On "Cancel Culture"

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Tiassa, Jul 20, 2020.

  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member


    There is an idea of the Grumpy Old Men, and I know it exists in Her Majesty's Dominions because a British comedian does a fun version about the colloquialism, "innit", and there is a less grumpy version in a Harry Potter story. Anyway, I mention them because in my day, the grumpy old men wrote letters to the editors of newspapers, and such, lamenting secular humanism—or feminism, or liberalism—as the thin edge of the wedge bringing moral relativism that would shred the fabric of American society. When we actually see that moral relativism in American society, though, it emerges on behalf of what those grumpy old men pretended to protect. And if somewhere in the 2014 midterm cycle, for instance, there is an obscure occasion that a Republican running in a primary for an open Congressional seat argued that his Christian duty required him to oppose feeding the hungry, he might not be definitive of Christians or conservatives per se, but his moral relativism reminds consideration of how much the conservative politic seeks to exclude. That's part of what is at stake in the complaint against cancel culture, the power of exclusion. While this might seem obvious insofar as we are considering censorship and even employment disruption, the complaint against cancel culture seeks to retain the power to exclude according to its aesthetics while disdaining complaints against such rhetoric and behavior.

    When a fiction-writers' association expelled a member several years ago, it might be easy to think he was kicked out for his politics, but that wasn't really it. Had it been simply a matter of his politics, they could have dumped the white nationalist well before then. As a question of the interests of an organization and its members, it wasn't about protecting members from the fact of his politics, but, rather, the incivility and antisociality shown some of his fellow writers for the color of their skin. Was he "cancelled"? Let us be clear: It's one thing if his beliefs, thoughts, or political views, would cancel someone else for being Black, and it is nearly unavoidable that recognizing his views played some role in the board's decision; but the question at hand was his behavior toward colleagues, including and particularly within the purview and context of Association function, and if he was irreconcilable, then he was irreconcilable. As it was, his subsequent revenge stunt would go on to make a point about irreconcilability, as well as remind that he certainly wasn't silenced.

    And it's ironic that we can tell a story of a frustrated younger man writing a letter to the editor, but he was grumpy about disapprobation arising from perceptions of exaggeration, stereotyping, and even racist pandering in his memoir. And, yes, that really stings when one is in his circumstance. Inasmuch as he was complaining about intolerance of opposition as some sort of general notion, it seems worth observing that he was allegedly pandering to a particularly destructive exclusionism. Moreover, some of the dynamics of who did or didn't join his complaint are fascinating in this regard, because he found himself joined by a pop culture icon who was also the de facto celebrity symbol of a movement that even went so far as to identify itself as exclusionist; someone who wanted to sign, after the fact, was the controversial antifeminist who argues people should be willing to openly humiliate themselves in order to disrupt antiracist discourse; someone organizers chose to exclude from asking to sign was the ostensible leftside firebrand with a scorching critique against cancel culture that, like the alleged pandering to racism, the open identification of exclusion, and public advocacy of disrupting antiracist discussion, tends toward the legitimization and advancement of harmful discourse that cannot stand on its own merit. There isn't really anything in that infamous episode, though, about extreme leftists cancelling less extreme leftists. I don't know, maybe the fallout back and forth including a lesser celebrity exclusionist getting into it with a former co-worker, but that part of it seemed more a glimpse of something going awry within a particular complaint against cancel culture.


    In American history, we have a reference known as Griswold, and as far as I know it has nothing to do with that family in the movies. Griswold v. Connecticut was a Supreme Court decision striking down a law suppressing distribution of information about contraception and abortion; a bit of pub trivia associated with the case is that the law it overturned was brought to the legislature by state Senator P. T. Barnum. Now, just as a general proposition, were those who advocated this censorship silenced by the decision that dissemination of information about contraception and abortion could not be suppressed by coerive force of state? The 1965 decision overturning an 1879 law found its way into Supreme Court opinions handed down in the twenty-first century, so we know the pro-Barnum argument has never truly been cancelled in American society. In fact, it is a powerful fundraiser, especially with the resurgent twenty-first century conservative political focus on disrupting reproductive health care. So, no, they weren't really silenced.


    It is not impossible that the term, "cancel culture", itself was invented by someone to the left of the political center, but, "I think" and "probably" aren't really the best explanation of what one means. And compared to a history in which thematic contiguity clearly tends toward conservative political arguments and sympathies, the question of who coined a term is its own curiosity.

    If we consider our newly arrived neighbor↑, though, it is not simply that particular beliefs and actions are abhorrent to some majority of people. That some beliefs and actions offend a majority is hardly new, but there is also a relevant question of function. This is not so far removed from your consideration of the right winning a battle to define cancel culture, at least inasmuch as part of what makes the conservative definition of cancel culture so easy to sympathize with is its appeal to self-interested relativism.

    It's kind of like Griswold; was a time when the idea of women voting was considered abhorrent rhetoric, and protesting for suffrage abhorrent conduct, but it was not some analogous equivalent of cancel culture when the majority got its stuff together long enough to ratify Amendment XIX. This example is pretty straightforward: One side wanted nonreciprocal—i.e., unequal—exclusivity, the other side inclusive equality; there is a functional difference. The one side is not excluded simply because it cannot exclude the other. It is not silenced if subsequent discussion on the subject of human rights continues without being hauled back to women's suffrage or suppressing discussion of health care. Incels, for instance, are not canceled if the proverbial rest of us don't stop what we're doing in order that we might discuss women as a material resource in order to equally redistribute men's access to heterosexual intimacy. The pop culture icon is not cancelled if the people they would exclude refuse to buy their book; nor is that exclusionist cancelled if the friends and family of the people they would exclude also decide to skip out.

    It's true, though—

    —it sounds like a fascinating story; I wish you would tell it.

    No, really, it sounds amazing.

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  3. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Here are some links to articles on cancel culture, and to definitions and explanations. These are all interesting, but if you're going to read just one, the one from the New York Times magazine is fairly comprehensive; it's the first link, below. Warning: if you have a short attention span, you might like to start with one of the shorter or simpler ones!



    Several of the sources comment on the performative aspect of cancel culture. For example, from merriam-webster:
    "There is a performative aspect to canceling, one that (it could be argued) paradoxically amplifies that which it seeks to squelch, if only for the moment. To cancel someone publicly often requires broadcasting that act, which then makes the target of one’s canceling a subject of attention. The objective behind canceling is often to deny that attention, so that the person loses cultural cachet."
    Insider notes:
    Despite the seemingly positive intentions of many cancellations — to "demand greater accountability from public figures," ... — people tend to call out cancel culture itself as a negative movement, suggesting that the consequences of cancellation are too harsh in minor instances or represent rushed judgment in complicated situations.

    Others have criticized that criticism, saying cancel culture doesn't exist.
    It seems that the term "to cancel", applied to people, appeared about a decade ago. The term "cancel culture", on the other hand, is more recent; in particular it became more known and popular after being used by a number of black people on Twitter in 2016-17. A good early example is one discussed on Insider link above.

    Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, in November 2017, was widely criticised when, in a discussion about sexual assault, she wrote "it is our responsibility as women to dress modestly and be classy", which was taken to be blaming victims because their dress was inappropriate. In response to the backlash against Douglas, Shanita Hubbard tweeted "Let's talk 'cancel culture.' Personally, I am willing to give a lot of grace to young Black girls simply because the world doesn't. I wasn't born reading bell hooks. I had to grow. So does Gabby Douglas. And so do some of you."

    In 2017, the term "cancel culture" - often used in quotation marks - gained in popularity. A tweet from November 2017 said "Cancel culture is SO toxic, you can't even learn from your mistakes anymore because you're not even allowed to make any."

    Google trends showed little interest in terms of searches for the term until late 2018- early 2019. One of the first articles in mainstream news media to examine the trend came in June 2018. "Almost everyone worth knowing has been canceled by someone," Jonah Engel Bromwich wrote for The Times. A month later, Connor Garel, for Vice Canada, opined that cancel culture is a myth.

    In the second half of 2018, Kevin Hart, who had been invited to host the 2019 Oscars, faced a backlash for homophobic tweets he had written. He lost the gig and afterwards blamed "cancel culture" for that loss. This, along with other contemporaneous events, might have signalled the start of the drift in the meaning of "cancel culture" towards a sort of simplified wailing at being called out for one's behaviour, in any public context. Then it became politicised.

    Barack Obama called it out in 2019, without using the specific term: "That's not activism. That's not bringing about change. If all you're doing is casting stones, you're probably not going to get that far. That's easy to do." But then the political right got onto it, so that these days the most visible complainers about "cancel culture" are political conservatives. Typically, conservative depictions of cancel culture compare it to mob rule and authoritarianism.

    Now, perhaps, we've reached "peak cancellation", with an increase in private individuals with little to no prior public profile being "cancelled" by large numbers of strangers, particularly on social media.

    I have tried to distinguish between public accountability and "cancel culture" in this thread, but it seems the kind of distinction I want to make is rapidly disappearing, if not irretrievably lost.
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  5. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Interesting discussion at the end of the Vox article I linked above. Bold highlights are mine:

    Even though cancel culture seems to generate few lasting consequences for celebrities and their careers, some people seem to view it as part of a broader trend they find deeply disturbing: an inability to forgive and move on.

    Aaron Rose, a corporate diversity and inclusion consultant, used to identify with progressives who participate in call-out and cancel culture. But now, he says, he’s focused on objectives like “conflict transformation,” motivated by the question of “how do we truly communicate [and] treat each other like humans?”

    “Mainstream internet activism is a lot of calling out and blaming and shaming,” he told Vox in an email. “We have to get honest with ourselves about whether calling out and canceling gives us more than a short-term release of cathartic anger.

    Rose “used to think that those tactics created change,” he said, but eventually realized “that I was not seeing the true change I desired. ... We were still sad and mad. And the bad people were still bad. And everyone was still traumatized.” He says he now wants to “create more stories of transformation rather than stories of punishment and excommunication.”

    Loretta Ross is a self-identified liberal who’s come to hold a similar position. In an opinion piece for the New York Times, she wrote that as a black feminist, she finds cancel and call-out culture a “toxic” practice wherein “people attempt to expunge anyone with whom they do not perfectly agree, rather than remain focused on those who profit from discrimination and injustice.”

    In Ross’s view, “most public shaming is horizontal” — that is, it’s not done to justifiably criticize people who are seriously dangerous, but to score brownie points against people who mean no harm. The people doing the canceling, she argues, “become the self-appointed guardians of political purity.”

    But among proponents of canceling is a sense that any losses that the canceled person suffers are outweighed by a greater cultural need to change the behavior they’re embodying. “Forgive me if I care less about the comedian who made his own bed versus the people affected by the anti-queer climate he helped create,” wrote Esquire’s Michael Arceneaux in response to Hart’s homophobic comments in 2018.

    “[W]hat people do when they invoke dog whistles like ‘cancel culture’ and ‘culture wars,’” Danielle Butler wrote for the Root in 2018, “is illustrate their discomfort with the kinds of people who now have a voice and their audacity to direct it towards figures with more visibility and power.”

    But to progressives like Rose, rejecting cancel culture doesn’t have to mean rejecting the principles of social justice and the push for equality that fuels it. “This does not mean repressing our reactions or giving up on accountability,” he told Vox. “On the contrary, it means giving ourselves the space to truly honor our feelings of sadness and anger, while also not reacting in a way that implies that others are ... incapable of compassion and change.”

    To Rose, and for many opponents of cancel culture, the bottom line in the debate is a need to believe that other people can change, and treat them with according optimism. The difference between cancel culture and a more reconciliatory, transformational approach to a disagreement is “the difference between expecting amends and never letting a wound close,” he said. “Between expressing your rage and identifying with it forever.”

    “I get that, but that’s a really middle-class, white privilege way of coming at this,” Charity Hudley countered when I summarized Rose’s viewpoint for her. “From my point of view, for black culture and cultures of people who are lower income and disenfranchised, this is the first time you do have a voice in those types of conversations.”

    Charity Hudley’s point highlights what seems to many to be the bottom line in the conversation around cancel culture: For those who are doing the calling out or the canceling, the odds are still stacked against them. They’re still the ones without the social, political, or professional power to compel someone into meaningful atonement, to do much more than organize a collective boycott.

    “I think that’s why people see [cancel culture] as a threat, or furthering the divide,” she said. “The divide was already there.”
    In the light of this, some might argue that I'm too white and privileged to be able to discuss this objectively. They may be right, but I seem to have a lot of points of agreement with Loretta Ross.

    I might also point out that, these days, "cancelling" seems to be often deployed by privileged white people against other privileged white people (which is "horizontal" in the way that Ross mentions), and even deployed downwards, with privileged people speaking down to people they consider less than themselves (especially in terms of moral behaviour). I see much merit in speaking truth to power and in highlighting abuse of privilege (which would be an upwards kind of "cancellation"), but cancel culture doesn't always work that way.

    When it comes to the anti-cancel-culture brigade, maybe it's important to look at who is trying to "cancel" accountability. If it is the privileged, and they are trying, in effect, to deny a voice to the oppressed, then it is very possible that their whining about "cancel culture" is just words they use to argue that they shouldn't be held accountable.
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  7. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    I think the links and other information I have provided above will help to answer your questions.

    For your future reference: when I say "I think that, probably, ..." it usually isn't just a wild guess on my part. If I know nothing about something, I usually ask questions rather than giving my thoughts on how things "probably" are; it would be silly to do that in a knowledge vacuum.

    I don't know what you're talking about. Maybe it's like that. Maybe it isn't. What are you referring to?

    I don't recall telling you that I can't address those matters you raise. If you have questions for me, try asking, rather than assuming.

    Why don't you try addressing what I have written, rather than something else you say I "can't address"? Do you want a discussion with me? If not, just keep posting your own stuff and never mind what I say. Discussions should, ideal, involve some notion of good faith on the part of the participants. Failing that, people just talk past one another.

    I've dug up a few specific examples now. Read through the links above and let me know what you think.

    I have tried to explain it a number of times, above. Other people have acted as if they understand what I'm talking about. Maybe you're just a bit slow.

    Rather than blathering on vaguely about whatever it is, maybe you should provide some specifics. You know, so readers can get a clue what you're on about.

    Are you saying that you consider Trump's trial an example of "cancel culture"? Or that somebody else does, perhaps? Again, some specifics would be useful, as opposed to vague allusions.

    In what case? Who's doing the comparison? Where? How is this related to the thread topic?

    There's a hint of a point in there, somewhere. We might even be in agreement, if I understand the point correctly. I'm not sure it's about cancel culture, though.

    It sounds like you're saying that complaining about cancel culture is idiocy. But if you're not even sure exactly what it is, or whether it exists at all, then it's kinda hard to say, isn't it? A cursory web search shows that there is quite a debate going on about cancel culture, including among many people who don't appear to be idiots at first (or second) glance.

    It's interesting that you mention segregation. Arguably, cancel culture itself seeks to segregate people, not racially but on criteria of a kind of imagined moral purity, and lack thereof.
  8. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    So.... you think ... it's not impossible?

    You mean you've just been winging it?
  9. Bells Staff Member

    Some context here is important.

    Douglas’ now-deleted tweet pointed to Raisman’s criticism of people who shame victims of sexual assault: “It is our responsibility as women to dress modestly and be classy,” Douglas said. “Dressing in a provocative/sexual way entices the wrong crowd.”

    Raisman’s original tweet sounded off on what she said were the dangers of victim-shaming people who have endured sexual abuse. The Olympic gymnast said she would not “put up with any woman or girl being shamed for wanting to wear a skirt, dress, etc.”

    “STOP VICTIM SHAMING,” Raisman’s note said. “It is because of you that so many survivors live in fear.”

    Raisman had come out and advised that she had been sexually abused and assaulted by the team's physician, Larry Nassar. She had also posted a comment about blame culture, where victims of abuse and sexual violence are often blamed in some way, shape or form. Douglas's comment was in response to that comment from her teammate.

    Now, there's something about a time and a place. In other words, 'read the frigging room' when it came to Douglas's comment, something she completely failed to do.

    Their other teammate, Simone Biles also noted:

    “Shocks me that I’m seeing this but it doesn’t surprise me,” Biles tweeted in response to a screenshot of Douglas’ tweet. “Honestly seeing this brings me to tears bc as your teammate I expected more from you & to support her. I support you Aly & all the other women out there! STAY STRONG.”
    Douglas's comment was not appropriate. This was her teammate. Who had just admitted that she had faced years of sexual abuse at the hands of their team doctor. And it was not just Raisman, but also another teammate who was also sexually abused.

    Her comment did amount to victim blaming.

    She wasn't "cancelled". She went on to write books, TV appearances and shows afterwards.

    She was called out for saying something wholly inappropriate and cruel.

    Something something about accountability applies here.

    That's the thing about "cancel culture". It's about accountability. If someone does something bad, says something bad, then yes, it matters. They should be held accountable for their actions and their words (we just watched a US President not be held accountable for his words and actions in the last few days).

    Now, what is most interesting is that those who claim they have been cancelled, more often than not have not been cancelled. Take Kevin Hart as a prime example:

    Hart has a rather vile history of documented homophobia, ranging from offensive standup clangers to dumb interview statements to puerile tweets to a whole embarrassing film filled with it. In 2010 during his Seriously Funny standup special, Hart delivered an extended joke based on a fear of his three-year-old son Hendrix turning out gay.

    "One of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay. That’s a fear. Keep in mind, I’m not homophobic, I have nothing against gay people, be happy. Do what you want to do. But me, being a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will. Now with that being said, I don’t know if I handled my son’s first gay moment correctly. Every kid has a gay moment but when it happens, you’ve got to nip it in the bud!"

    Hilarious, right? A gay kid! No, thanks!

    As his profile rose, the joke resurfaced and in a 2015 profile with Rolling Stone, he was asked to discuss it. After attempting a poorly conceived justification claiming that it’s really all about his own fears and insecurities, he then blamed the climate.

    “I wouldn’t tell that joke today, because when I said it, the times weren’t as sensitive as they are now,” he said. “I think we love to make big deals out of things that aren’t necessarily big deals, because we can.”

    What might not seem like a big deal to Hart is less amusing when given a wider context. In his extended joke, he claimed to have beaten both his son and another kid who was “grinding” up behind him at a party, something that feels particularly grotesque when viewed next to the multiple real world stories of parents beating and torturing their children to death when a so-called “gay moment” rears its head. Giovanni Melton, Gabriel Fernandez, Anthony Avalos, Ronnie Paris – just a handful of kids killed by parents because of either their perceived or confirmed homosexuality.

    During the same period, Hart revealed that he turned down a role in 2008’s Tropic Thunder because the character was gay and his behaviour was “real flagrant” before adding that he’d never be able to play a gay character in the future. “What I think people are going to think while I’m trying to do this is going to stop me from playing that part the way I’m supposed to,” he said.

    He whined when his years long dedication to homophobia was called out. He was "cancelled". Damn lefties, huh?

    Meanwhile, Kevin Hart continued to make movies, sign deals, appeared in shows and was even given his own Netflix Show.

    So no, he wasn't cancelled.

    Far from it.

    The entire concept of "cancel culture" is itself a myth. It is a whine by people who are being held accountable for what they have said or done. Back in the 'olden days' we used to boycott products and companies to try to hold them accountable.

    Every person who claims they have been "cancelled" has done something bad and people tried to hold them accountable.
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  10. Bells Staff Member

    Irony. I expected better after all of that.

    There are victims, James. If there weren't, people would not bother to call them out or hold the people making those comments, or who have done bad things, accountable.

    Normalising homophobia by joking about beating one's child if they even showed a hint that they may be gay - I shouldn't have to explain how or why this is bad and not acceptable and such behaviour should be called out. It's not funny. It's pure homophobia.

    Same with Douglas choosing that particular moment to infer that her what she did about her own teammates should be called out and she should be held accountable for her words.

    This is what gets me with people who complain about "cancel culture".

    They expect to not be held accountable. It's just a joke? Right. It's meant to be funny! Hur hur!

    It's random. What you fail to recognise is that it normalises behaviour towards others. Discriminatory behaviour. But most importantly, some jokes are simply cruel.

    You have relied on the one armed jokes thing a few times in this thread. Do you know why the comedian may be asked not to do it? Because he or she is not disabled themselves.

    Adam Hills made a very pertinent point when discussing making jokes about people with disabilities:

    But still, I wonder if a Paralympics comedy show is appropriate – doesn't it send the message that it is a kind of novelty sideshow to the "real" Olympics?

    "I think it is appropriate because [it can be] funny, and most Paralympians think it is," says Hills, who was born without a right foot and wears a prosthesis. "They joke about it. It's funny to walk into a room full of disabled people."

    I think I must have a puzzled expression because he explains that he went to the closing night party at the Beijing Paralympics, which he was covering for Australian television. "You've got a guy in a wheelchair snogging a girl with dwarfism, you've got a blind guy chatting up a girl with cerebral palsy. It's funny – not as in mocking or going, 'These people look ridiculous' – it's joyous funny, something to be celebrated. With comedy and disability people go, 'Ooh, where's the line?' There is no line – if you're celebrating, then you won't say the wrong thing. As long as it comes from the place of going 'This is great'. And it is, it's an amazing sporting event. I think because everyone behind the show loves the Paralympics, we get it, we've seen a lot of Paralympic sports and we've all gone beyond that [he puts on an insipid voice], 'Oh isn't this inspiring' and instead gone, 'This guy's awesome. It's about the sport really."

    Does he think there are still a lot of patronising attitudes about Paralympic athletes, that kind of cloying triumph-over-adversity angle? "Oh definitely. But there is triumph over adversity – the great thing about the Paralympics is that everyone has a story. Except for the people born with disabilities. They're boring." He laughs. "'What's your story?' 'I was born without a foot' 'Dull. Move on.' I think it makes them more accessible. You watch Usain Bolt – he's clearly got an amazing gift and it's been nurtured and trained and he has done nothing else but do that since he was a kid. I can't connect with that. Then you see someone, for instance someone like Martine Wright [the sitting volleyball player] who lost her legs in the 7/7 bombing – a person on their way to work, they've lost their legs and they've pushed themselves and they've done this. It's actually easier to relate to that than some of the Olympians I think."

    He has never been cancelled for his jokes.

    Do you know why? Because he is not cruel and also mostly because he is disabled himself.

    That's the distinction needs to be recognised.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2021
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  11. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    It doesn't seem to matter what I say. You and Tiassa seem to be determined to fail to draw the distinction I have made repeatedly between being held accountable for bad behaviour and being "cancelled" for a relatively minor infraction on the basis that somebody decided to read something and assume bad intent, or because somebody decided that, hypothetically, somebody somewhere might be offended.

    "Cancel culture" is, in large part, a performance. At its worst, it is a kind of cruel virtue signalling that seeks to destroy other people in order to make the person "calling it out" feel smugly satisfied that they have taken some kind of meaningful step to address real injustice, which inevitably turns out to be illusory.

    Regarding the Douglas case, which I mentioned in passing:
    Nobody - least of all me - said it was appropriate.

    Exactly. As in so many cases where there is a mass cry to "cancel" somebody with a high profile, it all comes to nothing after the initial 15 minute internet storm.

    Yes, and she was given little to no chance to learn from her mistake before being thoroughly dragged over the coals for it. Once a victim blamer, always a victim blamer - so says cancel culture.

    I have been trying very hard to tell you that's not what it is about.

    I think at this point, I'll probably back off on this topic. I have linked a number of useful articles which discuss the matter from all sides. I don't know if you read any of them. I don't think I'm going to change your mind. It's frustrating to repeat a point many times, only to have it repeatedly ignored or straw manned, as has happened here (to be clear: I'm not just talking about you, and you're not the worst).

    I agree.

    Precisely. Which calls into question the value of "cancel culture" as an effective method for complaining "upwards" at celebrities etc. But just as often, as I have mentioned, it complains "horizontally", which is even less useful for challenging social status quos maintained and promoted by the powerful. And when it complains "downwards", it just tends to look like people exercising their privilege because they can.

    Regarding Kevin Hart, also mentioned in passing:

    No. He was rightly called out for his homophobia. Not an example of "cancel culture", as I have been using the term.

    At least one of the articles I linked pointed out the irony that making a fuss about denying people publicity in itself tends to actually draw more attention to them, at least in the short term. In the longer term, though, I think the net effect on moving society's needles for acceptability is probably worth it. It's an interesting debate.

    You've clearly chosen a side in the debate over "cancel culture". If you won't even acknowledge that it exists as a recent social phenomenon worth discussing, there's not much we can talk about.

    If you haven't done it already, I suggest you read the articles I linked above.

    Well, no, they haven't. Not every person. And that's kind of the point. Sure, you can find lots of people who have said bad things, which have provoked an outcry, especially on social media, which seems to be the locus for much of "cancel culture". But you can find just as many people who aren't celebrities, but who get 15 minutes of internet infamy because some self-appointed cultural warrior decides to call them out about a comment without bothering to clarify their intent or to investigate the context.

    Here's one example from 2014. A PR executive (with no special public profile) called Justine Sacco sent a tweet immediately before boarding a flight from the US to Africa. It read: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”.

    While her plane was still in the air, a Twitter storm erupted with people who wanted to "cancel" her, and the hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet trended. Bear in mind that she was unaware of this and had no way to respond, because she was on an international flight.

    If I remember correctly, soon after landing she was effectively fired from her job by her employer, which had been receiving communications calling for her sacking.

    Nobody bothered to ask her what she meant in writing that tweet. Nobody was interested in asking her to defend herself, or to withdraw the tweet, or anything like that. Or, at least, noboy was willing to wait for a response from her. No, the internet mob wanted her blood - this stranger who nobody had ever heard of before.

    Following this incident, she remained an example for people who were into shaming others on the internet. As interest in "cancel culture" increased, many articles were written about her and this incident.

    Out of a job, she took some time away from the industry to regroup. During that time, she spoke with author Jon Ronson for a book and offered the following explanation:

    “To me it was so insane of a comment for anyone to make. I thought there was no way that anyone could possibly think it was literal."
    She goes on to say:

    "Unfortunately, I am not a character on ‘South Park’ or a comedian, so I had no business commenting on the epidemic in such a politically incorrect manner on a public platform ... To put it simply, I wasn’t trying to raise awareness of AIDS or piss off the world or ruin my life. Living in America puts us in a bit of a bubble when it comes to what is going on in the third world. I was making fun of that bubble.”
    Apparently, in the world of "cancel culture", people must lose their jobs when they act as she did.

    Full disclosure: she got another job 6 months later. So, I guess that makes everything all right, then. Nothing to see here.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2021
  12. Bells Staff Member

    *Raise eyebrows*



    You are citing cases and I am responding to those particular incidents. People who claimed they were cancelled, but weren't and who had said or done some fairly terrible things. Harmful things.

    And you appear to be describing cancel culture as something that it is not.

    I don't believe that is the case.

    Do you have any instances where this is the case? Actual instances?

    She went on to have a career in TV, had book deals, etc, after she was supposedly "cancelled"..

    In other words, she was never "cancelled". No one who claims they are cancelled, are actually cancelled. It's a fabrication.

    Her comments weren't a mistake. She knew what she was doing. Note her teammates responses about not being surprised at what she had said.

    You are trying to reinvent it.

    The notion of cancel culture is a variant on the term call-out culture and constitutes a form of boycotting involving an individual (usually a celebrity) who is deemed to have acted or spoken in a questionable or controversial manner.[2][4][5][6][7]

    For those at the receiving end of cancel culture, the consequences can lead to loss of reputation and income that can be hard to recover from

    And as has been noted, none of the people claiming they have been "cancelled" actually suffered any loss. On the contrary, they gained from their offensive behaviour.

    No James. I'm a woman of colour. What could I possibly understand about "cancel culture"...

    And what I find frustrating is that you are attributing it to something that it is not, and then listing celebrities as examples.. None of whom were actually "cancelled".

    Their words and actions were not minor. They caused harm and normalised harmful behaviour.

    And they were protected by a system that allowed them to get away with it. Even after they were 'called out' for their past and present behaviour.

    You practice "cancel culture" on this site. We all do. At its heart, "cancel culture" is meant to be about accountability. And that is why it is actually a myth. I don't know how many times I have to repeat this....

    But they aren't challenging the status quo promoted by the powerful. Far from it. They are enabled by it.

    "Cancel culture" is about the weaker speaking out against those who are in positions of power.. It is about them using their voice. And it is why it is a myth. The people claiming they have been "cancelled" never were.

    Yes it is.

    But then:

    Talk about cancel culture, huh?

    I said it isn't real because the people claiming to be "cancelled" are not actually "cancelled" for things they have said or done to or about others - in that they have not actually suffered real losses.

    Name one who hasn't.


    This is a part of an impromptu speech given at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul - a speech to and about female scientists.

    It's strange that such a chauvinist monster like me has been asked to speak to women scientists. Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry. Perhaps we should make separate labs for boys and girls? Now, seriously, I'm impressed by the economic development of Korea. And women scientists played, without a doubt, an important role in it. Science needs women, and you should do science, despite all the obstacles, and despite monsters like me.

    The speaker is Professor Tim Hunt. Two days after that speech and the issue exploded online (social media and elsewhere), he said this:

    Two days after the speech, Hunt gave a BBC radio interview saying "I did mean the part about having trouble with girls. It is true that I have fallen in love with people in the lab, and that people in the lab have fallen in love with me, and it's very disruptive to the science. It's terribly important that, in the lab, people are on a level playing field. And I found these emotional entanglements made life very difficult. I mean, I'm really, really sorry that I caused any offence – that's awful. I certainly didn't mean – I just meant to be honest, actually."[35][36] Hunt went on to say "I'm very sorry if people took offense. I certainly did not mean to demean women, but rather be honest about my own shortcomings."

    He was forced to resign from various positions as scientific institutions who have been trying to get more women involved in STEM spoke out against his comments. He complained that few wanted to know the context. Yet when he was asked, he said he was simply being honest.

    Do you think he was cancelled. Were the 3 journalists who were there and tweeted about it 'keyboard warriors'?

    Keep in mind that 2 years after that happened, he is back on the lecture circuit.
  13. Bells Staff Member




    Let’s get real. Sacco is a sympathetic figure to media types because she’s a communications professional whose career (briefly) unraveled thanks to what they view as an idiotic mistake that anybody – including themselves – could make. Sacco and her defenders insist her tweet was ironic, a racist joke mocking racism itself, and that her words were taken out of context. Never mind that it’s hard to find humor in her tweet, which relies on misperceptions of Africa as a squalid, disease-ridden hellhole, and offers the fact that black life is cheap as a punchline. It’s also hard to see this as parody when plenty of folks make similar comments about Africa and AIDS, and mean it.

    But even if we grant Sacco’s explanation that she was trying to be “ironic” – which many commentators seem willing to do as unreflectively as they were initially to take her seriously – the plain meaning of what she said still remains, resonates beyond her intentions, and amplifies the volume of an already corrosive discourse. That simply isn’t how words or symbols work; they mean what they mean regardless of intention. You may intend your Halloween blackface costume as an ironic mockery of racism, but that intention doesn’t undo the fact that the costume has a history, that it carries a hurt that no appeal to irony can negate.

    Worse yet, the people who demand that we listen to Sacco clarify “what she meant to say” seem to think that she’s owed that audience. They insist we take her tweet “in context,” but they are highly selective about what context we ought to apply. They ignore the context that there are 25 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa living with HIV or AIDS, and that 63 percent of children orphaned in South Africa alone have lost parents to the disease. Instead, their only relevant context is that Justine Sacco is actually a very nice person. Sam Biddle, in particular, seems to be very struck by the fact that Sacco has … a face.

    And about that face — it has a specific complexion and, for some people, it might as well be a mirror. Justine Sacco is a sympathetic figure because she’s a 30-something, well-educated, relatively affluent white woman. On a level that resonates with some of the ugliest of America’s racist narratives, the blonde Sacco is archetypally vulnerable – the damsel to be rescued from a rampaging mob. These people imaginatively identify with Sacco’s rapid fall from grace, thinking “There but for the grace of God (or a keystroke) go I.”


    The upshot is that we need a more nuanced conversation about shaming in general. From schoolrooms to sidewalks, we rely on shame to enforce norms about gender, race, class, and more.Shame is an integral part of how we put people in their place. Certainly, public shaming on Twitter is a pressing problem. But it intersects with long-established everyday pressures, online and off, that include exclusion, marginalization, and outright violence – and those pressures have different effects on different people. Any conversation about an out-of-control Internet outrage machine that ignores that context is part of the problem. To the extent that our conversation about public shaming is reduced to bemoaning the indignities suffered by well-off white people who say stupid and odious things in public, we are morally impoverished. Before we start shaming each other for shaming, let’s at least pick a better poster child

    Yes. Poor Justine.

    And she was hired a month later.. And then the company that fired her, re-hired her for a more senior position a couple of years later.
  14. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    That's behind a paywall for me.

    Only, it wasn't an idiotic mistake. It's just that nobody bothered to wait long enough to ask her if she was being serious before going nuclear on her, despite the words "Just kidding" appearing in the "offensive" tweet.

    No they don't. The only people saying it was a racist joke are the cancel crowd. I quoted what she told Jon Ronson, above. That's what she actually said.

    As for context, there was no context for her words to be taken out of - not at that time. She might have been expecting her tweet to be read by some close associates, or family, or friends, perhaps, who knew who she was as a person and would read in an appropriate "context". She was not expecting a whole bunch of total strangers to jump on her to call for her immediate sacking without giving her a reasonable right of reply.

    It's hard to find humour if one is tone deaf to irony and satire.

    It is, of course, perfectly fine if you, as a user of twitter, don't share some other twitter user's sense of humour. But that does not give you some kind of right to cancel the person you don't find funny.

    Even there, though, I probably have to specifically say that people have "free speech" on Twitter, within reasonable limits. Which means, of course, that you can spend all your time on Twitter, if you so choose, crying out for other people to be "cancelled". It follows that the mob calling for her sacking can only be criticised on the grounds of failing to recognise the imperfect human being on the other end of their computer. It's only a moral argument.

    This is why context is important. This is why people should try to establish context before just ... reacting.

    It only "remains" if you view it in isolation from everything else she has said on the matter, to insist that it be read out of context and given the "plain meaning" you insist it must have.

    I guess we'll have to notify all comedians and other writers who employ satire or irony, to tell them that from now on words can only have literal meanings. Never rely on people reading intelligently. Assume that they will interpret your words literally, regardless of context.

    That's an attempt to draw a false equivalence.

    She's owed a fair hearing, same as anybody else. She didn't intend to broadcast to the world, especially to a bunch of strangers. Granted, while Twitter users are obviously aware that any other user can, in principle, read their tweets, people without a high public profile don't normally tweet with the global audience in mind. Not about the flight they're about to take, or what they just ate for breakfast.

    The reason the author of this thinks she isn't owed an audience is probably because he or she has already decided that Sacco deserved to be "cancelled" for her tweet. The author would no doubt have been happy to join the people on Twitter putting the boot in. Maybe he/she did. (I can't see the author's name behind the pay wall.)

    I'm not sure how the author reached the conclusion that this is being ignored. I'd say it's a separate issue to the one about "cancelling" this woman.

    Speaking for myself, I have no idea whether she is a "nice person" or not. I don't know her. What I do know, because she told me (and everybody else) is that her tweet wasn't meant to be read with the assumption that the relevant context was that she was a racist, affluent white woman taking her privilege for granted.

    There, without any apparent grace of God, have gone many people, since 2014. And not all of them 30-something, well-educated, relatively affluent white women.

    There's some irony, right there.

    This author could hardly be called "nuanced" in his/her analysis of this incident.
    Nowhere else in the quoted part of this author's article is there any indication that the author believes that public shaming on Twitter is a pressing problem. Strange to introduce that idea here. Maybe it's just that public Twitter shaming is not a problem if the person being shamed is a 30-something, well-educated, relatively affluent white woman. Maybe her privilege means she is fair game.

    I agree with this part. Ignoring context would be a problem.

    This author seems to want to have his/her cake and eat it to - to be free to bring in "context" whenever it suits his/her purposes, and to ignore it and concentrate on "plain meanings of words" when it does not. I'd call that hypocritical. Wouldn't you?

    To the extent that it is reduced to that, yes. I agree. But is it reduced to that?

    I wonder who, if anyone, the author would suggest has been wrongly Twitter shamed.

    All the Twitter posters calling for her head without waiting for her to clarify, or discussing the matter with her, had the same attitude you do, apparently.

    I wonder why. She did such an awful, unforgivable thing!
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2021
  15. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    "Unbelievable" is the correct description. That's the precise issue we're having. You won't believe that the term "cancel culture" could have - could ever have had - any meaning other than the one you currently prefer.

    It strange that you seem outraged by what I've written. Nowhere have I defended the people who have actually said terrible things, whether racist, sexist, homophobic or whatever. All I have done is to express my own concerns about the recent popularity of calling for the cancellation of people before all the relevant facts are in - or in ignorance of context or relevant facts, which is probably more often the case. I'd like it if people were a bit nicer, a bit more willing to allow their fellow human beings to fail and to learn from their mistakes, without trying to destroy careers or cause lasting damage to somebody's reputation, to the extent that they become "known for" that one mistake they made, or for that one time when their words were misinterpreted.

    I have also linked to and quoted from several articles which talk about the history of "cancelling" and the term "cancel culture", looking at the phenomenon from various angles. And I have noted how the meaning of the term "cancel culture" has changed over the past decade. Note, in particular, that the term is invariably understood to have negative connotations. Whenever people talk of "cancel culture" - regardless of which definition they prefer - they are never recommending it. These days, the people who use the term most are the same people who used to complain about "political correctness", when that was the latest buzzword. Those people have claimed ownership of the term, in effect. Because of that, some people who want accountability prefer to argue that "cancel culture" never described an actual thing at all, that it never existed and that it certainly doesn't exist now. That makes things easy for them; it eliminates any grey areas. It reduces the term to something that is always easily dismissible as an attempt to excuse the inexcusable. If only it were really that simple.

    Actually, most of the incidents I've cited were used to explain the history of the term "cancel culture" itself. That is, I have tried to explain how the term developed, where it came from, and how its meaning has been used and varied.

    I have not defended any of the people who did harmful or fairly terrible things.

    Perhaps so. As I have noted many times now, the meaning of the term appears to have been captured by people who use it dismissively as an excuse. Your response is to ignore the original meaning and to reject the current meaning, which leaves you with no option but to claim that it simply doesn't exist - i.e. the term has no real referrent.

    Maybe I need a new term for what I'm talking about - one untainted by the muddying of the waters that has gone on with "cancel culture". Got any suggestions?

    Yes. The Succo case appears to be an actual instance, for example.

    I don't know what happened to her in the aftermath - whether she was dropped from the swimming squad, that kind of thing. I haven't checked.

    What would you require, in terms of impacts on a person's like, for it to be other than "fabrication"?

    Is losing one's job - or maybe losing one's booking at a comedy theatre, say - an actual consequence, or are those not "real" effects of "cancellation"? Must a person remain forever unemployed before you will agree they were "actually cancelled"? Or maybe even that doesn't count. Maybe we need to never hear anything from them ever again, or it doesn't really count?

    I haven't looked into what she said subsequently, so I can't really comment. It sounds like you might have more complete information than I do, on that matter.

    If I had to guess, I'd venture that her comments weren't a "mistake", in that she actually meant to write what she wrote about women dressing in a particular way as a risk reduction strategy to avoid rape. But that doesn't mean she "knew what she was doing", in terms of understanding why her advice was inappropriate, wrong. Her teammate, who posted about "cancel culture" wrote that, in her opinion, she had a lot to learn, and urged that she be given the opportunity to learn rather than being pilloried.

    No. I'm discussing it.

    Interesting that this definition mentions consequences "that can be hard to recover from", while you say that there's actually no such thing as cancel culture, from which it follows that there can be no consequences of it.

    No? What were they complaining about, then?

    I mean, even somebody like Kevin Hart (who I must admit I'd never heard of before this) apparently lost his Oscar hosting gig, which would involve an actual loss of income and exposure. Clearly he thought he suffered some loss as a consequence of being "cancelled".

    Note, again, that I am in no way trying to defend him or to say that he didn't deserve those "losses".

    Justine Succo seems to have suffered some loss. She lost her job. Sure, she found employment again six months later, but that doesn't mean she didn't "actually" suffer any loss.

    You seem to want, for some reason, to focus only on some vague form of permanent or long-term loss, before you'll recognise that calling people out actually has consequences for them. I don't understand why you'd want to restrict ideas of "loss" to that.

    I have said nothing about you failing to understand something on account of your gender or your colour. Don't try to play up that I'm some kind of sexist or racist. That's nasty and uncalled for.

    Most of the specific cases I mentioned, which you have discussed, were merely illustrations of the way the term "cancel culture" has been used, which go some way to showing its meaning and how it has changed over the past decade.

    I have also written that celebrities, for the most part, are not the people I am concerned about. Having said that, there have been cases where people such as academics have been subjected to cries for "cancellation" over statements that have been taken out of context. That has also happened to various comedians and other people with public profiles (e.g. podcasters, to mention one group at random). Of course, you might well argue that all of those people are "privileged" in various ways, so therefore they are fair game.

    I have tried very clearly to say that I in no way support or defend any "celebrity" whose words and actions are "not minor" and which actually "cause harm and normalise harmful behaviour".

    You mention a system that protects people and lets them get away with stuff. I'm not sure what system you're talking about, unless it is society itself, with its embedded classism and racism and sexism and the rest. I certainly don't deny that lots of people do not get what they deserve, in terms of social justice. But I'm not talking about injustices in general; I'm specifically talking about "cancel culture", as I have been careful to define it.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2021
  16. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    Strange of you to say that, since earlier you were saying it isn't a real thing. You really can't have it both ways.

    On this site, I try to be very careful that I correctly understand the context and intended meaning of people's words before I am critical of them. I regularly find myself writing things like "You seem to be saying that ...." or "So, you're saying that ... . Is that correct?" or "I don't understand what you mean when you say ... . Is it that ...?"

    I might well write something like "That's a racist comment" or "That looks like a sexist attitude to me", in response to somebody's post. But they can respond, and they mostly do respond.

    There are certainly some people here who have, over time, laid down a history of posts that show they hold racist, sexist, homophobic, misogynistic or other views that are offensive and which demonstrably cause harm. I have often taken that history into account in interpreting current writings from those people, to aid in interpretation. In some cases, I have issued official warnings in my role as a moderator, based on breaches of our site posting policies and unacceptable behaviours. None of this would be an example of "cancel culture", as I have described it. I do not start by assuming bad intentions or that people necessarily "know what they are doing". In the first instance, I usually give them the benefit of the doubt. "Gee, that sounded a bit sexist. Is that really what you meant?" From that point in the conversation, the ball is in their court. Maybe they didn't realise what they were doing, and they apologise and promise to do better in future. Maybe I got it wrong and they explain why. Or maybe they tell me that's exactly what they intended, consequences be damned.

    Perhaps that is what it is "meant" to be. My issue is more about how it actually plays out in practice. In particular, some people are being held disproportionately "accountable".

    As you understand it, yes, that's what it's about. That's the problem you and I are having. We're not talking about the same thing.

    That doesn't follow. You can't have it both ways. If it is "about" something, it's obviously not a myth.

    I have yet to see your criteria for what a "real" cancellation would entail.

    It looks like he was cancelled. He was forced to resign, which meant he lost status and possibly income. That doesn't mean this was an example of "cancel culture", though.

    It looks like he was given a fair hearing. He explained that he had meant what he had said in the way it had been understood. The consequence was that various institutions no longer wanted to associate with him, presumably on account of his sexist views about women scientists. I don't see a problem with that. On the contrary, I think that scientific institutions should be working as hard as they can to promote equal opportunity for men and women and to prevent all forms of negative discrimination.

    I don't know. You haven't provided any details about the habits of the 3 journalists, or even who they were.

    Is he continuing to espouse the same views on the lecture circuit?

    Has he regained the various positions he was removed from, following his comments 2 years ago?

    Did he not suffer enough consequences for you to consider that he suffered any loss at all?
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2021
  17. Bells Staff Member

    Would "just kidding" have made it okay?

    With context.

    She was (is) a PR executive at a major firm.

    And there is context. Reality of the situation in Africa.

    Let me put it this way.

    If someone had said something similar on this site, you'd have responded with equal disgust.

    It's hard to believe you are addressing these points to me, when I did not write the article.


    She is an adult. She should have known better. She wasn't "cancelled", but instead got better employment out of it.

    I'll keep that in mind.

    Me or the author of the article?

    What an astonishing turn around..

    Paddoboy and his 'luv" and "where's the extra virgin olive oil" will be thrilled to hear it!

    Not at all. And the author of the article you are quoting and attributing to me explains it well.
    cluelusshusbund likes this.
  18. Bells Staff Member

    She posted it on twitter. She's a well known PR executive for a major firm.

    It's not as though she posted it to her 'friends' on Facebook and it got out. She literally posted it to the world when she posted it on Twitter.

    The author is quite clear about what he thinks of the content of her tweet. He doesn't agree with what happened to her. But he also agrees that her words were problematic.

    In a rapidly changing America, it’s understandable that many white Americans worry that people who are not in their normal social set might overhear and misunderstand something we would otherwise be more circumspect about saying. That anxiety is earnest – but it is also a sign of privilege. Because the reality is that these recourses — appealing to irony, context, intentions, and who you really are — are not equally available to all. They are luxuries, prerogatives of race and class, much like second chances or even having an individual “face” to lose in the first place. Meanwhile, we seem unable to tolerate the proposition that Sacco can be both a victim and a perpetrator, or that we can both condemn public shaming on the Internet and decline to endorse Sacco as its poster child. We likewise seem unable to both denounce the abuse Sacco received for its misogyny and to hold her to account for her racist “joke.” More broadly, we seem incapable of acknowledging that criticizing white feminists who victimize feminists of color can be compatible with condemning harassment by Men’s Rights activism for the misogynistic terrorism it is.

    The upshot is that we need a more nuanced conversation about shaming in general. From schoolrooms to sidewalks, we rely on shame to enforce norms about gender, race, class, and more. Shame is an integral part of how we put people in their place. Certainly, public shaming on Twitter is a pressing problem. But it intersects with long-established everyday pressures, online and off, that include exclusion, marginalization, and outright violence – and those pressures have different effects on different people. Any conversation about an out-of-control Internet outrage machine that ignores that context is part of the problem. To the extent that our conversation about public shaming is reduced to bemoaning the indignities suffered by well-off white people who say stupid and odious things in public, we are morally impoverished. Before we start shaming each other for shaming, let’s at least pick a better poster child.

    Weren't you the one saying that one shouldn't jump to conclusions?

    Except her tweet was an affluent white woman taking her privilege for granted (the previous week also had her tweeting some pretty shitty things about people from other countries as well, by the way).

    But she was just joking about it. So we all cool, ya?
    His article was actually quite balanced. He just thinks that selecting her as a poster child is a bad idea.

    Except the part where he literally says that it is a pressing problem and "Any conversation about an out-of-control Internet outrage machine that ignores that context is part of the problem."..
    Are you addressing this to me or to the author of the article?

    Because I have not actually voiced my opinion on twitter shaming. I have said that the concept of cancel culture, based on the examples you have provided, is a myth. Each example you provided saw the "cancelled" individual doing better after supposedly being cancelled.

    Weren't you the one saying that context mattered earlier?

    Her comments were bad. It was racist (as were her previous comments about Greek men smelling bad, etc). Jokes can be racist too, James.
    You are the one telling me that it's all too common. You tell me!
    What? An eyeroll at a wealthy woman who works in PR lost her job because she said racist things while in a position to spread the racist things far and wide because of her position, who then complained she was "cancelled" as white society rushed to save her from herself, when she was then offered a better paying job and position, and then she was rehired with a promotion a few years later from the organisation that sacked her.. Not to mention how the bigger concern was her in what followed instead of the millions of black people infected with HIV in Africa..?

    My attitude is one of incredulity.

    Let's all have a laugh together, James!


    Now you tell me, who do you think was cancelled by society? Justine? Or the millions of people infected with HIV in Africa?
    cluelusshusbund likes this.
  19. Bells Staff Member

    I'm applying the defined meaning, James.

    You are mistaking my incredulity with outrage.
    Of course:
    Your sarcasm displays your sentiment quite effectively.

    *Thumbs up* you!
    What is absolutely interesting and fallacious take on what I actually said as a whole.
    If I hadn't read your responses about Justine Sacco, this might have been an interesting point..
    My response is the same as before.

    The examples you cited as cancel culture - these people are not worse off because the twitter horde of blue ticks went after them. Far from it. They ended up in a better position with even more power. In that regard, "cancel culture" becomes a complete myth. These people weren't cancelled. On the contrary, it seems these days, the more outrageous and racist one can be on social media, the better one ends up in the long term as their racist compatriots rush to defend them and support them financially - either through branding, purchases, etc.

    She was a gymnast. I don't believe she was dropped from her team.

    You want to continue with the roll? Because you're on a good one at the moment.

    Every single person you have cited in connection to being "cancelled" gained from it.

    So, do you think they were "cancelled"?

    Her teammate came out and admitted to years of sexual abuse. Her first response is to essentially slut shame her.

    Her teammate showed her more compassion than she showed.

    Note the word "can be".

    "The most obvious problem with cancel culture is that it rarely has any tangible or meaningful effect on the lives and comfortability of the canceled."
  20. Bells Staff Member

    Both of whom laughed their way to the bank..

    Within weeks.

    The people you mention are either well known and famous and/or affluent and from positions of privilege. They did not lose anything. Instead, they gained from their notoriety.

    Are there consequences if someone does something bad? The point is that there should be. But in reality, there aren't true actual consequences.

    But oh, all can be outraged that these people were called out. Why are people taking it seriously? It's just a joke. Until it's simply not funny any more and was never funny.

    No James. The point is that I understand the truth of "cancel culture" all to well.

    But nice play dude.

    That's pretty poor form James.
    What do you think happens in real life?

    I applied yours.
    He is actually a perfect example.

    But it's interesting how you seem to be fine with what happened to him, but not so much with Justine and her AIDS fiasco.

    You didn't read the links? Their identity was in one of the links posted.

    Here is another one: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/voices/furor-over-tim-hunt-must-lead-to-systemic-change/

    Written by one of the journalists who outed Hunt and his speech.

    One would hope not.

    He kept all that he had gained and is now back on the lecture circuit and is re-immersed.

  21. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    You're determined to make me out as some sort of bad buy in this discussion. I'm not sure why that is.
    She wrote the words "Just kidding" in her Twitter post. Of course, given their placement in the text, you're free to argue that those words were not meant to draw attention to the fact that the entire post was sort of joke.

    Regardless of that, I have not at any point argued that her Tweet was "okay". You seem to believe that's what I'm arguing for. I'm not. I haven't been, at any time in this thread.
    The situation with HIV in Africa is a terrible, avoidable, tragedy. But it has nothing to do with cancel culture. I'm sorry, Bells.

    Which she was apparently aware of. And which she specifically tells us she was not making fun of.

    Yes. If somebody posted that here, I would almost certainly have wanted to have a discussion with them about it, if other people had not already commented.

    I wasn't addressing those points to you, except to the extent that you agree with the author's views. I wrote "you" at various points, but it was mostly meant to be the generic "you", rather than "you" as in second-person you. Since for all but the last part of that post I was responding to the article, you can read "you" as being addressed to the author and to people who agree with his or her opinions on the matter.

    She sure learned her lesson!

    Before that, she lost her employment. But that doesn't count for some reason.

    The author, and those who agree with his/her point there.

    I'm not sure what happened there. Did you miss my satire/sarcasm, and take me literally?

    Isn't it obvious to you that I considered all of paddoboy's comments and subsequent behaviour in the context of all his expressed views on women and how he interacts with them?

    That is the precise opposite of what the Twitter mob did to Sacco. They didn't know a thing about her.

    Not well known (at the time) to the Twitter mob calling for her blood. She was no "celebrity", Bells. It would be disingenuous of you to suggest otherwise.

    I already commented on that. No need to repeat.

    I already told you that the full article is behind a paywall for me. You didn't previously quote this paragraph.

    I agree with this part of his article, albeit that he seems fixated on the idea that Sacco is a "bad poster child". Personally, I don't think that my argument against "cancel culture" requires a "poster child". There are too many examples available for me to need to try to hang my entire argument on any single one of them.

    Then he and I are on the same page, on that.

    You, on the other hand, seem to be telling me that you do agree with what happened to her. Or, at least, it doesn't worry you because, according to you, she suffered no lasting loss.

    You need to be fair to me. You selectively quoted from an article. I told you I can't access the full article without paying for it (or at least signing up to the Washington Post).

    I did comment on this paragraph (quoted immediately above). I even told you that I agree with parts of it, in my previous post.

    I was also specific about what I was relying on, when I wrote "Nowhere else in the quoted part of this author's article is there any indication that the author believes that public shaming on Twitter is a pressing problem."

    Then, discussing the paragraph, I wrote: "I agree with this part. Ignoring context would be a problem" and "To the extent that it is reduced to that, yes. I agree. But is it reduced to that?"

    I also pointed to a problem: "This author seems to want to have his/her cake and eat it to - to be free to bring in "context" whenever it suits his/her purposes, and to ignore it and concentrate on "plain meanings of words" when it does not. I'd call that hypocritical. Wouldn't you?"
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2021
  22. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    What did she tweet the previous week?

    Maybe. Maybe not. Context.

    Okay, but some of his reasoning is problematic, for reasons I gave. My reasons were quite balanced, too.

    Clearly, you missed the word "else" where I wrote "Nowhere else in the quoted part of this author's article...", by which I meant nowhere else in the full extract you quoted from the article.

    Regarding the first sentence: to the author, since he is doing the "introducing" of ideas in his own article. Regarding the second sentence: to both of you. I'm implicitly asking, there, whether you agree with the proposition I'm putting.

    What is your opinion on twitter shaming?

    I understand.

    If they manage to get back on their feet and find a new job months later, or whatever, then it's not a problem?

    Her comments were ambiguous, and were open to being read in a way that made them bad. That is bad, if you want to put it that way.

    Taken literally, yes. But, as we know, she didn't intend it literally.

    You'll have to tell me about her previous comments, if we're going to discuss those.

    Yes. You act like you're telling me something I don't know.

    I'm sorry, Bells, but I don't have endless amounts of time to go looking for example after example victims of cancel culture.

    I'm not a regular Twitter user. A lot of it is just noise. I don't have the time. More generally, I'm not a big user of social media. I don't follow the celebrity gossip. I try to read things that are worth reading, and listening to people who are worth listening to.
    It sounds to me that you're setting her up as your own "poster child" for a lot of other issues that bug you, because of who she is. Which I guess is sort of consistent with the sort of behaviour you're trying to defend.

    You say you're incredulous at all the fuss surrounding this racist white woman, but at the same time you seem upset that she now has a better job than before and so on. Like you think she wasn't held properly accountable.

    Is the real problem, in your opinion, not that the mob called for her to be "cancelled", but that their calls didn't achieve what they set out to do?

    Now you're just being silly. Whataboutism seeks to avoid the topic, rather than to discuss it. We can have a discussion about HIV in Africa if you want to, of course, but that would be a different thread.
  23. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Ah. The defined meaning. Right.

    Good. I don't want you to misinterpret what I'm saying.

    Nothing in the quote that precedes this comment of yours mentioned you or any take on anything you wrote.

    You didn't answer my questions. Why is that?

    Was that her first response? How do you know?

    How do you know?

    Bear in mind, that all you've seen are the tweets and the scandal.
    Sacco was in no way "famous", prior to the furore over her tweet. In fact, I'd venture that she isn't famous now, either. Hardly a household name.

    If anything, that suggests another reason why "cancel culture" is not a desirable thing.

    There are lots of consequences for doing bad things. Maybe the most relevant question here is: do Twitter storms result in real, lasting consequences? If the answer to that is "no", then where is the value in calling for people to be "cancelled", on Twitter?

    You need to play nice, too, Bells. It goes both ways.

    It varies.

    There are cases in which somebody has made a particular comment, say in the context of a comedy show, and it has been extracted out by a Twitter mob who has used it as an excuse to call for the person's "cancellation". Then, when the person concerned has replied to clarify his words and/or the context, that has been completely ignored by the mob, because no explanation or apology is acceptable to the mob that wants blood.

    Calling for Sacco's firing - not to mention actually carrying it out - before she had even had a chance to respond to the accusations, was ridiculously disproportionate to her "crime".

    In contrast, accurately reporting Hunt's words and his subsequent comments, which prompted his resignation from various bodies, seems quite reasonable and not disproportionate. And that's quite separate from the positive spin-off effects of highlighting issues of gender disparity and discrimination in profession science.

    On the other hand, after Hunt's 15 minutes of infamy, it seems that the public attention quickly turned to other things, as it tends to do - see the blog post you linked from Scientific American.
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2021

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