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Posts Tagged ‘cancel culture’

My Corner by Boyd Cathey – Woke Rebellion

Posted by M. C. on September 14, 2020

http://boydcatheyreviewofbooks.blogspot.com/

Boyd Cathey

Friends, 

The noted English professor and philosopher, John N. Gray, is controversial for his views expressed in a number of highly-touted books. If I can summarize one of his main contentions it is this: the experiment in universalist “democratic liberalism,” unleashed by the 18th century Enlightenment (and partially fulfilled by the American Revolution in conservative fashion, but by the Socialists and Marxists in a more radical fashion), is coming to a gagging and sputtering end. In a certain—if remote—sense, what Gray is saying is what the traditionalist Christian poet and author T. S. Eliot once famously wrote in his epic poem “The Hollow Men” (1925), written in the disastrous aftermath of the devastation, both intellectual and material, after World War I: “This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper.”

In the following essay, Gray examines the current woke rebellion in the streets, but also in the ivory halls of academe and among our elite government and cultural classes. The Age of Enlightenment Liberalism, he asserts, is ending.

And in reading and thinking about it, his short piece seems to go hand-in-hand with something I published recently both at The Abbeville Institute and LewRockwell.com. My essay titled, “Cancel Culture Comes South,” in a different version, was first issued in the MY CORNER series on September 6, as “Cancel Culture and the Religious Origins of the Revolution in the Streets.” I rewrote it to give it more emphasis on the effects of “cancel culture” in the South, and in that new version it was published…and it is that version that I offer today, immediately after Gray’s essay.

Gray compares the present day woke Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) to chiliastic millenarians—religious hyper-fanatics of the past—who attempted to overturn and in effect destroy the traditions of Western Christianity. Those movements, including the Cathares, Lollards, Puritans and Fifth Monarchy Men, and in particular, the Anabaptists with their supreme leader John of Leiden [AKA, Jan Bockelson], sought to either destroy those traditions, or, at the very least to completely re-invent them. And what followed was inevitably a period of social and political anarchy, and quickly the imposition of an authoritarianism more severe and brutal than anything established historic Christianity ever contemplated. They would bring on the thousand year terrestrial reign of the Deity, even if it took the massacre of every human life where they dwelt to do it.

Although there are striking parallels between those earlier millenarian movements and today’s zealots, there are also some significant differences. While both illustrate a kind of frenzied religious fanaticism, these latter day millenarians are mostly characterized by a dominant anarchism. Their religious zeal is secularized. Save for “defunding the police” and demands for total (but ill-defined) equality and reparations of some kind, much of their rhetoric betrays a lack of precision and deeper thought. And unlike earlier movements, our present SJWs are being funded and to some degree directed by our elites, ensconced many times in Silicon Valley, or Hollywood, and on Wall Street. It follows that those empowered elites wish to use the street warriors and the widely-diffused and praised Black Lives Matter campaign for their own purposes, their own well-being, and their own power. And, thus, they have literally cowed and shamed most of our political class into submission; who now dares criticize Black Lives Matter or the s0-called demands for “equality” (and some form of reparations for “white oppression” and past “injustice”) without bringing down the wrath of the entirety of the media and most political leaders? And this includes Republicans and establishment conservatives who run as fast as they can to the tall grass.

Notice one more significant characteristic: many of the street terrorists are rich white kids, children of wealth and position, educated usually (and badly) at places like Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, UNC, and Duke, and with families who can afford to live in gated communities, and who, in fact, in their insouciant and sneering liberalism, disdain and despise what the Jewish writer Philip Roth once called despectively, “fly-over country.” In other words, anyone outside of those centers of power and wealth who might possibly challenge their hegemony.  For them the SJWs are effective storm troopers…that is, as long as they don’t get out of control, or go into those posh neighborhoods where a Nancy Pelosi or Madonna live.

Or, if it seems that politically the street terrorism appears to get out of hand, maybe favoring President Trump politically. Ah, then those elites must offer their pro forma, generalized condemnations, just to be on record…despite their real encouragement of the revolution.

Never mind, Gray seems to say, the American faith in a secular universalist redemption and the myth that somehow we are a kind of New Jerusalem, that shining City of a Hill, is dying and we can hope only to pick up the pieces in the new age that is being born.

 

The woke have no vision of the future

Like medieval millenarians, today’s SJWs believe all that needs to be done to bring about a new world is to destroy the old one

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Academics Are Really, Really Worried About Their Freedom

Posted by M. C. on September 3, 2020

One professor committed the sin of “privileging the white male perspective” in giving a lecture on the philosophy of one of the Founding Fathers, even though Frederick Douglass sang that Founder’s praises. The administration tried to make him sit in a “listening circle,” in which his job was to stay silent while students explained how he had hurt them—in other words, a 21st-century-American version of a struggle session straight out of the Cultural Revolution.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/09/academics-are-really-really-worried-about-their-freedom/615724/

Our national reckoning on race has brought to the fore a loose but committed assemblage of people given to the idea that social justice must be pursued via attempts to banish from the public sphere, as much as possible, all opinions that they interpret as insufficiently opposed to power differentials. Valid intellectual and artistic endeavor must hold the battle against white supremacy front and center, white people are to identify and expunge their complicity in this white supremacy with the assumption that this task can never be completed, and statements questioning this program constitute a form of “violence” that merits shaming and expulsion.

Skeptics have labeled this undertaking “cancel culture,” which of late has occasioned a pushback from its representatives. The goal, they suggest, is less to eliminate all signs of a person’s existence—which tends to be impractical anyway— than to supplement critique with punishment of some kind. Thus a group of linguists in July submitted to the Linguistic Society of America a petition not only to criticize the linguist and psychologist Steven Pinker for views they considered racist and sexist, but to have him stripped of his Linguistic Society of America fellow status and removed from the organization’s website listing linguist consultants available to the media. An indication of how deeply this frame of mind has penetrated many of our movers and shakers is that they tend to see this punishment clause as self-evidently just, as opposed to the novel, censorious addendum that it is.

Another defense of sorts has been to claim that even this cancel-culture lite is not dangerous, because it has no real effect. When, for instance, 153 intellectuals signed an open letter in Harper’s arguing for the value of free speech (I was one of them), we were told that we were comfortable bigwigs chafing at mere criticism, as if all that has been happening is certain people being taken to task, as opposed to being shamed and stripped of honors.

To the extent that the new progressives acknowledge that some prominent people have been unfairly tarred—including the food columnist Alison Roman, the data analyst David Shor, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art senior curator Gary Garrels—they often insist that these are mere one-off detours rather than symptoms of a general cultural sea change.

For example, in July I tweeted that I (as well as my Bloggingheads sparring partner Glenn Loury) have been receiving missives since May almost daily from professors living in constant fear for their career because their opinions are incompatible with the current woke playbook. Then various people insisted that I was, essentially, lying; they simply do not believe that anyone remotely reasonable has anything to worry about.

However, hard evidence points to a different reality. This year, the Heterodox Academy conducted an internal member survey of 445 academics. “Imagine expressing your views about a controversial issue while at work, at a time when faculty, staff, and/or other colleagues were present. To what extent would you worry about the following consequences?” To the hypothetical “My reputation would be tarnished,” 32.68 percent answered “very concerned” and 27.27 percent answered “extremely concerned.” To the hypothetical “My career would be hurt,” 24.75 percent answered “very concerned” and 28.68 percent answered “extremely concerned.” In other words, more than half the respondents consider expressing views beyond a certain consensus in an academic setting quite dangerous to their career trajectory.

So no one should feign surprise or disbelief that academics write to me with great frequency to share their anxieties. In a three-week period early this summer, I counted some 150 of these messages. And what they reveal is a very rational culture of fear among those who dissent, even slightly, with the tenets of the woke left.

The degree of sheer worry among the people writing to me is poignant, and not just among nontenured faculty. (They write to me privately, and for that reason I will not share names.) One professor notes, “Even with tenure and authority, I worry that students could file spurious Title IX complaints … or that students could boycott me or remove me as Chair.” I have no reason to suppose that he is being dramatic, because exactly this, he says, happened to his predecessor.

A statistics professor says:

I routinely discuss the fallacy of assuming that disparity implies discrimination, which is just a specific way of confusing correlation for causality. Frankly, I’m now somewhat afraid to broach these topics … since according to the new faith, disparity actually is conclusive evidence of discrimination.

The new mood has even reached medieval studies; an assistant professor reports having recently just survived an attack by a cadre of scholars who are “unspeakably mean and disingenuous once they have you in their sights,” regularly “mounting PR campaigns to get academics and grad students fired, removed from programs, expelled from scholarly groups, or simply to cease speaking.”

Being nonwhite leaves one protected in this environment only to the extent that one toes the ideological line. An assistant professor of color who cannot quite get with the program writes, “At the moment, I’m more anxious about this problem than anything else in my career,” noting that “the truth is that over the last few years, this new norm of intolerance and cult of social justice has marginalized me more than all racism I have ever faced in my life.”

The charges levied against many of these professors are rooted in a fanatical worldview, one devoted to spraying for any utterances possibly interpretable as “supremacist,” although the accusers sincerely think they have access to higher wisdom. A white professor read a passage from an interview with a well-known Black public intellectual who mentions the rap group NWA, and because few of the students knew of the group’s work at this late date, the professor parenthetically noted what the initials stand for. None of the Black students batted an eye, according to my correspondent, but a few white students demanded a humiliating public apology.

This episode represents a pattern in the letters, wherein it is white students who are “woker” than their Black classmates, neatly demonstrating the degree to which this new religion is more about virtue signaling than social justice. From the same well is this same professor finding that the gay men in his class had no problem with his assigning a book with a gay slur in its title, a layered, ironic title for a book taking issue with traditional concepts of masculinity—but that a group of straight white women did, and reported him to his superiors.

Overall I found it alarming how many of the letters sound as if they were written from Stalinist Russia or Maoist China. A history professor reports that at his school, the administration is seriously considering setting up an anonymous reporting system for students and professors to report “bias” that they have perceived. One professor committed the sin of “privileging the white male perspective” in giving a lecture on the philosophy of one of the Founding Fathers, even though Frederick Douglass sang that Founder’s praises. The administration tried to make him sit in a “listening circle,” in which his job was to stay silent while students explained how he had hurt them—in other words, a 21st-century-American version of a struggle session straight out of the Cultural Revolution.

The result is academics living out loud only in whispers. A creative-writing instructor:

The majority of my fellow instructors and staff constantly self-censor themselves in fear of being fired for expressing the “wrong opinions.” It’s gotten to the point where many are too terrified to even like or retweet a tweet, lest it lead to some kind of disciplinary measure … They are supporters of free speech, scientific data, and healthy debate, but they are too fearful today to publicly declare such support. However, they’ll tell it to a sympathetic ear in the back corner booth of a quiet bar after two or three pints. These ideas have been reduced to lurking in the shadows now.

Some will process this as a kind of whining, supposing that all we should really be concerned about is whether people are outright dismissed. However, elsewhere a hostile work environment is considered a breach of civil rights, and as one correspondent wrote, “It isn’t just fear of firing that motivates professors and grad students to be quiet. It is a desire to have friends, to be part of a community. This is a fundamental part of human psychology. Indeed, experiments examining the effects of ostracism highlight what a powerful existential threat it is to be ignored, excluded, or rejected. This has been documented at the neurological level. Ostracism is a form of social death. It is a very potent threat.”

Especially sad is the extent to which this new Maoism can dilute the richness of a curriculum and discourage people from becoming professors at all. One professor has stopped teaching James Baldwin’s “Going to Meet the Man” after Black students claimed that it forced them to “re-live intergenerational trauma.” I have heard from not one but two philosophy doctorates who left academia. One explained that he was driven out by the “accelerating creep of what felt to me a pretty stifling orthodoxy. The hiring market was dominated by a concern for diversity statements, the ability to teach fairly ideologically-slanted courses on philosophy and critical race theory or philosophy and gender, etc.; and more generally it felt progressively less like a profession where I could opt out of those trends while still being a competitive job applicant.”

Very few of the people who wrote to me are of conservative political orientation. Rather, a main thread in the missives is people left-of-center wondering why, suddenly, to be anything but radical is to be treated as a retrograde heretic. Thus the issue is not the age-old one of left against right, but what one letter writer calls the “circular firing squad” of the left: It is now no longer “Why aren’t you on the left?” but “How dare you not be as left as we are.”

To some, the evidence of Heterodox Academy’s member survey plus my correspondents will still qualify as mere “anecdata”—after all, both groups are self-selecting—such that only a long-term academic study carefully interviewing at length a good 3,000 professors and submitting their responses to statistical analysis would qualify as empirically compelling. But let’s face it: Half a dozen reports of teachers grading Black students more harshly than white students would be accepted by many as demonstrating a stain on our entire national fabric. These 150 missives stand as an articulate demonstration of something general—and deeply disturbing—as well.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

John McWhorter is a contributing writer at The Atlantic. He teaches linguistics at Columbia University, hosts the podcast Lexicon Valley, and is the author, most recently, of Words on the Move.
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Cancel Culture Will Decimate Us…If We Let It – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on July 10, 2020

Consider that such “conservatives” as US Senators James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) now propose replacing Columbus Day as a national holiday with Juneteenth to celebrate the manumission of the last slaves in 1865. Tell me, please, what is the difference between these pusillanimous fake conservatives and those “woke” social justice warriors out in the streets who actually pull down monuments to Christopher Columbus? At least the rioters are honest about their designs.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/07/no_author/cancel-culture-will-decimate-usif-we-let-it/

By Boyd D. Cathey

Often as I work at my computer I keep on the Sirius FM Classical Music Service, “Symphony Hall,” with an occasional switch-over to a Bluegrass channel. Both, I believe, reflect at their finest superior elements of our Western cultural tradition with deep popular roots in our civilization, in the songs and compositions of people—our ancestors—which are inspired by their faith, their heroes, their tragedies and triumphs, events in their cumulative history.

Sometimes at night I try to catch a classic film on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) or on my preferred Encore Westerns Channel. Not so much on Encore Westerns, at least not yet, but TCM has begun bracketing certain politically-incorrect classics with “woke” commentary, usually by black and/or gay film critics. Some films, once shown on network television, will probably never see the light of day again. They are far too reactionary, mired in a time long ago, unable to be salvaged even by the most superficially talented social justice progressive movie maven.

Over recent years, certainly since the end of World War II and more aggressively since the momentous civil rights years of the 1960s, there has been a progressive and widespread effort to both “deconstruct” our cultural tradition and alter its expression, with a specific emphasis on the influence of women and minorities who, we are told, have been underrepresented. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that. Of course, women and minorities, especially racial minorities, have played a distinctive and important role in our artistic heritage and traditions. And there have been some significant and worthy contributions made by them. But always to be understood in perspective and in the context of two millennia of Western culture, with its roots in, to quote the late philosopher Eric Voegelin, “Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome,” and the predominate role of notable men who were uniformly white.

But increasingly cultural elites in literature, music, art, and film have attempted to treat the essential characteristics and aspects of our culture, those emanations and glories of our heritage by radically re-interpreting them, recasting them completely, and they have done so by excluding, even censoring or banning certain works long held to be of great value and grandeur. Indeed, a long festering anti-Western and anti-Christian animus, always present but for decades percolating just beneath the surface, now aims to reign supreme and totally dominate. Woe to anyone who would oppose it; to do so means you are a “racist” and partake of “white supremacy.” And once that death knell is sounded, once that fatal sentence is pronounced by some poorly educated “woke” lunatic on Twitter or in some corporate board room, well, there is nothing to do but subserviently crawl on all fours, beg forgiveness for everything your ancestors may have done, essentially for being white.

Especially since the death of George Floyd, a drug addict and convicted felon now apparently up for sainthood (by both Democrats AND too many Republicans), the madness we’ve witnessed in the actions of our political class now is also translated with a renewed vigour into the arts, into education, into religion, into sports, into practically everything that makes life interesting, varied and rewarding.

Ominously, the goal lines are advancing rapidly in all of those areas, as we see each day recounted by brain-dead Marxist apparatchiks on television. Outright censorship and banning are becoming the rule…and it seems that those who should be stoutly opposing them are giving in readily to the lunacy. Read the rest of this entry »

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The tyranny of cancel culture – spiked

Posted by M. C. on July 7, 2020

Maya Forstater has lost work for daring to criticise the cult of transgenderism. Selina Todd and Julie Bindel are No Platformed for the same thoughtcrime. Graham Linehan has been expelled from Twitter for likewise doubting the ability of men to become women. Toby Young lost education jobs after Twittermobs subjected him to a politically vindictive round of offence archaeology and dug up some old jokes he’d made. Baroness Nicholson was dumped by the Booker Prize for ‘transphobia’, a radio presenter on the Isle of Man was suspended for criticising the idea of white privilege (he’s now been reinstated), and a Welsh journalist was removed from the judging panel of a literary prize after he criticised BLM.

https://www.spiked-online.com/2020/07/06/the-tyranny-of-cancel-culture/

Trump is right: cancel culture is destroying freedom of thought.

Brendan O’Neill
Editor

Trump is right. Cancel culture is the key weapon in the armoury of the intolerant. In his 4 July speech at Mount Rushmore, Trump talked about the ‘political weapon’ of ‘cancel culture’ – the totalitarian thirst for ‘driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees’.

On the cult of wokeness, the ideology of PC that says there is only one way to think about history, race, gender and myriad other issues, Trump declared: ‘If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras, and follow its commandments, then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted and punished.’

Anyone who has been awake at any time over the past four weeks will know that Trump is right. They will have witnessed the furious, misogynistic rage against JK Rowling for refusing to ‘speak the language’ of the new woke elites – in this case the eccentric, science-denying language of ‘genderfluidity’. They will have seen Britain’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab being mauled for days for refusing to ‘perform the rituals’ of the correct-think mob – in this case by taking the knee (that is, bowing down) to the slogan of Black Lives Matter and all the identitarian nonsense that lurks behind it.

And they will have seen black actor and TV host Terry Crews being denounced as a race traitor for refusing to ‘recite the mantras’ of the new identitarianism – in Crews’ case by expressing concern that the cry of ‘black lives matter’ might morph into a belief that ‘black lives are better’. In short, Crews was flirting with the great blasphemy of our time – the idea that ‘all lives matter’.

And yet what has been the response to Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech from the commentariat and the liberal elites? Sheer, bizarre denialism. They insist cancel culture is a myth. They say there is no culture war against the past or against ordinary people’s moral and cultural values. That’s a lie spread by right-wingers like Trump, they claim. In fact, if anyone is igniting a culture war, it’s Trump, they say. ‘Trump fuels culture war at Mount Rushmore’, as a New York Times headline put it.

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