Cancel Culture: It Won’t Stop! (AKA Being Evenhanded the Mainstream Media Way)


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On March 7 2022, the New York Times gave the royal treatment (including two large photos) to a piece by college senior (and soon to be Reason staff writer) Emma Camp about the problem of self-censorship on college campuses. Camp described her experience speaking in class:

This idea seems acceptable for academic discussion, but to many of my classmates, it was objectionable.

The room felt tense. I saw people shift in their seats. Someone got angry, and then everyone seemed to get angry. After the professor tried to move the discussion along, I still felt uneasy. I became a little less likely to speak up again and a little less trusting of my own thoughts.

I’m sympathetic to Camp’s view – it can be scary and uncomfortable speaking out in class when we know our classmates might disagree. But is this anything that requires a New York Times op-ed piece?

Ten days later, the Times editorial board published another op-ed on the same subject, writing:

For all the tolerance and enlightenment that modern society claims, Americans are losing hold of a fundamental right as citizens of a free country: the right to speak their minds and voice their opinions in public without fear of being shamed or shunned.

Of course, there is no right to speak “without fear of being shamed or shunned.” That would amount to a right to freedom from criticism, and no one has or should have that right.

Both of those quotes are referred to in this cartoon.

It should be surprising the “paper of record” published two extremely similar cancel-culture-panic pieces in two weeks. But it’s not. I used the New York Times‘ site search function to count up how many opinion page pieces referred to terms like “cancel culture” and “CRT.”

In the last year, the NYTimes opinion pages printed 71 pieces including the phrase “cancel culture,” 28 pieces including “C.R.T.,” and 9 including “book bans.”

Some of the “cancel culture” pieces even concede – in “to be sure” asides buried in the middle – that right wing legal bans are much more dangerous.  So why are they objected to so much less?

Arguably, the three most censored groups in the U.S. are prisoners, sex workers, and undocumented migrants.  As far as I can find, the Times opinion page didn’t run a single piece about censorship of any of these groups in the last year.

In fact, the Times ran more more opinion page pieces about “cancel culture” than about all other free-speech issues combined. Even if “cancel culture” is a real problem, that’s ridiculous. The Times‘ coverage is wildly disproportionate, in a way that strongly favors right-wing narratives and gives many instances of right-wing censorship a free pass. And as far as I can tell, the Times‘ disproportionate coverage is typical of the media as a whole.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has five panels.

PANEL 1

This panel shows two news anchors sitting in a TV studio facing the camera. The angle is from the camera’s perspective, as if we were watching them on TV. A circular logo superimposed on the image says “5” (as in channel 5) and a chyron runs across the bottom of the image.

(Chyron this panel says: “Free Speech in Peril! Young people are frightening. They’re coming after you.”)

The anchors are a man and a woman. They are both well-dressed and have professionally styled hair. Both speak to the camera with very serious expressions.

MALE ANCHOR: Tonight on WMSM: the first of our seventeen part series on the horrors of cancel culture!

FEMALE ANCHOR: America has a free speech problem! We’ve lost our long established right to speak without fear of being shamed.

PANEL 2

A close-up on the male anchor. He looks genuinely angry.

(Chyron this panel says: “Prison Censorship is an issue we’re not going to be covering whatsoever.”)

MALE ANCHOR: Especially on college campuses! Surveys show that students sometimes self-censor because they’re afraid of criticism! Something that has never before happened in all of history!

PANEL 3

This panel shows a hand holding a smartphone. On the smartphone screen, we can see the female anchor talking. She also looks angry and intense.

FEMALE ANCHOR: Next up: a college student “saw people shift in their seats” when they disagreed with her! Will left wing assaults on free speech never end?

PANEL 4

This is an unusually narrow panel, less than a third as wide as other panels. The panel shows the male anchor, still talking to the camera, but the figure is tiny. He’s smiling and raising a finger in a “just making a point” manner.

(Chyron this panel: “Tiny Type is rarely re (the word is cut off by the panel edge). Tiny type tiny type tiny type tiny type”)

MALE ANCHOR (small print): To show we’re unbiased, I will briefly mention that the right is writing laws to ban books, stifle teachers and even legalize running over protesters, and those things are also bad. Now back to our story.

PANEL 5

A new scene. Two people are standing; the second of them is holding a tablet, which they’re frantically tapping (sound effect: tap tap tap tap tap tap).

The first person is a black woman wearing what looks like a bowling shirt (meaning I drew a shirt with vertical stripes and it accidently came out as a bowling shirt) and carryign a purse. She has short curly hair. She looks a little concerned as she speaks to the second person.

The second person has long hair, in an unnatural red color, in long spikes and with an undercut. Their left arm is covered with tattoos. They’re frantically tapping the tablet they’re holding (sound effect: tap tap tap tap tap tap), have a panicked expression, and they’re talking loudly.

ANCHOR PERSON (voice coming from tablet): This is what the illiberal left has wrought! we won’t truly have free speech until those on the intolerant left who criticize other’s speech shut up!

FIRST PERSON: Would you mind turning that off?

SECOND PERSON: IT WON’T STOP!


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19 Responses to Cancel Culture: It Won’t Stop! (AKA Being Evenhanded the Mainstream Media Way)

  1. 1
    Corso says:

    I’m going to try to approach this from a completely different angle:

    Amp, you’re 100% correct. A lot of people complaining about cancel culture have made great bank off their grift. Sometimes, the person wasn’t even the target of any real cancellation effort, there’s just a build in audience for “edgy” content that they’re trying to tap the keg on, and for every account of someone actually being cancelled for a milquetoast opinion (Ilya Shapiro comes to mind as both a recent and egregious example), there are two or three people testing the edge performatively, hoping to get a response so they can make bank.

    I’m going to make the argument that that’s ok.

    There’s this idea… I’m not sure if anyone here holds it, but I interact with it fairly frequently, that if the “cancellation” doesn’t work, doesn’t stick, or has the unintended consequence of actually enriching the target, that it wasn’t actually a cancellation. I think that misses the point. A cancellation was attempted, and for every person that was able to propel themselves off it, or overcome it, there’s a slew of people that we’ll never hear from that end up suffering in obscurity.

    I think that this built in audience is… I don’t have the word… Healthy in an unhealthy way? Even the grifters. While the mechanism is obviously imperfect and problematic in and of itself, I still appreciate the characters playing their parts, because it pushes back against some of the more draconian policies coming out of the squares they exist in, and absent some better way to push back against the excesses of outrage, I’m glad they’re there.

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    What this cartoon is about, is more how completely biased and partisan the “cancel culture” discourse is.

    I just had an exchange on Twitter, two days ago, about a case in which a trans writer wrote an open letter to her VOX editors about how she was made uncomfortable – to feel “unsafe,” in the current vernacular – by Matthew Yglesias’ signing of the Harper’s Letter, which the writer felt was full of anti-trans dog whistles. In the letter she emphasized that Yglesias had always been personally kind to her and that she wasn’t seeking and didn’t want him punished in any way at all. She reiterated this point several times on Twitter.

    This was widely perceived, among anti-woke folk, as an attempt by her at cancelling Yglesias. As a result, there was a flood of angry people (mostly fans of Jessie Singal, who wrote about the case) reaching out on social media to tell the writer she was a moron, that she didn’t deserve her job, that she was a censor and a totalitarian, etc. There were some threats suggesting she could or should be raped or assaulted. She eventually felt the only way to keep going was to shut down all her social media accounts for a while. Apparently people were also writing Ezra Klein (one of her bosses at VOX) to suggest she be fired.

    It seems obvious to me that:

    1) There’s not much basis for claiming that she was trying to get Yglesias fired or “cancelled.” And yet people claimed it. And they don’t only claim it; they think it’s ridiculous to think it’s in any possible that she was telling the truth.

    2) There’s a very strong basis for claiming that the writer in this case faced cancellation in a more real and dire sense than Yglesias.

    Yet most of[*] the anti-woke people who claim to be soooooo concerned about the free speech implications of “cancel culture” don’t seem to see much problem with what happened to the writer, and are absolutely convinced that they can read the writer’s mind and no matter what she says, they know she was trying to cancel Yglesias/get him fired. They don’t give a single fuck about free speech implications of online abusive “mobs”; they’re just anti-woke.

    That’s the discourse, right there. If you’re on the social justice left, then the anti-cancel-culture folks will never object to anything done to you; by definition, only anti-woke people and right-wing people can be cancelled.

    I do think there is a real free speech issue in what happened to that writer. I don’t like calling it “cancel culture,” because that phrase stands for a lot of partisan nonsense which paints this sort of behavior as purely a problem with left wingers, which is extremely counter to reality.

    [*]Yglesias, to his credit, publicly said that anyone being mean to or harassing the writer should “fuck off.”

  3. 3
    Corso says:

    1) There’s not much basis for claiming that she was trying to get Yglesias fired or “cancelled.” And yet people claimed it. And they don’t only claim it; they think it’s ridiculous to think it’s in any possible that she was telling the truth.

    2) There’s a very strong basis for claiming that the writer in this case faced cancellation in a more real and dire sense than Yglesias.

    ESJ still works for Vox, Matt Yglesias doesn’t. By your own standard, who was cancelled?

    More, it’s an easy line to draw: Were I to have a workplace grievance, my first inclination wouldn’t be to write an open letter and get it published. If I wanted to talk about the issues, I’d find an example less close to home. This is very similar to the Felicia Sonmez problem: How much of your internal dirty laundry do you air in public before your bosses are forced to step in? I feel like anyone taking public potshots at coworkers on the platform of the competition probably shouldn’t be too surprised when their workplace takes issue with it.

    But you’re right, the author in this case absolutely faced cancellation efforts. Should there, or should there not be protections in place for people like her?

    And I’m not saying that she overtly thought about it like this, that’s not required for this to be a cancellation. Go back to your own example…. Did Yglesias call for her canning? What your point misses out on is that it doesn’t matter what the author intended. Giving every benefit of the doubt: She could have been naïve. In the reality of 2020’s politics, online discourse, and… Vox, I just don’t think that it’s reasonable to assume you can send a torpedo like that and not effect someone’s livelihood, but she could have thought that. But Yglesias was still cancelled, what mattered was the response from the outrage mob, the counter-outrage-outrage mob, and the fact that Matt Yglesias no longer works at Vox.

    He landed at Substack, and I’m glad that he’s able to get work there, because if Substack didn’t exist, who do you think would have hired him?

  4. 4
    RonF says:

    Amp, from your cartoon:

    the right is writing laws to ban books

    If you can find me an example of people getting laws passed (or seeking to get laws passed) that prevent particular books from being bought and sold on the open market then I’ll agree that someone is writing laws to ban books. But legislators deciding that books touching on particular subjects (or that are doing so in a particular fashion) are inappropriate to stock in a school library or to use in school curricula is not banning books. It’s making decisions on what the appropriate materials are to use for instructing children in public schools. Which is entirely appropriate given that the legislature is ultimately responsible for what goes on in public schools.

  5. 5
    JaneDoh says:

    @Corso I am not sure what you are advocating for in this case – for no one ever to bring up their issues with problematic statements made by public figures? How else are people supposed to register their displeasure? This trans woman author should just have sucked it up, or complained just to Matt Yglesias?

  6. 6
    RonF says:

    As far as the main point goes; it’s one thing to not voice an unpopular opinion because it might make you unpopular. As you point out with justified sarcasm, “Something that has never before happened in all of history!” LOL!

    But the issue becomes a different one when people try to get you fired from your job, post personal information about you on social media to solicit general condemnation, campaign to keep your campus organization from getting official recognition or funding and/or actually vote to make that happen, organize to shut down your ability to speak on campus or to bring speakers onto campus (either before or during an event), destroy posters or publications, actually physically assault people, etc.

  7. 7
    Corso says:

    Jane @ 5

    I am not sure what you are advocating for in this case – for no one ever to bring up their issues with problematic statements made by public figures? How else are people supposed to register their displeasure? This trans woman author should just have sucked it up, or complained just to Matt Yglesias?

    Amp already laid out the bones of this case, I feel they should be reiterated;

    Matt Yglesias had signed on to the Harper letter, which was a fairly uncontroversial (even in ESJ’s stated estimation) defense of free speech. The letter did not mention trans people or issues except in the most extremely tenuous of ways. As far as I can tell, ESJ’s issue with Yglesias’ signature on the letter was that J.K. Rowling’s signature was also on the letter. It also bears noting that there were 153 signatures on that letter, which included Margaret Atwood, Steven Pinker, Gloria Steinem, Salman Rushdie and Noam Chomsky.

    In response to Yglesias’ signature on the Harper letter, ESJ posted publicly another letter that she had already sent to management. That letter said that she felt “less safe” at the workplace and that his signature on that letter “makes [her] job harder” before going on to say that she didn’t think Yglesias should face reprimand. The fallout from there is obvious in retrospect.

    I don’t know how on Earth we’re supposed to parse and reconcile “I feel less safe at my workplace”, “this creates a problem in the workplace” and “please do nothing”, I’ll agree that it’s possible that ESJ was merely naïve as opposed to malicious, but I’m also not going to pretend that the people who suspect she knew what she was doing don’t have a leg to stand on.

    So to answer your question… The options weren’t “[the] author should just have sucked it up, or complained just to Matt Yglesias”. In fact, neither of those things happened, and no one suggested either. I’m also going to gently suggest that if you can’t think of an alternative way to “register displeasure” than a very public shot at a coworker, that’s maybe a failure of imagination. Regardless, I think my advice on what to do would vary significantly depending on what ESJ’s actual intentions were… If she thought this was something her boss should know about/deal with, Complain to HR. If she wanted to let off steam, Talk to your friends, post something on Slack, take up interpretive dance. Y’know… There was a lot of chatter about the Harper letter at the time, and none of it seemed as fraught as the conversation around ESJ and Yglesias, there were obviously ways of having that discussion, very publicly, without that fallout. And if the point was to get Yglesias fired… Well… That kinda worked out.

    But regardless on what she should have done… I think we can all agree that no one should lose their job over something as innocuous as signing the Harper Letter (even though that’s ultimately what happened), and no one should have to go through the shit and abuse ESJ went through (even though that’s ultimately what happened).

  8. 8
    Görkem says:

    “I think we can all agree…”

    I think you’re not reading the room as well as you think you are, Corso

  9. 9
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    You know, if Cancel Culture(tm) was an actual thing that was happening I’d be all for it. As things stand now, however, Cancel Culture(tm) is just the latest iteration of Politically Correct(tm).

    Oh, how I’d love to see so many of the people telling me on major media that they’ve been cancelled to have actually been cancelled. It would do the world a load of good.

  10. 10
    Saurs says:

    He landed at Substack, and I’m glad that he’s able to get work there, because if Substack didn’t exist, who do you think would have hired him?

    Not how substack works, and I think you know that.

    Yglesias’s work history is freely available for everyone to peruse, as his history of doing and saying things people disapprove of. His is not a unique story there. Moving jobs, trading writing and editorial positions, going temporarily freelance, founding other ventures to better fit his ideological leanings: going by your definition of “cancellation,” he’s on his sixth or seventh go and is doing fine? Nobody fired him and he continued to run a podcast on Vox. This all feels very much like Ilya Shapiro pulling a flounce when he tried and failed to get fired. That it didn’t actually happen was just more proof of how secretly Shadow Banned by the campus banh mi gatekeepers he was, or whatever. That’s how this grievance culture sausage gets made, even when it’s entirely meat-free.

  11. 11
    Corso says:

    Görkem @ 8

    I think you’re not reading the room as well as you think you are, Corso

    Sometimes I feel like you disagree just for the sake of disagreement. What I said was:

    I think we can all agree that no one should lose their job over something as innocuous as signing the Harper Letter (even though that’s ultimately what happened), and no one should have to go through the shit and abuse ESJ went through (even though that’s ultimately what happened).

    So… What exactly are you disagreeing with? Are you saying that signing the Harper letter was a fireable offense? Or that ESJ had all that shit and abuse coming?

    Saurs @ 10

    I’m sorry… but almost nothing you wrote there was actually correct.

    Not how substack works, and I think you know that. Yglesias’s work history is freely available for everyone to peruse

    That’s not how Substack works. Most of his articles are behind the paywall (I just checked), so only his tens of thousands of paid subscribers get to read them.

    His is not a unique story there. Moving jobs, trading writing and editorial positions, going temporarily freelance, founding other ventures to better fit his ideological leanings: going by your definition of “cancellation,” he’s on his sixth or seventh go and is doing fine?

    Absolutely, like I said at the top:

    There’s this idea… I’m not sure if anyone here holds it, but I interact with it fairly frequently, that if the “cancellation” doesn’t work, doesn’t stick, or has the unintended consequence of actually enriching the target, that it wasn’t actually a cancellation. I think that misses the point. A cancellation was attempted, and for every person that was able to propel themselves off it, or overcome it, there’s a slew of people that we’ll never hear from that end up suffering in obscurity.

    I’m glad Yglesias landed on his feet. We agree on basically nothing, but people shouldn’t have their lives upended over milquetoast opinions, and if it weren’t for Substack or alternative media, I’m not sure where someone like him would have ended up.

    This all feels very much like Ilya Shapiro pulling a flounce when he tried and failed to get fired.

    Ilya Shapiro was offered a job, he made what was a poorly worded Tweet, and was placed on administrative leave before starting his first day. He fought the discipline in arbitration and won, but the school put him under a metaphorical Doom of Damocles, and so he resigned. If all he wanted was to be fired, he could have taken being fired.

  12. 12
    Görkem says:

    “Sometimes I feel like you disagree just for the sake of disagreement. ”

    Right, because there’s no other reason to disagree with you than perverse attraction to conflict, what with your arguments being so objectively flawless and all.

  13. 13
    Saurs says:

    Yglesias’s work history is freely available for everyone to peruse

    That’s not how Substack works. Most of his articles are behind the paywall (I just checked), so only his tens of thousands of paid subscribers get to read them.

    Wait, what? I said history and I meant history and that clearly refers to pre-substack work, which is rich in trolling that was noticed and frowned upon (the thing you people calling cancelling), and yet time and time again affirmative action secured him another prominent place in the star-studded universe of contrarian US political punditry.

    Again, you misrepresent the substack model and not in particularly good faith. Substack does not possess or offer a hiring manager or editorial team. It’s gig blogging. Nobody “hired him.” He’s not lucky in any sense of the word. There are also a thousand other monetized sites he and anyone luckier or unluckier than him could sign up as a user to micro-publish his writing to paid subscribers. He possesses a high enough profile that he could equally have done this on his own, but substack has built-in incentives for the person looking to be regularly paid without meeting any editorial standards and precious few content restrictions along with a pre-existing audience. If you’re suggesting he’s taken a paycut in doing so, feel free to cite your sources. If you’re suggesting he couldn’t truly self-publish elsewhere, please explain what hinders him but not, say, your average late middle-schooler on youtube or college grad on medium.

  14. 14
    Ampersand says:

    There is a sense in which substack hired Yglesias. Substack offered Yglesias a $250,000 signing bonus up front plus 15% of subscription revenues for the first year. After the first year he’s made their standard deal, which is 90% of revenue but no bonus payment. My impression is that Substack came to Yglesias, not the other way around. (They signed up multiple high-profile names all at around the same time.)

    As it turned out, Yglesias would have made a lot more money if he’d taken the standard 90% and no bonus (according to Yglesias himself – he discussed this on his Vox podcast). No one forced him out of Vox (he’s still working for Vox); he just got a better offer.

    That said, part of the attraction for Yglesias, again according to Yglesias, is being a blogger again – being an independent writer rather than (implicitly, at least) being in a position of leadership.

    Today is my last day as a senior correspondent at Vox.com (still hosting The Weeds though!). I love Vox, but there was an inherent tension between my status as a co-founder of the site and my desire to be a fiercely independent and at times contentious voice.

    My first media love is blogging, and while Vox has evolved over the years into many things, it is really not a blog.

    Conor Friedersdorf tried to get Yglesias to blame VanDerWerff (who is now Emily St. James – I don’t know why she changed her name, it’s possible she got married?). Yglesias talked about the general journalism environment being too politically correct, but he never claimed he was forced out of Vox.

    I asked Yglesias if that matter in any way motivated his departure. “Something we’ve seen in a lot of organizations is increasing sensitivity about language and what people say,” he told me. “It’s a damaging trend in the media in particular because it is an industry that’s about ideas, and if you treat disagreement as a source of harm or personal safety, then it’s very challenging to do good work.”

    The issue, Yglesias believes, is not limited to Vox. “We saw that in the way the New York Times people characterized their opposition to Tom Cotton’s op-ed,” he said, and “we saw it in what Emily VanDerWerff wrote about me––and Vox to its credit has not [been] managed in that way exactly, but it is definitely the mentality of a lot of people working in journalism today, and it makes me feel like it’s a good time to have an independent platform.’

    So that’s the most damning thing the extremely cancel-culture hating Friedersdorf was able to get Matthew Yglesias to say about Vox and St. James.

    Corso:

    ESJ still works for Vox, Matt Yglesias doesn’t.

    Yes he does. He chose to keep his apparently quite popular Vox podcast, and is (afaik) still doing that.

    Did Yglesias call for her canning?

    He did not. He explicitly said otherwise.

    But, because he didn’t call for her canning – and in fact said that the angry mob should fuck off – blaming Yglesias for the people trying to get St James fired would have been ridiculous.

    Similarly, if Vox had forced Yglesias out (which I don’t think happened), the people to blame would be Ezra Klein or whoever else at Vox makes the decisions. Blaming St James is ridiculous.

    But Yglesias was still cancelled, what mattered was the response from the outrage mob…

    There was no anti-Yglesias outrage mob, afaik. The only outrage mob here was the anti-cancel-culture mob who went after St. James.

    The fallout from there is obvious in retrospect.

    If you’re implying that Vox fired Yglesias or forced him to resign, then that’s nonsense. There is no evidence of that at all. Yglesias himself – who has said, again and again, that what he likes about substack is his freedom to say anything – has never said that he was forced out. He’s always described it as his own choice (and in fact has continued working for Vox). Maybe he’s lying because, I dunno, Esra asked him to? But although it’s possible he’s lying (or misleading), assuming that’s the case seems unjustified.

    The most you could say, without calling Yglesias a liar, is that Yglesias had been thinking for a while he wasn’t a good fit for the current (in his view) over-sensitive media environment at Vox and elsewhere, and St James’ letter convinced Yglesias he was right. If that’s being “cancelled,” then I don’t see how you could say being cancelled is a big problem we should be concerned about. He could have stayed; he would have continued to be paid well (although I suspect not as well as his current job). There’s no evidence his job was ever in danger.

    I think we can all agree that no one should lose their job over something as innocuous as signing the Harper Letter (even though that’s ultimately what happened)…

    Someone voluntarily resigning because he’s found a better gig (or been headhunted by a better gig, which I suspect is the case here) is not “los[ing] their job.”

    Maybe everyone’s lying (or at least, spinning like crazy). Maybe Yglesias was fired from Vox because they were afraid of being sued for keeping him employed even though they still employ him as a podcaster. But you’re treating this as if it were established fact, and that’s not even close to true. It’s nothing but politically motivated speculation.

  15. 15
    Ampersand says:

    The annoying thing about this conversation, to me, is after Cosco and Ron, I’m probably the person here who takes “cancel culture” (in some sense) most seriously. I do think that there’s a real problem of employers firing people who shouldn’t be fired, because of their political opinions. I’ve said a bunch of times that we should have labor laws to prevent that in nearly all cases. I think it’s atrocious when random ordinary people, especially kids, become national media stories for something stupid or even racist they said (and have said so for many years). I don’t want people fired or economically punished for disagreeing with me, and have been saying that for years, too.

    I do think, in general, we need a more forgiving culture, and that’s a real problem on the left (although not exclusively on the left).

    I agree that angry mobs demanding someone be fired are bad even when the person doesn’t get fired.

    But I’m not going to agree that if someone gets criticized publicly, then changes to an apparently better job, and never claims to have been fired or forced out, that’s definitely for certain a cancellation. That’s ridiculous.

    What happened in this case is a distillation of what’s wrong with the cancel culture discourse. There’s very little reason to believe that Yglesias was fired or forced out, or that anyone beyond a tiny handful of randos[*] ever suggested he should be fired or forced out. There’s no sign of a angry mob going after Yglesias. Yglesias is, in fact, employed at Vox to this day. (afaik).

    Yet most people who remember it, remember it as Yglesias being cancelled – he still gets brought up as an example of a cancellation. In contrast, the same people who bring up Yglesias as an example never, ever bring up the actual angry mob demanding that St James be fired. (I appreciate that you said what that mob did was wrong, but I don’t think you would have brought it up if I hadn’t first; I’m not sure you even knew about it).

    The “cancel culture” discourse is biased. It’s a political project to attack people on the left, and most anti-CC warriors constantly let the right wing off the hook. I think there are real problems here, but I think anti-CC people have completely poisoned our ability to discuss it by using it as a partisan club.

    [*] I have no knowledge of anyone calling for Yglesias to be fired over signing the Harper’s letter. However, it’s a good rule of thumb that when any even marginally known figure does anything that gets noticed, a handful of internet randos will call for them to be fired.

  16. 16
    Görkem says:

    ” I don’t want people fired or economically punished for disagreeing with me”

    It’s not that people should be fired for “disagreeing”. It’s that having to work with somebody with a known history of racism/sexism/transphobia can make their POC/queer/trans colleagues feel unsafe, and their right to feel safe in the workplace is more important than the right of a bunch of predominantly cis straight white men to exercise their “freedom of speech”.

  17. 17
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    Emily St. James tweeted about her name change back in January. Alas, she has not married the mysterious Mr. St. James.

  18. 18
    Lauren says:

    I’ve said a bunch of times that we should have labor laws to prevent that in nearly all cases.

    This whole discourse is kind of fascinating when watched from a country where “fire at will” is not legal. I also think it can be quite instructional when it comes to figuring out aspects that might not be as apparent / might not even exist that way within the frame of US labor-law.

    First, when everybody knows that a company is not legally allowed to fire an employee without any wrong-doing on the job, they do not call for it. Nobody expects a company to fire one of their workers for writing racist shit on the internet. Because it would be illegal. As a consequence, there is a lot less incentive to create social media pressure on companies because of individual employees being assholes. (The same applies to university, btw. Kicking a student out because of “immoral” behaviour would never be legal, whether that’s drinking too much alcohol or spewing hateful language).

    I think this is a good thing.

    But the question of reporters/ essayists etc. is, to me, a different one. Because their actual job is writing, putting their thoughts out there. Presumably, there are guidelines to adhere to, such as specific language, standards for fact-checking etc, but personal opinions will always color any piece of writing, ostensibly “neutral” though it may be. Publishing a writer means giving them a platform. Any media outlet makes decisions, based mostly on money, about whom they platform.

    So when one of the authors that was actively chosen publishes something disgusting? I think it is fair to criticize not only the author, but the outlet as well. After all, they didn’t have to publish. Generally, if your business is spreading opinions mixed with information, then I think it is fair to criticize what kinds of opinions get published (also which facts are given attention and which get ignored).

    And if outrage at a piece of racist/ sexist/ homophobic etc. writing leads a paper or news-site to reconsider their publication standards, which ends with them realizing that an author will never be able to meet those standards, the no longer platforming that author can be a valid decision.

    So many people have in effect been cancelled – if we take that to mean not getting paid to/ not being paid to write for a particular news outlet – for all their lives. They were preemptively cancelled because of the color of their skin, their gender, sexual orientation, religion or other similar factors. They were prevented from ever being platformed because the people in charge decided that other views – majority privileged views – should be centered.

    “Cancel culture” gets thrown around to protect people who have operated on the lowest difficulty setting forever. It ignores the fact that, far from the mindless outrage at anybody who has a different opinion, it is actually often the frustration of so many people that authors of horrible stuff get platformed again and again, when so many others never even got a chance at all. It is “why are you giving money, space and attention to this horrible person, when there are so many amazing, talented writers you could use instead who do not have a history of being horrible and dragging down not just their own but your reputation as well.”

    In those cases, basically saying “I am not going to give them any more money to pay horrible people seem to me to be a perfectly reasonable response. And why shouldn’t people inform others of their intent, maybe hoping it will catch on?

    tl, dr:
    – Firms should not have the ability to fire workers just because they might be bad people and knowing that they can not actually reduce backlash against those firms
    – if publishing opinions is your business, people have a right to complain about who gets platformed and what horrible stuff you will publish – and they get to spread the word. If writing about your opinion is what you get paid for, the people paying you have a right to decide that they would rather platform somebody else – you get paid by them, after all, not the other way around

    PS, considering the amount of time and media airspace these supposedly “canceled” people get to complain about the evils of cc, I am pretty sure they are doing just fine.

  19. 19
    Corso says:

    Amp @ All

    Nothing you’ve said is factually incorrect, but I think some of it is naïve.

    Regardless… I don’t need Yglesias to be a perfect “victim” of cancel culture. He was your example, not mine. My point was that that situation wasn’t as cut and dried as you originally said, but even if I agreed entirely, finding an example of someone who wasn’t cancelled but some people say they were doesn’t really interact with my point… Because you said it yourself… This is a real problem with real victims. Yglesias wouldn’t have been the top of my list (although, again… regardless of who tried to cancel him and how effective it was, I think the effort was made).

    I think the grifting class offers some level of assistance to people that deserve it but otherwise wouldn’t have it, so I’m glad they’re there.

    Lauren @ 18

    This whole discourse is kind of fascinating when watched from a country where “fire at will” is not legal. I also think it can be quite instructional when it comes to figuring out aspects that might not be as apparent / might not even exist that way within the frame of US labor-law.

    First, when everybody knows that a company is not legally allowed to fire an employee without any wrong-doing on the job, they do not call for it. Nobody expects a company to fire one of their workers for writing racist shit on the internet. Because it would be illegal. As a consequence, there is a lot less incentive to create social media pressure on companies because of individual employees being assholes. (The same applies to university, btw. Kicking a student out because of “immoral” behaviour would never be legal, whether that’s drinking too much alcohol or spewing hateful language).

    This. This is entirely correct. There are fewer calls for people to be fired up here, and they are generally less successful. I’m not saying Canada is perfect… But it’s one of those situations where better labor laws have actually improved discourse. Maybe one of the very few things I’ll agree with this community wholeheartedly with: America needs better labour laws.

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