If it’s Not “Cancel Culture,” What Kind of Culture is it? By Matt Taibbi.
Any attempt to build bridges between the two mindsets falls apart, often spectacularly, as we saw this week in an online fight over free speech that could not possibly have been more comic in its unraveling.
A group of high-profile writers and thinkers, including [Steven] Pinker, Noam Chomsky, Wynton Marsalis, Salman Rushdie, Gloria Steinem and Anne Appelbaum, signed a letter in Harper’s calling for an end to callouts and cancelations.
“We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom,” the authors wrote, adding, “We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences.”
This Hallmark-card-level inoffensive sentiment naturally inspired peals of outrage across the Internet, mainly directed at a handful of signatories deemed hypocrites for having called for the firings of various persons before.
Then a few signatories withdrew their names when they found out that they would be sharing space on the letterhead with people they disliked.
“I thought I was endorsing a well meaning, if vague, message against internet shaming. I did know Chomsky, Steinem, and Atwood were in, and I thought, good company,” tweeted Jennifer Finney Boylan, adding, “The consequences are mine to bear. I am so sorry.”
Translation: I had no idea my group statement against intellectual monoculture would be signed by people with different views! …
The whole episode was nuts. It was like watching Bruce Springsteen and Dionne Warwick be pelted with dogshit for trying to sing We Are the World.
This being America in the Trump era, where the only art form to enjoy wide acceptance is the verbose monograph written in condemnation of the obvious, the Harper’s fiasco inspired multiple entries in the vast literature decrying the rumored existence of “cancel culture.” The two most common themes of such essays are
a) the illiberal left is a Trumpian myth, and
b) if the illiberal left does exist, it’s a good thing because all of those people they’re smearing/getting fired deserved it. …
Current Affairs hastened to remind us that the people signing the Harper’s letter were many varieties of bad! They included Questioners of Politically Correct Culture like “Pinker, Jesse Singal, Zaid Jilani, John McWhorter, Nicholas A. Christakis, Caitlin Flanagan, Jonathan Haidt, and Bari Weiss,” as well as “chess champion and proponent of the bizarre conspiracy theory that the Middle Ages did not happen, Garry Kasparov,” and “right wing blowhards known for being wrong about everything” in David Frum and Francis Fukuyama, as well as — this is my favorite line — “problematic novelists Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie, and J.K. Rowling.”
Where on the irony-o-meter does one rate an essay that decries the “right-wing myth” of cancel culture by mass-denouncing a gymnasium full of intellectuals as problematic?
This level of mob insanity cannot last. Wokeism is just not sustainable.