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Forum – “Cancel Culture”

The Humanist Association of Toronto
http://www.humanisttoronto.ca/

Every Saturday we meet to discuss a topic decided upon the previous week. These are topics of humanist interest, from a humanist perspective.

Today we explore the concept of “Cancel Culture” in our society. Below is a write up on the topic from HAT member, Catherine Francis. Join us, won’t you?
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The following definition of cancel culture is found in dictionary.com: “Cancel culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (cancelling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. Cancel culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming.”

In an opinion piece written in July 2020 for the New York Times, columnist Ross Douthat sets out 10 theses about cancel culture. The following is a summary of his theses.

1. Cancellation refers to an attack on someone’s employment and reputation by a collection of critics.

2. All cultures cancel.

3. Cancellation isn’t about free speech. But a liberal society should be slower to cancel.

4. The Internet has changed the way we cancel.

5. The Internet has made it harder to figure out whether speech is getting freer or less free.

6. Celebrities are the easiest to target but the hardest to cancel.

7. Cancel culture is most effective against people who are still rising in their field.

8. The right and left both cancel but the right are weaker at it.

9. The intersection of technology and ideology has resulted in the current heated cancel culture debate.

10. If you oppose left-wing cancel culture, appeals to liberalism and free-speech aren’t enough.

Here is a link to the full opinion piece: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/opinion/cancel-culture-.html

Today we see aspects of cancel culture reflected everywhere, from celebrities who have been “canceled” for inappropriate comments or past indiscretions to protests against speakers whose political views are deemed unacceptable to pulling old movies, discontinuing offensive brands, renaming schools or streets etc.

Questions for discussion:

1. Has cancel culture gone too far?

2. Is cancel culture compatible with Canadian values including freedom of expression?

3. What are some of the downsides in stifling free expression of ideas, including ideas we do not agree with?

4. Should people be judged by today’s standards or the standards of the time? How many of us have done or said something in the past that might embarrass us now?

5. Are there better ways of handling views and positions we don’t agree with than public shaming?

6. Are we all being forced into self censorship to avoid the stigma or other serious consequences of public shaming?

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