Cancel culture

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Tessa K
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Cancel culture

Post by Tessa K » Wed Jul 08, 2020 8:38 am

No that's not a verb, it's an adjective.

Setting aside what the individual signatories may or may not have said, is cancel culture a real phenomenon? Twitter lynch mobs are certainly real but what do the signatories want?

They say 'robust counter-speech' is acceptable but if someone says something that really is racist, transphobic etc when taken in context and given the history of their comments on the subject, what is the best way to deal with them?

Should their range of influence be taken into account? (ie, if they have millions of followers)

Are they just looking for licence to express whatever they want under the cover of 'open debate'?

When does freedom of expression become hate speech or propaganda?
Some 150 writers, academics and activists - including authors JK Rowling, Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood - have signed an open letter denouncing so-called cancel culture.

They say they applaud a recent "needed reckoning" on racial justice, but argue it has fuelled stifling of open debate.

The letter denounces "a vogue for public shaming and ostracism" and "a blinding moral certainty". It adds: "We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences." It also says: "We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters.

"But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought."
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-53330105

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Re: Cancel culture

Post by lpm » Wed Jul 08, 2020 8:44 am

Cancel people who call for cancel culture to be cancelled. People who write anodyne waffle must be burned as heretics.
...a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity...the democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides... the way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away... we need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences...
https://harpers.org/a-letter-on-justice ... en-debate/
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bob sterman
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Re: Cancel culture

Post by bob sterman » Wed Jul 08, 2020 10:18 am

Tessa K wrote:
Wed Jul 08, 2020 8:38 am
No that's not a verb, it's an adjective.

Setting aside what the individual signatories may or may not have said, is cancel culture a real phenomenon? Twitter lynch mobs are certainly real but what do the signatories want?
Sometimes people don't just want to engage in "robust counter-speech" - they actually want to cancel things - as demonstrated by their use of "cancel" as a verb.

E.g. see the current wave of #CancelHamilton tweets - rather than #CriticallyExamineAndDebateHamilton

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Re: Cancel culture

Post by Woodchopper » Wed Jul 08, 2020 11:17 am

As I argued in another place, there always have been attempts to deny certain people an opportunity to speak.

In the 1970s and 80s there were demonstrations against far right speakers at universities and for example Labour MPs were instructed not to share platforms with National Front speakers, or racists like Enoch Powell. There was never a golden age in which people with very different views would sit down and have a civil debate.

What seems to have changed is that the targets of no-platforming or cancelling appear to have shifted. Nowadays people who regard themselves as being left wing have called for no-platforming of people who would regard themselves as being liberals, progressives or centrists. Perhaps its a generational thing, people whose beliefs were radical a few decades ago now find that there is a whole new set of people who are more radical, or perhaps radical in different ways.

For example, there is a petition with getting on for 600 signatories by "members of the linguistics community calling for the removal of Dr. Steven Pinker from both our list of distinguished academic fellows and our list of media experts" based upon the content of some things he's written.
https://docs.google.com/document/d/17Zq ... gmail_link

I'm not going to defend everything that Pinker wrote (and I've disagreed with some of it), but it seems to me that there is a very big gap between him and someone like Enoch Powell.

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Re: Cancel culture

Post by lpm » Wed Jul 08, 2020 11:32 am

Cancelling wrong-thinkers like... er.... Noam Chomsky is not only good, it's necessary. These wrong-thinkers literally kill people with the literal violence of their literal words.
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Tessa K
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Re: Cancel culture

Post by Tessa K » Wed Jul 08, 2020 12:10 pm

Coming at this from a slightly different angle, I'm thinking about why writers and others are expressing their opinions in public. Do they see themselves as campaigners? As champions? Is it attention-seeking? Although not all of them will have the same motives, perhaps it would be useful to examine why they are using their platforms of recognition in this way. Many of them certainly need to be better informed before speaking/writing if their intentions are to be accorded the respect of reasoned debate. Even those who are experts on one field don't get a free pass to comment on areas outside their knowledge.

There's also the issue of responsibility; they know that certain views will be inflammatory and affect the lives of the people they are talking about far more than their own. Words have tangible consequences.

On no-platforming: It's not as if people are being denied any public access at all. Refusing to debate someone doesn't silence them entirely and it is better to have opinions out in public where they can be countered if necessary. I wouldn't debate a Creationist for example because that would imply some parity between their beliefs and science but that doesn't stop them spreading their beliefs elsewhere.

There are times when saying something challenging to authority is done altruistically, for example Marcus Rashford challenging the government. But that's not the kind of free speech the petitioners are talking about.

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Re: Cancel culture

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Wed Jul 08, 2020 12:21 pm

Mostly it's a reaction from people with the privilege of a mass audience not liking receiving feedback directly from that audience, or a part thereof. I'd personally counter the suggestion that the best way to defeat bad ideas is through persuasion. Doesn't really work for extreme bad ideas particularly.

As chops says, cancellation culture has always been with us - whether it's Fanny Cradock getting ousted from ITV in 1976 for being a bitch to Gwen Troake, or MTV refusing to play black artists on their channel in the early days, or the cultural boycott of South Africa for apartheid.

Their problem with it isn't the existence of cancellation culture, it's the fact that their opinions are receiving blowback and they don't like it. It's not about there being limits to free speech, it's about them not liking the democratisation of free speech that allows others, en masse, to tell them they're talking bollocks.
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Re: Cancel culture

Post by lpm » Wed Jul 08, 2020 12:40 pm

Feedback directly from the audience:

i gonna smack you so hard bitch literraly go choke on your mums dick

EPD:

Mostly it's a reaction from people with the privilege of a mass audience not liking receiving feedback directly from that audience, or a part thereof... Their problem with it isn't the existence of cancellation culture, it's the fact that their opinions are receiving blowback and they don't like it.
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Re: Cancel culture

Post by Stephanie » Wed Jul 08, 2020 1:05 pm

lpm wrote:
Wed Jul 08, 2020 12:40 pm
Feedback directly from the audience:

i gonna smack you so hard bitch literraly go choke on your mums dick

EPD:

Mostly it's a reaction from people with the privilege of a mass audience not liking receiving feedback directly from that audience, or a part thereof... Their problem with it isn't the existence of cancellation culture, it's the fact that their opinions are receiving blowback and they don't like it.
the problem is the letter is so vague, how do we know which is over the top and which is fair? there's a number of things alluded to, but without the context I can't possibly have an opinion on it
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Re: Cancel culture

Post by lpm » Wed Jul 08, 2020 1:24 pm

There's a lot of vague stuff, but the calls for more debate are not vague in the slightest:

"The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted."

"We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters."

"The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation."

"We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences."
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Re: Cancel culture

Post by Cardinal Fang » Wed Jul 08, 2020 1:27 pm

There is the paradox of tolerance to take into account, in that if a society is tolerant without limit, its ability to be tolerant is eventually seized or destroyed by the intolerant. Sometimes for the good of everyone harmful ideas must be squished. What I have noticed is that often the ones complaining about the "cancel culture" or "political correctness", "no platforming" etc are people who are demanding the right to say whatever they like without challenge, question, or opposition. But free speech doesn't work like that - it isn't and never has been the right to say whatever idiotic thing you like without being called out on it.

I think Karl Popper addressed this well - he said "In order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance." But he expanded on that saying "I do not imply for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would be most unwise." But many who complain about the supposed cancel culture et don't want that 2nd part i.e. the rational argument, and will cite any attempt to counter what they're saying as proof of aforementioned cancel culture.

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Re: Cancel culture

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Wed Jul 08, 2020 1:34 pm

lpm wrote:
Wed Jul 08, 2020 12:40 pm
Feedback directly from the audience:

i gonna smack you so hard bitch literraly go choke on your mums dick
Well, no, that's abuse. That's always been there, and been wrong. That's not the result of having opinions of any particular colour, that's what comes from (usually white, straight) men not liking the existence of women, black people or gay people in public.
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Re: Cancel culture

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Wed Jul 08, 2020 1:35 pm

lpm wrote:
Wed Jul 08, 2020 1:24 pm
There's a lot of vague stuff, but the calls for more debate are not vague in the slightest:

"The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted."

"We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters."

"The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation."

"We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences."
Great idea. I know, let's debate if homosexuals are all evil and going to hell!
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Re: Cancel culture

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Wed Jul 08, 2020 1:35 pm

Next, should women all be forced to stay at home and raise a large family of children? We can easily burn the barren ones!
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Re: Cancel culture

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Wed Jul 08, 2020 1:36 pm

What about black people, eh? They're all wrong'uns aren't they? Let the police kick the sh.t out of them, that's what I say!
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Re: Cancel culture

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Wed Jul 08, 2020 1:36 pm

And trans people - ah, trans people. If there weren't literally millions of them going round women's refuges and raping everyone in sight, I'd be in favour! But, ah well!
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Re: Cancel culture

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Wed Jul 08, 2020 1:36 pm

There, lots of happy, great debating topics for everyone to get stuck into. Just like people like JK Rowling want.
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Re: Cancel culture

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Wed Jul 08, 2020 1:38 pm

I note, for what it's worth, that the letter complains about the right to say things "without the threat of reprisal". Well, sorry fucko, but no one has that right. No one. And requiring it of people today restricts the freedom of speech of others.
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Re: Cancel culture

Post by lpm » Wed Jul 08, 2020 1:45 pm

I know you realise "without the threat of reprisal" is in the context of extreme online abuse, being doxxed, your employer targeted with demands for your firing, people who follow you on social media being abused, co-workers being attacked for their associations with you...

Who here has ever joined a mob asking for someone to be fired?

Or has actually phoned/emailed an employer demanding someone be sacked?

For example:
Hi @UniofOxford, can you please release a statement confirming your Deputy Director of External Affairs and International Strategy has been fired by the end of the day.
Who here, apart from EPD, thinks this sort of reprisal is acceptable?
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Re: Cancel culture

Post by Bird on a Fire » Wed Jul 08, 2020 1:54 pm

I've never joined a mob, but surely calling for somebody to be fired could be acceptable - depends on what they did?

"Cancellation" seems to me to be motivated by a belief that people in certain positions of power/influence shouldn't be saying things that make others (typically members of protected groups) feel unsafe. It doesn't actually stop them from holding or expressing those views, but does alter the position from which they can promote them.

I'm sure we can all think of examples where calling for someone to be fired would be completely acceptable or completely unacceptable, and obviously twitter mobs will have done both.

Attempting to conflate cancellation with violence or abuse is just disingenuous and silly, though.
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Re: Cancel culture

Post by dyqik » Wed Jul 08, 2020 2:01 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Jul 08, 2020 1:54 pm
I'm sure we can all think of examples where calling for someone to be fired would be completely acceptable or completely unacceptable, and obviously twitter mobs will have done both.
On this particular point, if you want to protect employees from employers acceding to vexatious demands to fire them, it's employment law you need to look at, not freedom of speech laws.

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Re: Cancel culture

Post by Stephanie » Wed Jul 08, 2020 2:07 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Jul 08, 2020 1:54 pm
I've never joined a mob, but surely calling for somebody to be fired could be acceptable - depends on what they did?

"Cancellation" seems to me to be motivated by a belief that people in certain positions of power/influence shouldn't be saying things that make others (typically members of protected groups) feel unsafe. It doesn't actually stop them from holding or expressing those views, but does alter the position from which they can promote them.

I'm sure we can all think of examples where calling for someone to be fired would be completely acceptable or completely unacceptable, and obviously twitter mobs will have done both.

Attempting to conflate cancellation with violence or abuse is just disingenuous and silly, though.
LPM's example (having googled) funnily enough came from someone suggesting a woman of colour deserved a bunch of abuse and death threats on twitter, because she posted a selfie eating an ice lolly
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Re: Cancel culture

Post by lpm » Wed Jul 08, 2020 2:09 pm

Did you read the letter, BoaF? If you had, you would have noticed EPD deliberately removed the context in order to make his silly points.

The context isn't unacceptable arguments like "let's kick the sh.t out of black people". It's relatively acceptable arguments, ones you might disagree with but which should easily be open to calm and reasonable discussion (e.g. "I don't think transwomen should be allowed to compete against cis women in sports events with prize money at stake"). The letter writers have decried the narrowing down that has led to these reasonable and debatable viewpoints being treated in the same way as " burn barren women" viewpoints.

Here's what the letter actually said:
But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes. Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.
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Re: Cancel culture

Post by Bird on a Fire » Wed Jul 08, 2020 2:18 pm

lpm wrote:
Wed Jul 08, 2020 2:09 pm
Did you read the letter, BoaF? If you had, you would have noticed EPD deliberately removed the context in order to make his silly points.
I haven't yet, I was just responding to your post.

Have you worked out the difference between cancellation and abuse yet?
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Re: Cancel culture

Post by lpm » Wed Jul 08, 2020 2:28 pm

Have you realised yet that the abuse is so extreme, countless people have self-cancelled - removed themselves from debate for self-protection? Why risk the abuse, the physical threats and the threats to your employment, when it's easier to steer clear?

You would have realised this if you'd f.cked off the forum for 55 seconds to read the letter before coming here to comment.
We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.

This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time.
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