The Corner


College Campuses Gave Us Cancel Culture

For the most part, Americans used to be able to disagree peacefully. Everyone knew others who disagreed on politics, religion, and other matters, but we shrugged such disagreements off, saying “Well, he’s wrong on that, but entitled to his opinion.”

That era is fading fast.  Now we have cancel culture, where one segment of the populace feels it right and indeed necessary to demonize dissenters. It’s ugly, and it’s spreading unchecked.

In today’s Martin Center article, Shannon Watkins looks into the roots of cancel culture and finds them where we find so many other toxic ideas — college campuses.

She writes, “The ideology falls under the banner of many names: social justice, ‘wokeness,’ intersectionality, racial justice, etc. Whatever label one assigns to the new ideology, its underlying strategy is clear: Advance the cause of ‘social justice’ by silencing the faintest dissenter by any means necessary—even if it involves destroying their reputations, careers, and livelihoods.”

We find cancel culture working its corrosive effects in big business, artistic and philanthropic institutions, the media, and, worst of all, our education system.

As to the origins of cancel culture, Watkins turns to former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss: “Weiss’ answer is simple: College campus culture seeped into everyday American culture. When asked about her thoughts on the 2018 book The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, Weiss said she thinks the book is significant because, although it focuses on college students, much of its analysis now ‘applies to nearly every American institution.’”

This tide of intolerance is just as destructive as COVID and just as hard to fight. If we don’t beat it, we’ll face a very un-American, authoritarian future.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.


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