The Populist Dilemma on Free Speech and Cancel Culture

Gina Carano at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival. (Morris Mac Matzen/Reuters)
When people are threatened with cancellation, it turns out that the most populist defenders argue on classical-liberal grounds after all.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE T he cancel-culture wars have revealed a lot of ironies and dilemmas. Here is one question that conservatives need to think harder about: Should we defend free speech and free thought as good things in themselves, regardless of their content, or should we focus our energies on defending our own substantive vision of the good?

Recall the big debate between populist conservatives and classical-liberal conservatives that was generated by Sohrab Ahmari’s argument with David French about a public library hosting “drag queen story hour.” The notion of a content-neutral defense of speech was a big battleground of that debate. Echoes of a


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