree that we don’t have any special insight into what really happened.

                Indeed, this is true for damn near everything. Everything!

                Which is why I’m stuck using my small set of all-purpose tools like looking at what happened from my little dinky perspective all the way over there and asking:

                Who gets the “THIS IS A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE!” treatment?

                Who gets the “well, you have to understand…” treatment?Report

              • CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

                How do you propose to answer those two questions without knowing the basic facts of the matter? The “treatment” he should get depends on what’s true.
                Is there a matter of principle? Depends on why he was fired, which may well come out in the wash but is not known yet. You can ask the hypothetical question whether he should have been fired if his account of what happened is true (hypothetical answer, no), but that’s about it. How do you ask the real-world question without real–world facts?
                What’s hard about this?Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to CJColucci says:

                “The basic facts of the Cafferty case are disputed”

                You know, you keep saying this, and maybe you could give us a link for that instead of just…saying it again?Report

              • CJColucci in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Yes, I keep saying it. Do you deny it? It took me less than five minutes to find accounts of what the employer had to say, and I have lousy tech skills. It shouldn’t take you anywhere near as long.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

                This is why you keep the “whatever lie you can get away with” card hidden.Report

              • CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

                Hidden? DD played the “lie” card as if it were some new insight into human nature that I hadn’t heard, though I’m pretty sure Homer and the Old Testament said some trenchant things about it. I simply agreed with this descriptive fact about the world. Do you disagree?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

                With the amount of complexity for the firing? At this point, let’s say “yes” but leave wiggle room for when you provide evidence otherwise.Report

              • CJColucci in reply to DensityDuck says:

                As it happens, your comment appears directly above a previous one pointing out your recurring reading comprehension problem. Nice to see the point documented again.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

                I’ve had opening and closing arguments explained to me like this.

                The prosecution gets up there and says “the guy’s guilty, we’re going to prove he’s guilty. Here’s an emotional appeal.”

                The defense gets up there and says “our guy’s not guilty, the prosecution has to prove that he’s guilty and they’re not going to do it. Here’s an emotional appeal.”

                Then they show evidence. Or don’t show evidence. Maybe they’ll say that it’s the other guy’s job to show evidence! Maybe they’ll just say that the world is complicated.

                Then, at the end, they’ll have closing arguments.

                The prosecution gets up there and says “the guy’s guilty, and we proved that he’s guilty. Here’s an emotional appeal.”

                The defense gets up there and says “our guy’s not guilty, the prosecution has to prove that he’s guilty and they didn’t do it. Here’s an emotional appeal.”

                You can say whatever you want in the opening and closing arguments.

                The rules are different than the stuff relating to evidence for or against any given proposition.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to CJColucci says:

                If you honestly think that there’s a Real Story and it is “the guy’s a racist and he drives around town in his company truck looking for BLM protests to make the “OK” sign at”, well. I guess there’s not much I can say in reply to that.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to DensityDuck says:

                If I am reading CJs point correctly, it’s not that he thinks Cafferty is necessarily a racist, but that he wasn’t fired solely based upon a social media post blowing up. Rather, there were other issues at play that made the company want to fire him, and the post was the just the final nail in that particular coffin.

                Personally, I think the company panicked, fired him for the post, and is now playing CYA with whatever thin bits they can.

                We’ll see what a court has to say.Report

              • CJColucci in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Oscar, you may be right about what eventually comes out. I’m happy to wait and see. But then, I’m not the one making Cafferty Exhibit A for some proposition or other.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                “there were other issues at play that made the company want to fire him”

                If there were other issues then the company would have listed them, and they did not.

                “If I am reading CJs point correctly…”

                I think what’s weirding me out about this is that CJColucci genuinely does not seem like the sort of person who would say “well there’s two sides to every story and I’m sure there must have been a reason and let’s just wait for all the facts” and all the usual stuff that racists say to justify a nonwhite person being kicked out of a job. Like, I want to unpack that a bit here. But I dunno. He seems more like he wants to be the Boomer On The Internet, auditioning for BlaiseP’s old job.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to DensityDuck says:

                If there were other issues then the company would have listed them, and they did not.

                They did (something about not being able to justify why his truck was at point A, where it had no business being, and within the probationary period). Strikes me as post hoc CYA, because companies rarely make a fuss about where a fleet vehicle is and when unless it’s wildly outside the service area, or significantly overdue at the next service location.

                My bet is that is what the company is going to say. Cafferty was a probationary employee and his vehicle was outside the service area or overdue, or they are going to fall back on his ‘unreported interaction with a member of the public’.

                Which all seems thin to me, especially in CA. But IANAL for CA employment law, so I have no idea if that is much of a legal leg.Report

              • CJColucci in reply to DensityDuck says:

                There are, at a minimum, two sides to every story. One or more of them is likely to be false, sometimes because of a deliberate lie and sometimes because of misperception. I spend much of my working life trying to sort out conflicting stories about why someone was fired, or disciplined, or not hired. It isn’t that “there must have been a reason,” except in the trivial sense that there’s always a reason; it’s what the reason is. Often, it is what the aggrieved party says it is; often, it isn’t.

                Let’s remember how this started. In response to Jesse’s comment, you said:
                It’s surprising how you’re not citing Emmanuel Cafferty here. That really says something to me, that you wrote this whole post and didn’t once mention his name.
                You made Cafferty the poster boy for whatever point you were trying to make, which isn’t always easy to determine. Now, maybe Cafferty is right about what happened, and if he is then his firing is pretty clearly unjust. I’ve said as much and I don’t think anyone disagrees.
                His employer says he isn’t, and that he was fired for other reasons. Nobody has to believe that story. It could be a lie. I’ve worked on those kinds of cases probably longer than you have been alive, so I don’t need to be told that people lie about this stuff. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t have a job.
                But at this point, most of what we have is Cafferty’s account. There is a lot of commentary, but damn little factual reporting. Employers don’t usually lay out their reasons in detail in the press; they save them for the inevitable lawsuit.
                So what is the state of play? Everyone seems to agree that if what Cafferty says is true, his firing was unjust. We know that the employer says it isn’t true and has given a rather cursory account of what it claims to be the actual reasons. There is now a legal proceeding in which the conflicting stories can be hashed out.
                If Cafferty is right, he’s an example of cancel culture. If he isn’t, he isn’t. You can believe what you want, but given the currently available information, you’re just making a bet. Nobody else has to play. Jesse didn’t want to and neither do I. Why is this hard to understand?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

                Who gets the “THIS IS A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE!” treatment?

                Who gets the “well, you have to understand…” treatment?


              • CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

                Whoever deserves it depending on what the facts of the matter are.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

                “the facts of the matter”

                Hey, CJ. It’s whatever lie you can get away with, remember?Report

              • CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

                What I remember is certain facts about the world. Liars often get away with it. You don’t deny that fact about the world, do you? I also remember the difference between a descriptive and a normative statement. You used to. What changed?
                Normatively, I spend an enormous amount of my working life trying to make sure that liars don’t get away with it, with fair success. Not complete success. The world is a tough place. Determining and proving that a liar is lying is hard work, and not always successful, but the struggle continues.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

                I spend an enormous amount of my working life trying to make sure that liars don’t get away with it, with fair success.

                I suppose, in your free time, it makes sense to see how the other half lives and point out that the corporation could very easily have a point here, I’m sure.

                Not even that it’s been demonstrated that they do.

                That they *COULD*! And we’re not giving them a fair shake!Report

              • CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

                You’re not even trying anymore.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

                Because I’ve already posted my evidence and you merely have said that your evidence is out there, if we wanted to google it.Report

              • CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

                Evidence? What “evidence” did you post? You already admitted you don’t have any that anyone else doesn’t have. I told DD that accounts of the the employer’s side of the story existed and he could find them easily. And he did. And he posted what he easily found. Seems like a reasonable division of labor. He couldn’t read what he linked to, of course, but that’s a different problem.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to CJColucci says:

                If Cafferty is right, he’s an example of cancel culture.

                I think we can make the case that Cafferty is an example of cancel culture, in that, if the white guy hadn’t posted the image and made the claim he did, Cafferty may have still gotten fired, but none of us would know his name, nor would his firing have been newsworthy, and chances are that (absent a poor work history) he would have found another job.

                The fact that he has suffered negative impacts after he was put on blast for an innocent hand positioning is enough for me to say he was cancelled unjustly.

                The only question the lawsuit will answer was whether or not his employer was wrong to fire him.Report

              • CJColucci in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                That’s a reasonable point.Report

              • CJColucci in reply to DensityDuck says:

                If you think I have taken any position whatsoever about what the “Real Story” is, other than that there is a Real Story that we might eventually learn and that most of what we now have is Cafferty’s version, you just can’t read. But we’ve been over that.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to CJColucci says:

                Bro, if you want to argue this strongly that there’s an obligation, as intelligent persons, to Just Ask Questions and Just Get The Whole Story and Not Jump To Conclusions about a not-white guy getting fired because a white guy felt threatened by him…then I guess I won’t stop you.Report

              • CJColucci in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Mighty white of you.Report

            • CJColucci in reply to DensityDuck says:

              And it’s not what you got, DD. Remedial Reading meets in Room 107.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to CJColucci says:

          I will be interested in hearing about the other reasons. I’ve seen (as I am sure you have as well) cases were someone was fired for a BS reason, and when the lawsuit came down, the employer suddenly had a whole raft of documented minor crap that was normally tolerated amongst the workforce*, except in this case.

          *For example, having a truck at a demonstration is wrong, but no one cares, as long as the mileage log is not too far out of whack, or the demonstration was between the last job and the next one. So it doesn’t get you written up or fired, but it’s logged, just in case.Report

      • InMD in reply to DensityDuck says:

        He does not and indeed cannot exist. And if for some inexplicable reason he does exist, he is undoubtedly a very bad person.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Jesse says:

      “Cancel culture” has always existed, especially in times of great social change.

      I think that the “great social change” thing might be tied to the whole “matter of taste/matter of morality” thing.

      A lot of “woke” takes are asserting a new morality in an area where it didn’t used to be one.

      Let’s use an uncontroversial example to make it easy.

      Did you know that eating mayonnaise is immoral? Well, it is. One of the primary ingredients in mayo is eggs. Here is a short film describing factory farming in the US. Here is another short film talking about Purdue Farms. Here is a biologist talking about the central nervous systems that chickens have. Here is a discussion of the ethics involved in deliberately causing pain. Here is a discussion of global warming. Here is a timeline of the temperature of the earth overlapping with a log-adjusted timeline of the number of chickens on the earth.

      You should stop eating mayonnaise.

      I recommend Primal Kitchen’s Vegan Avocado-based Mayonnaise. It’s better for your heart, it’s better for the earth, it’s better for your soul.

      Because eating mayo is immoral.

      Now, if you’re like me, you’re flashing back to the vegans you had arguments with in college.

      This one guy, explained to me that one of his teachers had a teacher that explained that *HIS* teacher stopped eating food entirely. He was able to sustain himself off of the energy of the universe.

      I asked “so those starving kids in Ethiopia were just thinking about things wrong?”

      His jaw dropped and he said that he never thought about it that way before but maybe.

      NO!, I wanted to scream. THAT WAS A REDUCTIO!

      Anyway, the argument that he and I were having were one where we had completely different moral assumptions about the universe we live in.

      Even now, as someone who prefers to not eat mayonnaise and uses mustard on his own sandwiches, I, myself, do not see the eating of mayo, even eggy mayo, as a matter of morality. It’s a matter of taste. It’s okay if you put mayo on your sandwich.

      It’s okay if you put mayo on your *CHICKEN* sandwich.

      But when I find myself in debates with vegans in my middle age (rarer and rarer), I know, going into it, that it’s a moral argument that I’m in. I know how to navigate a moral argument. I also know some of the big warning signs that I’m now in a moral argument (when I may have not had reason to think that I was in one earlier in the conversation).

      There are quite a few people out there who don’t know how to have conversations about moral topics with people who do not share a majority of assumptions. A Methodist and a Babtist can probably have an argument about the importance of being babtized inside versus outside while both know that immersion is superior to sprinkling.

      But this new great social change that descends upon us makes a lot of moral assumptions that aren’t shared.

      And those conversations rarely go well. Even worse when people don’t notice that they’re smack dab in the middle of one.Report

      • Dark Matter in reply to Jaybird says:

        A lot of “woke” takes are asserting a new morality in an area where it didn’t used to be one.

        Some of this is power seeking, especially if there’s a way to monetize that.
        Some of this is virtue signaling, I’m more holy than you.
        Some of this is echo chamber enhancement, every group from the anti-vac’cers on up can find and organize their true believers.

        The thing about morality is it’s a tool to bring the hammer down on the indifferent. Everyone will virtue signal or they’ll be punished.

        Big picture a lot of this seems technologically driven so it’s not going away.Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to North says:

      I’ll read it… but as he says, it’s not for me. My interest is in what the people it’s for think of it… is there a prediction market for that set-up? I have some wagers I’d like to place.Report

      • North in reply to Marchmaine says:

        I think calling the level of wokeness he’s talking about a religion feels overdetermined* to me, at least currently, but I’d readily acknowledge the issues he complains about are real on the far left.

        *Wokeness is too incoherent and too prone to shape shifting to parse as a religion in my mind.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to North says:

          “*Wokeness is too incoherent and too prone to shape shifting to parse as a religion in my mind.”

          So, sorta like Christianity?Report

          • North in reply to Stillwater says:

            Maybe Christianity in its weird pre-organized religion state? Oh! Proto-christianity but obviously without Christ or forgiveness and if all the disciples and those who came after them had twitter.Report

        • InMD in reply to North says:

          I’m not sure you’re even his target audience given your stated skepticism on whatever we’re calling this sort of thing. Whether it could actually convince anyone on the ‘woke sympathetic’ spectrum he mentions remains to be seen but strikes me as unlikey.

          The real way to see it off is via local school boards and making it clear to corporate America that no one actually cares (because really, no one actually cares).

          Universities are probably too far gone to self correct but over time donor interest may create an incentive.Report

          • pillsy in reply to InMD says:

            Entangling his critique (which makes some good points) with the (quite weak) argument that “Third Wave Anti-Racism” is a religion is a very poor rhetorical strategy. I don’t think I’m the only reader who’s going to take it as an invitation to argue over whether TWAR is a religion instead of arguing over whether TWAR is nonsense.

            (Also it’s likely to needlessly alienate any members of his target audience who are religious.)Report

            • North in reply to pillsy says:

              It feels, a little, like he’s thinking “Oh all lefties hate religion so maybe saying TWAR is like a religion might make them stop and really consider it.”Report

            • InMD in reply to pillsy says:

              I’ve read a number of his pieces where he makes the comparison and agree it’s weak. I see what he’s getting at in the sense that it encourages groups of people to go all Crucible on one another, and yes, there are many historical examples of fanatical religious beliefs inspiring similar behavior. But it’s hardly limited to religion. The Crucible is in our cultural lexicon because of McCarthyism (which I get had a fear of Godless communism component but no one would say it was a religion).Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to North says:

          Sure… I’m on the sidelines thinking he’s getting his catholic/protestant religious metaphors mixed, and in order to succeed, he’s kinda burning a potential ally in Christians by making his victory condition the recognition of the absurdity of Religious thinking… so, well… good luck storming the castle.

          But, I will note that certain things… like w-r-d-s we can’t say, write, or think are definitely a weird modern Blasphemy taboo. Blasphemy without sacredness. A twisted Blasphemy.Report

          • InMD in reply to Marchmaine says:

            This may be my latent Catholicism speaking but I’ve always been under tbe impression that Catholics (and many mainline Protestants) reject this sort of thinking out of hand. Those Christians that do subscribe to things like it are already getting the itch scratched elsewhere. Probably in a far more satisfying way actually.

            But I get why he’d say what he’s saying given the need to distance himself from people who might cause his intended audience to infer guilt by association.Report

            • Marchmaine in reply to InMD says:

              On the one hand I take your (and his) point… I’m not suggesting he’s playing up some sort of “Fox-Watching-Red-State-Evangelical” grievance angle… more that the deconstruction of a false religion would benefit from religious wisdom. But on the other hand, that’s not his angle.Report

    • pillsy in reply to North says:

      I’m really not feeling the “religion” part. The kinds of internal contradictions McWhorter points to are practically the bread and butter of politics, much more so than they are of religion. The same goes for people who have a political ideology deciding that they are, you know, especially correct and good for having that ideology and even being smug dicks about it.

      On top of that, the people McWhorter describes as “The Elect” seem to be getting a much thinner bundle of benefits than religious adherents do.

      He says that one of the most likely rejoinders is to argue what he’s describing isn’t a religion, but that doesn’t make what he’s describing a religion.Report

      • North in reply to pillsy says:

        Yeah I’m thinking throwing the religion argument into it just adds more heat.Report

      • InMD in reply to pillsy says:

        I think this is right. The clearer culprit seems to me to be the same flawed/illogial thinking that plagues humans in all kinds of areas and endeavors. Begging the question fallacy. Bad inferences of causation from correlation. Poor interpretation of data. Motivated reasoning and deductive thinking. Social pressure and going along to get along. Irrational deference to authority. The usual junk that keeps us from the greater things we might be capable of as a species.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to pillsy says:

        “He’s not using the right words to describe this phenomenon” is a good criticism.

        But I’d like to know what the proper terms for the phenomenon is because I’d seriously like to criticize the phenomenon and if we’re not allowed to discuss it until we name it and we’re not allowed to name it…

        Well, that means that we’re not allowed to discuss it.

        Which has all-too-much overlap with religion.Report

        • InMD in reply to Jaybird says:

          I actually think trying to name it is to play the game. You can name it, they can deconstruct it, and you and your motives too.

          The best and most coherent counterpoints are the ones that illustrate the weak reasoning behind the actions in question. Contra Veronica’s comment below I think the strongest part of McWhorter’s essay is where he breaks down the various contradictions that many people intuitively grok even if they might struggle to articulate them in a clear and concise way.

          It’s one thing to paper over this stuff in academic writing but another entirely to try and explain to the average person how they’re supposed to live their lives this way. That’s where it gets exposed as what it is in practice, a moving target designed to to reach a particular outcome (i.e. the person on the receiving end loses), not a coherent moral framework or way of looking at the world. That’s why it can only thrive in hot house environments like universities or outside of them by virtue of bureaucratic fiat.Report

        • pillsy in reply to Jaybird says:

          Not sure what problem you’re trying to solve, but McWhorter says he’s trying to dissuade people who are sympathetic to TWAR (without being really invested in it). Describing TWAR as a religion doesn’t help with that.

          Indeed, making sociological observations about TWAR seems a lot less useful than actually engaging with it substantively and pointing out problems. McWhorter at least tries to do that, and lands a few hits along with some misses. But the whole “religion” angle is guaranteed to be a miss because it’s not even taking a shot.Report

    • veronica d in reply to North says:

      There are a number of fairly obvious strawmen in that article. For example, it’s not the case that “whites can never understand blacks.” Sure, human empathy exists. People can relate to other people, even across racial divides. That said, people who lack an experience will have to work harder to fully relate to that experience. Moreover, understanding the experiences of others often requires a certain humility, which is at odds with the “know-it-all debate-bro” approach to public discourse.

      The problem that many minorities face is when people in power presume to understand us, but do not. Because they are in power, and we are not, their narrative of our lives becomes widely believed, whereas the truth about our lives is ignored. This actually happens. It’s not an illusion. It’s not a hypothetical. It has consequences that often hurt us, but do not hurt those in power. It’s a matter of stakes.

      An obvious example is this. Imagine sitting at a table with two guys. One is a Marine veteran who served in Iraq. The other is a twenty-something gamer bro who plays a lot of Call of Duty. Imagine if the gamer bro began to literally lecture the veteran over what combat was really like. Imagine if he kept talking about “the shit” while speaking over any attempt the Marine makes to share their experience.

      That’s pretty cringe, right? Sure. However, now imagine if gamer bro is put in charge of the Veterans Administration. Moreover, imagine if he and people like him get to make deeply personal choices for the Marine while ignoring anything the Marine has to say. That would kind of suck. I hope everyone can see that.

      It’s not that the gamer bro couldn’t possibly understand the Marine. It’s that he largely doesn’t bother. He doesn’t need to. Moreover, what power does the Marine have to make him understand, or at least avoid the consequences of his lack of understanding?

      This is what it’s like to be trans. It’s not that cis people can’t understand us. It’s that they manifestly do not, nor do they feel they need to, particularly when they publish grossly misinformed articles constructed to reduce us.

      Thus the general rule is this: listen to minorities themselves to gain understanding. Do not listen to those who presume to speak for us.

      The problems with this policy are obvious. Not all minorities agree with each other. Thus you will still have to listen critically. This is why I suggest people who want to understand trans folks listen to (for example) Katherine Cross or Julia Serano, not some random narcissist on Twitter. Likewise, not every combat veteran is worth listening to. However, if you want to understand the experiences of combat veterans, don’t listen to the “Call of Duty bro.”

      If you ask me what combat is like, I will respond “ask a veteran.” Like, duh.

      Moreover, what do you do when minorities disagree? For example, elsewhere under this post I mentioned “reclaiming slurs.” Obviously there is disagreement. Among trans people, there is a white-hot fiery debate over whether or not we should reclaim terms like “tr-nny” or “trap.” Honestly, the discourse around it gets really stupid really fast. However, for a cis person, it’s easy to just not use slurs. After all, do you really need to wade into that debate? Do you have anything constructive to add? Are you so filled with self importance that you think trans folks really need your input? After all, there are millions of us. Some of us are quite smart — while sadly quite a few are batshit idiots. But still, we have enough bullshit to deal with. Arrogant and ignorant cis people barging into our debates doesn’t help.

      Why does McWhorter present such an unfair and reductive version of this tension? His essay feels far more like polemic than an attempt to understand.Report

      • North in reply to veronica d says:

        I do get it, if one has been following the debates about this for a decade or more the intellectual roots of this whole line of criticism do seem to obviously track back to the whole “if you treat gays as human beings next thing, we’ll have dog marriage and forcing prepubescent kids into sex slavery” line of fake argumentation. It is like the whole right wing freak out over identity politics has normally felt, to me, like a desperate rear-guard attempt to jujitsu themselves back into power.
        “These left-wing nuts are absolutely bugfish crazy and they represent the entirety of liberalism so now you need to join with us and oppose SSM and accept Jesus as your personal savior” Umm yeah dude it doesn’t work that way, like at all.

        And yet I can’t shake the creeping apprehension that there’s something there under it. I mean we can see a LOT of performative identarianism that prances way over the line into genuine bugfish crazy territory and we can see a lot of left-wing institutions that seem to be embracing this line of thinking and then, accordingly, doing stuff that just seems so bugfish stupid; so designed to prompt a backlash either from the masses or, worse, from the generation that comes after them.Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to North says:

          The anti-gay aspect of the religious right has always hit my radar as them needing a safe enemy to rally against. Something to give them power, influence, and a white hat.

          There are aspects of that in the cancel culture. “By denouncing X, I will gain power and show my worth to society!”.

          Of course if you’re seeking power that way, you need to be one of the more extreme voices. The one who throws the stone which causes the avalanche.Report

          • North in reply to Dark Matter says:

            Hmmm that’s an interesting point of view but I do honestly believe the religious right are sincere in their anti-gay positions; not just using it as an excuse to try and seize secular power for themselves. They just refuse to face up to the fact that gay people won’t/can’t just vanish into nothing or turn straight. Over and over during the SSM debate the religious right were confronted with “If not SSM then WHAT?” and they’d shrug and say they didn’t know but whatever that answer was- SSM was not it. I think they lost not just the younger generations but also the older ones on that answer. LGBT people are sprinkled throughout the population. Once they started coming out just about everyone started to be related to or know one. “I dunno, disappear or turn straight now please, praise Jesus.” Couldn’t cut it when you were talking about someone’s son/daughter/brother/sister/cousin/friend/coworker instead of an abstract other.Report

            • Dark Matter in reply to North says:

              Any time someone says “God wants” that translates into English as either “I want” or “My leader has said”.

              Leaders that quit because they realise they’re being unethical cease to matter so there’s an evolutionary thing here.

              In order to survive, they need to find a way to stay relevant. That the gays wouldn’t/couldn’t go straight was a feature, not a flaw for this sort of thing.

              And yes agreed, while gays were in the closet they were effectively such a tiny minority that it could be an abstract thing. They’re too numerous now for that to work.

              So I predict we’ll see god find some flaw with something else.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Dark Matter says:

                It ain’t that difficult to switch it over to “sexual immorality” and just redefine it as sex without pair-bonding/enthusiastic consent.

                You can even get 20% of the Woke on board with this until the other 80% realize that this is an opportunity to argue that “pan is the only ethical sexuality” or something.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Jaybird says:

                It ain’t that difficult to switch it over to “sexual immorality” and just redefine it as sex without pair-bonding/enthusiastic consent.

                Anti-gay/abortion is “other people’s sex lives”, i.e. “they are being immoral, let’s fight them”. That’s exclusive by design and designed to give your followers some tiny minority to fight.

                Your suggested argument is very inclusive, i.e. “our sex lives”.Report

        • pillsy in reply to North says:

          1. There are multiple premises here. Some are more defensible than others. It seems like a lot of the worst problems come when people carelessly conflate “speech” and “violence”, which is both illiberal and foolish in its own right.

          2. Having the correct premises are no guarantee that one will act appropriately.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to North says:

      McWhorter’s essay seems to take it as a given that the overheated rhetoric of a few college Twitters represents a wave taking over our culture, and I just don’t see it.

      His list of oppositions, also, could just as easily be written about any set of social etiquette or norms; e.g. “You must offer a gift, but do not insist; however, if it is offered to you, you must decline” etc.

      In other words, any set of simple rules for the social interaction of people is always going to contain puzzling contradictions and logic errors. Anyone attempting to write simple prescriptive rules for how to be anti-racist is foolish.

      The real test of his essay, (and I would say most criticisms of “Political Correctness”, or “Cancel Culture” or “Social Justice” or “Wokeness” as well) is to try and imagine what the opposite would be.

      What would a non-Woke, non-Cancel culture look like?
      How would it be different than how we live now?
      Would it look like things did a few decades ago?
      Or would it look unlike anything we have experienced?Report

      • North in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        Believe me I want to join you in dismissing this kind of identity politics as an exclusively twitter based phenomena of left-wing masturbation but it is out of twitter and manifests in the real world: it does seem to be wreaking some genuine damage in media institutions. Identity ideology does appear to be doing some genuine damage to educational institutions and it seems to be having a pernicious and effect in a lot of elite cultural intuitions. I used to happily say this kind of identity politics was strictly an academy issue but it’s definitely escaped from the academy though it certainly isn’t exactly flourishing everywhere- mainly stagnant hyper liberal elite institutions where people have more money than common sense (museums, the art world) or where there’s a serious economic fundamental economic problem and the individual participants are desperate to try and differentiate themselves to fight for a shrinking pie (journalism, universities).

        I leave corporate America out of it because, right wing bleating notwithstanding, I don’t think there’s much genuine identity politics romping around in it. Yes, they have courses about identity politics and they have critical race theory seminars but that’s all just fluff and window dressing. Unless you’re trying to find something to be offended about you just sort of sit through it with glazed eyes like any of the other innumerable nostrum’s corporations push so they can say they push it.
        And part of what’s frustrating is that identity politics as the right wingers push it encompasses so fishing much ground. It’s, like, the perfect mote and baily construct:
        -Let’s persecute whiteness the way whites persecute blackness! Entire fields of study and science are structurally racist and should be abolished!
        Umm what?
        -Oh, what are you complaining about? We’re just observing that minorities have suffered in America and that suffering has real-life present-day implications that we should discuss addressing.Report

      • InMD in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        It would look like the boring, ongoing work of liberal humanism where no one gets to wear the horns of power and self-righteously piss on the heads of their vanquished foes, even when it’s deserved, but especially when it isn’t.Report

  19. Jaybird says:

    Relevant tweet that is talking about the Trump Impeachment (I assume) but fits here too:


Discover more from Ordinary Times

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue Reading