When I wrote an op-ed for the Boston Globe titled Big Law’s Cancel Culture, I got an earful from folks who complained about the use of the term “cancel culture” (which was picked by the Globe’s copy editors, not by me). There are many folks who argue the “cancel culture” doesn’t exist or, if it does, it’s greatly exaggerated.
While I have concerns about the term “cancel culture”—it carries baggage, causing some people to stop listening—I still do use it. My approach to language is more descriptive than prescriptive, so if a term or phrase is useful, it’s generally okay by me. When you say “cancel culture,” people know what you’re talking about, and I don’t know of an alternative term that refers to exactly the same phenomenon.
Cancel-culture denial tends to be more common on the left. I wonder, then, whether some progressives might be more willing to acknowledge it now that some on the left are arguably getting “canceled” for expressing pro-Hamas, pro-Palestine, or anti-Israel views. (Please note my use of the term “arguably”; I’m not here to debate the merits of these controversies, which are very fact-specific, and I condemn anything that crosses the line into threats, harassment, and other speech not protected by the First Amendment.)
Indeed, cancellation comes from all sides—a major theme of The Canceling of the American Mind, an excellent new book by Greg Lukianoff, president and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), and Rikki Schlott, a columnist for the New York Post. Lukianoff is left of center and Schlott is right of center, but they agree that cancel culture is real—as they demonstrate in their book, before offering possible responses.
If you’re concerned about free speech, cancel culture, and related issues, then you will enjoy my interview of Greg Lukianoff—one of the most eloquent, steadfast defenders of the First Amendment and free-speech values, for more than 20 years. Thanks to Greg for speaking with me, for writing this book, and for defending the freedom of speech and thought in our great nation.
Greg Lukianoff bio, The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression
The Canceling of the American Mind: Cancel Culture Undermines Trust and Threatens Us All―But There Is a Solution, by Greg Lukianoff and Rikki Schlott
Sick of Cancel Culture? One Man Has a Surprising Solution, by Evan Mandery for Politico
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