Tag: cancel culture (page 1 of 2)

Teaching about dead white guys in an age of social media

I’m pleased that I completed my formal education and moved out of teaching before social media transformed the world. In this article, Marie Snyder talks about teaching an introductory Philosophy course (the subject of my first degree) and the pushback she’s had from students.

There’s a lot I could write about this which would be uninteresting, so just go and read her article. All I’ll say is that, personally, I still listen to musicians (like Morrissey) whose political views I find abhorrent. Part of diversity is diversifying your own thinking.

It’s important that we scrutinize behaviours. It’s useful to clarify that discrimination or harm of any kind — from former cultural  appropriation to sexual crimes — is not to be tolerated. We should definitely overtly chastise damaging behaviours of people as a means to shift society to evolve down the best timeline. But we are all greater than our worst actions; for instance, Heidegger’s overt anti-semitism doesn’t obliterate his theories of being. His student and lover, Hannah Arendt, is another name potentially requested stricken from syllabi for a collection of racist comments despite her quarrel with her mentor about his bigoted position.

We have to look at ideas, not people, when sifting the wheat from the chaff. Some ideas stand the test of time even if their author is found otherwise wanting. It doesn’t suggest that they’re an honourable person when we find a piece of work worthy of our attention, and it’s not like we’re contributing to their wealth if they’re long dead. We need to bring back a nuanced approach to these works instead of the current dichotomous path of slotting people in a good or bad box.

Source: On Tossing the Canon in a Cannon | 3 Quarks Daily

Cancel Technology

Noah Smith makes a good point in this article that ‘cancel culture’ has always existed, we just called it ‘social ostracism’. The difference is the technology we interact with, and the intended and unintended audiences with which we communicate.

First let’s think about distribution. In the olden days, you could “read the room” and decide whether you were going to get a sympathetic ear before you said something. You knew who you were hanging out with — your relatives, or your coworkers, or your buddies, or your neighbors, or your cell of the Communist Party, etc. On the internet, that’s much less true. On Twitter, anyone can see what you write and retweet it or screenshot it to millions of strangers all over the globe. In a Facebook group, you probably don’t know exactly what kind of others are in the group unless it’s really small. If you put something up on a website, anyone can read it. Etc.

The internet also makes it much less hard to maintain private spaces because text can be screenshotted and distributed widely. In the old days, if you said something that would be cancel-worthy outside the group of people you were talking to, it was impossible for someone to verifiably transmit that information outside the group — they could snitch on you, but it would be hearsay and you could deny it. But when you write something down, the text of what you wrote can be screenshotted and distributed widely to people that you didn’t expect to be watching you.

Now, this broad distribution has a number of effects. It makes it a lot harder to get together with your buddies in private and say racist or sexist stuff, because now one of them can betray you with a screenshot. Lots of people are probably pleased with that outcome.

But it also means that everyone who talks on the internet must always worry about their words being shown to someone who’s going to interpret it in an uncharitable way.


Thus, the internet changes Cancel Culture by massively increasing the number of people who can target you for ostracism. It’s a bit like living in a gossipy small town where you don’t know any of your neighbors — you don’t know who’s going to read what you write, so you don’t know how people are going to take what you say.

Source: It’s not Cancel Culture, it’s Cancel Technology | Noahpinion

Your accusations are your confessions

I didn’t know Stephen Downes had a political blog. These are his thoughts on cancel culture which, like most of what he says in general, I agree with.

Every time a conservative complains about censorship or ‘cancel culture’ we need to remind ourselves, and to say to them,

“You are the one complaining about cancel culture because you are the one who uses silencing and suppression as political tools to advance your own interests and maintain your own power.

“You are complaining about cancel culture because the people you have always silenced are beginning to have a voice, and they are beginning to say, we won’t be silent any more.

“And when you say the people working against racism and misogyny and oppression are silencing you, that tells us exactly who – and what – you are.”

“Your accusations are your confessions.”

Source: Cancelled | Leftish