A Writer’s Experience With Cancellation Culture

When he was a senior in high school, he had a weekly column in the local newspaper, the San Bruno Recorder-Progress. By not writing for the school newspaper, he hoped to cover more controversial topics.

Growing up in the tolerant and pluralistic San Francisco Bay Area, I wanted to write an article that was pro-LGBTQ +.

But the column failed in a big way.

I don’t remember the exact words I wrote, but it was something like “the head cheerleader or the quarterback of the high school football team could be gay,” so restrain your righteous outrage.

But the column read differently: “Watch out! They are everywhere! “

Looking back, my choice of words was not very delicate, to say the least. But it was too late. The newspaper received a scathing letter from San Francisco’s leading LGBTQ + newspaper, urging me to receive therapy. Subsequently, the Recorder-Progress fired me.

To use contemporary language, I had been canceled.

You’d think he would have learned from my indiscretion in high school, but a year later, I was editing the newsletter for a program I attended at UCLA. We had a suggestion box where fellow students could post jokes. One such attempt was a crude and misogynistic phrase. My 18-year-old self thought: Controversy is good! or was hopelessly clueless. I posted it.

The reaction was swift. Canceled again.

I am NOT here to defend my youthful lack of tact, and I hope I never write such things today. But it did give me a sensitivity to the power of words, a power that, in 2021, is being turned against public figures by those who are offended or provoked.

Typing on a computer keyboard [Illustrative] (credit: IMAGE ING)

And while there is a lot of horrible language that deserves to be challenged and even canceled, it has created a climate of fear for writers like me. If I bring up something particularly provocative, could you cancel me again? So, I hold back (even if it seems like I’m usually over the top).

Others have not been so lucky.

Previous New York Times Journalist Bari Weiss regularly criticizes the culture of cancellation, featuring on her website and podcast professors such as Peter Boghossian of Portland State University and Dorian Abbot of the University of Chicago, who were canceled for alleged “incorrect speeches” in the campus.

Abbot, for example, who has advocated for race-neutral college admissions policies, was unable to speak about his actual field of expertise, “as if his views on racial preferences irrevocably tainted his work in climate science,” John McWhorter notes in The New York Times. .

That has led to “an epidemic of self-silencing,” Weiss writes in the Deseret News. He quotes a law school student who wrote that “self-censorship is the norm, not the exception. I self-censor even when talking to some of my best friends for fear of spreading the word. “

A Cato Institute study found that 62% of Americans say they self-censor.

For the most part, we should see that as a good thing. Social media is ugly enough. Imagine if people didn’t censor themselves at all!

But I am afraid that we are losing important voices that can no longer be heard, because they said or wrote or did inappropriate things in their past.

What do you do with someone who has unique gifts but whose language or actions are heinous? Earlier this year, Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced that it would cancel the publication of six of the famous author’s books “due to racist and insensitive images.”

Or how about the notorious anti-Semite Roald Dahl? Do we cancel Dahl’s play entirely? Put activation warnings on their book covers, like HBO did when it repackaged Gone With the Wind for the Awakened Generation?

When it comes to sexual abuse, the discussion gets even more confusing.

The HBO documentary Allen vs. Farrow goes into great detail about Woody Allen’s alleged sexual abuse of his adopted daughter, Dylan. The show makes no effort – right from the start, it makes an unshakable case that Allen is truly guilty.

Allen subsequently lost a book publisher and Amazon terminated a four-movie deal it had with the director.

Woody Allen may be a serial abuser and, as the documentary reveals, a serial jerk, but we’ve lost a creative voice, someone he loved growing up. It’s not just his future job, many won’t even watch Allen’s past movies. I can?

Previous Haaretz Columnist Ari Shavit aggressively beat journalist Danielle Berrin and other women, leading to her resignation from the newspaper. However, he also wrote My Promised Land, one of the most astute tomes on modern Israel. Earlier this year, Shavit published a new book, which was dismissed by many, not on the merits of its arguments, but because of its behaviors off the printed page.

Then there is the “intersectionality” that has created an environment in which shameless Zionists, and all Jews by extension, are excluded from participating in progressive causes. The recent uproar over Sunrise DC’s disinvitation of three Jewish advocacy groups to a rally focused not on Middle East politics, but on climate change, highlights the fact that, as Weiss laments, if you want it not cancel you, “you must disavow the Jewish power and you need to repudiate Israel.”

THE ANSWER to the cancellation riddle is balance. Some behaviors and speech are clearly off limits. We must never tolerate racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, or sexual abuse.

However, other actions and writings demand more nuance, something that is sorely lacking in the current extreme political climate, and even the possibility of the offender to do teshuvah (repentance), provided it is offered sincerely.

Can we get there in today’s increasingly polarized world? I’m not sure. But what other option do we have but to try?

The writer’s book, Totaled: The Billion-Dollar Crash of the Startup that Took on Big Auto, Big Oil and the World, is available from Amazon and other online bookstores. brianblum.com


Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *