General Unstructured Thoughts On “Being Cancelled”

John Scalzi

Because it’s been in the news recently, enough that even though I’ve been lost in my own world this last week — a good thing, if you want a book from me — the various stories of people being “cancelled” in the last several days came onto my radar. What follows are thoughts not particularly well-organized or following any real thread of thought, other than “so, here’s what I’m thinking about ‘cancellation’ today.” This is not the entirety of my thoughts, merely what I’m mulling on at the moment. Which could turn out to be terribly wrong! Yay, pre-emptive qualified statements! Let’s get into it, shall we?

1. Being ‘canceled’ basically means learning that you’re replaceable. And apparently this is new to a lot of white people! Especially those who currently claim the “conservative” label for themselves (more on that in a bit). But I think everyone else knew that fact all too well: it turns out if the people with the money decide you’re more trouble than you’re worth — for whatever reason, not all of them virtuous — then you can be gone in a snap and someone else can easily (easily!) take your place. This is particularly the case in creative fields, which have always been and likely will always be a buyer’s market. There is always a new actor, director, writer, musician or whatever — or an established one who needs a gig and who is not going to be a pain in the ass.

And this is especially the case now, in an era where the franchise is the star, not the actor or the director. Disney, of course, has this down to the proverbial science — its Marvel and Star Wars universes are so vast and popular that, for example, a troublesome actor in a secondary role is not worth the hassle. Out they go, their character to be replaced with another previously minor character from the vast store of minor characters in those universes. Actors are the most visible replaceable people, but directors, writers, etc., are equally swappable.

Which is not great for creative people! We like to say, and not inaccurately, that we are not swapple widgets: If you want a John Scalzi story, for example, the best person to give it to you is me, I promise you. But — who is the best person to give you a Star Wars story? Or a Marvel story? Well, see, that’s the thing; almost from the very beginning, and as a consequence of their business model, those universes were made by multiple voices. When you have many voices building a universe, there are rules to the universe everyone must follow (the canon, the story bible and the style guide), but otherwise individual voices can be taken in and out when necessary — “necessary” having a very broad meaning here. Only I can give you a John Scalzi story, but I am a cottage industry, a veritable roadside kiosk next to the belching factory that is Disney or any other studio. Disney needs storytellers, but it doesn’t need any one story teller, or actor, or whatever.

As, again, everyone but certain white folks knew already. These folks are learning that bit now, and apparently it’s really difficult for them. But that does conveniently bring us to the bit about ‘cancelling’ —

2. ‘Canceling’ is certain people discovering that capitalism doesn’t love them as much anymore. I don’t want to say that capitalism is value-neutral, because, whoooooo boy, it is not, buuuuuuut it is pretty much 100% percent accurate that capitalism will always, always, follow the money. And where is the money? Well, in America two decades into the 21st century, the large capitalist structures have decided that the money will be multicultural* and socially inclusive* and politically liberal*, and all those asterisks are there because it should be understood that the capitalist take on each of these concepts is heavily modified and strained through the “to the extent we can make money off this” filter, i.e., don’t expect capitalism to lead us to a multicultural American utopia, just expect it to be happy to rent-seek inclusively on the way there.

But because this is the (current) way the wind is blowing for capitalism, it’s now slightly harder out there for a “conservative.” Which feels wrong! Conservatism is the pet political theory of capitalism! Conservatism is designed to protect capitalism! The venn diagram of a conservative and a capitalist is a perfect circle!

And, well. It was, but then the Republicans had to go and elect Donald Trump, and now American Conservativism is definitively a corrupt fucked-up cult of personality, unmoored from any recognizable economic ethos beyond “pay to play.” Look, America has its problems, but from the strictly capitalist point of view it was the best country on the planet because it was politically stable, and capitalism works best when things are stable. It’s hard to rent seek in chaos!

But then January 6th happened, and American Conservatism, which had been tromping away from stability for quite some time, thank you very much, finally served notice that it’s no longer on capitalism’s side: it would rather mob in chaos than make money in stability. There was a tiny window in the aftermath where American Conservatism could have come back to capitalism’s side, but then it decided, nah, it would rather kiss the ring of the insurrectionist criminal that lost it the House, the Senate and the Presidency all in four years, oh, and, also, to be more anti semitic, racist and completely awash in conspiracy theories than it usually was. So, yeah, that’s a thing.

(Hashtag NotAllConservatives, etc, but come on, at this point people with an actual political/economic conservative worldview should be aware that their movement has come to its final grifter form and they’re currently without a home in American politics. And I am genuinely sorry for them, and also, they need to look at who they walked with all this time. For the people who are the “fascist cult” conservatives, of course, they did this shit to themselves, deal with it, my dudes.)

So now capitalism is doing what capitalism do, which is to shrug, say, “fine,” start working with the people who will let it function more or less to plan, and start punting the people who won’t. Again, this doesn’t mean that suddenly we live in a Delightful/Horrifying Multicultural Dream/Nightmare — hey! Most of the hands on the tiller of capitalism are still attached to white dudes, y’all! Check out the billionaires list! — but if that means a “conservative” loses a gig because they talked shit on social media, well, son, that’s the free market for you. Which is another thing —

3. “Being Cancelled” doesn’t mean you never work, it means you work in the minor leagues. “Cancelled” means you publish with Regenery or Skyhorse rather than with Macmillan or Simon and Schuster. “Cancelled” means you make a movie with (ugh) Ben Shapiro instead of Disney. “Cancelled” means Gab, or — heavens! — your own web site instead of Twitter. “Cancelled” means being a talking head on Newsmax and not CNN.

Is this so awful? Well, yeah, apparently, it kind of is — but again, this is not anything that anyone who isn’t a privileged white person didn’t already know about how capitalism works in America. Entire commercial and political ecosystems exist and have existed for decades, created by and for the people who have otherwise found themselves shut out of or simply ignored by the commercial mainstream — marginalized economies, in effect. The idea that American Conservatism would have its own side economy (or in its case, grift) is not exactly new; it too has existed for decades. What might be new is the idea that it will possibly no longer be a stepping stone into the mainstream — that it is its own terminal destination, and that those participating in it might now be locked out of a wider appeal.

Which from an economic point of view is probably fine! There are lots of people in the American Conservative grift economy who do quite well for themselves financially — the “marginalized” market here is still many many millions of people, after all. You can still make as much money as any one person can make, and be as “famous” as any one person could be, and still never climb out of the right-wing media trough. But ironically for ostensible capitalists, merely making money is not enough. They want to be thought-leaders, too, and they want their views given the cultural currency that only comes through, you now, hanging with Disney or CNN, as much as they sneer at those organizations when it’s convenient to do so. You won’t starve not working for Disney. But you don’t get what working with Disney brings.

Like access to Disney money, you might say, and you’re right — the sort of high-end production values that come with mainstream studios are something they won’t have anymore. Which, well, again, welcome to what everyone else goes through. Almost no one gets $200 million for a movie! Or even $20 million! If you go in with the expectation that you are owed that $200 million movie, where are you coming from, culturally speaking?

But that’s really the thing about “canceling,” isn’t it:

4. When you’re privileged, consequence feels like oppression. I am not the first to make that observation, even among white people. But boy, is it ever true! And also, look, I do actually get it — if you’ve gotten away with shit for literally years with little to no consequence, getting called out on it and being judged for it and being penalized because of it, in what appears to you a sudden fashion, feels unfair, in no small part because, well, you did get away with it for years, and no one told you to stop (or if they did, you were able to overlook it).

That thing where certain people are looking through their lives and actions and social media posts, wondering frantically what’s there to trip them up in this new age where suddenly their actions do have consequences? This is not an unfamiliar thought to me! I’ve said before that when people say “Oh, but Scalzi is one of the good ones” my reaction is well, shit, I sure hope that’s true. I have three decades of being an adult and being in the public eye, one way or another, through my writing. That’s a lot of time and many many opportunities to show my ass, and I’ve taken advantage of those opportunities in the past, I’m sad to say.

The thing is, if did turn out I’m not “one of the good guys,” and I face the consequences for that, I am no different than many other people over the years — and still, weirdly, more privileged than most, because facing consequences for what I did is manifestly different than the people who have faced consequences for calling out terrible things other people did, and did to them. Yes! Being “cancelled” for being a shitty human being is an inherently more privileged position than being deprived of work or status for acknowledging someone did a shitty thing to you! And that has happened! I mean, shit, it is happening, right now, elsewhere.

When I hear or read “I have been cancelled” I mostly translate that to “I am facing consequences for something I got away with before and I don’t like it.” When I hear or read “I will not be cancelled,” I mostly translate that to “I refuse to change my behavior, it’s the rest of the world that’s the problem, not me.” Which, you know, okay. You do you. Enjoy Newsmax.

5. The age of (unmediated) celebrity social media is (probably) coming to an end. At least for some people, and that’s not a horrible thing. If you don’t have social media, you make it more difficult to inadvertently show your ass on it, and on the flip side, if someone wants to drag you into the social media mudfling du jour, it’s more difficult for them to do so when you’re not there. Several is the time where I’ve seen someone say something like “Why isn’t Scalzi talking about this, his silence is telling” about a thing I had absolutely no clue about, was not qualified to speak of in any way, and had no interest in volunteering an opinion on.

Both of these is why more people with any appreciable level of celebrity that is independent of their actual social media are handing their socials to staff, and/or sticking to the most anodyne of pronouncements and participation, and/or pruning their socials of inconvenient past posts and/or leaving social media entirely. Which is fine! Not everyone is good at social media, and social media is not good for everyone. Even the people who are “good” at it see it turn on them for various reasons, some deserved and some not. At some point people who are not endlessly argumentative or heedless have to ask themselves if what they get out of social media is worth the potential downside. For lots and lots of celebrities (and even people who are not), the answer is no.

That’s a valid choice, and I think more people ought to consider it, for their own personal emotional well-being, and additionally, for the well-being of their careers. Especially if they are worried about being “cancelled.”

— JS

74 Comments on “General Unstructured Thoughts On “Being Cancelled””

  1. As always with political-oriented posts, the Mallet is out, so please be polite in responding to each other, thank you.

    Also, one side thought that I have, which is that for all the harrumphing about conservatives being cancelled, one of the very prominent people being dragged on the social media carpet this week (the one whose name rhymes with Woss Jeadon) is notably (and some would say, notably performatively) liberal, so the phenomenon really isn’t just limited to conservatives; it’s that, anecdotally at least, conservatives seem more likely to think it’s about them being conservative in their politics than it is them doing or saying (and saying is doing, folks, it’s true) genuinely awful things.

    Update, 4:02pm: Impeachment trial verdict just came down and while it confirms my thoughts re: “conservatives” here, as a general point of discussion it’s not really on topic to what we’re discussing here, so let’s not drag it into the thread unless it’s directly on point, thanks.

  2. Great commentary. When can you take over NewsCorp. They are unable to save themselves and only adult supervision can save them and us.

  3. Instead of defending the statement, they have to attack the business/person who has power over them. because the statement is indefensible

  4. Bravo! Your fifth point really spoke to me. Myself, and several others I know across the political spectrum, looked at the heat:light ratio on social media this past year and decided to opt out. I miss the connection with the day to day lives of some people I knew. I really, really don’t miss hearing on a daily basis that I’m trash for not Liking and Sharing opinions x, y, and z.

  5. Regarding #4, I believe that our former President is suffering keenly from this. He’s been allowed to lie, to shout and have his shouts take precedence over reason, and to bloviate and be taken as a pundit, that now he can’t believe that screaming “I was robbed!” won’t make it so.

    I suspect he has told himself these things so many times that he believes them sincerely, and that a lie detector would reveal that he sincerely believes everything he says.

    I’ve known a few people like that.

  6. When I see celebrities keep doubling down to maintain currency among their fan base, without considering the larger picture, I think of audio talk show host Albert Birnbaum in Episode Four of The Human Division, A Voice in the Wilderness. Except that in reality they have a much softer landing.

  7. i agree with 99% of this, spot on. the only quibble i’ll make is the labels “conservative” and “republican” being interchangeable (just like liberal and democrat). i don’t ascribe to any of those labels personally, but the republican party has been lip service to a huge chunk of conservative theory and methodology for a long time. they were usurped by first the tea party and now donald trump, who was never a conservative in any meaningful fashion. the republican party apparatchik believe in nothing but keeping themselves and their supporters in power.

    now, fairly enough, much of that is true about the democrats too. they’re just less willing to publicly tromp all over the constitution to get there.

    but, TL:DR, i don’t truly ascribe “conservative” to republicans any more. i just wish more actual conservatives (and some already have) would distance themselves from what the Rs have become and maybe that would help us step back off of the ledge the current R party has lead us to.

  8. I’ll be interested in seeing if this changes the studios’ approach to casting, which often involves checking an actor’s social media accounts, not for content, but for followers. Studios want as many people as possible tuning in to their show or movie, and talent with an existing fan-base will often win over one without. (It’s a two-edged sword – Vin Diesel announcing to his massive social media followers that he was going to be included in the next Marvel movie forced Disn*y’s hand and led him to be cast as Groot. allegedly).

  9. The GOP has been and continues to ‘cancel’ so many of its own. Mike Pence is hardly a voice of moderation but even he is not extreme enough. And they are STILL willfully oblivious to the changing demographics that will steamroller them in the long run. ‘Peckerwoods only need apply’ will be their epitaph.

  10. re. Anne “in reality they have a much softer landing.”

    For now. The mob was ready to lynch Mike Pence. They smell blood.

  11. Thank you for this post, though to be honest I see things a little differently. Most importantly, I don’t think Gina Carano (or others like her) would see themselves as having “gotten away” with anything up until this point, just as you don’t see yourself as having “gotten away” with writing liberal blog posts.

    The conservative argument (which is related to but distinct from the broader case against “cancel culture”) is that they aren’t saying anything that warrants punishment, or at the very least that they are being disproportionately punished for a) minor transgressions and b) tendentious misreadings. (Eg, hyperbolic comparisons to Nazi Germany are extremely common on the left, but no one gets cancelled until a conservative does it.) You can agree or disagree with that as you will, but I’m not sure how useful the “privilege” framework is in this context.

  12. The average person who gets arrested for drunk driving has driven drunk eighty (80) times without being arrested.

    This is why, instead of thinking “Oh, wow, my drinking has gotten me in deep shit and I might have hurt/killed someone, I better get some help,” they think one of these things:

    “Totally unfair, that cop had a down on me.”
    “It’s because I took that different route home.”
    “That stupid breath test was wrong/broken.”
    “They just needed another arrest for the statistics.”

    IOW, anything but taking responsibility for one of the most high-risk behaviors in our culture.

    Because they did it some large number of times before, and…. nothing happened. No one called them to account. They were not held responsible.

    (And don’t even get me started on that “average” figure which at the most broad-stroke measure means that while some people DO get caught the first time they drive drunk, there are also people who have driven hundreds of times without consequences, which is scary as hell.)

    It’s the exact same mindset for the people behaving like massively-entitled childish dicks and suddenly getting called to account:

    “It’s not FAIR, that (insert Liberal/Antifa/BLM boogeyperson name here) had a down on me.”

    “It’s because I (tweeted/wrote the op-ed/made the dumbass bigoted statement) in/at (insert publication/outlet/venue, i.e. “Olympic Committee Meeting” here).”

    “The interpretation (they took it the wrong way/out of context/it didn’t mean what they said it meant) was flawed.”

    “It’s just the lamestream Lie-beral media scalp-hunting again.”

    ::sigh:: Assholes be assholes. Bleach ’em all you want, they still emit a smelly digestive end product.

  13. Laissez faire is a centuries old fairy tale that shitty people make the best decisions for all. That the decision of selfish pricks is whats best for society.

    What we have been seeing over the course of centuries is that this bullshit is slowly but surely being rejected. But there are still shitty people and selfish pricks who are pissed because their behavior a generation ago, was worshipped. Trump brought back that worship for 4 years. And now the shitty assholes and pricks are really seeing what they’re missing out on. And it pisses them off.

    We still have a ways to go to get rid of the bullshit fairy tale. And we will never get rid of shitty people. But the fight is worth it.

  14. The Night of the Long Knives was a model of how these certain types who are screaming bloody murder over themselves being ‘cancelled’ — which hasn’t happened to them. But this is where the authoritarian movements go with it — it’s purge it’s elimination of any and all dissenting elements, and done via the most violent operations. Far cry from what’s happened in pop culture to the latest sorts who are crying ‘victimized’!

    JS nails that sort of ‘cancelation’, as to what capitalism finds stabilizing and profitable — and only that far.

  15. I’m still a bit hesitant when it comes to cancelling, as it seems that the court of public opinion isn’t always correct. There will always be people who try to use canceling to hurt others that they don’t like. A pretty good example of this is former Super Smash Bros. Ultimate progamer Nairo, who was canceled for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a minor. However, it turned out that said minor had actually assaulted Nairo while he was asleep and blackmailed him into several payments. As such, Nairo lost his career as a streamer and progamer due to no fault of his own. So, I think canceling is not a tool that should be used often, and although it is warranted in most cases (especially when anyone can view the reason for cancelling, e.g. politicians using their platform to spread harmful disinformation), we do need to be more careful when using it. Perhaps a better solution could be making it easier to sue people and companies for libel, and cancelling would then be unneeded. I am aware that in most cases, cancelling is a rightful response to hateful/prejudiced things, however, it does need to be used more carefully.

  16. John, I’ve got one bone to pick with your analysis.

    In my opinion, Trump is a symptom, though obviously a fairly major one, of what’s wrong with privileged conservatism these days. If the senate had voted differently, or if in the future the NY justice system puts him in jail, and everybody forgets about him somehow, the underlying problem would still remain.

    Which is a culture of anti-expert, anti-facts even, thought. Many people genuinely believe Trump won this election. Many people believe vaccines don’t work. Many people believe Obama is a kenyan. Many people believe the earth is flat.

    They’re wrong, and you could link them to sources you and I would consider reliable all day. But they’d keep questioning the sources.

    The lack of a agreed-up source of facts is just making communaction between liberals and the alt-right impossible. This fact-free world we currently live in is the main problem.

  17. Dear Aaron,

    Expected to get (deservedly) roasted. This is a mild foreshadowing. I shall keep it polite.

    Some facts (in the US) are beyond dispute:

    One third of women are sexually assaulted while they are minors. The majority of women are sexually assaulted at some time in their life. We are not talking about quibbles over the meaning of “consent,” but acts that any sane human being would consider assault.

    90% of the women publicly reporting a sexually assault are telling the truth. 90% of the sexual assaults are never publicly reported. The primary reason for that is that the women expect they will not be believed.**

    (When I say “beyond dispute,” these facts have been confirmed — within statistical variation — over so many studies over so many decades that I can’t even count. Anyone who asserts they are untrue is engaging in a level of delusionary denial of such magnitude that it can only be described as Trumpian in scope.)

    And, yet, you think the social problem we should be concerned about is the one in ten.

    This is not a court of criminal law — “beyond a reasonable doubt” doesn’t apply. It’s not even a court of civil law, where “probable cause” is sufficient… and we are way beyond “probable.”

    The overwhelming social problem is not the one man who is harmed because — well, whaddaya know! — some humans lie and some humans are criminals. The overwhelming problem is the other nine men who get away with the assaults scot-free. The overwhelming problem is the nine out of ten women who have to live with the damage done to them, who never get anything resembling a fair shake let alone justice.

    I feel obliged to inform you that you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    (**Footnote: Yes, yes, yes, it happens to men, too. Who are believed even less. That doesn’t even qualify as a “whatabout.” It’s a confirmation.)

    pax, Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]

  18. Yeah, seriously! If you put something on the public Internet, you might get pushback from anyone else on there – that’s how it goes! If you put something particularly off-base on public view, especially if you’re using your real name and/or you’re a high-profile human, then you might get a lot of pushback from a lot of people also on there. Anytime someone tries to call that ‘cancel culture’, it sounds like a spoiled child saying ‘stop telling me I can’t be mean to people’.

  19. Dear Ctein,
    I was expecting to be roasted, multiple times :). Both Nairo and the minor were male, sorry for not clearing that earlier. The minor (CaptainZack) also had a history of seducing other adults. Perhaps you should read Nairo’s statement, at I never meant that canceling was incorrect in most situations (I think I made that clear at the end of my first post?), but that canceling is not an especially reliable tool. So, perhaps you misunderstood me? I didn’t intend to say that we should focus on the 1/10 cases, but canceling is too erratic (punishments can vary) to be used on a regular basis. I can’t see any world where only solving 9/10 cases is acceptable. Instead, it should be easier to sue others in all cases (especially libel). Then, a fair punishment can be given by the judiciary system.
    Also, I didn’t think that you used much world salad.

  20. My response to anyone whining about being canceled or cancel culture in general is and always will be cry me a fucking river.

    All that is is a tantrum because the canceled feel entitled to the benefits associated with being relatively decent people, even, and especially, when they are as far from decent as they can get.

    Folks in marginalized groups get canceled just for being born into their bodies, so I’m not shedding too many tears when a bigot/sexual predator/shitty politician/insurrectionist/seditionist/Nazi gets punted into the social, political or professional wilderness.
    Relevance, professional opportunities, acceptance and other goodies afforded to non-canceled folks are not promised.

    They’re privileges, not rights.

    My advice to anti-woke, anti-cancel culture peeps is to read the room, put your hands up and receive that your right to exist/enjoy free speech isn’t being violated when you’re dismissed on mass for harming or offending large swaths of people.

    No one owes you a job, platform, position of power or tolerance.

    Isn’t this what they claim when POC and other marginalized groups complain about systemic racism and all that comes from it?

    And I just love that the career bigots on the right are “canceling” their own for daring to vote to hold Trump accountable for putting out a hit on congress and his VP, wiping his ass with the constitution and trying to murder the republic because he didn’t get his way.

    It’s especially rich coming from the ones who believe that misogynists, sexual predators and other flavors of objectively shitty humans shouldn’t be canceled.

    Critics of wokeness and cancel culture are, more often than not, trying to preserve a society wherein certain folks are untouchable and others are collateral damage in the struggle to maintain unearned privilege.

  21. Good evening, and well wishes to the Scalzi Compound…
    Entering the Film/TV industry at 33, single mother of two, my goals were to pay the rent and feed the kids. Fame was not an option. Hollywood didn’t need more of anything, but it desperately needed better of everything. So, I worked at that. Still working at that…
    I come from a time when women were taught to be quiet, despite the rise of “women’s power.” I always knew about the hazards of speaking out in public. And, I’ve always understood that “social media” is a public place…
    All to say, nicely done. Every word, right on the money. Thank you for articulating your thoughts so eloquently…
    Savor the sunsets. Feed the cats. Love the family. Write awesome books…

  22. Dear Aaron,

    Heh, the disclaimer in the sig is because Dragon Dictate makes lots of mistakes, and if I don’t catch them all it can be confusing to people.

    I care nothing about Nairo. If they are a close personal friend of yours, I’m sorry for what you’re dealing with, but I’ve never heard of them before and to me they are just a random name on the Internet. I can pull up a dozen or hundred names of women who I also don’t know who’ve been sexually assaulted. So what?

    This is not a matter of “solving” cases. These are not criminal matters and there is nothing to be solved. We know who the victim is, we know who the assailant is.

    If you really can’t see any world where “only solving 9/10” is acceptable, you are not living in the real world.

    And, really, you want to loosen up the laws for suing people, especially libel? Oh yes, that is certainly going to help all the victims of sexual assault, isn’t it?!

    The courts are already overworked, court cases are expensive and take a very long time to come to fruition, and that it means any woman (or man) who claims they been sexually assaulted risks being raked over the coals in court. And you think this is a good idea???

    Again, you are not living in the real world.

    You’re on the wrong side of this problem and what you’re proposing assists the assailants, not their victims.

    I think we’ve both made our positions eminently clear. Shall we move on and leave the space for other commenters?

    (A very good rule for Internet conversations is that if one thinks one’s point needs to be clarified or expanded upon a third time, it almost never does nor will it serve one well.)

    — pax, Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]

  23. “hyperbolic comparisons to Nazi Germany are extremely common on the left, but no one gets cancelled until a conservative does it.”

    Spoken like someone who, in all likelihood, wouldn’t wind up on the wrong end of a republican or conservative policy.

    Water being wet and all that.

    More to the point, the right aren’t victims here.

    They never were.

    When your talking points are inherently classist, white supremacist, xenophobic, social Darwinist, islamophobic and misogynist, you aren’t the victim when you get called onto the carpet and made to face consequences for articulating them in public.

    If republicans and conservatives don’t want to be criticized every time they open their mouths, they ought to drop the objectively terrible shit that oozes out of them.

    You don’t get to wine about intolerance when trying to ram intolerance down other folks’ throats.

  24. Dear Ctein,
    Okay, I’m wrong here. Canceling is a necessary tool. I just didn’t believe that it was a good solution beforehand, thanks :). Nairo was purely an example, he is not a person that I know personally. Thanks for spending the time to enlighten me.

    Thanks, Aaron

  25. Cancelling is the word people use who have never had to contemplate that they could get fired for their cruelty.

    I actually am a fan of “cancelling” in the context of horrible people and the public square – no need to same their name.

  26. On one hand, I prefer open speech because it helps me determine who the asshats are, so I can avoid them.

    OTOH, too much of what people are willing to say on social media is just plain harmful.

    I suspect the lawyers are currently revising lucrative contracts boilerplate with language which will nipnsome of these embarrassing developments in the bud. Retroactive termination is still too much taint for the likes of Disney.

  27. Aaron Licht: I never meant that canceling was incorrect in most situations (I think I made that clear at the end of my first post?), but that canceling is not an especially reliable tool. So, perhaps you misunderstood me? I didn’t intend to say that we should focus on the 1/10 cases, but canceling is too erratic (punishments can vary) to be used on a regular basis. I can’t see any world where only solving 9/10 cases is acceptable. Instead, it should be easier to sue others in all cases (especially libel). Then, a fair punishment can be given by the judiciary system.

    I think maybe you need to stop and think a minute about what “canceling” is. For one, it isn’t a formal tool–legal or otherwise. It really isn’t analogous to lawsuit or judicial proceedings; it’s readers or fans saying “I don’t like this person any more, and I can’t enjoy their work. So I won’t pay money for it.” Fans can change their minds later and revive a career, but “canceling” is also an employer saying “Nope. We don’t want to deal with this mess, and you, employee, are at the heart of this mess, so good bye.” If it turns out they are wrong, they can re-hire the person. Later. Maybe. Is canceling sometimes unfair? Sure. Being fired is frequently unfair, or even illogical. Is it more unfair than any other reason individuals have lost jobs? I don’t quite see how. As Mr. Scalzi says, at its heart, “canceling” means that a person suddenly discovers that they are replaceable, which is damaging to the ego but . . . shouldn’t exactly be a surprise to most working folks.

    Saying, “don’t cancel, don’t boycott, don’t fire until we are all POSITIVE and agree that it’s deserved” is an attractive idea, but A) Who is to say what is deserved except the people paying money for the work? they might be having a purely emotional response, which is (by definition) not rational, and B) most major corporations simply aren’t going to bother waiting; they want the problem gone, and fast, so they can get back to the business of making money (okay, and art) as quickly and cleanly and with as little bad pr as possible. That’s “canceling,” and it’s no more unfair than any other reason people lose jobs and in my opinion it’s generally (9 times out of 10, as Ctein posits) frequently more fair than many.

    tl;dr–It’s going to happen. The only power we have over it, as consumers, is deciding what we believe is worth “canceling” someone over. If that person’s employer agrees with us . . . well, that’s nice, I guess, but it really isn’t in our control.

  28. Sarah Marie –

    I didn’t say I agreed with the conservative argument (frankly I’m not interested in getting into that discussion in this space; it wouldn’t be productive), only that I don’t think that point #4 is a useful framework to understand the debate over “cancel culture” specifically as it relate to conservatives in left-leaning cultural institutions (which is to say most cultural institutions).

  29. Trumpists like calling Republicans who are inadequately subservient to Fearless Leader’s latest whim “RINOs” and exile them into the outer darkness with the librul commie socialists and other traitors.

    But that totally isn’t Cancel Culture, because those people are RINOs, and labeling them RINOs is just regular decent Patriotic Americans telling the truth about who’s politically incorrect and traitorous and unPatriotic.

  30. Nice little ramble and close, but not quite.

    My little prehensile brain has been leaning towards Der Trump having been allowed by the GOP because he was a big, orange Cancel button.

    He could grind Obama and Obama Care into the dirt, along with political correctness, climate change, National Parks, and so on under his heel. The world could then be a rosy place for those who are scared of their fellow man. Those who must join a tribe of other such a–holes so they don’t have to hide in Mommie’s basement.

    It failed big time and now those same a–holes are crying because the world continues to turn, it isn’t the static thing the GOP wants.

    No matter how the GOP tried to get off the hook, they would lose. Half of their crowd was going to walk away, no matter which way they turned.

    Now that Trump was once more acquitted, the sane half is walking away. If he had been convicted, the a–hole half would have walked.

    Either way the Republican Party was doomed by their action, or inaction. They left it up to their second string cancel button, Mitchie and he fumbled it, though he wins in that private game he is playing.

  31. I have a terminology quibble, but it’s one that I think exposes part of what is going on on the right in the US: Trump is not now and never has been a capitalist. He is now and always has been a mercantilist.

    The right (both here and even moreso in Europe) has been quite pleased to elide capitalism and mercantilism for about a century and a quarter now, for Reasons. Capitalism leans right; mercantilism is inherently much farther right; and especially as one rolled into the Edwardian Era, the farther-right no-need-to-create-wealth-I’ll-just-do-arbitrage attitude underneath mercantilism (and inherited natural-resource-without-input wealth) has been just pleased as punch (or as Punch) to hide behind “industrialists” and others who created wealth by actually valuing and applying labor to capital inputs.

    The GOP, epitomized by Howard Jarvis (hack phhhhhht), has been almost entirely coopted by mercantilists. Even the tech billionaires, once they get big enough to care about politics, shift completely away from valuing labor. (Or perhaps especially the tech billionaires, because they’re entirely convinced that their brilliance is what created wealth; Peter Thies is just one example.)

  32. @Mary Frances:

    “Being fired is frequently unfair, or even illogical. Is it more unfair than any other reason individuals have lost jobs?”

    Nicely put.

    It’s also useful, particularly for the anti-woke, anti-cancel culture crowd, to consider the unfairness that inheres in being denied a job in the first place because prospective employers don’t like someone’s body-shape, accent, faith (as far as those things are apparent) or skin color.

    These same privileged people come to discussions of discriminatory hiring practices armed with declarations that no one is owed a job and that a paucity of (insert marginalized group here) in a particular field or at a particular workplace or institution is about unsuitability/underqualification rather than bigotry.

    Why shouldn’t that same philosophy apply to members of centered groups who sale through wide open gates to opportunity and behave badly?

    That position might get more mileage if the overwhelming preponderance of evidence didn’t prove otherwise on a regular basis.

    Your contention also relies on the notion that the right (at least in its current form) and the left are two sides of the same coin.

    They are not.

    Those who post support for Trump and Miller’s “zero tolerance policy” aren’t on equal footing with those who criticize concentration camps and eugenics programs aimed at brown people from “shithole countries.”

    This isn’t a debate about amnesty vs “back of the line” policies.

    Posting in support of BLM is not the same as posting in support of police-sanctioned lynching or white supremacist groups.

    I could see if we were talking about BLM vs #notallcops (and this one isn’t perfect); we could have a debate about people rushing to judgment and needing to work together to solve a problem.

    That’s not what’s happening now, and this has been the case for quite some time, all the way back to when republicans and conservatives believed torture and indefinite imprisonment were useful modes of ensuring national security after 911.

    More importantly, while the constitution says the pro-camp/eugenics crowd gets to publicly declare their support for the policy, but morality and the law don’t require the latter group to engage with them.

    The time for being taken seriously by anyone but the right when accusing the left of being unable to stand disagreement has just about passed.

    Anyone making that argument is either painfully ignorant or disingenuous in the extreme.

    Even if we agreed that the canceled don’t feel as if they’ve gotten away with anything, the fact that they feel they can be bigots or advocate for bigotry with impunity wreaks of privilege.

    The fact that they expect people, particularly members of marginalized groups, to swallow their disgusting rhetoric also wreaks of privilege.

    Most of these people and those who defend them want to deny the very existence of privilege, so it shouldn’t be surprising when their whining and denials are dismissed and/or laughed out of the public square.

  33. Correction:
    This sentence should read “More importantly, while the constitution says the pro-camp/eugenics crowd gets to publicly declare their support for the policy, morality and the law don’t require the latter group to engage with them.”

    Editing fail.

  34. Aaron Licht: “I’m still a bit hesitant when it comes to cancelling, as it seems that the court of public opinion isn’t always correct”

    What. The. Everloving. Fuck.

    Have you been paying attention AT ALL?!?!? cops kill unarmed blacks and get away with it. Blacks regularly get much tougher sentences than whites for the exact same convictions. Trump incited a RIOT and incited a fucking COUP and just got away with it. Immigrant children were separated from their families by american authorities and put in CAGES.

    If you are so naive as to argue that you oppose canceling someone because it isnt alwayz 100% pure justice, i have to ask: name one real world political/social process involving real people you are implying IS 100% pure, infallible, justice. Cause if you havent noticed, reality has been anything but 100% perfect.

  35. I don’t think George Floyd deserved his cancelling, and next to that, I’m not worried about some actor losing their spot in a movie.

  36. Both Democrats and Republicans have an establishment wing and a populist wing. The establishemnts wings are actually pretty close to each other on economic issues, however far apart they are on cultural issues. Both establishments favor “free” trade agreements, which have nothing much to do with trade and everthing to do with establishing rules for permanent worldwide corporate domination. Populists in both parties are against them.

    The difference between Democratic and Republican populists? The populism of the former is rooted in solidarity; that of the latter in xenophobia. Trump is one of the rare corporatists capable of faking populism, which is why he won enough votes in certain key states.

  37. Aaron Licht:”I can’t see any world where only solving 9/10 cases is acceptable”

    What. The. Everloving. FUCK???

    do you realize that the criminal justice system, which requires evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt” ends up convicting and sentencing people to the death penalty, and then 12% of those people are eventually exonerated??

    And those are only the ones we KNOW about. We have no way to know how many innocent people ended up being executed by a failed system.

    And that doesnt even BEGIN to deal with the civil court system. It only requires evidence to convince a jury of 51% likelyhood of guilt.

    So again, every requirement you demand of cancel culture? The current legal system utterly fails.

  38. I ran across an xkcd strip a while back and when the subject of “free speech” or “cancel culture” crops up I like to share it. Here’s the link:

    I think it sums it up nicely, though not as well as cogently as John’s post.

  39. So what about Lauren Wolf getting fired by the NYT for her tweet saying she got chills watching Biden land?

    Or Don McNeil getting fired by the NYT for using the n-word in a discussion about using the n-word?

    Are these just more white people whining that they don’t get to work at the premier newspaper in america?

    ok, maybe you’re right, they’ll be able to find some 2nd or 3rd tier outlet that will let them work and they should just suck it up. But it seems awfully hard hearted of you to sneer at other peoples misfortunes.

  40. I am reminded of Neil Gaiman’s line that whenever he reads a sentence with “political correctness” in it, he simply substitutes “treating people with dignity and respect.”

  41. Dear R Michael,

    So “whatabout”…?

    Try this on for size:

    She did not get fired for one tweet.

    I used that word in an academic conversation explaining to clueless colleague that there are words that white people really shouldn’t ever use towards another human being, no matter what Black folks might be doing. A good friend, sitting next to me, recoiled in shock upon hearing it. He was genuinely shaken. He’s native Hawai’ian and he’s been called it more than once.

    Until that moment, I had no real appreciation for just how evilly loaded that word was for someone of color, even when referenced contextually. White privs, in a nutshell. I learned from that. It’s a punch to the gut, for those who’ve had it directed at them. There is no safe context for saying it.

    Should Don McNeil, have known better? Well, maybe now he does. Whether he deserved to be fired for not knowing better is between him and the NYT — tain’t none’o’your business.

    “…2nd or 3rd tier outlet…” really??? You mean, if you ain’t at the NYT, everything else is bush league? How, umm, dramatic, of you.

    pax / Ctein

  42. A point to remember…a lot of folks who hate cancel culture take it as an abstract, and a thought crime that has no impact.

    That wasn’t the case with Carano in at least one instance. She was being transphobic. And a rather major cast member just had a sister who came out. And Carano kept on being transphobic even after being sat down and talked to.

    That’s a specific harm being done to a specific individual. Do conservatives really want to condone this?

  43. Dear John,

    I’m thinking that genuine shunning, which has been around for centuries, if not millennia, is a whole lot worse than “cancelling.”

    I’m reminded of something Robin Wood wrote four years back:

    “I recall those days when being accused of being a witch in Salem led to the deadly practice of strongly worded critiques of the witch’s behavior being placed in a public forum where the accused witch may or may not have read them. I truly hope we do not relive those days of unrelieved oppression.”

    Or, as Dr. Zachary Smith would have put it, “Oh the pain, the PAIN!”

    pax / Ctein

  44. buuuuuuut it is pretty much 100% percent accurate that capitalism will always, always, follow the money.

    Man, if that were true, I’d have a lot more plus-sized clothing options. Sometimes bias really does stop corporations from going where the money is.

  45. @R Michael:

    Nope, but nice try.

    For my part, Chrisette Michelle’s( an African American R and B singer) canceling for having performed at Trump’s inauguration and Gayle King’s (the African American friend of a beloved African American icon) cancelation for having picked the tenth second after Kobe Bryant’s death to badger Lisa Leslie about his dark past were well-deserved.

    But my opinion doesn’t matter in the grand scheme, because the risk of cancelation was theirs to take.

    They gambled with their popularity and professional lives and lost, big time.

    These weren’t dumb kids who didn’t know better; they were grown, professional women who should have known that they were going to catch flack for their actions.

    Michelle had more advanced warning than most people get, and from heavy-hitters/movers and shakers in the black community and entertainment industry.

    Gayle may not have, but I doubt very seriously that she was wholly ignorant of the risk she was taking with her line of questioning.

    I’m a card-carrying feminist and think Bryant was probably guilty, but I understand the widespread and white-hot rage that exploded when that interview hit the internet, especially that on behalf of Bryant’s widow and children.

    I personally think King should have left it alone when Leslie indicated she wasn’t going to gossip about her freshly dead friend.

    Conversely, I love Snoop but think his misogynist attack on King was disgusting.

    he didn’t get my pass because he looked like me, was as disgusted and angry with King’s antics as I was and hated Trump.

    He was off base and didn’t help anything by threatening or dehumanizing Gayle King.

    More importantly, his response further illustrated the reality that black women are given far less room to fuck up than are white women who fuck up in the exact same way, even when attacks by white women on Bryant are racist.

    Women of color aren’t allowed to be vocal about black men like white women are.

    Hell, women of color aren’t allow to be vocal about a lot of things, not like white women are.

    I get why Michelle thought an inaugural performance would look fantastic on her resume.

    I also get that she might have needed the money, seeing as she was a solid B lister in the biz and fresh off the reality TV circuit.

    I still listen to her music from time to time.

    None of this means I’m outraged, crying or losing sleep because huge swaths of the black community don’t want to breathe her air.

    Nor, mind you, am I outraged by whites who’ve canceled her for her performance.

    I get that King’s job is to ask hard questions and that pressing interviewees who offer evasive answers is part of that job.

    Thig is, this time, that part of her job came back to bite her in the ass, and her half-hearted apology didn’t help.

    You see, things are complicated and context is king.

    Your position is just a sneakier version of the “just because they disagree with you” argument, and it isn’t flying.

    How often do we hear marginalized folks whining about cancel culture in this context?

    In terms of privileged folks espousing “conservative” views, Being canceled for belonging to a marginalized group is nothing at all like being canceled for saying or doing objectively shitty things to or about marginalized groups.
    The sooner certain folks get that, the better off we’ll all be.

  46. Yeah if you’re black and Muslim you’re ten times more likely to be cancelled. But hey good luck fancy white peoples. Hope it was worth it.

    We’ll still be here but maybe one day you’ll let us in your club.

  47. Too bad, so sad. Here’s hoping Joss Whedon can make a nice new ensemble show starring Gina Carano and Kevin Sorbo. #SpecialHell

  48. “There is always a new actor, director, writer, musician or whatever — or an established one who needs a gig and who is not going to be a pain in the ass.”
    Now this part I disagree with somewhat. If there’s one thing that’s clear, studios, shows and networks are often horribly eager to protect established talent. DC discovers editor Eddie Berganza has some credible allegations against him so they keep women from working in his department. Bill O’Reilly can generate repeated million-dollar sexual harassment settlements without losing his job.
    Marti Nixon wrote a while back that what freaked her about about sexual harassment was that when she reported it to higher-ups nobody doubted her, it was “Oh yeah, Jeff. Such a lech. But what are you gonna do?”
    Whatever the calculus in these matters is, it often defaults to not canceling often enough or soon enough.
    I agree with Aaron that they don’t see themselves getting away with anything. They’re firmly convinced of their right to punch down — it’s only when someone punches back up that they freak out. They have imbibed the mead of holier-than-thou and they can’t understand why everyone else doesn’t see them that way.
    Terry, re drunk driving: A book on driving behavior pointed out that the only measure of driving ability most of us use is “did I hit something or almost hit something?” So if someone drives drunk (or texting all the way) and nothing happens, obviously that proves they can do it again without anything happening.

  49. Fraser, I don’t think the studios etc. CAN protect the ‘established talent’ – not like they used to. Too many people can and will talk, and what’s more they’ll network and corroborate one another.

    Social media, openness, the lower tolerance for bad behavior, and less ‘shame’ all add up to real change. Yes, sometimes change runs amok. And there are always excesses. (Madame Guillotine merely sleeps. Plus cà change…)

    Hard to believe but twenty years ago Harvey Weinstein was one of the great heroes of the Geeks for producing LotR.

  50. I agree with everything here. I like the idea of actions having consequences, especially for those who think their money/position/professed faith should always protect them from this.

    The only thing I really don’t like about social media in this regard is the mob aspect. Too many people seem to enjoy themselves a bit too much calling others out and you can easily see how a righteous mob will want to seek ever more prey, because the hunt just feels so good.
    Which is fine if that prey consists of (former) predators like Epstein, Weinstein et al but a bit more problematic when the offending party is a ‘civilian’.

  51. I’m in entire agreement with the comments on cancellation here. Gina seems fine with her cancellation; why so many crocodile tears being shed on her behalf? Moreover, where were those outraged tears when Retaeh Parsons was “cancelled” for having been raped–her attack photographed by the perpetrators, circulated on social media to all her friends, leading to vicious bullying and ostracization of her, and her eventual suicide — and only then the perpetrators charged with child pornography? I mean, that’s a cancellation I’m outraged about. Normally we cancel the victims. For perpetrators to be ‘cancelled’ in the form of losing a small amount of income does not strike me as egregious.

    I’m going to expand a bit on the conservative thing, though. I think this whole idea that social & fiscal conservatism is a useful terminology that describes a real thing is questionable, this idea that ‘conservative’ means pro-capitalism and desiring of making money.

    The thing is, this looked true in the past, when people assumed because of bias and bigotry that social conservatism (preserving a hierarchy of value based on traits) led to fiscal conservatism (profits/lower taxes).

    But it’s not true, and the research demonstrating that it’s not true has been in existence for decades. Not just that we pay lower taxes with inequality is lower and all humans are treated with respect, but that companies make more money when inequality is lower. Fact is, inequality is hugely expensive: you need a whole army, often literally, to keep people in the down position you want them in. You need laws, courthouses, lawyers, police, jail, guns, and yes, those things generate some income for some people, but not as much as the income you lose from all the human potential that’s kept in a literal or figurative box.

    Whereas equality is hugely profitable. Not just in a climate where equality is prized as a social value, but in any climate. More producers = more consumers with more money, buying more stuff, physical or intangible. Even going back to slavery: slavery was never a good economic bargain for society. It made a small number of people insanely wealthy, but for everyone else, it cost–financially–in significant terms. Entirely beside the huge costs to those disenfranchised, if anything can be considered beside that.

    Those who considered themselves conservative for economic or financial reasons have moved to the left for decades because, stereotypes to the contrary, the left is where there is actual money.

    Those still considering themselves conservative don’t actually care about money, except to the extent that they have more of it than someone else, because the money was only ever a screen: they want power. They will happily spend billions of dollars and plummet an economy in chaos if they can spent their fortunes dominating classes of others.

    What conservatives want to conserve is the existing social hierarchy. Doesn’t matter how much that costs. They’ll keep parroting the “money” argument because they know that it sounds better and plays better (and maybe to some extent they really believe it, in that they so believe that the existing social hierarchy reflects real value differences that they are not capable of taking on board evidence that it’s false and hugely expensive to maintain). But we don’t need to keep acting like this smokescreen has validity. They don’t care about money, except their own, and that only to purchase status and the power to dominate.

  52. “the debate over “cancel culture” specifically as it relate to conservatives in left-leaning cultural institutions (which is to say most cultural institutions).”

    This one I’m genuinely curious about.

    When I majored in Econ, our courses consisted mostly of neoliberal nonsense, with a sprinkling of Keynes. True, this was a couple of yea… er, decades ago, but from my understanding things haven’t changed much. Our nation’s top law schools still teach “originalist” legal theory. Yet over and over, I hear petulant whining about conservatives being stifled in cultural spaces.

    What makes you feel that way?

    @ Pamela Adams:

    “I don’t think George Floyd deserved his cancelling, and next to that, I’m not worried about some actor losing their spot in a movie.”

    Very aptly put.

  53. Agree with pretty much everything you said, but I do think that we increasingly use “cancelling” to mean different things. There is one kind of cancelling that happens when powerful people say/do stupid/cruel/irresponsible/damaging things and then loose what for most people would be once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. But there is also a type of mob justice that can happen on internet spaces that disproportionately targets marginalized people (like every other part of society). And while there is definitely overlap and everything is a spectrum, I think that there are also clear differences that are obfuscated pretty much any time we talk about cancellation because we are using one word to talk about multiple things.

    Basically any time I hear people talking about cancellation I end up recommending Contrapoint’s video on the subject, which I am apparently doing here too.

  54. The big issue I’ve seen in “cancel culture” is when people take these mechanisms that were designed for pushing the levers of Big Capitalism (boycotts, mass email campaigns, etc) and aim them at very small content creators. Who have absolutely no way to have someone else reading their inbox/filtering out the crud/etc.

    The “big names” are replaceable — but individual people who would not meet any notability thresholds for libel cases/Wikipedia pages/etc on their own personal social media doing silly little things with 10 followers are people, not cogs in Big Capitalism. Deciding someone who retweeted a tacky/x-ist joke when they were 14 should get a wall of death threats everywhere they go on the internet is not okay.

    Or small content creators where half their audience wants a happy “x-ism doesn’t really exist” fairytale and the other half wants “realistic setting with diverse characters” and the half that doesn’t get what they want goes on a cancel rampage rather than just saying “this content is not what I’m looking for”.

    (And not even to get started with fans trying to cancel each other as the modern shipwar. Siiiigh.)

    Basically: don’t apply the weapons you use to fight Capitalism against your comrades.

  55. Well, as they say in West Virginia, you hit the nail on the head.

    I have little to disagree w/ your comments about the whole “cancelling culture” and also the current version of Republican party.

    American’s version of capitalism has been cancelling individuals (terminating, firing, outsourcing et. al.) for decades.

    So, when someone w/ a particular public persona or political persuasion is cancelled (called out for words or deeds), I am not that surprised.

    All the best. Waiting for the next book.


  56. The problem I have is that the whiny crowd likes to demonize the folks who decide to eschew “mob justice” in favor of voting with their feet.
    From the Josh Hawley’s bitching about the “woke mob” costing them book deals to the obscure bloggers or social media users retweeting racist Obama memes, the folks who carry on as if they’re owed professional opportunities, consequence-free speech, respect for their ideas or internet popularity are and always will be entitled assholes in my book.

    I also agree with the person upthread who problematized the conflation of cancelation with dogpiles.

    I think dogpiles can come with the territory when someone gets canceled, but a spot on the black list and cyber bullying/internet harassment/seemingly endless waves of angry messages, tweets and posts aren’t the same thing.

    The folks at the bottom of the dogpile are closer to victimhood (note that I’m not saying that they always are, because context is king) than the shitheads who act like assholes and are subsequently treated like one by scores of people.

    This whole debate takes me back to the whole “self-pubbed authors going after less than glowing reviewers” trend that seemed to pervade Amazon and Goodreads about 10 or 15 years back.

    There was all this whining from shady indie and self-published authors who got branded as BBAs and punted onto “do not read” shelves by hundreds of potential readers.

    Some authors posted fake five-star reviews in order to trick people into plunking down money for their unedited dreck.

    The “mob” got tired of being scammed and/or attacked for warning other readers and formed a community.

    So butthurt were these authors about being “canceled” for acting an ass that they started a whole website dedicated to silencing negative reviewers.

    All of this because these “authors” felt entitled to glowing reviews and book sales.

    I feel the same way now as I did then; readers/customers aren’t a right, they’re a privilege.

    Show your ass with a racist comment, pen a poorly written or offensive book, stalk and threaten reviewers for honestly reviewing said poorly written or offensive book and watch your reputation and sales plummet.

    Start a fight in a reader’s review space if you want to, but don’t be shocked when the “conversation” gets out and “do-not-read” tags start to dominate your book pages.

    It isn’t the internet’s job to give you a break because you aren’t as popular as a John Scalzi or Stephenie Meyer.

    I don’t feel sorry for BBAs (and anyone can decide someone is a BBA for any reason) who whine about that kind of cancelation.

    I discovered Jamie McGuire in 2017 but had no problem canceling her ass for directing her fans to stalk and harass my GR pal, whose review of her book (and its a book I liked)is about a decade old.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my shelving her as a BBA so that other readers know what kind of person she is.

    I damn sure wasn’t going to keep quiet about her support for Ahmaud Arbery’s murderers.

    I also appreciate Jenny Trout’s list of authors on Parlor.

    Still, I have nothing but respect for authors who refuse to bow to threats from readers who want to punish them for posting blog entries they find offensive, whether or not I agree with the reader’s or author’s politics.

    TL;DR: I evaluate mobs on a case by case basis and think cancelation is a risk that people take whenever they submit something for the eyes or ears of the public square.

    Mobs of bullies are objectively bad

  57. Honestly JS, the whole cancel thing has nothing to do with race or being white. White people have been canceled forever (or did you forget McCarthyism?)

    It’s not a race thing.

    Really it’s a social media thing. Cancellation is now something that can happen easily, mostly because as you say ‘showing one’s ass’ is so much easier to do when you effectively publish it.

    The other issue is, of course, that sometimes the cancellation is by no means based on honesty and other times it’s over someone holding a perfectly valid and sensible opinion (to them) and others not liking or ‘being offended’ by it.

    Cancellation was bad in the ’50s and it’s bad now. It was bad in Athens when they did it to Alcibiades. It’s not new, it’s not white or about skin color and generally – it’s abhorrent. It is, in fact, a modern lynch mob.

  58. “It’s not a race thing.”

    Lol, okay there.

    Also, just as a general pro tip, anytime anyone says something “is not a race thing” it pretty much guarantees that it is in fact a race thing. The correlation is waaaaaaaay high.

    As another general pro tip, in the United States, the chance of some fucked-up social issue having a substantial basis in race is extremely high. Because the US is fucking systemically racist, y’all! We white people simply just don’t get how racist it is. Shit, I am telling you, and I know that I’m underselling it because I just see it, I don’t live it.

    (PS: McCarthyism? Hella racist.)

  59. Michael: “did you forget McCarthyism?”

    Yeah, no. McCarthy was a fucking SENATOR. A guy with a lot of power punching down.

    When MLK jr organized boycots of segregated bussing, you might accuse him of mob violence. But the rest of us know better.

  60. Why is it all the folks celebrating the violence and murder on Jan 6 are only now concerned about mob violence when it is neither a mob nor violent that got, say, an actor fired from disney???

    Its almost as if “mob violence” isnt tgeir concern at all.

    Anyone else find that weird.

  61. Adding one observation to the mix, under the “follow the money” category.

    It still seems like a lot of the people who are outraged seem to be operating from the viewpoint that “the money” (on the consumer side) is all in the hands of cis, het, male white people. I won’t argue that it’s skewed that way, but I’m seeing more and more outrage that seems as though, it you barely scratch the surface, it comes down to “How dare people want to buy things that they like, rather than what we like?”

    As though people with an interest in products and content that speak to them or reflect their lives and vote with their own wallets are taking something away from anyone else.

    An increasingly diverse consumer base, which includes cis, het, straight, white males who are quite happy seeing other people represented, is going to drive the money in the direction of products that reflect that.

    Something some of the people screeching about it all seem to be missing.

  62. Yeah, so Josh Hawley found out what the rest of us already knew – words (and dumb@ss actions) can have consequences, dude. And whining about it is lame.

    As my late mother was wont to say, you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

    I am NOT on social media, period. (Yes, as previously established, I’m old, but most friends and relatives my age are.) And every day I am more sure that it was the right choice for me. Frankly, even if I do know who some of the people you’re talking about are (Joss W.), the odds are even that I’ve even heard what crime they’re accused/guilty of.

    As for cancel culture, how long did it take the world to catch up with and “cancel” Bill Cosby, or Mel Gibson, or Harvey Weinstein, or so many others?

  63. @ Steve C. “I think the episode “Majority Rule” of The Orville hit what was insidious about cancel culture – it’s speed.”

    I agree completely. The problem with “canceling” is that some accusations are false, but cancelation takes place at Internet speeds, which means that someone can be accused in the morning and fired that afternoon, without any chance to mount an effective defense about what may be a false, and sometimes deliberately false, accusation.

    Shirley Sherrod is the perfect example of how quickly this can and does happen, versus how quickly it should happen. She was fired (government job, her resignation was demanded) the afternoon of the same day the (heavily edited) Breitbart video of her speech first aired. The full video, wherein it turned out that she had, in fact, expressed exactly the opposite sentiments of what the Breitbart video accused, did not come out until the next day, approximately 38 hours later, and not until she had been both fired and defamed in the very ugliest of fashions – something this dedicated public servant did not, in fact, deserve.

    So maybe if everyone had waited a week before before making any decisions and actually gathered all the facts, Shirley Sherrod’s reputation would have received substantially less harm, and that would have been a good thing!

    In short, if someone really has been an awful person the facts will still be the same a week or two later.

    I’m always thrilled to see some prejudiced jerk get what they deserve, but everyone should study evidence from both sides of the evidence before taking action. (Brendan Eich being cancelled made me particularly happy, but there was actual good evidence of his abhorrent ideals.)

  64. Folks, an FYI that I’ll be closing comments early this evening because Krissy and I are doing Valentine’s Day things and I don’t want to be babysitting a political thread when that happens. So you’ve got until about 5pm Eastern to get your comments in.

  65. One thing they don’t seem to get, is liking or retweeting something, as a public figure is equivalent to endorsing it. You are publicly shouting out hey, look at this, this is a valid and true thing. If you are doing it sarcastically, or to point out something bad or wrong, you have to be clear on that, tone of voice is missing from text.
    Most public figures, politicians, CEOs, etc, either had no social media accounts, or they were tightly managed, until recently. Even low employees are generally not allowed to post in a way they implies in any way they are representing their company. If you are going to post anything that is going to make anyone upset, you have to do it on an account that has nothing identifying you as an employee. In fact, best to just not have any pics containing a uniform, logo, etc.

    Getting upset at consequences for comparing yourself to a group that was a victim of genocide, and pointing out that others compared your group to the fascists who committed the genocide without apparent consequences just means maybe you should think about maybe your group IS headed that way.

  66. “It is, in fact, a modern lynch mob.”

    That entire post was white fragility in the wild, but it is the gem above that really clenches it.

    Please, pretty please stand within slapping distance of any person of color who has ever faced an actual lynchmob and let fly with this whopper.

    I’ll pay to see what happens when the family of a lynching victim hears you compare a firing, social media shunning or blacklisting to being snatched up by a hateful group of racists and snuffed out for blinking the wrong way at a white person.

    People who are canceled are, more often than not, still breathing post-cancelation.

    This is almost never the case for people on the wrong end of an actual lynch mob.

    I also love this one : “White people have been canceled forever.”

    Looks back on the brown bodies that have piled up on Trump’s watch and the hundreds of others that might have piled up during last month’s white supremacist terrorist attack on our capitol and hopes you weren’t serious with this shit.

    And one person’s “valid and sensible ” statement is another’s “we don’t like yer kind round here,” something which automatic recipients of privilege either don’t or won’t get.

    And the “just because they disagree with you” argument is as intellectually lazy as it gets, right down there with whataboutism and false equivalencies.

    Bad faith. No cookie.

  67. Troutwaxer:” cancelation takes place at Internet speeds, which means that someone can be accused in the morning and fired that afternoon, without any chance to mount an effective defense”

    Death penalty convictions get the longest legal defense imaginable, are supposed to have proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and those convicted are later exonerated at a rate of 12%. Civil lawsuits only require 51% probability to win.

    I dont care about anecdotal examples of innocent people canceled. What i want to know is what the overall RATE of innocent people canceled is. I would wager its less than 12% which means its better than the criminal court system.

    The people worried about wrongful cancelations are white males used to a jjstice system that favors them. The vast majority of cops that murder blacks end up walking free. Whites get far less severe penalties than blacks for the exact same crime. White males are priviledged enough to indulge in the idea that the justice system is never wrong. But everyone else already knows its screwed up and cancel culture does NOT do worse than the justice system.

  68. Dear Michael,


    “It’s not a race thing.”

    Plus this:

    “It is, in fact, a modern lynch mob.”


    OMG, have you got a frikkin’ clue?!?!

    See my Robin Wood’s quote about “witch hunts.”

    Your equating an actual lynching with cancelling is either intentionally offensive or massively ignorant. Do you even know what lynching is???

    Either way, yours is a profoundly racist post.

    pax / Ctein

  69. And on that note, comments are closed. Everyone have a lovely Valentine’s Day, however you choose to celebrate it (or, you know, not celebrate it, that’s a totally valid option as well).