Is it time to stop the ‘Cancel Culture’? – Conservative Article
No one is safe from the Twitter mob anymore. Today, they will come for your enemy. Tomorrow, they will come for you. ‘Cancel culture’ is accelerating and it’s not stopping anytime soon.
The Free Speech Union has a long thread on Twitter collecting cases where people were wrongfully fired over their opinion. One of these examples is the UCLA professor who was suspended after refusing to be more lenient with marking black students’ assessments as they supposedly suffered ‘trauma’ after George Floyd’s death. There were also cases of people criticising the BLM organisation due to their links with Marxism and a newfound passion for dismantling capitalism; the Twitter mob didn’t spare them either.
Here in the UK, Rebecca Long-Bailey got fired for sharing an article with communist/anti-Semitic elements. Most recently, a Harvard graduate has lost her internship at Deloitte over a TikTok video where she expressed an interest in stabbing anyone who says ‘All Lives Matter’.
On the other side of cancel culture, we have cases such as the recent comment from a Cambridge Uni professor, Dr Priyamvada Gopal, who happily suggested that we should ‘abolish whiteness’ as she tweeted “white lives don’t matter” and “abolish whiteness”.
After the Twitter backlash, Cambridge University stood by their professor and released a statement. It suggested that they believe that the right to free speech should be upheld. Funny that, considering that they rescinded the invitation for Jordan Peterson to speak at their university. They also have a track record of refusing to allow other conservative voices to share their thoughts.
This has been brought up by Douglas Murray in his phenomenal book ‘The Madness of Crowds’. He compared the slip up of Benedict Cumberbatch, who accidentally used an outdated term when speaking about racism, to a The New York Times journalist, who in the past expressed a lot of derogatory opinions about white people. In the first case, the angry mob came after Cumberbatch, but the journalist was safeguarded by their employer.
If cancel culture is so selective, what are the rules? Where is the line drawn? And is it safe for the Twitter mob to be the moral arbiter of the ever-changing concept of truth and political correctness?
I think that we’re entering very dangerous waters right now. It is best to step away from it before it gets worse. Not that long ago, Scottish Parliament proposed amendments to an already existing Hate Crime Bill. The most questionable element is the fact that people can be prosecuted for ‘stirring up hate’ in the eyes of those offended. There are dangers to such legislations. Nowadays, when saying something that’s not politically correct can lead to a lot of complications – regardless whether it’s factually correct or it was done unwittingly.
I don’t think that the progressives fully understand the dangers of cancel culture just yet. As in every case of someone losing a job over something they said, it is usually excused by a simple statement “they must have deserved this”. Some say that we have freedom of speech, however, not the freedom of consequences. Other arguments are that private companies can do what they want. But this is just ignoring the bigger issue. It gives too much power to people who may want to ruin other people’s lives.
Why is cancel culture so dangerous? Because it supports censorship and erases a healthy debate. Not long ago, I wrote a piece for my own blog criticising the riots and looting that happened after George Floyd’s death. I consider myself a pacifist, I don’t like violence, and I believe that burning down black-owned businesses is stifling the progress people are trying to advocate for. But the backlash to my piece was imminent. People were justifying burning the small businesses! I was flabbergasted.
Over that time, I saw a lot of people trying to speak up against the groupthink, yet they got bullied into submission. This isn’t okay. It starts with people being truly afraid of saying what they think. Then it moves to people being punished for what they think (this is the stage we’re at right now). Suddenly, there’s only one version of events allowed and there is no space for nuance. What’s going to happen next, gulags? Cancel culture punishes logic and rewards emotion.
The polarisation between the right and left-wing is widening. Despite doxing being illegal in the UK, people find other ways of harassing others: emailing their university, contacting their employer, etc.
In a lot of cases, people who fall victim to such behaviour are young. It wasn’t that long when the hashtag #BeKind was trending. And yet, the same people who were loudly proclaiming for others to engage in kindness, soon later were bathing in the metaphorical blood of their enemies as they rejoiced in someone losing their job.
Cancel culture isn’t just dangerous because it may ruin someone’s source of income. The mob mentality leads to mental health issues and sometimes, suicide. We need to take a step back and find ways of working together, bridge the divide, and engage in a respectful conversation.
Written by Guest Conservative Writer, Dinah Kolka
Point of information
Cancel culture is endlessly complex and impossible to “stop” – a Labour response
I strongly empathise with Dinah’s fear of growing political polarisation. Even the responses to the idea of ‘Cancel Culture’ are deeply polarised; the right has a tendency to frame it as the beginning of the end of democracy, whilst many on the left outright deny its existence. Both perspectives are politically convenient, but the truth is, as always, far more nuanced.
I see ‘Cancel Culture’ as a social phenomenon. A widespread, highly amorphous phase of internet history that is bound to evolve past its current state. Yes, it has many regrettable casualties and is often synonymous with bullying and mob mentality. But it is also a tool to help hold criminals accountable when institutions are unwilling to do so. Just look at the #MeToo movement for a positive example of the power of grassroots-led justice.
The right does seem to have found a new bogeyman in the phenomenon. However, and often cry wolf when faced with reasonable criticism. I think, Dinah, that the heated response you received upon posting your article on the Black Lives Matter protests seems less like ‘Cancel Culture’ and more like a healthy sign of a functioning democracy!
Perhaps, your acquaintances expressed anger at the fact that you chose to focus on the relatively small percentage of violent outbreaks during one of the most significant civil rights events in history. Such pearl-clutching reactionism completely distracts from the real issues at hand.
I somehow doubt that gulags are on the cards in the near future, either. Just look at some of the examples you yourself brought up. Jordan Peterson was unable to speak at a specific event. Yet, seems to remain one of the most successful and popular thinkers of the 21st century. Benedict Cumberbatch used an outdated phrase, yet still has a thriving career at the top of the A-List.
Yes, Long-Bailey was sacked for sharing an arguably anti-semitic article, but surely this is just run-of-the-mill political manoeuvring from Starmer? The effects of ‘Cancel Culture’ are hugely variable and rarely lead to real-world repercussions.
To reach across the aisle, however, I do agree that dialogue, however difficult, is crucial, and is also becoming worryingly scarce. Characteristic of a lot of Twitter-based hysteria is a blanket dehumanising of anyone who agrees with a certain viewpoint. A strategy that, when used against the right-wing, always serves to further entrench divisions. Just look at when Hillary Clinton wrote off Trump supporters as “deplorables“. Or, when David Cameron labelled the whole of UKIP “closet racists” – how did that turn out for them?
It may be easy to see the other side as evil. But, cross-partisan empathy is essential in order to avoid further, exponentially more dangerous, political polarisation.
Written by Senior Labour Writer, Max Ingleby
Freedom of speech has to come first – a Liberal Response
I am of the same mind as Dinah that ‘Cancel Culture’ is a real problem. It is part of the sour underbelly of social media that does affect people’s lives in a very real way. But at the same time, it is almost a necessary evil.
The problem is finding the balance between defending the right to free speech and holding people accountable for their words and actions in a measured way. As a liberal, I will be the first to say that the freedom to speak openly is one of the most basic and fundamental human rights. And as (self-proclaimed) journalists, it is something that everyone across the political spectrum at POI should join me in defending to the bitter end.
In defending someone’s right to speak their mind, you have to defend the right of others to criticise them for their words. As Evelyn Beatrice Hall famously said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. When restrictions are placed on free speech, it can be a slippery slope. But at the same time, I acknowledge that there are of course limits to free speech that must be placed with regards to hate speech, slander and so on. It is freedom of speech, not freedom from accountability.
The problem with ‘Cancel Culture’, therefore, is that it generalises. As Dinah says, it doesn’t contribute to fruitful debate. I feel it is part of the wider problem that social media has encouraged, the notion of guilty-until-proven-innocent.
Ultimately, ‘Cancel Culture’ is a sad but evanescent by-product of the right to freedom of speech that social media has helped bring about. Whilst it is something that I have problems with, I will defend the twitter mob’s right to say it.
Written by Guest Liberal Writer, Fergus Harris