If you shoot only one person in a room of 1000 for expressing their views, that’s tiny statistically. But what have you done to the culture?

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Interesting. But the counting you've done only means something inside a specific social context. So, the list of 1,000 should be broken down into specific industry worlds and the rate of firing for ideological reasons measured at that level, not nationally in the contex of all firings. This is perhaps your macro-economic bias? Academia, for example, has engaged in purges before - look to the anti-communist mania of the 1950s. The difference that's important is who is doing the purging and how are they positioned? When an ideological minority get fired for ideological reasons by an institution's leadership, this should concern anyone fond of democracy, regardless of the scale. Democracy dies first in the University Board meeting and the HOA, and so on...

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I don't think you've considered the economy of scale. During Covid, Alex Berenson was the strongest voice challenging the corporate narrative about the virus and its treatments with a huge following on Twitter. His being deplatformed had a disproportionately larger impact than any impact of people decrying his cancelation.

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It seems obvious to me as a self-identified moderate that both sides of this issue are more concerned with their opponents using “a cudgel to silence people” than any material disadvantages brought about by cancel culture or anti-CC. Counting firings within academia, for example, totally misses the number of conservatives who aren’t hired at liberal institutions in the first place, or who self-censor out of fear of following the path of being fired. This is not to say I think CC is bigger than Anti-CC (hard to measure). But how easily you notice the silence-cudgel in one direction while minimizing it in the other. They have mirroring outcomes: the silence of those who have lost the confidence or opportunity to speak in the first place.

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Hi Adam, long time fan of your work and excited by this new project.

I probably agree with the view that anti-cancel culture, following in the long tradition of reactionaries, is at least as serious a problem as cancel culture itself.

But I will also say that from my point of view, your attempted accounting of cancel culture radically misses the impact coming from externalities. You could call this the chilling effect, or self-censorship as others have done in these comments, but I think it is self-evident that cancel culture has widespread censorious effects -- by design. I think a key point here is the “...recently become unacceptable.” When an activist group or a Twitter mob seeks cancellation, they do so not only with the goal of directly punishing a perpetrator, but also with the aim of creating boundaries for defining these newly acceptable opinions.

Speaking personally as someone who is largely aligned with the progressive left on the cores of these opinions, I nevertheless am myself fearful of even *potentially* being *perceived* of crossing one of these ambiguous boundaries, and I censor myself as a result. For example, I don’t make ironic meta-humor jokes about cancellation or wokeness or anti-cancellation for fear of being misunderstood. Is my indirect harm in any way equivalent or superior to direct harm suffered by a marginalized group? Of course not. But it’s still an external impact, and since I’m already sympathetic to these views, the cost of my self-censorship is likely much smaller than that of someone further to the right. Aggregate all of those costs and you might see a much bigger social cost to cancel culture.

And finally, for similar fears, I wouldn’t even consider posting what I see as a levelheaded, reasoned argument on this topic in my own name in a traceable manner, which is also a real curtailing of free expression. Perhaps this is why you so dread this topic, and are justified in your terror of approaching it.

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so the Pew Poll that you posted does seem to lack a concrete definition of what Cancel Culture is, although they do reveal that both parties have varying ideas.

in the absence of a real definition, you just came up with your own and then proceeded to deconstruct a Straw Man argument.

perhaps your debate opponent can come up with a better, simpler definition.

how about this:

Cancel Culture describes the process of modern day shaming using the internet and media to attack and discredit someone you disagree with.

in other words, a modern, more powerful version of the Scarlet Letter.

the problem is that this new powerful tool can be directed at anyone and destroy their life regardless of guilt or innocence.

U seem to focus your major examples on Russia (which isn’t a person) and Prince Andrew (who is a royal celebrity).

let’s forget about celebrities and public figures because who really cares right?

it’s the smallest, least visible people who are damaged the most from online mobs.

I just read yesterday about a young quarterback who lost his entire college scholarship because someone posted a quick video of him lip synching to a rap song! something that every teenage in America has done!

stop focusing on Royalty, Countries, Celebrities, Public Figures and Politicians!

the real damage is the thousands of nobodies whose lives are destroyed for not leading perfect lives!

the professor who made an awkward comment and lost his career.

the student athlete who loses a scholarship.

a nurse who might question the efficacy of a vaccine and loses her job!

Mr. Davidson! it’s the little people who can’t defend themselves from an online mob!

who cares about celebrities and politicians..?!?

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My stab at a definition: Cancel culture is the practice of discouraging open exchange of opinions, particularly those outside the mainstream, through actions like public shaming and financial repercussions. It does real damage by creating a visible example that tells other would-be divergent opinion expressers that it is not worth the risk to speak out. This is how society becomes polarized and dysfunctional. We all need the whistleblowers, devils advocates and challengers of the status quo in order to maintain a balanced, logical society as opposed to one controlled by groupthink.

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You write: "It seems to me that whatever it is, cancel culture needs to be new and increasing to justify the number of articles, think pieces, and concerns expressed on Twitter and elsewhere."

This seems like a strange requirement, and one that would be difficult to apply consistently. Take racism, for example: it would be hard to argue that it is new and increasing, but I still wouldn't suggest the attention paid to the topic in articles, think pieces, and concerns expressed on Twitter is unjustified.

We've been living with elevated inflation for over a year now: is it no longer novel enough to justify all the attention it's getting? And so on.

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Great format and great topic... The nuance between "consequence" vs "cancel" culture is difficult for many to navigate. So many examples to disect: Louis C.K. winning a Grammy, Johnny Depp in the upcoming Rihanna/Fenty show, and Big Boy/Ari Melber talking about if Kanye will be canceled vs accountability... https://www.tiktok.com/@bigboy/video/7164197057010404650?_r=1&_t=8XLzT2jviGM&is_from_webapp=v1&item_id=7164197057010404650

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It isn't normally about ideas "that have recently become unacceptable" in a universal sense. They're only unacceptable *to leftists*, and only leftists tend to talk that way, of ideas being "unacceptable".

The ideas can be anything from noting that leftist race ideology is false, say on bias in police shootings, the number of wrongful police shootings, the staggering level of black on black murder in relation to police shootings, etc., to dissent from leftist trans ideology, opposing cutting parts off children, to disagreeing with school closures, lockdowns, forced vaccination, and so on.

So it's centrally about enforcement of leftist ideology, and it's extremely misleading to claim it's about "unacceptable ideas" without disclosing that they're only unacceptable to dogmatic and poorly educated leftists.

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Good Lord, dude, in the middle of insisting that cAnCel CuLtuRe dOesN't eXiST you literally just cancelled the guy you're having this collaboration with for the crime of (checks notes) linking to an article in the New York Times. Do you have any shame or even the ability to notice what you yourself are doing?

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I believe that part of what we are seeing with the panic surrounding ‘cancel culture’ is that we are in a time of great social flux, in which our collective consciousness or common cultural understandings are shifting rapidly. This is certainly not the first time that this has happened, but the context in which it is happening is very different than it has been in the past. We live in an era where many individuals have access to the means to express themselves through social media that can be rapidly disseminated to a broader audience. At the same time, social media has allowed us to hunker down in our respective silos and echo chambers where our personal biases and prejudices are continually reinforced. No longer do we as a nation generally get our news from the same sources each day. This provides us with numerous microcultures that exist autonomously yet consistently interact with each other on the fringes, particularly through social media. Social norms are cementing around longstanding old school understandings in some of these groups, while in others, hidden rules that Durkheim would have labeled ‘social facts’ are shifting rapidly; some are being broken down and others being created. This in a way, could be described as creating a cultural time warp. What do I mean by this? I mean that you have groups of people living in different cultural milieu’s that in the past, in the context of a national culture, would have been separated by generations but now are separated only by the political or cultural silo that you live in. As an example, let’s go back in time to the 1950’s. In 1950, an individual who was outed as being gay could lose their job. In effect, you could say that they would have been ‘canceled’ because they did not fit a societal norm. Living in the 1950’s you might think that this was wrong, that this was terrible, that we needed to fight for a society in which this didn’t happen, but you understood that this was a fact of the time in which you lived. In the current day, a person who is not allowed to fire an individual for being gay could express the opinion that they are being canceled that they can’t run their business according to their beliefs. However, they no longer live in a society where being able to fire someone for being gay is normal. They may live in a cultural silo where this idea is normal, but mainstream society has moved on. It took 70 years to get to where we are today, but they are living with a 1950’s cultural mindset in 2020. This in itself is not abnormal. In every era, there have been those that have had to be drug kicking and screaming towards progress and those that have been left behind, but not until now have they had the ability to both hunker down in their echo chambers while at the same time having access to the means through social media to loudly defend and promote their positions and connect with like-minded individuals far from where they reside. In the past, someone who lived with the mindset of 70 years ago would have been on the fringes and their opinions would have been socially ostracized, but today, they can easily connect with like-minded individuals across the nation. Their ideas may still exist on the fringes, but as a group their voices have become abnormally amplified. The impact of this amplification has been exacerbated by the fact that their grievances have also been taken on as a banner by the fascist elements of the far right in our country. These elements seek to create a narrative that glorify the past in opposition to modern notions of progress and inclusion. This has further pushed the voices of the fringe to the mainstream. The politicization of these issues means that they are then picked apart through every echelon of our media and argued about across the political spectrum. ‘Cancel culture’ is obviously a political tool to shape public opinion, but I think it has been as successful as it has, because of the deep cultural divides across the silos that I mentioned above. Unless you exist within the most progressive of these silos (and maybe even then) you are likely to have been reprimanded, educated, or shamed for using a wrong term, a wrong pronoun, or for expressing a sentiment that is grounded in exclusionary language. We as humans do not take kindly to these types of ‘corrections’ particularly when they pertain to how we express ourselves, most particularly when we are accused of causing harm when we were well-intentioned. This results in us digging in and instead of being reflective, we become defensive, instead of critically engaging with the idea of social nuance and understanding, we ground ourselves within our contextual reality without acknowledging the ways in which the world is changing and will always be changing around us. In this way, even the most liberal of us can become trapped into feeling ‘canceled’ on some level. This then, is the insidious manner, in which a concept seized upon and capitalized by the fascist right to exert social control can gain some validity within the thought patterns of those on the left, even those of us who deep down feel that it is nonsense.

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Thank you for sharing and taking your first steps to creating your Substack! I've been following you some on Twitter and hope to take things a bit slower by migrating to more longform Substack thoughts and then engaging in the comments with others as well ^_^

I agree cancel culture isn't really a that big of a deal, or rather it shouldn't be a thing. It seems we do hear much less of it now. I wasn't as tuned in to current events a year ago, so forgive me if I have the wrong context. But I suspect it was another "boogeyman" concept that was fomented by some to make others think it's a big scary thing, and then it self-perpetuates. Unfortunately, there were a lot of misses when some were "cancelled" too impulsively in the spirit of "silencing the baddies".

But since our social pendulum always swings, it seems we are doing our reflection on this thing that happened to us. And we can maybe see 1. it wasn't that big of a deal but 2. the reason why we couldn't collectively dissect it out, is because of our lack of unemotional, patient communication. [Al Franken is such a case study to me in the context of #CancelCulture x #Metoo]

If we can do our part to promote #2 safely, then hopefully many things may go the way of "It is just not that big a deal. In general." And hopefully we can realign our internal compasses through discussions like these. Thank you :)

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Cancel Culture is extreme intolerance to the beliefs of others. Cancel Culture is diametrically opposed to the idea of "I disagree with you but will defend to the death your right to speak".

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a bit of modification is necessary for your definition unless your intention is to define a self serving definition.

A new, troubling, and growing trend in which (a set of people, say bloopers) people demand that others suffer significant consequences (firing, de-platforming, loss of economic opportunities) for expressing opinions that have recently become unacceptable (to bloopers)

Or bloopers can also be spelt 'liberals'/'universal valueists'/'effective altruists'/'earth is about to die-ers'

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I think you missed one aspect in your definition. Schadenfreude. There is a satisfaction that occurs when someone gets "theirs". I believe this has happen now because there is visiable injustice and consequences that have not been given to many in this current climate. It has created a feedback loop and only fed into the cancel culture phenomena.

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