Posts Tagged ‘cancel culture’

The Cancel Culture Debate

Monday, July 13th, 2020

I certainly do not intend this as anything like a comprehensive discussion of the issue at hand. These are just a few notes.

On July 7 Harper’s published a letter “on justice and open debate.” It argues, “The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.” The letter was signed by Steven Pinker, who recently has come under criticism for what I regard as stupid reasons. Other signers include Nicholas Christakis, Jonathan Rauch, and J. K. Rowling (who has faced her own barrage of criticism).

Osita Nwanevu writes for New Republic about the “willful blindness of reactionary liberalism.” Here is the thesis: “The tensions we’ve seen lately have been internal to liberalism for ages: between those who take the associative nature of liberal society seriously and those who are determined not to. It is the former group, the defenders of progressive identity politics, who in fact are protecting—indeed expanding—the bounds of liberalism. And it is the latter group, the reactionaries, who are most guilty of the illiberalism they claim has overtaken the American Left.”

Matt Taibbi writes, “The leaders of this new movement [of the left] are replacing traditional liberal beliefs about tolerance, free inquiry and even racial harmony with ideas so toxic and unattractive that they eschew debate, moving straight to shaming, threats and intimidation.”

Hannah Giorgis writes, “In recent years, defenses of ‘free speech’ have often been wielded by people in positions of power in response to critics who want to hold them accountable for the real-life harm their words might cause.” And: “Facing widespread criticism on Twitter, undergoing an internal workplace review, or having one’s book panned does not, in fact, erode one’s constitutional rights or endanger a liberal society.”

Megan McArdle writes, “The cancelers aren’t merely trying to expand the range of acceptable ideas so that it includes more marginalized voices. They are pressuring mainstream institutions, which serve as society’s idea curators, to adopt a much narrower definition of ‘reasonable’ opinion. The new rules would exclude the viewpoints of many Americans.”

July 14 Update: In her resignation letter, former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss writes, “A new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.” She claims various colleagues harassed her and that she faced “unlawful discrimination, hostile work environment, and constructive discharge.”

Uhlig Gets Cancelled for Stating the Obvious

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

John Cochrane: “Harald Uhlig, a distingushed macroeconomist at the University of Chicago, sent out a few tweets questioning the wisdom of quickly ‘defunding the police.’ The twitter mob, led by Paul Krugman and Justin Wolfers, swiftly attacked. A petition circulated, reportedly gaining 500 signatories, demanding his removal as editor of the Journal of Political Economy. That petition has been taken down and I can’t seem to find it to verify just who did sign it. But I saw an astonishing number of tweets from economists that I formerly respected and considered to be level headed, fact-and-logic, cause-and-effect analysts of public policies pile on. The media piled on, with coverage at New York Times, Wall Street Journal Chicago Tribune and a bit of a counterpoint at Fox News, Breitbart National Review and others. By Friday, the University of Chicago caved in and threw Harald under the bus.”

The Absurd Canceling of David Shor

Friday, June 12th, 2020

Here’s how David Shor summarized a 2017 paper by Princeton’s Omar Wasow: “Post-MLK-assasination race riots reduced Democratic vote share in surrounding counties by 2%, which was enough to tip the 1968 election to Nixon. Non-violent protests increase Dem vote, mainly by encouraging warm elite discourse and media coverage.” Here’s how Wasow responded: “Thank you for reading the paper so closely. And, for anyone interested in latest versions, see [here].” So. . . this is great, right? Intellectual discussion on Twitter!

The story takes a depressing turn, Jonathan Chait reviews: “In certain quarters of the left—though not among Democratic elected officials—criticizing violent protest tactics is considered improper on the grounds that it distracts from deeper underlying injustice, and shifts the blame from police and other malefactors onto their victims.” After taking criticism, “Shor apologized for tweeting Omar’s paper.” And Civis Analytics, where Shor worked, fired Shor over the Thoughtcrime.

Chait goes on to criticize the illiberalism of parts of the American left. Obviously illiberalism now dominates much of the American “right.”