About that ‘cancel culture’ letter

A letter condemning cancel culture signed by over 150 academics, writers, journalists and others. In 2020 this shouldn’t have to happen, but it has and although the statement is as anodyne in defence of free speech as possible, it’s been causing controversy as people say there’s no such thing as cancel culture while at the same time rallying behind calls to cancel people listed on the letter.  The letter itself can be found at this link.

Thing is instead of an open debate we saw what the letter is talking about play out in real-time with people posting just why free speech is under threat, and why a certain aspect of the left has decided to be just as authoritarian and censorious as certain aspects of the right. As an example, the actress Jodie Comer was revealed to be dating a supposed conservative which has seen the most appalling screeching nonsense about how she’s Satan incarnate, and of course guilty without trial, evidence or indeed, sanity from her accusers.

There’s the element of witch-hunting here, and certainly, there’s an obvious joy from some that they can wield such power (I’d recommend Jon Ronson’s book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed to see just how dark cancel culture can get) that a young woman like Comer can wake up to a stream of frankly, insane bullshit about her private life. Then there’s the reaction of people who think Person A is guilty by association so they hold or advocate the views of Person B who they don’t like. Remember when Johnny Depp was attempted to be canceled due to domestic abuse allegations which eventually ended up showing that in reality, Depp was the victim rather than perpetrator? Now that’s readily forgotten as people support Depp in his legal action against The Sun but for a while there it seemed like the internet had crucified Depp.

Problem is when we now spend so much time living online and everyone is a cop trying to police people for wrongspeak we have a situation where there is no debate. When that spills into the real world, especially in an academic context so that debating opposing views is shunned, or worse then we’re diving headfirst into a dystopia where everyone has to conform for fear of cancellation and all that brings.

So personally I’m done with being associated with an illiberal section of the left who want to control rather than convince, and that lives are simplistic things where people should only associate themselves with other like-minded people. Ideas are not exchanged, therefore they’re never challenged and we leap on this course of anti-intellectualism as this culture war between the hard right and left knock chunks off each other. I fear for where things are going and I’m not convinced there’s a way to pull back however, the only chink of light is the majority of people still find this alien which is why so many of these types on right and left, have major problems when entering the real world. Hopefully sanity will prevail.