16 votes

Our fundamental right to shame and shun the New York Times

11 comments

  1. [9]
    NaraVara
    Link
    A rare, good and well thought out argument about "Cancel Culture" discourse.

    A rare, good and well thought out argument about "Cancel Culture" discourse.

    Americans don’t have, and have never had, any right to be free of shaming or shunning. The First Amendment protects our right to speak free of government interference. It does not protect us from other people saying mean things in response to our speech. The very notion is completely incoherent. Someone else shaming me is their free speech, and someone else shunning me is their free association, both protected by the First Amendment.

    Why should we care about having a serious discussion about defining cancel culture? We should because simply complaining about it in the abstract, without attempts to define it, without actionable responses, and without taking the rights of “cancellers” doesn’t ease the culture war. It inflames it.

    12 votes
    1. [5]
      Akir
      Link Parent
      Nowadays when talking in the real world and the topic shifts to Cancel Culture, I just shut them down. Cancel Culture is not a real concrete phenomenon; it's a purposefully ambiguous and abstract...

      Nowadays when talking in the real world and the topic shifts to Cancel Culture, I just shut them down. Cancel Culture is not a real concrete phenomenon; it's a purposefully ambiguous and abstract framework that is used intentionally in a way that oversimplifies an extremely complex topic (human discourse) in the attempt to fix the public perception of the person being 'canceled'. Every time I've heard it being used, it's used to minimize the bad things that caused the 'cancellation' in the first place.

      Yes, people do get hurt by mob rule occasionally, and there are examples of cancel culture that I know aren't as cut and dry as I would like them to be, but the fact of the matter is that the very frame of cancel culture does not serve to improve the conversation in any conceivable way unless your goal is to mindlessly advance a partisan position.

      Life would be much better if we continued to talk about "cancel culture" in the term that it has largely replaced; cyberbullying. When you look through that frame, you can see there are far more concrete actions that can be implemented to solve whatever the actual problem is.

      19 votes
      1. [2]
        inwardpath
        Link Parent
        I think this is an incredibly important point. The phrase 'cancel culture' has definitely become a partisan framing. Interesting that cyberbullying is the term that comes to mind for you. I...

        I think this is an incredibly important point. The phrase 'cancel culture' has definitely become a partisan framing. Interesting that cyberbullying is the term that comes to mind for you.

        I suppose it depends on the 'cancellation', but in some cases I see it instead as boycotting, maybe the difference is the extremity of the public's action (or ability to affect) and the popularity or size of the entity being 'cancelled'

        7 votes
        1. Akir
          Link Parent
          I should perhaps clarify what I meant in that last part. The largest problem about using the "cancel culture" framework is that it has the tendency of obscuring what the actual problems are. Not...

          I should perhaps clarify what I meant in that last part. The largest problem about using the "cancel culture" framework is that it has the tendency of obscuring what the actual problems are. Not every 'cancellation' is the same thing; the cancellation of Ben Shapiro is different from the cancellation of James Gunn, and both of them are vastly different than the cancellation of Lindsay Ellis. When I brought up cyberbullying, I was thinking specifically in cases like Ellis'. Boycotting, of course, fits a lot more public "cancellation" examples.

          But what I was getting at was basically what the author of the piece ended with: we need concrete problems so we can come up with concrete solutions so we can talk about them to see if there's really something we should do about them.

          7 votes
      2. [2]
        vektor
        Link Parent
        I think it's important to be careful here. If I understand you correctly, you despise the term cancel culture because it's ambiguous and abstract. That I can understand and I can agree with. I...

        Nowadays when talking in the real world and the topic shifts to Cancel Culture, I just shut them down. Cancel Culture is not a real concrete phenomenon; it's a purposefully ambiguous and abstract framework that is used intentionally in a way that oversimplifies an extremely complex topic (human discourse) in the attempt to fix the public perception of the person being 'canceled'.

        I think it's important to be careful here. If I understand you correctly, you despise the term cancel culture because it's ambiguous and abstract. That I can understand and I can agree with.

        I have however also observed that people consider it a (partisan) political statement to call something a cancelling. Basically, "anyone who unironically uses the word 'cancel culture' can only be a right-wing lunatic". And... well, watch your political context. In my country, the right hasn't picked up on that term or that discussion to an appreciable degree yet. There is no "cancel culture has gone mad" in right wing mass media here. As a result, in some places you might find (at least that's my subjective view) that the people most likely to be familiar with the term and ambivalent or negative about its connotations might well be left-of-center. Consequently, calling something "cancel culture" is not a partisan political position, or at least not the kind of partisan one might think it is.

        (To clarify, I don't think you framed CC as a partisan term. I'm springboarding.)

        2 votes
        1. Akir
          Link Parent
          To be clear, I do think that the framework of cancellation is partisan in nature - it's just that it's not exclusive to any particular ideology. Like I mentioned before, it's frequently used to...

          To be clear, I do think that the framework of cancellation is partisan in nature - it's just that it's not exclusive to any particular ideology. Like I mentioned before, it's frequently used to exaggerate consequences and minimize the damage caused by the person being 'canceled'.

          Keep in mind that this framework also has the tendency to make everyone think that it's about the concept of free speech. I honestly think that in most cases using the framework of cancellation is the latest way of saying "the mods are banning us because we have different opinions!" The statement may technically be true, but the fact of the matter is that those opinions tend to be the ones that have been shown to be fairly objectively bad for society as a whole; the statement exists only to distract from that point.

          3 votes
    2. [3]
      inwardpath
      Link Parent
      To venture from the article a bit- I think the ability for shaming/shunning to happen at unprecedented scale, speed, depth, and ferocity should be part of the discussion too, because some of that...

      To venture from the article a bit-

      I think the ability for shaming/shunning to happen at unprecedented scale, speed, depth, and ferocity should be part of the discussion too, because some of that may be where the frustration comes from- that and the internet mob's keen ability to blow things out of proportion OR misunderstand nuance of a situation completely. That said, many that are "cancelled" deserve it (especially for truly harmful stuff like sexual assault and whatnot), but I think "cancelling" has proven to be a tool that is not always wielded well by its owner.

      I am just saying I hope we wield such power with care. I sometimes lament the amount of power technology has given us to affect someone's life, whether over something valid or a misunderstanding. It's scary and chilling in a way.

      8 votes
      1. [2]
        inwardpath
        Link Parent
        One update (felt it was more appropriate to reply than to Edit- because I don't want those who voted to be misrepresented by a changed post), as my thoughts continued on this today: I think this...

        One update (felt it was more appropriate to reply than to Edit- because I don't want those who voted to be misrepresented by a changed post), as my thoughts continued on this today:

        I think this summarizes my post in a way, but a final point that comes to mind is whether a "cancellation" of someone is a punishment that fits the "crime" of whatever they did. I think when I mentioned scale, speed, etc it was with this in mind. I think, depending on how far and how witch-hunt-like the cancellation is, it can grow way out of proportion to the point where it's a punishment exceedingly larger than the individual's action. Again, this is likely not the norm, but I think it should be part of the discussion.

        I can also tell that our embrace of this new paradigm (or at least new version) of public shunning/shame we've branded "cancelling" has a chilling effect in a bad way, at least to a small extent- in that, it felt uncomfortable writing my original post and this reply both, because of a fear that "not 100% agreeing with how canceling is enacted" could be met with cancellation itself.

        I see many of us who agree on things getting dangerously close to attempting to enact some kind of punishment on one another for small degrees of disagreement or legitimate own-"tribe"-criticism and that is so frustrating to watch. There's a certain dogmatic expectation of 'ideological purity' coming from my own side of the aisle that it makes me squirm

        3 votes
        1. vektor
          Link Parent
          Yeah, I agree with that. The tendency to cancel (or more appropriately cyber-bully) anyone who dare speak out against said cancelling is certainly there. It's guilt by association. There's two...

          I can also tell that our embrace of this new paradigm (or at least new version) of public shunning/shame we've branded "cancelling" has a chilling effect in a bad way, at least to a small extent- in that, it felt uncomfortable writing my original post and this reply both, because of a fear that "not 100% agreeing with how canceling is enacted" could be met with cancellation itself.

          Yeah, I agree with that. The tendency to cancel (or more appropriately cyber-bully) anyone who dare speak out against said cancelling is certainly there. It's guilt by association. There's two recent-ish cases that come to my mind where I spoke out like that and the resulting discussions had a certain flavor of unpleasantness to them. I've since grown... weary of any such discussion. I still feel strongly, but I shut my damn trap because I don't want to deal with any of that.

          And here's that tendency again: In case you're in favor of deplatforming and boycotting some unpleasant actors - this isn't about that. I'm not saying this is a bad thing to do in all cases, or even in any specific cases you care about. I'm merely stating that there exist cases where crowd-based justice isn't working.

          3 votes
  2. lou
    Link
    Of course we have the right to shame and shun. That doesn't mean we should shame and shun. Certainly not in all cases.

    Of course we have the right to shame and shun. That doesn't mean we should shame and shun. Certainly not in all cases.

    5 votes
  3. nothis
    Link
    It seems like one of the key problems is the eerie ability of right-wing spin doctors to project negative concepts back at their opponents, even where it makes no sense at all. In some way, we're...

    It seems like one of the key problems is the eerie ability of right-wing spin doctors to project negative concepts back at their opponents, even where it makes no sense at all. In some way, we're still in the "shock and awe" phase of reacting to this. Turning an impeachment into "the zenith of cancel culture" is not something you know how to react to, especially when people actually eat it up (that tweet has 40k likes and pops up on the phones of over a million people the second it is sent).

    I also get the concern over the New York Times chiming in on the anti-cancel-culture bandwagon without clarifying the definition. That definition is indeed important and at the core of the problem. It's not unlikely that this trend is a direct result of social media removing the fact checking done by traditional media. Nobody would print something as stupid yet a single tweet going through zero journalistic scrutiny can beat a NYT headline in terms of spread. No law (or moral framework) ever considered this. It's barely 10 years that it is even possible. There must be consequences.

    1 vote