The open letter against cancel culture was a ray of hope… until some signatories canceled themselves out of it
Recently, dozens of scholars, authors, and others signed an open letter against cancel culture. Not even 24 hours later, some rescinded because of “other people on the list,” handing ‘cancel culture’ a bitterly ironic victory.
On July 7, Harper’s Magazine published a piece called ‘A Letter on Justice and Open Debate’. It is a bold letter that calls for less censorship and more exchange of ideas, which flies in the face of modern cancel culture (which those involved in try to pretend doesn’t exist). It is signed by dozens of academics, authors, and journalists who support the idea that cancel culture is the antithesis to a liberal society.
And then a bunch of them distanced themselves from it because “they didn’t know THAT person had signed it.”
I did not know who else had signed that letter. 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. The consequences are mine to bear. I am so sorry.— Jennifer Finney Boylan 🐕 (@JennyBoylan) July 7, 2020
Aside from Jennifer Boylan of the New York Times, historian Kerri Greenridge asked to be removed from it. Vox critic-at-large Emily VanDerWerff complained to Vox’s editors about a colleague signing it. She stated she felt “less safe.” How Matt Yglesias’ signature on a letter that’s about preserving free expression (which lets her do her job) is harmful is left up to interpretation.
I sent a version of this to the editors of Vox. (I have redacted some bits that are internal to Vox and shouldn’t be aired publicly.) pic.twitter.com/splNNSMivd— Emily VanDerWerff 😎 (@emilyvdw) July 7, 2020
The irony of these presumably straight-faced backtrackings is unbelievable.
You don’t pledge your support for free expression and then go “oh no, not THOSE people’s free expression.” If you want a civil, liberal society with free expression, there are going to be people you don’t like that share the same opinions as you. There are also going to be people you like that share opinions you hate.
The whole idea of free expression is what allows artists, journalists, and novelists to make a living. It gives them the chance to be themselves instead of living in constant fear of a mob trying to destroy their lives and their work. The attitude of said mob is no more complex than when Yosemite Sam would say “this town ain’t big enough for the two of us” in Looney Tunes. If that’s your attitude toward other people who might cosign the sentiment, cancel culture has won. You have handed it the victory.
The battle against cancel culture is not a right-wing or left-wing idea. Cancel culture comes for anyone who doesn’t bend the knee. It is a tyrannical force that demands fealty and surrender. It despises free expression because it cannot control free expression. It doesn’t care whether you voted Trump or Hillary, Brexit or Remain. If you do not adhere to the tenants of the Church of Woke, you must be destroyed. There is no forgiveness, and even personal growth counts for nothing. There is only ruin. It can be best described as an ideological Schutzstaffel. No creation. Only destruction.
There are people out there that you are not going to agree with. That’s life. The important thing is facing forward and fighting the bigger enemy. If cancel culture is not destroyed, more and more things will inevitably be deemed ‘wrongthink’ until all culture is ruined or neutered into irrelevance. It will continue to echo many of the things seen in Orwell’s ‘1984’, which is a future that no one should want. It’s time to put aside political differences, stop acting like conservatives or liberals (depending on where you declare you stand) eat babies in their spare time, and give the proverbial finger to an ideology that wants all of us silenced.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.