Here we go again, the great debate over whether “cancel culture” is real.

It is real, as I wrote in my op-ed at Real Clear Politics, Cancel Culture Is Real. The people claiming cancel culture is not a real thing, that it’s just a gripe of people who don’t like being criticized, almost always are those on the giving, not receiving, end — the people on campuses and in the culture who hold power in given institutions.

The victims are not just the people targeted, but the greater culture of free expression. It’s what Prof. Jonathan Turley described with regard to the 21 colleagues of mine who signed a letter denouncing me:

The message for other faculty by these Cornell clinicians is both clear and intimidating. Disagree with the BLM movement or the protests and you will be labeled a racist. Indeed, the letter ends on a menacing note: “And we will continue to expose and respond to racism masquerading as informed commentary.” Thus, if you attempt “informed commentary” on the costs of looting and the need for great law enforcement, you are a per se racist….

The recent protests have served as a catalyst for the rising intolerance on our campus. There is an enforced orthodoxy that is captured in the Cornell letter. These letters are successful in creating a chilling effect on academics who are intimidated by these threats. To be labelled as a racist is devastating to an academic career and these professors know that. Now, even “informed commentary” will be denounced as racist if a professor raises a dissenting view. It is not just the death of free speech but our intellectual mission on university and college campuses.

It’s easy for liberal and leftist professors in liberal and leftist universities to act as if the toxic environment they create is just an issue of “criticism.” But it’s so much more, as the many student emails I have received reflect: Rather than be exposed to this toxic environment, with the likely career damage, people shut up.

I discussed this recently on Chicago’s Morning Answer radio show with Dan Proft and Amy Jacobson (no relation):

… I think that it is a real problem. It is something which is really focused on silencing people who don’t have job protection, silencing people who worry about their careers. It’s really not focused on the high profile people who get attacked, they’re simply the target, but the victim here is the larger society. And I know that because I’m going through it now at Cornell law school….

And so this is what we talk about with cancel culture. Now I have job protection. Not tenure, but it’s something similar. So the Dean also announced that I wouldn’t be fired or no disciplinary action taken because of my job protection, but that’s not the point. The point is you have a lot of people who are unprotected. I’ve received many, many emails from students privately who say a lot of people in the building support you, students, but we’re all afraid to speak up. And that’s hat’s really what’s happening is it’s an enforced silence and conformity, but don’t focus on me. Don’t focus on JK Rowling. Don’t focus on the people who have protection. It’s all the people who get scared and bullied into silence. I’ve received hundreds, multiple hundreds of emails from around the country, once I went public with my story, from people who say they’re scared to death to speak up at work and not only scared to death to speak at work, they’re scared to say anything outside of work that could be used against them.

Now there is polling that supports my thesis. The CATO Institute, together with the YouGov polling organization, finds that a disproportionate share of conservatives feel afraid to express their views, while “strong liberals” are relatively unrestrained:

new Cato Institute/​YouGov national survey of 2,000 Americans finds that 62% of Americans say the political climate these days prevents them from saying things they believe because others might find them offensive. This is up from 2017 when 58% agreed with this statement. Majorities of Democrats (52%), independents (59%) and Republicans (77%) all agree they have political opinions they are afraid to share.­­

Strong liberals stand out, however, as the only political group who feel they can express themselves: 58% of staunch liberals feel they can say what they believe.

Centrist liberals feel differently, with 52% who feel they have to self‐​censor, as do 64% of moderates, and 77% of conservatives. This demonstrates that political expression is an issue that divides the Democratic coalition between centrist Democrats and their left flank.

These findings are pretty stark, and comport with experience: “Strong liberals” get to speak their minds, while moderates, conservatives and “strong conervatives” are afraid to speak out. It’s the tyranny of the far left, and it’s real.

Other polling, from Politico/Morning Consult, demonstrates that a large percentage of people see clearly what is happening with cancel culture, and don’t like it. Using a narrow definition of cancel culture (focused on public figures), the survey found:

The POLITICO survey used a neutral definition of cancel culture adapted from its entry on “the practice of withdrawing support for (or canceling) 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. A plurality (46%) of Americans believe that cancel culture “has gone too far.” About a quarter of Americans — many of whom are perhaps blissfully offline — said they didn’t know or had no opinion on the matter. When they are removed from the results, a clear majority — across almost every demographic category — says that cancel culture has gone too far.

Twenty-seven percent of voters said cancel culture had a somewhat positive or very positive impact on society, but almost half (49%) said it had a somewhat negative or very negative impact.

Importantly, cancel culture is something practiced mostly by liberals and supported by younger generations, Politico found:

While online shaming may seem like a major preoccupation for the public if you spend a lot of time on Twitter, only 40% of voters say they have participated in cancel culture and only one in 10 say they participate “often.” It appears to be more of a liberal pursuit: Half of Democrats have shared their dislike of a public figure on social media after they did something objectionable, while only a third of Republicans say they have.

Age is one of the most reliable predictors of one’s views. Members of Generation Z are the most sympathetic to punishing people or institutions over offensive views, followed closely by Millennials, while GenXers and Baby Boomers have the strongest antipathy towards it.

Young. Far-left. Think cancelling people is a good thing, and are willing to do it themselves. America, we have a problem.

[Featured Image; Students shout down Ray Kelly at Brown University, 2013]


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