Via Popehat: Our Fundamental Right To Shame And Shun The New York Times

March 23, 2022

Our Fundamental Right To Shame And Shun The New York Times:

I’m going to offer a working definition for the purposes of this essay: “cancel culture” is when speech is met with a response that, in my opinion, is very disproportionate. Perhaps that sounds cynical, and I could certainly give you a Justice-Breyer-seven-factor balancing test, but that’s what this discussion boils down to: just as we constantly debate norms of what speech is socially acceptable, we debate norms about what responses to speech are socially acceptable.

Missing from most definitions of “cancel culture” is the relationship to the target… A traditionally minority or under-served group using social-media amplification to “Punch Up” against someone who’s “Punching Down” from a position of authority based on celebrity, status, wealth or other source of power, to try for some degree of accountability, should be encouraged. Privileged people using their legions of followers to beat down those with less power, often already disenfranchised, not so much.

Let’s discuss some examples, because when I criticize sloppy use of “cancel culture” I’m accused of denying that there are ever any unfair, disproportionate, or evil responses to speech. I don’t deny that. What happened to Justine Sacco was, in my opinion, very disproportionate. What happened to David Shor was disproportionate and maddeningly stupid. What’s happening in the community of Young Adult Fiction seems like a complete shitshow that makes me want to avoid everyone there. What happened to Professor Greg Patton was disproportionate and anti-Asian bigotry to boot. Shouting invited speakers down so they can’t speak and attendees can’t listen is fascist and contemptible. I could go on, but you get the point.

The “YA Twitter” thing is harder, because YA lit very often is written for people of some vulnerable group, at an age where they really don’t have the emotional training to deal with intersectionality… But is also a part of the larger publishing social media wasteland where plenty of people are more interested in getting the “hot take” viewer numbers than any real conversation about the works themselves.

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