To Save Public Discourse, We Should Cancel ‘Cancel Culture’
You’ve probably seen it before.
The trolls dig up something offensive that this person said. It could be a tweet they wrote in high school or a message they sent their best friends in 2012. It doesn’t have to be recent. It may not even have been offensive at the time. It doesn’t matter.
Then, in comes the announcement. In light of new information, the company that just hired this person has rescinded their employment offer. Considering new sources, the prestigious college won’t be welcoming so and so into the class of 2023.
This is “cancel culture” and it’s ruining our civil discourse. How so? It is used to shut people down for their political views before they even have the chance to say anything.
Look at what happened to Kevin Williamson.
Williamson made a name for himself as a columnist at the conservative publication, the National Review. In 2018, he was hired as a writer at the Atlantic. Williamson is a talented writer with interesting views and beautiful prose—he’s an ideal candidate for the longform journal. Even better, Atlantic editor Jeffery Goldberg wanted to have diverse viewpoints in his magazine.
But Goldberg fired Williamson soon after he was hired. He caved into the pressure of internet mob who dug up an article Williamson wrote years ago on abortion, took something out of context, and got onto twitter.
More recently, look at what happened to Shane Gillis.
Saturday Night Live wanted to appeal to conservative viewers by adding Gillis, a comedian, to their cast for the show’s upcoming season. But Gillis was cancelled faster than you can say “live, from New York.” An internet mob found a racist comment Gillis made on his podcast.
Was what Gillis said offensive? Yes. Do modern comedians regularly make offensive comments for a laugh? You bet. Gillis was held to a different standard than other comedians because of his perceived political leanings. That’s not funny at all.
Instead of valuing a discussion between various perspectives, “cancel culture” shuts down anyone who may see the world differently than the internet mob calling the shots—often before that person even gets the chance to say anything.
Hearing from a variety of voices helps us, personally, to learn and grow in our own worldview. As a society, it helps us make better political decisions by considering all the options available. The more and more voices we “cancel” the more we’ll find ourselves in an echo chamber of one type of thought.
More than that, as writer David French wisely notes, “cancel culture” is a direct result of a society that has lost the concept of forgiveness. Everyone has probably said, emailed, or tweeted something that they regret. Our capacity to forgive others for the things they’ve said relies on us having a sense of our own humanity. As the saying goes “to err is human; to forgive, divine.”
Internet mobs—both on the left and the right—seem to no longer recognize the humanity of the other side. If they did, they wouldn’t be so quick to cancel their opponents instead of listening and learning from their perspective.
We need to start recognizing the humanity of our opponents. If we don’t, it’s the civil discourse of ideas that will be cancelled.
The Resolute Voice is a collective of writers from across The Movement, the people and organizations advancing free enterprise and conservative values. Speaking from different walks of life and unique spheres of influence, we write in order to build and strengthen the voice of The Movement.