, 11.03.2019 08:59 AM

“Our culture is dying because we have no capacity for forgiveness or discussion.”

Cancel culture, so-called, interests me. Two reasons.

First reason: Barack Obama decried it recently, and what he said made a lot of sense. Here’s part of what he said:

“This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically ‘woke’ and all that stuff. You should get over that quickly. The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids. And share certain things with you.

The way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people and that’s enough. That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far. That’s easy to do.”

Second reason: I’ve been “cancelled,” a bit. Someone broke into our files at the office, and stole some material. What they stole has found its way into the hands of others – mainly a reporter in Ottawa – who, inter alia, has sought to depict a gang of racists as victims, and demonize us for helping a group pro bono. Cancellers thereafter got to work.

It’s been weird, to say the least. I had more than 42,000 followers on Twitter, but I turned that off. I had thousands on three different Facebook platforms, too, but I logged out of those. You could say I self-cancelled, I guess. The invitations to kill myself got to be a bit much, so, bye. See ya.

Cancellation often happens because someone is seen as insufficiently ideologically pure. Sometimes, however, it happens because some people just dislike you, or disagree with you, and they want you to bleed.

This lengthy New York Times piece on cancellation mainly focusses on people who have been cancelled for ideological reasons. Quillette’s Jonathan Kay makes an appearance in there, too.

(Disclosure: Kay used to be my editor at the National Post, and – if nothing else – he’s always been pretty absolutist when it comes to speech issues. We weren’t buddies, to say the least, but he was right when he years ago said to me that the orthodoxy of progressives would – like a snake – one day start to consume itself.)

Anyway. Here’s some snippets from the Times piece. It’s a fascinating read.

“…The term for people who have been thrust out of social or professional circles in this way — either online or in the real world or sometimes both — is “canceled.”

…Readers want to hear from the canceled, but the larger motivation is philosophical. Quillette’s editorial point of view is that so-called cancel culture is overly punitive and lacks nuance. 

“When I went to law school, in the ’90s, the presumption of innocence was seen as a progressive value,” Mr. Kay said. “Because who is mostly wrongly accused of crime? Racialized minorities. Blacks, Hispanics, the poor. More often than not, it protects marginalized communities. And now the presumption of innocence is seen as a conservative value. And that troubles me.

…Cancellation does present a question about power, and who has it.

“The biggest problem we have as a culture is that we can’t define who the establishment is,” Mr. Tavana said. “Is the establishment the woke media people who own 99 percent of the keyboards in the country, or is it the old, canceled guys in media? Who’s the punk rock band and who’s the corporate rock band?”

Mr. Rubin imagines a near future where everyone is canceled for 15 minutes.

“The woke progressives are going to implode, and pretty soon they’ll destroy everything,” he said. “It’s just a matter of how much will they take down with them. They’re going to cancel Barack Obama one day, because Obama ran against gay marriage at one time.” 

Mr. Shapiro said, “Our culture is dying because we have no capacity for forgiveness or discussion.”

22 Comments

  1. Leasa Janssen says:

    There are so many voices, experienced voices, learned voices we are not allowed to hear today. We can’t think for ourselves as that will get you hurt, or piss thrown in your face. Either self ‘cancelled’ or cancelled because you have a differing view. There is something happening in this world and it’s not because of the climate. I’ve never seen the western world so divided. I’ve never seen it where crowds will knock an elderly person down for wanting to hear something they don’t agree with. We’ve been divided by race, religion, culture, geographical area and it’s all fueled by hate. Children of politicians are skewered and or become a public laughing stock of the ‘other side’, and politicians are called ‘cunts’. What happened to the heated but balanced debates I used to love? Honestly, I am almost afraid to speak my peace, because it won’t be peaceful. What is happening?

    • Fred from BC says:

      “What is happening?”

      Social media is happening.

      Every misfit and loser now has the ability to anonymously interact with thousands (or millions) of like-minded people to goad or challenge each other into ever more extreme words and actions *without fear of consequences*. Then you form a group, self-righteously declare yourselves to be, say, “anti-fascists”, then after donning black masks (very important to avoid those nasty consequences) you arm yourselves with weapons and proceed to go out and PHYSICALLY ATTACK anyone who doesn’t think, do and say exactly what as you do.

      (and when you’re not doing that, you’re online trying to bully people into killing themselves. Because, you know, that’s just good clean fun…)

    • Mike Jeffries says:

      The difficulty is there is no compass for what is true. But that is nothing new! Back in the days of Jesus who came to testify to the truth Pontius Pilate the Roman Governor at the time said “what is truth”! Walking away he portrayed what many believe today: truth is relative. It’s each to his/her own and because deep inside we really are not sure we forcefully proclaim it as if we ourselves need to be convinced.

  2. A. Voter says:

    Believing that you’re morally superior to other people is a mental illness. It’s part of a borderline personality disorder. Blogger Steve Janke, who used to be linked to the Kinsella website, had the clinical name for the condition in one of his posts. I wish I had written it down and looked into it more.
    We need to point out to the angry moral “superiors” that they need some help.

  3. Robert White says:

    Has anyone considered the possibility that North American political culture has been Balkanized by various & sundry political War Room tacticians who are advocating their own brands of political partisanship at a cost to opposition jockeying for political position?

    The bellicose buffoon will continue bellowing bluster to the cat calls of opposition punditry no matter how divisive it becomes. Obama was a unifier POTUS whereas the bellicose buffoon of bluster is a unifier of greed at the corporate level. Moreover, administrative planning is essentially all corporate planning leaving out planning for the masses of serfs that are for all intents & purposes excluded & ‘cancelled’ out of all deliberations for power & control of corporate culture that guides so-called ‘social’ culture.

    Since I was a punker in the 70s I have always thought of myself as opposition to corporatism and their mouthpieces that sew division & discontent throughout civilization.

    RW

    • Duncan Idaho says:

      Duncan Idaho Reporting from the set of DUNE (release date Nov 18, 2019).

      Dear RW,

      Balkanization, as you call it, has helped low-information-voters (LIVers) make their decision on election day (once every 365 x 4). There is a lot of complexity in governance and public policy: for example, John A MacDonald, Tommy Douglas, Bob Stanfield, John Turner/Ed Broadbent were all protectionists (read: Trump), now no serious Canadian politician is a protectionist…My point is this a complex system that LIVers (low-informatiobn voters) do not have time to engage meaningfully therefore appealing to emotive issues and branding your opponent is critical: short-handing an opponent and convincing voters to make assumptions about your opponent on the basis of a branding….thought control.

      This art form is practiced by likes of James Carville, Warren Kinsella and others.

      Obviously there is a better way but what I’m doing as an advisor to Leto Atreides is a lot more constructive. May he reign for generations!

      The act of cancelling out others is an example of where technology has modified human behaviour; you can now unfriend someone on Facebook with impunity; that gets extrapolated into the real world; as a teenager, I have no experience with anything other than this reality of ignoring a person on the playground who does not like the spice melange <-Frank Herbert is my dealer.

      CANCEL CULTURE is very do-able at a personal level: but Obama's point is long overdue; and very OBVIOUS.

      How this servers the Carville's of the World? Cancel culture is a subset of managing the LIVers (low-information-voters) into OUR CAMP. Not about corporate greed, RW, corporations contribute to GDP (wealth, prosperity, pollution). So we should perpetuate CANCEL CULTURE ideally ONLY during election periods when we need to get out our vote. Easier said then DUNE.

      Reporting live, Duncan Idaho.

  4. Peter says:

    I agree wholeheartedly, although, Warren, doesn’t this sit a little awkwardly beside your “a leopard doesn’t change its spots” post about Coren in the post below? The problem is that everybody agrees with it, but, as with cries for more civility, they only believe it is something the other side owes them while they themselves take no prisoners as they continue to pursue their noble, angry quests for social justice or freedom or whatever. Forgive my cynicism if I feel the credibility of the article is compromised by the mere fact it appeared in the New York Times.

  5. Fred from BC says:

    Hell must be freezing over.

    Barack Obama says something intelligent and the New York Times says something honest.

    (both of whom share much of the blame for the ‘cancel culture’ phenomenon themselves)

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      Fred,

      Are you suggesting that The New York Times serially lies when Barack Obama speaks, or are you suggesting something else that I’ll likely totally and emphatically disagree with?

      • Fred from BC says:

        “Are you suggesting that The New York Times serially lies”

        Yes. They’ve been caught enough times to prove it.

        “when Barack Obama speaks,”

        No. The two statements are unrelated. Have you ever seen Obama speak without notes or a teleprompter? He’s just as vacuous and intellectually-challenged as Justin Trudeau, but with an even bigger ego. Trudeau may have done some damage to our international reputation, but at least he didn’t single-handedly set race relations in Canada back twenty years, as Obama did in the US with his casual race-baiting and affinity for identity politics.

        • Fred,

          If you’re going to throw out the charge of race-baiting, then kindly back it up. Colour me skeptical until/if you can prove to me otherwise.

          As for identity politics, have you ever, seriously, met a politician who didn’t have an affinity for it, when it suited their political purposes? And not just south of the border, either.

          • Fred from BC says:

            Google it, Ronald. Here, I” get you started:

            Dropping the open-and-shut case against the New Black Panthers.

            Continuous false claims about America’s “inherently racist society” and “biased judicial and law enforcement systems”.

            Fawning over Trayvon Martin and ordering Eric Holder to illegally use the FBI to try and dig up dirt on George Zimmerman (they failed).

            Spreading lies about “gentle giant” Michael Brown and the evil racists of the Ferguson Police Department.

            Making excuses for the Black Lives Matter crowd celebrating the shooting deaths of white police officers.

            Running his mouth about some black doctor who was pulled over by police.

            The company he kept in Chicago.

            ACORN.

            (and many, many more…but that’s enough to get you started)

            There’s good reason why 60% of Americans think he left the country MORE divided than when he took office. History will not be kind to Barack Obama.

  6. Gyor says:

    If Justin Trudeau doesn’t get cancelled for frequently doing blackface, with in fact a lot of dark skinned Liberals coming forward to say it wasn’t a big deal, then no one should be cancelled.

  7. NeinerNeiner1 says:

    I think the more the “cancel culture types” feel they are losing ground, the harder they go at people.

    When people feel their ideas are being threatened, the more they lash out.

    There are people within certain groups who don’t like how the “cancel culture” types seem to be representing their entire group and they are coming forth in droves.

    I suspect we will see big changes in the next year or so. Political correctness is being pushed back on as it has got out of hand in many ways.

    The moderate seems to be getting a louder voice, but I suspect it may get a bit worse before it gets better.

  8. Aurelia says:

    That article is actually a mess. Christina Hoff Sommers didn’t rise to prominence during Gamergate. She has been writing books hating on feminism since I was a student journalist.
    To be clear: I have no sympathy for anyone concerned about not being allowed to practice free speech when they define speech as death threats, rape threats and thousands upon thousands of harassing messages, publicizing home addresses, pictures of kids, and photoshopped revenge porn.
    And yes, that is EXACTLY what GamerGate is and was. I know because I have met many of the women who have been stalked and threatened with death at events like BlogHer, years before they were forced into hiding and had to request protection from police forces.
    My friend Erin? Bomb threats to her kids school after some of these so-called free speechers got angry at her for supporting Obama and being a feminist. The FBI had to twist Twitter’s arm to make them understand the concept of emergency and save them and get the bomb maker.
    I can go on and on through the list of names….oh sure Kay says he wouldn’t defend Weinstein, now. But near the end of the article they are all hanging out with a sexual abuser.
    And Peter Thiel? Google Megyn Kelly and fake news.
    Ronan Farrow’s book is a brilliant piece of journalism. The amount of crap these guys did to cover for each other and excuse each other?
    Who the hell are they kidding? This is gross. There are 7 billion people on earth. What, they can’t move somewhere and meet new friends? All those women who were credibly threatened with death during Gamergate had to move. Lost everything. Many many trans people, LGBTQ people who struggled for years were outed, thrown out of their homes, lost their family. Anyone calling that “victim culture” and siccing their followers on those people and then complaining when it doesn’t work out well is full of shit.
    And like “cancelling” or shunning is new?
    OJ had no friends after the trial, for good reason. He wasn’t a “maybe” or a “complex case.” And I’m sure Obama would be just fine with it too.

    • Peter says:

      On the level of generalities, you make some fair, even important, points, but when you draw a straight line from Christina Hoff Sommers to Peter Thiel to Harvey Weinstein and on to OJ, I’m left concluding you just don’t want to permit any voice that you disagree with to be heard.

      • Fred from BC says:

        “I’m left concluding you just don’t want to permit any voice that you disagree with to be heard.”

        Well said, Peter.

        Like you, I immediately question the motives of those who try so hard to keep me from hearing both sides of the story.

  9. Andrew Jurgen Kaut says:

    Cancel is a misnomer. We’ve gone to ‘judgement’ culture; every statement has to be evaluated, irrespective of source, lest we be tossed in with the untouchables.

    And some words coming from someone who personally attacked and tried to ‘cancel’ yours truly based on a misunderstanding, years ago. To his credit, at least Warren did it before it was cool.

    Shoes don’t always wear well on the other foot, I guess.

    But that aside. We have always been intolerable of those who espouse opinions out of our understanding. And so we’ve sought to Otherise those who we don’t want to talk to.

    It used to be a whole different sort of people than it is now. Now it’s you. And it’s me. 20 years ago we were the dominant thinking. Once we put the assault rifle of social media into the hands of a few very fast typists, anyone can be the dominant (and morally impregnable) voice if they work hard at it.

    The rest of us are busy being what we are told we are; also, what we fear to be. A little bit racist? You bet. Socially regressive? That’s me. Hateful, mean …. chief among sinners? I’m done dodging my very makeup. This is who I fucking am.

    Simul justus et peccator.

    So shame if you will. And I’ll try and defend myself from the attacks online. Because talk has always been cheap, there will be an endless line of those blamers and haters that will always always always hate and blame.

    Maybe it’s time we started speaking up for those cancelled. If we weren’t so busy trying to sit in God’s chair, maybe we’d let folks find out what the Good news is- even the most repugnant human waste is worthy of salvation, if you read the good newswire.

    Or listen to any Billboard chart-topping gospel albums.

  10. Mike Jeffries says:

    “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.”
    Of course the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God and that has been lost in this generation…

  11. Yet Another Calgarian says:

    One of the bigger differences I’ve noticed between older activist types and the (generally) younger callout types is their pronoun choices.

    And I’m not using that in a gendered sense rather that when an older activist says something it’s usually along the lines of “we believe” where the callout crowd invariably uses some form of “I believe”.

    That focus on the individual makes it hard to build lasting organizations to effect change. If you don’t agree with me 100% you’re an enemy not an ally.

    Forget the Holocene its the Narcisscene.

  12. Steve T says:

    So I’m going to toss this one out there, and prepare myself for the flak (and excuses, quite frankly).

    The cancel culture is seen most notably in the MeToo movement. For all the good things that have come from this movement, it also has turned the tables on our long-standing modern concept of innocent until proven guilty. Now all that is necessary to destroy someone’s life is an accusation. True, the alleged perpetrator doesn’t actually go to jail or have a criminal record, but for all intents and purposes their life is ruined anyway. People will “cancel” and distance themselves from anyone accused of a sexual crime, even when the proof is nothing more than someone’s statement.

    I know this is an uncomfortable discussion, and we don’t want to discourage victims of sexual assault from coming forward, but we also can’t trash our presumption of innocence ethics just because we find the crime repugnant. That includes not “cancelling” someone until there is proof they committed the crime they are accused of.

    • Fred from BC says:

      ” That includes not “cancelling” someone until there is proof they committed the crime they are accused of.”

      Agree wholeheartedly. I’ve personally known women who lied about their ex-boyfriends and husbands for revenge and/or personal gain, and read many more stories about false accusation of rape and molestation. The “women must be believed” mantra is both horrifying and despicable.

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