The Republic of Letters would like to make a statement on the recent raft of platform expulsions and professional and social purges in social media and in what we’ll call “real life”.
Links below provide recent examples of Cancel Culture. Cancel Culture ranges across many disciplines and many different corners of life: the thread among them being the idea that “speech” of certain people, whom self-appointed of guardians of what is Correct have condemned, should be deprived of our hearing, seemingly in perpetuity.
We have watched the social media and public reaction to these events and have noted a dismal insouciance that is a sure portend of more pressure in the immediate future.
Clever people, who have forgotten how easily these prohibitions can extend to them, have contented themselves with the perfectly serviceable argument that this is not actual, technical censorship. “Not when you’re punching up, it’s not…” - being one excuse. “Not when it isn’t the government doing the censoring…” - being another.
But what is typical, and what counts as technical, in these unprecedented times of ours? In fact, it is idle to occupy a schematic position vis-à-vis censorship as it simply hand-waves away the actual, operative character of the new form of social expulsion: bottom-up, “popular”, and fueled by the whims of technical factors (the internet) that we barely comprehend, and that are not within our control.
To glibly settle upon the barren insight that private corporations can censor, and that there is therefore no issue, is to pass in silence over the obvious question: should we censor ourselves? So long as the public square remains in private hands, the entities of mass surveillance and algorithmic control (Facebook, Google, Twitter, and so forth) have every right to stifle life as best they may. But should we go along with it? Do we approve?
Those of us who have not surrendered to the Game of Narratives cannot be satisfied with philistine obfuscations. We know that these cultural expulsions, this “new” form of soft-censorship, is the very thing of old in all but name - and its newest features - its opacity, and its popular approval - are precisely the ones that seem to enhance the menace of the practice beyond the example of previous forms.
We can stand strong against these maneuvers, and counter with maneuvers of our own. We can even thrive under these pressures, and love the adversaries of free thought for their errors, because it gives us an opportunity to “come together”, as people are fond of saying, and to talk about it all - yet in the open.
We are against Cancel Culture, and all of its works, and we invite our community to affirm with us our enduring commitment to writing, to talking, and to thinking.
We take no stance, at this time, on the particulars of any of the incidents cited, but cite them in aggregate to draw attention to the macro trend of censorship.
https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-bans-alex-jones-extremists/ https://quillette.com/2019/05/05/policing-the-creative-imagination/ https://meaww.com/cbs-all-access-censored-the-good-fight-episode-robert-and-michelle-chinese-censors-animated-short https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/anti-vaxxers-facebook-youtube-instagram-806504/ https://quillette.com/2019/05/02/cambridge-capitulates-to-the-mob-and-fires-a-young-scholar/ https://www.spectator.co.uk/2019/04/the-scruton-tapes-an-anatomy-of-a-modern-hit-job/ http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/04/inside-the-near-meltdown-of-the-feminist-tour-in-australia.html https://reason.com/2019/02/28/he-was-part-of-a-twitter-mob-that-attack/ https://blog.ninapaley.com/2019/04/06/blacklisted-bullied-threatened-and-libeled/ https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2019/05/woody-allen-memoir-me-too?verso=true https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/2019/04/23/kate-smith-heres-why-her-racist-recordings-are-controversial/3550061002/ https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2019/may/05/saatchi-covers-up-artworks-after-complaints-by-muslim-visitors