Saturday, July 11, 2020

Matt Taibbi on Cancel Culture

Cancel culture is coming for its own. Like all revolutions, it began by denouncing and deplatforming conservatives-- by branding their views hate speech. Now the cancel culture is eating notable leftist intellectuals for the crime of defending free speech. When the revolution attacks Gloria Steinem and Noam Chomsky, you can tell that it has reached terminal stupidity.

Who better to guide us through the labyrinthine idiocy of the cancel culture than Matt Taibbi. As you will discover by clicking on the link, Taibbi’s productions are offered to subscribers only. This means that I subscribe. And, naturally, I recommend that you all do the same. After all, where else can you find the voice of the sensible and rational left in America today-- wrapped in excellent writing. If it is too much of a stretch to subscribe to Taibbi, you are welcome to contribute to this blog-- via the Paypal Donate link at left.

For his part Taibbi is focusing on the Harper’s Magazine list of prominent public intellectuals who have been defending free speech and the open discussion of different opinions. For which they have naturally been excoriated by the more radical left.

He begins by addressing those who believe that there is no such thing as cancel culture:

This being America in the Trump era, where the only art form to enjoy wide acceptance is the verbose monograph written in condemnation of the obvious, the Harper’s fiasco inspired multiple entries in the vast literature decrying the rumored existence of “cancel culture.” The two most common themes of such essays are a) the illiberal left is a Trumpian myth, and b) if the illiberal left does exist, it’s a good thing because all of those people they’re smearing/getting fired deserved it.

In this conception there’s nothing to worry about when a Dean of Nursing at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell is dismissed for writing “Black Lives Matter, but also, everyone’s life matters” in an email, or when an Indiana University Medical School professor has to apologize for asking students how they would treat a patient who says ‘I can’t breathe!’ in a clinical setting, or when someone is fired for retweeting a study suggesting nonviolent protest is effective. The people affected are always eventually judged to be “bad,” or to have promoted “bad research,” or guilty of making “bad arguments,” etc.

Evidently, it has all gotten completely out of control. Taibbi concludes by remarking a point that many others have failed to remark. While the Vietnam counterculture produced many engaging artworks-- especially the musical variety-- the woke cancel culture has produced nothing whatever of artistic value. It’s stupid all the way down.

Contrast that with today. If sixties liberals were able to sell their message to the rest of the country by making music even squares and reactionaries couldn’t resist, the woke revolution does the opposite. It spends most of its time constructing an impenetrable vocabulary of oppression and seething at the lumpen proles who either don’t get it or don’t like it.

Its other chief characteristics seem to be a total lack of humor, an endless, crotch-sniffing enthusiasm for hunting skeletons in closets, a love of snitching and decency committees, a fear of metaphor (woke culture is 100% literal), a mania for collectivist scolding (“Read the room” is this week’s “Destroy the four olds!”), and a puritanical mistrust of humping in the apolitical context. The woke version of erotica is writing an article for the Guardian about how “ejaculating” skyscrapers are symbols of cisnormative dominance. They make the Junior Anti-Sex League seem like Led Zeppelin.

The question isn’t whether or not “cancel culture” exists. The question is, without canceling, what would this culture be?

Culturally speaking, the cancel culture is a cultural void, sucking the nation’s intellectuals into its empty-headed abyss.


Sam L. said...

Cancel culture = Stupidity squared.

Ron Liebermann said...

"free speech and the open discussion of different opinions."

There is no such thing as free speech in the West. There are dozens of speech codes, and if you violate any of them, then your comments will get deleted. So what if I said "We should send all the black people back to Africa". That would be a violation. Nowadays, free speech must contain only statements that black people approve of, beforehand. America has free safety speech. It's good for you.