What is cancel culture?


If you’re like me, you are still trying to figure out this whole “cancel culture” thing. Ross Douthat’s recent column is helpful.

Here are his ten points:

  1. “Cancellation, properly understood, refers to an attack on someone’s employment and reputation by a determined collective of critics, based on an opinion or an action that is alleged to be disgraceful or disqualifying.”
  2. “All cultures cancel; the question is for what, how widely and through what means.
  3. “Cancellation isn’t exactly about free speech, but a liberal society should theoretically cancel less frequently than its rivals.”
  4. “The internet has changed the way we cancel, and extended cancellation’s reach.”
  5. “The internet has also made it harder to figure out whether speech is getting freer or less free.”
  6. “Celebrities are the easiest people to target, but the hardest people to actually cancel.”
  7. “Cancel culture is most effective against people who are still rising in their fields, and it influences many people who don’t actually get canceled.”
  8. “The right and left both cancel; it’s just that today’s right is too weak to do it effectively.”
  9. “The heat of the cancel-culture debate reflects the intersection of the internet as a medium for cancellation with the increasing power of left-wing moral norms as a justification for cancellation.”
  10. “If you oppose left-wing cancel culture, appeals to liberalism and free speech aren’t enough.”

See how Douthat unpacks these points here.