One used to hear many people say “Cancel Culture is so ridiculous, it will go away soon.”
Well, that’s not happening. Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne, who usually writes about other matters, discusses two representative incidents: The removal of a book review at Science-Based Medicine written by one of its own editors because it was deemed too friendly to Abigail Shrier’s book, Irreversible Damage (2021), on the 4,400% rise from from 2008 to 2018 of teenage females seeking to transition to males — and the curious absence of rigorous studies that might account for the astounding increase. Coyne notes
I read Shrier’s book and thought it was fair, empathic, and certainly not transphobic. But because Shrier was unfairly accused of transphobia for simply calling for more research on a topic that deserves it, it seems like SBM got cold feet. They replaced [editor and reviewer] Hall’s review with three negative articles about Shrier’s conclusions, saying that Hall’s analysis failed to meet SBM’s standards for “high quality scientific evidence and reasoning to inform medical issues.” (September 26, 2021)Jerry Coyne, “Ex-editor of Science-Based Medicine chews the site’s tuchas for its treatment of Abigail Shrier’s book” at Why Evolution Is True
The previous day, Coyne had noted the renaming of the Friedrich March theatre at the University of Michigan — despite the protests of the anti-racist NAACP. Friedrich March was a famous mid-twentieth century actor, well known for fighting racism at a time when that was much less popular than it is today. His sin was that he had belonged for a few years to a campus organization confusingly called “KKK,” that had no actual connection to or leanings toward the white racist KKK.
A life of anti-racism and liberalism. Shouldn’t that count more than belonging to a fraternity bearing the KKK name but having nothing at all to do with the real KKK or its philosophy?
You know the answer: NO. In 2018, a student-run council of the University voted 8-2 to remove March’s name from the Fredric March Play Circle: the auditorium named in his honor. By that time March was dead, so he didn’t live to see himself dishonored. (September 25, 2021)Jerry Coyne, “More Wokeness in Wisconsin” at Why Evolution Is True (September 25, 2021)
So the short answer is that Cancel Culture is not going away any time soon. For two reasons: Wokeness enables people lacking minimum competence, let alone talent, to parade as Important In the Fight Against Injustice. Despite incompetence, their Virtue enables them to fail upward. Second, the drip feed of social media poison guarantees them supporters. If anything, the Wokeness may just be getting started.
Fighting back is difficult, especially in the absence of anything like a database cataloguing this stuff — a deficiency that College Fix, a blog on Cancel Culture in academia, now seeks to remedy.
As their FAQs explain, they catalog “any effort by people or groups to identify someone or something as offensive or unacceptable and seek in some way to censor or punish the transgressor or item” from across the political spectrum. They include protested as well as Canceled items because
The idea is to create a database that tracks and quantifies the massive scope of cancel culture in higher education, including both its successful cancelations as well as its unsuccessful ones, which can still have a chilling effect on freedom of thought. The database’s wide lens helps reveal the strength and diversity of cancel culture.College Fix Staff, “The College Fix Campus Cancel Culture Database FAQs” at College Fix (August 15, 2021)
They currently have over 1400 entries spanning 2013 to 2021.
What about the right to protest, as guaranteed in the First Amendment?
The average protest is not an example of cancel culture and we strive to keep typical campus protests out of this database. The examples of “protests” we include in the database will involve some sort of demand for censorship, cancelation, terminations/firings, malicious vandalization or destruction of property, or other various restrictions or punitive actions. Details for each entry are available in the corresponding link. Readers can decide for themselves if any cancelations are justifiable.College Fix Staff, “The College Fix Campus Cancel Culture Database FAQs” at College Fix (August 15, 2021)
Here’s the database:
Cancel culture continues to grow and shows no sign of stopping. It represents an illiberal assault against freedom of speech and association as well as faith, academic discourse, open inquiry, the arts, unpopular or controversial ideas, and much more.
This interactive database chronicles and quantifies cancel culture’s influence on higher education, tracking its targets and noting its successes and failures. It will also serve as a vetted, crowdsourced repository that continues to track the problem of cancel culture in higher education.“Campus Cancel Culture Database” at The College Fix
You can learn, for example: Libraries remove dozens of books that offend students (Georgetown University); University capitulates and removes John Wayne exhibit (University of Southern California); College accused of ‘cultural appropriation’ after ‘mostly white’ choir sings black spirituals (University of Western Michigan); Pro-Hong Kong art display removed after Chinese students complain (University of Missouri Kansas City); or Black student complaint about Black History Month menu gets black employees canned (New York University).
It would be interesting to know how many of these institutions are partly funded by the taxpayer and to what extent.
Perhaps that’s the next database the public needs: The extent of public financial support for people whom we inappropriately flatter if we call them anything but “mobs.”
You may also wish to read:
Newsletter group creates alarm plus demands for censorship. Substack is getting a lot of ink these days — raising both hope from readers and handwringing from old media. The surprising thing about “controversial” Substack is that it is a restoration of the very old idea that we should pay a small amount for the content we want. (Denyse O’Leary)
Why is “depublishing” so cool among publishers now? Publishers now Cancel their own books in a righteous fury! It’s because the industry changed. Now, often, it’s about currying favor with government and powerful people, not helping readers understand the world around us. (Denyse O’Leary)
In Big Tech World: the journalist as censor, hit man, and snitch. Glenn Greenwald looks at a disturbing trend in media toward misrepresentation as well as censorship. (Denyse O’Leary)