Free Speech

How Cancel Culture Violates Intellectual Freedom

Jonathan Rauch explains the difference between canceling and criticism

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"An open society is a place that has a lot of intellectual pluralism," says Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of the landmark 1993 book Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought.

"Canceling comes from the universe of propaganda…it's about making an idea or a person socially radioactive."

In this short video essay, Rauch explains why canceling is different from criticism. The open society "is the most successful social principle ever invented" because it allows individuals to make errors as they seek out the truth.

This video is excerpted from a recent podcast interview with Nick Gillespie.

Edited by Paul Detrick; interview by Nick Gillespie; graphics by Lex Villena and Detrick; music by Villena.

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  1. I dont understand why the term “cancel culture” has become a thing. And why it’s being treated like some huge new threat.

    If it isn’t the government doing the “canceling” then what’s so alarming?

    The “Heckler’s Veto” is not a new concept or phenomenon. It’s been around for ages and yet we’ve survived this far. For most of history, people trying to silence those they disagree with or threatened boycotts for various perceived slights.

    And if enough people reject those ideas — isnt that just the marketplace of ideas at work ?

    What’s changed all of a sudden ?

    1. It’s on a much broader scale, and it seems to be working for them.

      No the government isn’t doing the cancelling [at least not yet, but I’m pretty sure that is on the agenda], but it sure seems much of society is going along with it.

      1. I’d believe that our domestic Conservatives were sincere in the whining about censorship, if domestic Conservatives also advocated that their Religious Right Conservative competitors in ISIL/Daesh also be allowed to peddle their BS on college campuses/on social media without censorship – And if Conservatives demanded that Bernie, the Conservative media of investing, Madoff be set free because he only gave people his “opinion” that they would get their money back if they invested it with him.

        Also, if Conservatives are allowed to spew their never ending lies in order to defraud voters into voting for Conservatives vile evil murderous pro-pollution ideology – I should be able to yell “FIRE!” in a crowded theater in order to get better seats or call in a bomb threat to the doctor’s office if I’m running later for an appointment in order to hide the fact that I’m running late.

        1. “Also, if Conservatives are allowed to spew their never ending lies in order to defraud voters into voting for Conservatives vile evil murderous pro-pollution ideology…”

          Thanks for a fine example of cancel culture.

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    2. It isn’t always about the government. The bigger threat is how you make your living. We see it everyday, from celebs to low level employees. They say something, post to the Internet or tweet and the cancel culture crowd cries long and loud and they lose the job. It is not about them, it is taking away your first amendment rights. It is about shutting up anyone that doesn’t agree with them.

      And sometimes there is push back. Company owners that have stood by their Christian beliefs, faced boycotts and actually improved their business from supporters.

      1. It’s changing the way people behave, though. What’s wrong with social progress being efficient?

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    3. Because it’s not about winning an argument. It’s about being the only voice in the room, so much that anyone even in slight opposition has to be completely destroyed. It is far removed from heckling and boycotts.

      1. It is a war against logic, reason and rational thought = cancel culture

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    4. Calling it “cancel culture” is just a way to frame it in the marketplace of ideas so it can be debated.

      It is a fairly accurate and non personal term. That is far more benign than throwing the term racist around. The left seems to like terms that they can personally attack you with. The left wants to damage your reputation with their attacks. Something a marketplace of ideas would not tolerate. It’s not a marketplace of action.

      1. Just the “Left”?

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    5. Even though it’s not through explicit government enforcement, it’s still coercive collectivism. That’s why it’s alarming (from a classically liberal standpoint anyway).

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    6. They need something about which to whine.
      They do not have any good news with Trump in office and Americans in the streets.

      1. .000000045/10

    7. “What’s changed all of a sudden ?” — Our government decided to become socialist and use their gun-forces to enact socialist legislation. In a socialist (“mob rules”) society; it becomes wildly important that the dictative tyrant “mob” is on your side else you might just find yourself on a firing line. More Americans need to stop supporting the idea that government is a “mob rules” Democracy where politicians promise pots of gold and start ensuring we are the Republic with a Constitution that limits the “mob”.

    8. If it isn’t the government doing the “canceling” then what’s so alarming?

      Libertarianism should encompass your behavior in all spheres. It’s not applicable solely to big government.

      It’s not okay as a libertarian to be a censorious, authoritarian asshole just because you’re a private company or individual.
      A true libertarian won’t stop you from being a censorious, authoritarian asshole, but they won’t support your fascist behavior or say it’s okay.

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    14. Because Libertarians/libertarians only like boycotts in theory. The moment they’re actually effective in changing behavior, libertarians/Libertarians think they’re attacks on Free Speech and Free Association and so-on.

  2. There would be no cancel culture if fearful idiots just quit bowing to it.

    1. Yeah all those pussy ass faggots who just stand by and let mobs of hundreds of violent psychopaths destroy their property, beat them, kill them, and threaten everyone they have ever loved or associated with are responsible for this.

      1. We must not be going to the same trans rights meetings.

  3. When you can make Zoe saldana bawl in a Maoist struggle session because she played some black chick in a forgotten film years ago you know you went too far.

    We need more people saying fuck you to the outrage twitter shitter mob. But people and companies are cowards so that’s not gonna happen.

    Frankly burn the fucking internet down and end their power forever.

  4. Cancel culture like political correctness stops discourse.

    It’s all about bigotry. When you’re wrong, your argument is weak. Your only hope is to ignore free speech. To cancel reality, truth.

    Examples of bigotry in a Sentence
    “ a deeply ingrained bigotry prevented her from even considering the counterarguments”

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bigotry

    Making any argument does not make someone a bigot. Refusing to recognize any one does.

    1. Your only hope is to ignore free speech.

      From a guy who wants to destroy the First Amendment.

  5. They have no power over people who refuse to give in. Comparing these idiots to government coercion is, well, idiotic.

    1. “Comparing these idiots to government coercion is, well, idiotic.”

      Let’s see how the voting goes; there is nothing these idiots would like more than migrating to real power; and there’s never a shortage of demagogues who’d be willing to suck them for that.

    2. They have no power over people who refuse to give in.
      Until your boss gives in and fires you, or YouTube bans your videos, or Amazon drops your books, or Antifa shows up in front of your house, or…

      1. You listed off people giving in, proving my point.

        1. He listed your boss, who does have power over you, thus destroying your point.

        2. God I hope Nazism takes off in the way that your paranoid delusions think it is so that you end up the one at the end of the boot, baton, and rifle so that I can tell you “Just stop giving in bro! They don’t have any power over you unless you give in!” Fucking retarded cunt. Go have another handle of Jack and shut the fuck up.

      2. They have no power over people who refuse to give in.
        Until they bust your glass window, graffiti your door, burn down your building if you don’t post their sign, contribute to their cause. Cancel culture is extortion.

        1. Herpa derpa durrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr there is no such thing as coercion if the government isn’t involved.

  6. Another thing about which to whine.

    1. Let’s see how you react when it happens to you.

      1. “Life isn’t fair. Suck it up.”
        —Libertarians to poor children who can’t get healthcare

  7. Nobody is going to tell me who to cancel.

  8. Cancel culture is ancient. Ask Kaepernick, Dr King, Frederick Douglass, any black person who speaks up against racism in America. This article is trash, making out like it’s something new and liberal. Almost all canceling is conservative, and there is a LOT of it.

    1. Um. Dr. King and Frederick Douglass were canceled by Democrats. Dr. King, at least, was a registered Republican.

    2. Hi Palin’s Buttplug.

    3. Kaepernick has hardly been cancelled. In fact he has more voice than he deserves. The Millennial Al Sharpton and an excellent representation of the grievance culture.
      Second rate QB who listened too much to his SJW girlfriend. Rather than learning defenses and studying to improve his play, he focused on the guilt of his white privilege and the struggle with not being ‘Black enough’. Coaches dissected his game and he was on the bench.
      Kaep doesn’t really belong in the same company with Frederick Douglas and Dr King.
      The man doesn’t even vote. He’s an activist for profit.

  9. Yep, cancel culture, “hate crimes”, Title 7, speech codes, and any attacks on the first amendment are bab, bad, bad. I know because I keep reading columns that say so.

    Now what the he.. are you going to do about it?!

  10. Everybody already posted “this speech is violence and it makes me feel unsafe” as a response, right?

  11. I actually disagree. As long as the government isn’t the mechanism of canceling, “canceling” is a true fundamental of a free society. In a free-market society, the ability of the citizens to actively challenge ideas, hold entities(and they’re representatives) accountable, and use economic means to do so is paramount. It is up to the individual to determine whether or not they agree with what is being sought for canceling. If we seek to rid ourselves of government regulation, then how else to we as citizens exert our power on out of control industries?

    1. I agree with your fundamental point that people should have the right to vote with their wallets and that market force ultimately sways people’s actions.

      But the overall direction of this movement is not so simple and innocent. The slightest of infractions now merit whipping up a mob that harass you in every way until you admit to them you are racist/sexist/xenophobic and you grovel to them proving they were right all along, or they dont stop until you lose some of your livelihood. A mob mentality that unless you give us purity we will go recruit every soul we can to shut you down.

      I struggle with this overall as I think people should be able to boycott and organize, but the anti-racism witch hunts that are going on are not the same.

      1. So whose speech do you want to regulate because you may in theory feel uncomfortable one day?

        “Life isn’t fair. Suck it up.”
        —Libertarians to poor children with cancer

        1. Tony’s always ready with a non sequitur and/or a straw man.

    2. […] then how else to we as citizens exert our power on out of control industries?

      Ding ding ding, we have a winner!

      Libertarians don’t want the citizens to exert any power on industry. So long as a boycott has no hope of being effective (say, the annual boycotts of Starbucks over their Christmas cups), libertarians/Libertarians are happy to laugh and say “that’s their right”. The moment such a boycott is actually changing corporate actions (see the complaints about companies going “woke”) libertarians/Libertarians cry foul.

      Libertarians/libertarians, fundamentally, do not like poor people organizing.

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  13. Cancel
    Things taught by Demons – “Hypocritical liars whose conscience have been seared as with a hot iron. They Completely Control Others, they have a seared brain need to cancel and change everything. In short, these liars have lied so well and for so long that they have lost their capacity for truth. This is todays Dims and this Satanic Cancel Culture.

    1. “the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 is… post-truth.

      Post-truth is an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.“

      It’s Bigotry. There is no arguing with someone’s emotions or personal beliefs so there is no counter argument to ignore.

      ALL we can do to defeat cancel culture bigotry is to value truth, reality and freely speaking it.

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  15. Mask, there is little conclusive evidence face mask are effective. In fact Sweden, Finland, Holland and other countries never wear masks and their out of the woods while Spain and Italy did and there still in the battle. Plus, add all the other side effect and sickness it’s flat out bad. This has become the culture wars the liberals have wanted for many years. For example, WHO, wants this war also. That’s enough to take them off.

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  17. There’s also the related phenomenon of “Outrage Culture.” This is certainly not a new thing, but it’s heightened in this era of near-instantaneous hot takes. Look at this story and see how it utterly BLEW UP:

    https://www.nbcnews.com/news/sports/oakland-s-coach-says-nazi-salute-dugout-was-unintentional-apologizes-n1236100

    There’s dozens of outlets who wrote about this, when it’s pretty clear what happened-an attempt to make a celebratory gesture and not realizing precisely what his arm was doing. Perhaps it’s indicative of the fact that high-fives are banned so people are making different gestures of celebration/congratulation. He wasn’t fired, but he was still forced to apologize, the team was forced to apologize and to point out how “incredible offensive” this whole incident was.

    It’s such a non-incident that it’s stupid people even took two seconds to talk about it, but the opportunity to weaponize outrage must NEVER be passed up.

  18. The hypocrisy of cancel culture bigotry has corrupted the justice system.

    From a recent reason article, “ Last Thursday, Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled in the group’s favor, finding Tennessee’s prohibition on “false speech” in election communications to be a violation of the First Amendment and the Tennessee Constitution.”

    From the benefit of an environment of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth the judge ruled that prohibiting lying violates 1a.

    So why doesn’t the hypocrite allow lying in court?

    Imagine that, all testimony could be lies and not a damned thing the court could do about it.

    That’s where cancel culture is taking us.

  19. On the theoretical level, shunning actual literal national socialists might not be particularly damaging.

    But in the real world, where even the slightest lack of wokeness means you’re a Hitler clone, then that theoretical concession can be used to cancel, say, someone who says if you have dangly bits, you’re male. Or that racial discrimination is wrong – even on behalf of one’s political allies. Or any number of positions.

    1. There are nationalists and there are socialists.

      They freely exist among us.

      Why are your nightmares filled with national socialists?

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  24. Violating intellectual freedom is the whole point to Cancel Culture. They want to kill all meaningful diversity (diversity of thought is the only diversity that matters). They can’t get the government to do it (yet), so they’re doing the best they can on their own.

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