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How do we think about cancel culture? Show more Show less
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In June 2020, cancel culture claimed its latest victim: the popular children's television show Paw Patrol. People claimed that its protagonists - animated dogs who operate as police in a fictional universe - were being derided. These pieces said critics saw its positive portrayal of law enforcement strengthened a culture of deference to the police. Headlines around the world stated cancel culture had gone mad. But none of this was true. What began as a joke about cancel culture had grown into a conspiracy tearing across the internet. This crisis underpinned the bigger picture: anyone can be cancelled, and it has gone so far it can reach the international news without questioning. In recent years, the practice of withdrawing support for public figures who hold controversial views has exploded. And not just amongst the cartoons. Michael Jackson, JK Rowling, Louis CK, Woody Allen: the list of its celebrity victims is growing. The boom has divided opinion. Some believe it is a form of online activism that helps the marginalised hold the powerful to account. Their opponents see it as a devastating attack on civil liberties. So, what are the pros and cons of cancel culture?

Cancel culture must be cancelled Show more Show less

This approach argues that cancel culture exposes a crisis of individual liberty. It considers freedom of expression to be an inalienable right. Disagreement is being weaponised to silence those who hold unpopular views.
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Cancel culture incorrectly assumes that morality is binary

Cancel culture assumes that morals and people are either good or bad, right or wrong. In reality, ideals and people are more nuanced than that, but cancel culture doesn't allow anyone to understand that.

The Argument

Moral ethics has long been a subject of philosophical intrigue and debate. There have been many moral codes and ways of living promoted by many different great thinkers, many of which with some some merit but none universally accepted. In any case, with all the perspectives on morality that have existed across time and space, moral inquiry has long fueled discussion among those who seek the truth. Cancel culture denies the existence of alternative perspectives. In its assault on open dialogue and debate, it falsely assumes a black and white view of the world in which morality is both natural and fixed. In practice, this gives no space for nuance in civil discourse. People are being cancelled for opinions that are often looped into complex ethical debates. In many cases there are also extraneous concerns around context and motivation. In choosing to see these as irrelevant, cancel culture prevents fruitful inquiry or discussion. It imposes a strict moral code on its victims and denies society the opportunity to engage with controversial topics. It propagates a stunted view of morality that ultimately does not square with reality.

Counter arguments

It sounds nice to want to promote diversity or moral debate. But it leads to a dangerous slippery slope. There isn't much one can say to defend how racist propaganda is just "another perspective" that needs to be respected. Not every viewpoint has merits. To tolerate racism and other hateful viewpoints in public discourse is to allow it to fester and linger in our society, instead of uprooting it out of our history.



Rejecting the premises



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    This page was last edited on Thursday, 16 Jul 2020 at 20:31 UTC

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