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May 28, 2022·edited May 28, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

I think you’re getting at this above, but in my mind, the difference between boycotting and cancelling is that boycotting opposes something an organization is DOING (or not doing), and cancelling opposes who someone IS. So the purpose of boycotting is to apply pressure to an organization to change their behavior. The purpose of cancelling is permanent exile, as a way to send a message to the rest of the community- don’t be like this person. The cancelled person can’t return to good graces by changing their behavior. Joe Rogan didn’t “say something racist,” he “IS A racist,” and no amount of apologizing on his part will change that. To the cancel squad, Joe is a lost cause and can only serve the greater good as a cautionary tale. This is why E “boycotts” Spotify- to encourage them to change their behavior in not broadcasting “a racist”- and when they do as E wishes, E is happy to renew their subscription. But there is no behavior for Joe to change- he is “cancelled” forever. No forgiveness, no redemption. So, exactly your point- it CANT be about getting the subject to change their behavior. It can only be about punishment, example-setting, and moral superiority.

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"I think you’re getting at this above, but in my mind, the difference between boycotting and cancelling is that boycotting opposes something an organization is DOING (or not doing), and cancelling opposes who someone IS."

Hmm, yeah this is a good distinction. Like I said, I don't have a problem with somebody cancelling their Spotify subscription because they don't like Joe Rogan. If Rogan's show were the wall-to-wall racism some people seem to think it is, I probably wouldn't want to support his platform either.

My problem is a) that so many people are willing to decide who somebody IS without ever even listening to them (again, Rogan has thousands of hours of podcasts and most of the people condemning him have only ever seen one heavily edited clip).

And b) as you say, the idea that making a racist joke makes somebody an eternal racist. And not just any racist, but a racist so damnable that they need to be removed from public life forever. It's the whole "one-strike, even if it was decade ago" rule that makes it all so repulsive.

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I don't understand your preoccupation with "cancel culture"; first of all it's a right wing formulation and therefore likely dishonest or not even real. Let's ,ake sure we're talking about the same thing here; two examples

1) a university invites a right wing speaker, but between the invitation and the speech he gets his name in the papers saying something vile. homosexuals should be executed, Democrats are pedophiles. The university cancels his speech.

2) a pundit says something vile on his show; his advertisers are pressured into dropping him.

I don't have any problem with these. Nobody is required to provide a forum for people who express horrible views. Debating those views just lends them undeserved legitimacy. Cancel away.

I do agree that pulling some remark from years ago out of the trash can and using it to attack people who have recanted or who just had a fit of pique is going way too far.

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May 28, 2022·edited May 28, 2022Author

"I don't understand your preoccupation with "cancel culture"; first of all it's a right wing formulation and therefore likely dishonest or not even real."

Hmmm, first, I think the temptation to dismiss things because they're "right-wing" is an exceedingly self-limiting way of thinking. I notice increasingly in certain online circles that every opinion that people want to discredit without contending with the facts of it, is simply labelled as "conservative" or "far-right" or held by a "white male." In fact, it doesn't even need to be directly connected anymore. Just saying, "X person...who has interacted with conservatives" is enough to have many people tune out.

I'm certainly not right-wing. Yet cancel culture is a formulation I happily use, because it clearly describes a real phenomenon. A phenomenon that I've given real-world examples of here, that go far beyond homophobes being disinvited from university lectures. But as I said above, even the examples I've given aren't really the point.

The highest profile victims of cancel culture will be fine whatever happens. They can happily retire, or, alternatively, continue saying whatever the hell they want, and aside from a few mean tweets, they'll usually be completely fine (though it's worth noting that Dave Chappelle was physically attacked recently and JK Rowling receives regular death threats, so maybe not *completely* fine). But people who don't have millions in the bank, who can't afford to lose their job or jeopardise their academic career and future prospects, these are the real targets of cancel culture.

So while I certainly wouldn't say I'm "preoccupied" with cancel culture, there are a few reasons it matters to me.

First is that it's a tool whose sole purpose is to shut down discourse. And we need discourse precisely because there are bad ideas out there. Bad ideas don't disappear when they aren't heard at universities. The get buried underground in cesspools like 4chan where they grow, unchallenged, until the reappear in the manifestos of people like Peyton Gendron.

Second is that it shuts down discourse through bullying. Even if it *were* only right wing people who were silenced by this I'd have an issue with it. But it absolutely isn't. I receive messages every week from people thanking me for speaking up because they're too afraid to do so for fear of losing their job or the abuse they'd face.

And third, as you say, the whole "ten year old tweets" thing is going too far. Yet it still happens. This cruelty, this vindictiveness, all it does is drive people into the arms of conservatives. Or, more accurately, the "alt-right." Most of those idiots don't stand for actual conservative values, or much of anything really. They're just sick of the moral puritanism that is synonymous with the extremely vocal fringes of the left and ignored by most of the reasonable people on the left.

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"First is that it's a tool whose sole purpose is to shut down discourse. And we need discourse precisely because there are bad ideas out there. Bad ideas don't disappear when they aren't heard at universities. The get buried underground in cesspools like 4chan where they grow, unchallenged, until the reappear in the manifestos of people like Peyton Gendron.

Second is that it shuts down discourse through bullying. Even if it *were* only right wing people who were silenced by this I'd have an issue with it. But it absolutely isn't. I receive messages every week from people thanking me for speaking up because they're too afraid to do so for fear of losing their job or the abuse they'd face."

You're contradicting yourself, Steve. First you say that the discourse is shut down and then that it continues on the alt-right forums.

You're a good man, Steve, an idealistic man, a compassionate man. But when you speak of discourse having potential for effect you cross over from idealistic to starry-eyed.

Example. Many, many, many times I've read from right wingers that the Democrats are the true racists, citing Sen. Byrd and other history preceding the Civil Rights Act. . Someone leaps in (it was me a few times) to point out that Byrd recanted his earlier Klansmanship and that with the CRA and the Southern Strategy most of the Dixiecrats became Republicans; the liberal wing of the GOP evaporated.

Within an hour some winger, often the same one, posts all over again that the Democrats are the true racists, often pasting the same post.

How much of your life do you want to devote to engaging with such nonchalantly dishonest people? I have no more time for it. I don't want to engage with them. I don't need the stress, and it's futile.

I've been online since the Compuserve days, since dialups; I've argued with wingers for decades. In all that time I have seen exactly two (2) abandon their allegiance to cruelty and falsehood. That is, for all intents and purposes, none. For me to say as I did at the opening of my previous post that conservatives or alt-right or whatever can be presumed to be lying .... maybe that isn't true in ev-ry sin-gle in-stance, but it sure is a statistically defensible presumption.

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May 28, 2022·edited May 28, 2022Author

"You're contradicting yourself, Steve. First you say that the discourse is shut down and then that it continues on the alt-right forums."

No, there's no contradiction. What happens on places like 4chan simply isn't discourse, it's indoctrination. It's one sided, agenda-driven lies, with nobody even slightly interested in anything but boosting their confirmation bias. That's how they produce ideas like QAnon and Pizzagate and Peyton Gendron's manifesto. Because their nonsense goes unchallenged. The same as on places like Tumblr (though mostly less dangerous to anybody but themselves).

Discourse happens in the mainstream. It has to. Because you need the smartest people from each side of an ideological position to put forward their best arguments without constraint. This, naturally has the largest impact on overall thinking on an issue.

Discourse affects journalists, it affects teachers, it affects politicians, and they affect everything else. And the more open the better. See China and Russia and North Korea, for the impact that stifling the open and honest exchange of ideas has. The quality of a society's thinking is a product of the quality of its discourse. Do you think this is a starry-eyed viewpoint? It genuinely doesn't seem so to me.

Some people, obviously, are beyond hope. In a world where all ideas are debated with perfect freedom and openness, there will still be extremists. There will still be people who knowingly lie and others who are dumb enough to believe them. There will still be people who simply don't care about anybody but themselves. I try to change the minds of people like these, or sometimes just expose the flaws in their arguments for other people, but you're right. I don't spend a lot of time on them. Dishonest people, even when they realise they're wrong, won't acknowledge it.

I'm not saying that open discourse will create a utopia. I'm saying that its our best method for getting as close as human beings can manage.

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"Nobody is required to provide a forum for people who express horrible views."

True, but it comes down to an issue you heaped scorn upon in the past; Who decides? Is the public square a public square? You told us in the past that the deciders thought nobody should be able to read your unacceptable (to them) thoughts, killed your account and deprived you of earned money. But you are fine with that being done to someone who's idea you find to be vile. Ironically, their idea being that your views are vile. Who decides? I don't write this to attack you, we simply have different views. I don't want you silenced. I agree with you quite often, sometimes not. I hope nobody decides to stop us from discussing it by canceling either of us.

In 1972 Shirley Chisholm ran for President. She was speaking someplace where I was. The crowd of listeners were black. They didn't object to me listening to what she had to say. There was also a crowd of white people ignoring her. They didn't try to shout her down (maybe that happened someplace else, I don't know). Too bad they didn't listen, but at least they didn't try to prevent people who wanted to listen from listening. To me, that's important. I don't want anyone deciding that I can't listen to someone. I read Chairman Mao's Little Red Book back in the 60s. I didn't become a communist, but I did want to understand the ideology that I was wearing a uniform to fight against.

At the moment the biggest political thing in America is electing people who will pack the Supreme Court (the deciders) with people who will enforce their political ideology. The ultimate cancelers. When the deciders decide vindictively, we have a big problem.

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I dispute that vileness is a matter of personal perspective. I'd go so far as to say that people who think it's cool to cage children or shoot 12yo black kids with toys guns are objectively vile people.

I read Mao's book too.

Truth be told, honestly, I don't want vile people silenced. I want them to be able to speak their horrid minds so the rest of us can correctly identify them for who they are and get them out of our lives.

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Cancel culture has no sense of proportion. To try to completely destroy someone or their livelihood over an offensive joke is positively worse than any joke.

I love my paid subscription to Spotify. I've discovered a great deal of music that I enjoy there. Joe Who? I don't listen to podcasts, none of them. Not a boycott, I'm just not interested. He told a racist joke nine years ago. Is he the same man today? He apologized because of cancel culture? Is E a mind reader? She doesn't think it possible that when it came up again he could have thought, damn, that was bad. Apologies to those offended, I'll do better in the future?

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"She doesn't think it possible that when it came up again he could have thought, damn, that was bad. Apologies to those offended, I'll do better in the future?"

Exactly. And what's especially irritating about this particular case is that this is obviously what happened. Rogan is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. And Spotify needs him far more than he needs them. If Spotify cancelled his contract tomorrow, he'd walk away with ~200 million dollars, put his podcast back on YouTube where it was before along with all the other sources, and grow his subscriber base because he actually *lost* subscribers by going to Spotify exclusively.

Rogan had absolutely no reason to apologise other than that he recognised that the joke was in bad taste and that the compilation of him saying the n-word over and over again, even though dishonest in it's framing, looked reeeeally bad. Again, he recognised that the joke was in bad taste nine years ago, literally seconds after making it. And he stopped saying the n-word, even though he only ever said it in context and never as a slur, years ago.

I've said over and over again, I don't find Rogan even slightly noteworthy, but to pretend he's some evil racist is just so incredibly stupid.

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May 28, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

“The puritanical, quasi-religious nature of cancel culture has been pointed out many times. But it still amazes me every time.”

Indeed, the potency of the phenomenon is quite amazing. It helps me to try to make sense of these seemingly crazy cultural phenomena from an evolutionary psychology perspective.

The psychological basis of cancel mobbing is the evolved human trait of coalition building. Designating certain behaviors as morally repugnant recruits strong emotion-level group cohesion. And when everyone in the group is morally offended, a clear sign of commitment to the group is to be more outraged than most. And then any voice of moderation becomes a signal of disloyalty to the group. Then the mandatory shared moral indignation becomes more important than the merits of the accusation of offense. The supposed moral offense can veer into the domain of group level mind-reading.

So this familiar dynamic occurs repeatedly throughout history--- whether the offense is being a witch, a heretic, a conspirator, a cultural appropriator, a micro-aggressor, a racist-by-not-being-antiracist, etc....

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"And then any voice of moderation becomes a signal of disloyalty to the group."

God, this is getting weird now! I was having this exact thought this morning. Then I read this piece on Bari Weiss' Substack (https://bariweiss.substack.com/p/friendship-politics?s=r) which describes the same phenomenon, now here you are saying the same thing!😁

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I've noticed that increasingly, people don't find comfort in their groups anymore. Instead, they fear saying the wrong thing and having the group turn on them. Safety can only be found in parroting the ideology of the group as loudly as possible.

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Before you mentioned the 'puritanical', religious approach this person was taking, I was thinking, "There it is, that old-time religion!" And not revival tent religion, but vicious medieval Inquisition-style religion, where there was no chance of redemption, no chance to repent, and the end intention was utter destruction. These people aren't yet at the point where they advocate physically torturing people in public for entertainment and 'education' but they're on the same path.

You did a great job of defining the differences between 'boycott' and 'cancel culture' - the former is transformative, and seeks to correct a current problem, whereas the latter is about sheer human cruelty. This gal might want to be careful about supporting 'canceling' people for far-past 'sins', because 'woke' won't last forever - there are some signs it's beginning to fray around the edges - and *she* may be the one getting 'cancelled' some day because of her ancient 2022 support for human cruelty.

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"And not revival tent religion, but vicious medieval Inquisition-style religion, where there was no chance of redemption, no chance to repent, and the end intention was utter destruction."

Haha, exactly! It's not the fun, Gospel choir singing, falling down in rapture religion. I wouldn't mind a bit of that.

It's incredible though, isn't it. The language people like these use. I wonder if E would even consider himself religious (interesting that people are reading him as a "she," Dave did the same thing). I'm guessing no. Yet, "...the mere passage of time does not wash away your sins,” just rolls of his tongue. I guess it's this level of moral certitude that prevents them from realising it'll be their turn to face judgement one day.

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May 28, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

I thought you guys might be interested in learning about the history of boycotting; it began in Ireland as a way to punish someone by social shunning: https://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/irish-invented-boycott

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Thank you, that was a great read. I had no idea that Boycott was a person! An interesting mix of a boycott and mob justice (the death threats against his blacksmith and the violence against his post-boy were a little beyond what we'd describe as a boycott today!😅). Thank God that's not what happens today if you send a few off-colour tweets!

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May 29, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

Wow, Steve you've got the definitions and objectives thoroughly examined in the contrast between cancel culture and boycott. I don't know how old E is, but at 63 I've quietly participated in many boycotts but no cancel culture. (I stay away from television and social media) For the record I've boycotted Walmart for almost 40 years with few exceptions. To people who say 'if you don't have money you shop at Walmart' I say, if you don't have money you don't shop anywhere! (I know) The concept of a boycott is a persistent resistance to actions or circumstances that are harmful to the good of the whole. Cancel culture is, as you have explained, something altogether different.

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All moral purity cults end up the same way - banishing everyone from it, often the leaders as well. Unfortunately there is some human impulse to need to re-discover this time and time again.

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"Unfortunately there is some human impulse to need to re-discover this time and time again."

This really is the sad part. The more time goes by, in all kinds of ways, the more the wisdom of the saying, "those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it" hits home.

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An old thread, but.

I'm all for cancel culture. If I was part of a large family that had holiday dinners and one man was a Trump supporter who turned every conversation around to attacking "the left" and praising Trump, I would have no qualms about leaving him off the invitation list thereafter. There would probably be an abundance of racist crap to but that would be optional in canceling in invitation.

There is no "culture" around that. MAGAts are unpleasant people, and who would want to be around them?

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One aspect which I find interesting is the extreme purity focus, which Haidt ascribes more to the right.

The neo-progressive ideology can be incredibly puritanical (although without redemption).

There appears to me to be positive delight in discovering even the tiniest mistake from years ago, which otherwise would be deeply buried and forgotten by 99.999% of the world - so that one can reframe a person's entire life trajectory as "racist" based on that mistake. The punishment is remarkably disproportional to the actual harm, so to me the "accountability" or "boycott-like" framing appears to be more of a cover story or rationale for behavior with a different primary motivation or payoff.

I acknowledge that this verges into imputing possible motives to others, so understand that I am owning the possibility of subjectivity and misunderstanding on my part. Yet it can be valid to question why a behavior becomes far more common than it's nominal rationale would logically support; in those cases, there could be additional motives or payoffs. The "delight" I describe perceiving above, is an example. As is the vindictiveness you mention.

One of the top half dozen issues I perceive in neo-progressivism (or wokism if one prefers), is the intoxication it offers to those who feel they have the unquestionable moral high ground. That sense of moral superiority causes people to numb out their empathy and feel guilt-free or even righteous when wallowing in schadenfreude. Racists (of which there is an adequate supply only if you cast your net absurdly widely, like including anybody who ever used the wrong word or made a bad joke) don't deserve decent treatment, and so "treat others as you would wish to be treated"* can be summarily dismissed as a moral guideline. By making a bad joke years ago, they have lost their human status and become a morally valid target for disproportionate vengeance.

(*The disdain neo-progressivism has for mutual benefit, mutual respect, reciprocal rights, win/win aspirations and other equality-based interactions is also on my top problems list. It's deeply wedded to win/lose and zero-sum-game framings of the world.)

One of the things which I believe illustrates the questions of true intentions of accountability is the highly selective nature of it. On one hand, somebody with a history of violent crime is supposed to be given many, many chances and judged very sympathetically (if a member of certain designated population groups). We must not be so judgemental, we must understand it from their viewpoint, we must be generous in our interpretations. However, for somebody who we seen as resisting the ideology, we should spend hours combing their history to see if there is the least mistake that we can unforgivingly highlight and exaggerate, to justify righteous punishment.

As you say, it's about power. The neo-progressive ideology sees the world and the human experience through mud colored glasses, as almost entirely being about power and conflict; cooperation is only a temporary tool for getting enough people together to take power. The way to create "justice" in this ideology is to invert the power structure - with the former oppressors now experiencing treatment which would be called "oppression" except that concept doesn't apply to people we have dehumanized and numbed out any empathy for. They are the bad tribe, and it's good when bad things happen to them, that's how we reduce oppression - pull down the oppressors and boost the oppressed, in all ways under our control or influence.

So having an extraordinarily generous view of "accountability" when assessing a marginalized person, while having an outright uber-puritanical concept of "accountability" when assessing a privileged person, is deliberately assymetric and a double standard - justified because its one of the main prescribed tools for generating justice.

What could go wrong?

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