Sunday, January 31, 2021

Cancel Culture

This may be a reflection of my preferred sources, but I don't think anyone on the right, individually or collectively, even if they are considered an influential person, has the power to cancel anyone on the left. Whether they can cancel anyone on the right is a an interesting question. Similarly, people who one would think fairly invisible and low on the power scale - college students, state legislators from thousands of miles away, minor journalism figures - have the ability to cause trouble for conservatives and centrists, and even liberals at times. This unbalances discussions that should be carried on even-handedly, and causes conservatives to look more defensive and strident than they otherwise might.

That is a subtle but real debate advantage that otherwise decent people on the center-left might not realise they have, which can be parlayed into emotional and social advantage because of the increased freedom to use quiet virtue-signalling and condescension without getting called on it. I am thinking of a church debate in which one person started out by saying that he thought the opposite position was "unloving." The specific examples I can think of in that argument are heavily weighted against him, yet he can say that and his opponents cannot without having to engage in a tedious and rather irritating rebuttal that would work against them in persuading a crowd.

Leaders in organisations can give an appearance of being generous by allowing conservative views to be expressed at all. Yet they are nearly invulnerable in expressing their own view.  They are being generous with little cost. There are certainly places one can go where a general conservative view is expected, and liberals might feel they were being invalidated and looked down on. That is not a good thing. But they are in no danger of losing their job over that. Someone might laugh at you or treat you with scorn. Well, welcome to my career for forty years working with liberals.

Maybe it's different in Utah or Alabama. I live in a bubble as well and may read the signs wrongly. But I don't think social workers get censured for having views more liberal than average, nor denominational pastors, nor academics, nor government employees, nor any profession that depends on a public image.  Rarely, they might get into trouble for actions which are more leftist than their organisation has chosen to go. But I don't think you get cancelled for those opinions. In some places, you see yourself as just waiting a few more years until your crowd takes over.

As I said, I may be missing an entire category of situations where this imbalance is not true, or even reversed.  I am glad to have a go at considering what those mean.  However, they are not easily coming to mind.


dmoelling said...


In general you are right about conservatives. The individual rights basis is important even to populists. This is much more an insecurity of the left showing itself. Since they aren't really sure about their own beliefs being in a community with more truly individualist people is hard.

Their campaign against our civic rituals is a telltale. When I first came to CT from the Midwest 40 years ago, my wife and I went to the town hall to register to vote. The classic stereotype of an older New England town official was the Republican Registrar. We had to raise our right hands and swear a voters oath. It was simple but obliged us to treat voting as a serious matter to be done only after all proper considerations were made. No motor voter or mail registration can be anything like it. So the woke push against other public holidays like Columbus day is attempts to bolster their inner doubts.

The Capitol Hill rioters looked much more like stereotypes of crazy hippies (many true nutcases, but relatively unorganized and non-scary) than the black clad ANTIFA crew.

james said...

I don't see much of it anymore, but I've read of times when a church might unperson you. Because of communication lags, this might be more local than the modern unpersoning. But either way: "eject the dangerous heretic/sinner."

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yes, I was thinking of churches especially. The seminary and headquarters of the Evangelical Covenant Church tends to be liberal (wanting to live in cities and the resultant peer pressure may be part of that) and the clergy is a bit less so, but the laity is politically conservative in more congregations than not. I don't know of any liberals leaving our church because the felt unwelcome, though I can imagine it happening, as some people simply cannot endure worshiping with people they feel are on the evil other side. I do know of a few conservatives who have left our church for that reason. But my children went to Baptist schools, and I know several churches where any kind of liberalism would not be welcome. Pastors and officials could remain in place if they did not much preach politics, but if they preached it there might be trouble. Most of the time, any "cancelling" would be unofficial. Yet it might become explicit at times. I don't know of any, but I can easily imagine it.

Mike Guenther said...

Excommunication in the Catholic Church and in the LDS and other more unorthodox religions like the Amish, it's called Shunning.

I'm a back slid Christian so not sure how popular these methods are today.

In the Lutheran sect, the Church can excommunicate you until one has repented and may let you back into the congregation. But as far as total excommunication, only God can do that.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I wonder how long it has been since the Lutherans excommunicated anyone? I think it only happens for conduct issues related to the church body getting along, as in people who make accusations against the staff or others in the congregation. I don't think it is ever doctrinal anymore.

Such congregational issues can obviously depend a lot on where you sit to begin with...