First of all, I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been finding most recent developments in the world more depressing than thought provoking.
It’s been quite frustrating witnessing all of the divisiveness online regarding Covid-19, masks, lockdowns, etc. Somehow rather than coming together to battle a common enemy we have continued to divide up into tribes and make everything about signaling our membership in the right group.
Another thing that’s been happening has been the protests following the terrible death (murder) of George Floyd. Again, somehow rather than getting together to think about how policing and the laws around it should be reformed, most people have managed to divide up into those who support the police and those who don’t.
But, the topic of this post is Cancel Culture: the phenomenon of responding to speakers of “unacceptable” ideas, not by criticizing those ideas, but by attempting to silence the speakers either by removing them from their platforms or ruining their careers, or shaming people who associate with them, etc.
As should be obvious from my previous posts, I view this as a terrible development. Of course, I agree that this kind of response should be legal. It’s not a first amendment issue if private people are persuading others to shun people, but it’s also very unhealthy for individualism and the growth of knowledge. I would very much prefer a culture of toleration and criticism.
But, rather than me opining about this, I think we’d all be better off listening to Jonathan Rauch (author of the excellent Kindly Inquisitors and signatory to the Harper’s Open Letter), who is one of the clearest thinkers around on this topic, and he spoke elequently about all of this recently on a reason podcast with Nick Gillespie.
I’ll try to embed the audio here as well: