The perfect gift for someone who assures you Cancel Culture is a hoax
This week marks the publication of my new book, which demonstrates that Cancel Culture is real and more perilous to our society than you may realize
On Tuesday, my new book, “The Canceling of the American Mind”, co-authored by Rikki Schlott and with a foreword from Jonathan Haidt, officially hit bookshelves. The book conclusively establishes that Cancel Culture not only exists but also thrives on college campuses at an unprecedented scale, that it is part of an unhealthy approach to "winning arguments without winning arguments," and that it wreaks havoc on institutions and erodes public trust in authority and expertise.
I've found that those who attempt to downplay its existence typically lack knowledge about the history of free speech and academic freedom. So if you've ever felt gaslit by a friend, podcast host, or pundit who dismisses Cancel Culture as a non-issue or a hoax, this book makes for the perfect early stocking stuffer.
Skeptics often start with the presumption that Cancel Culture can't be true and then work backward. When faced with devoted partisans, I sometimes bring up the fact that, since Cancel Culture emerged in 2014, roughly one-third of the sanctions against professors have actually come from the political right. I mention cases like Nikole Hannah-Jones, Asheen Phansey, and Lisa Durden, all of whom my organization, The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), defended when they were attacked by the right.
If highlighting the fact that Cancel Culture has claimed its share of liberal scalps increases their respect for me and the issue, I then lose all respect for them. You should oppose censorship even when it's directed at your worst enemies.
You've likely encountered the argument that there's no such thing as Cancel Culture, only "accountability culture." Such assertions typically reveal that someone hasn't genuinely delved into the topic, is unwilling to explore it, and lazily assumes that everyone targeted deserved it. You cannot read our book and conclude that everyone targeted with cancelation had it coming.
Scores of innocent people have had their lives upended for saying things that might very well have been true. Take Jennifer Sey who was pushed out of Levi Strauss for making the argument that Covid lockdowns would be devastating to kids, particularly underprivileged kids. Cancel Culture should be opposed even when it’s weaponized against someone who gets something wrong, but it’s particularly galling when it’s leveled against someone who turns out to be right. Experts now agree the lockdowns were harmful to kids in any number of ways, especially underprivileged kids. Still, some people treat “Actually it’s accountability culture!” as a legitimate argument, when, in fact, it's a perfect example of one of the many kinds of evasive deflection we address in “Canceling”.
Another common response from those who wish to minimize the reality of Cancel Culture is, "It's just marginalized people taking back their power!" No. The schools with the highest rates of attempted professor cancellations are the nation's top 10 schools and elite colleges, which often serve more students in the top 1% than in the bottom 50 or 60 of the economic distribution. These campaigns are often facilitated by administrators who are far from powerless, as we've seen time and time again. Indeed, it's the collaboration between some administrators and some student activists that has fueled some of the most notorious cancelation campaigns in the country.
One humorous response I received to my statistic that "30% of successful cancellations of professors come from the right" was when someone said, "I can do the math; that implies the rest come from the left!" Well, they should also know that about 5% of these cases don't align with any clear political direction, and these cases are often overlooked by everyone except FIRE. Nonetheless, it should be uncontroversial to acknowledge that both the professoriate and campus administrators are predominantly left-leaning, and these administrators, at the very least, too often tolerate, if not actively support, cancelation campaigns. The fact that most campuses lean left is an argument I stopped having to make 15 years ago, because no serious person aware of the data could argue otherwise.
Lastly, I'd like to offer some advice to my fellow authors. As you can see, I'm shamelessly advocating for people to read my book. I've heard that some authors can be reticent about promoting their work. Stop it. You owe it to your own labor of love to encourage everyone you know to buy your book and spread the word. In fact, I often tell new authors that if their friends aren't completely fed up with hearing about their new book, they haven't done enough.
And on that note, did I mention that “Canceling of the American Mind” not only makes a great stocking stuffer, but also an excellent alternative treat for kiddies for Halloween?
Shot for the Road
Check out my lively interview with Times Radio (UK) about my new book!
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