The Selective Memory of the “New McCarthyism” Crowd
My new piece in The Atlantic remind folks that free speech has been in crisis on campus for a long time now
After a more-than-8-year hiatus, I’m proud to announce that I’ve once again been published in one of my all-time favorite publications. My newest article expands on themes covered in Rikki Schlott and my follow-up to “Coddling,” the oh-so-cleverly-titled “The Canceling of the American Mind.” In this latest piece, I argue that the “consequence culture” crowd suffers from selective memory.
According to pieces in Politico and the New York Times, as well as countless posts across social media, we are seeing a “new McCarthyism” in the form of speech crackdowns and viewpoint discrimination on campus and elsewhere. Indeed, donors have threatened to pull funding; employers have blacklisted students for their views; and student groups have faced backlash for their statements.
But this atmosphere has been “situation normal” on campus since at least 2017. The only thing different about our current moment is that the tables have turned. Critics who once claimed either that Cancel Culture doesn’t exist — or that it is just “accountability” or “consequence” culture — are lamenting the problem now that it’s their side suffering those consequences.
But rather than say, “I told you so,” I’d happily welcome this new awareness. That is, if it weren’t for some critics’ seeming determination to act as though Cancel Culture is essentially new, reflecting their complete ignorance of the stark evidence of how long it’s been around and how bad it has been.
I’m not surprised. If these people had to acknowledge that something has been wrong on campus for a very long time, they’d also have to admit they’ve been wrong to deny the existence of Cancel Culture. Now that they’re on the receiving end, it may be dawning on them that if the consequence of stating your opinion is being fired or expelled, that’s going to repress thought and chill speech.
Thankfully, these champions of “accountability” may finally be recognizing that the punishment does not fit the crime. What they should also admit is that it never has.
Read the full article at The Atlantic for a more in-depth analysis of the “consequence culture” crowd’s selective memory problem.
Shot for the Road
Some of the free speech violations we see at FIRE are the kind I’d think were a joke if I didn’t see them for myself. This case is no exception.
A middle-schooler at Muirlands Middle School in La Jolla, CA wore eye black to a football game, was accused of wearing “blackface,” and was subsequently suspended and banned from all future sporting events.
Here’s a great video from FIRE “throwing a flag for roughing the First Amendment.”