What exactly does it mean to be “cancelled”? That seems to be an infinitely flexible word when used by its “victims”. Popehat straightforwardly recounts a recent event of some interest to me — students walked out on an academic lecture. Horrors!
Mr. Silvergate is a Harvard graduate and professor, crusading attorney and defender of rights, repeatedly published author of important books, founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights In Education, and a sought-after gripping speaker. He has not been fired, expelled from any organization, depublished, or even (so far as I know) shunned on Martha’s Vineyard. Here’s what happened: he was invited to speak to private high-school students on the subject of free expression, he used the racial epithet commonly known as the n-word in the course of accurately quoting the title of Prof. Kennedy’s book, he did so several times, some of the students walked out, he continued to speak with the rest of the students, later the school sent its community an apology for the epithet being used in the classroom and said it was inappropriate, and the school wouldn’t print Mr. Silvergate’s response. In other words, some people (rightly or wrongly, rationally or irrationally) didn’t like some of his free expression and responded with their own free expression. If there have been other consequences, he hasn’t mentioned them.
That was it. Students left in disgust, and the school apologize to the students and refused to engage the speakers again. This was being “cancelled”. Now you might say “Popehat is a lawyer!” and that therefore he cannot be trusted, so I stooped to looking at the source, an essay on…ugh…Quillette. It turns out Popehat was right on. The cancelee speaks:
The lessons taught by this sad tale are sobering. One is that it is apparently acceptable for students to signal their disagreement with a speaker by walking out of an assembly [Yes, it is. Students are not a captive audience] rather than subjecting his or her ideas to the testing that vigorous dialogue allows [Dialogue is not a test. It is especially not a test when one side is a seasoned professor or lawyer and the other is a high school student. You do not have a right to beat up kids.]. We know that practices from higher education have permeated the K-12 world, and that today a third of college students believe that it is sometimes or always acceptable to shout down speakers [Irrelevant. He wasn’t shut down.], or to try to prevent them from speaking on campus[Irrelevant. He was allowed to speak; they just decided they would rather not bring him back.]. Another 13 percent believe that is it sometimes or always acceptable to block other students from attending a campus speech [Irrelevant. This did not happen here.].
Another lesson is that the educational authorities at a storied academic institution are so afraid of offending the sensibilities of censors that they would rather discourteously [Discourteous? Here’s what the school said to students: “As members of the Milton community, we know not to use the ‘n-word’ due to its repugnant history and connotation. Thus, it was shocking and uncomfortable to hear the word voiced multiple times by Mr. Silverglate.” Rather mild.] ignore a guest speaker’s request to respond to a mistaken charge than permit the airing of a full debate [“DEBATE ME BRO!” No institution has an obligation to give you a platform.]. What happened at Milton is hardly an attractive display of diversity, inclusion, or equity. [I think respecting the student perspective is a fine example of DEI.]
This is juicy stuff for the yahoos at Quillette. A few people point out that he wasn’t “cancelled”, but a majority seemed to welcome the opportunity to rant about the “n-word”, and for some reason, go on and on about “trannies”. It’s always about hating someone.