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Cancel Culture

Started by Cramulus, April 09, 2019, 02:11:45 PM

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So, just as a bookend to the Harpers letter itself, this guy (and Bari Weiss) are both signatories

Nothing more needs to be said, I think.


Alright, one more thing before I let this thread die. This article is quite good as it picks up on two points that are not often considered in this debate (good faith argumentation and the role of Twitter) and combines the two.

QuoteNow, you may wonder: Doesn't this world-weary presumption that you know how arguments will go lead to paranoid readings and meta-debates that seem totally batshit to onlookers who aren't internet-poisoned? Yup! And that crosses over into real-life engagements too, since at this point it would be foolish to insist that online patterns aren't having offline effects. Take "All Lives Matter." Most people by now understand how the phrase works to undermine social justice protests, but for a long time, it did exactly what it was meant to: It made people who knew what it was actually saying seem paranoid and crazy for objecting to an anodyne statement that seemed bighearted and self-evident. "Why would you refuse to debate someone who's simply saying that all lives matter?" is the kind of question an Enlightenment subject longing for a robust exchange of ideas might ask. Well, the reason is that most of us have learned, through bitter experience in the mirror-halls of the internet, that it would be a waste of time. It probably wouldn't be a true exchange. We've tried. We've watched others try. And we know by now what "All Lives Matter" signals, and that what it signals is orthogonal to what it says. Your fluency in this garbage means you take shortcuts: Maybe, if you've been online a lot, you don't even bother to refute the text anymore. You leap to the subtext—which is that black people don't deserve public advocacy or concern despite being disproportionately abused and killed by police. So maybe you don't argue. Maybe you just call that position racist and call it a day.

To outsiders, that leap will look absolutely nuts. But that's the point of a certain kind of troll-poisoned political messaging: to make the other side look paranoid and unhinged. It's certainly what all the coded Nazi signals are for—the 14 words, the numbers, the OK hand sign that both is and isn't a white power sign, the boogaloo junk. They're all ways to divorce surface meaning from intentional subtext. And they work. Try explaining any of these to someone who isn't online; convince them that Hawaiian shirts are the costume of choice for members of an extremist movement hoping to start a second civil war. Hawaiian shirts!

Yes, this dynamic is very bad for discourse. Yes, it inhibits intellectual exchange. Yes, it makes productive dissensus almost impossible. But that isn't because of "cancel culture" or "illiberalism." It's because in this discourse environment, good-faith engagement is actually maladaptive. If you tried to carefully explain to every single person who posts All Lives Matter on the internet why they shouldn't and how they might not know that it sounds racist, you'll lose your mind. Many of them know what they're saying and are doing so on purpose. The ones who do it innocently are rare. You could engage in good faith in hopes of finding the latter, but instead, people do something pretty rational given the context (and the volume of stuff they have to sort through): They take shortcuts. Filter. Classify. All Lives Matter = racist. Deadnaming someone = transphobe. If these exchanges feel abrupt and supercharged, it's because a lot of people are at the end of their rope anyway—if you'd spent years fielding the same devil's advocate arguments about the inferiority of your race or gender or sexuality, even a hint of one of those talking points might tempt you to shut the discussion down too.

It's possible and likely that knowledge gaps between people who are online too much and folks who aren't are making things a lot worse. Someone who isn't online much might be shocked to see people at a protest accusing a nice-looking young man in a Hawaiian shirt of wanting a second civil war. It might indeed look like cancel culture gone mad. He's just standing there! Civilly! Offering support to Black Lives Matter protesters, of all things! Can't we all, whatever our disagreements, come together in support of a good cause?

It's also true that people who've learned to read through texts (to whatever bummer of a subtext we're used to finding there) can overdo it. We sometimes skip the content of the text itself and reflexively fast-forward to the shitty point we "know" is coming even if maybe it isn't. This will frequently aggravate the other party, especially if they weren't headed in that direction; it sucks to have people assume the worst about you. That's all pretty bad for a healthy discourse, but it's a learned response to a platform that has fundamentally skewed the cost-benefit analysis of engaging. The rational move has become to presume bad faith.


I like those insights!

I'm a bit surprised it's coming from Slate.  Then again, ever since they started insisting on subscriptions to read most of their articles, I've stopped visiting the site.


This is a great look at how the anger at Cancel Culture circles back around to sea-lioning and the other shit in the Inaccessibility thread: they're functionally the same thing.

And fighting cancel culture is a stalking horse for being aggressive and hateful to marginalized groups without consequence: up to and including consequences so little as being ignored by the person you're targeting.

Why would they want that? After all, that puts them in danger if they push too far, right?


TERFs and white supremacists have this little game they play. If you had a bully in school, it'll be very familiar.

It's called "let's be outrageously shitty in a targeted, long haul campaign of harassment that goes on exclusively in deniable terms and/or when no one is looking".

The object is to get the target to defend themselves in public, and to then point at that because to someone who wasn't paying attention, it was unprovoked, or minimally provoked. Thus your target looks unhinged, aggressive and dangerous.

That sort of thing is how you set the floor for "subhumanity" and genocide, at the greatest extreme.

Great find, Cain.
"I am that worst of all type of criminal...I cannot bring myself to do what you tell me, because you told me."

There's over 100 of us in this meat-suit. You'd think it runs like a ship, but it's more like a hundred and ten angry ghosts having an old-school QuakeWorld tournament, three people desperately trying to make sure the gamers don't go hungry or soil themselves, and the Facilities manager weeping in the corner as the garbage piles high.


So how do we fight that sort of thing?  It sounds like the right is winning, which is very bad news for a lot of people.

Don Coyote

Quote from: Pergamos on July 18, 2020, 02:12:51 AM
So how do we fight that sort of thing?  It sounds like the right is winning, which is very bad news for a lot of people.


Yes, I think that's the best take I've seen so far.

Quotein this discourse environment, good-faith engagement is actually maladaptive

QuoteThe rational move has become to presume bad faith.

it's interesting because I think we are reaching some kind of tipping point

the language we're using really is insufficient to describe the world we find ourselves in

Or maybe it's that there's no shorthands for it yet. It takes so much semantic unpacking to even explain the OK-sign or the real meaning of All Lives Matter and how that's decoupled from the surface meaning.

Maybe, by 2025, there will be new terminology, new ways of talking about this stuff--less lossy compression.

My fiance works at an elementary school... a few months ago, a kid got suspended for making "racist gestures". I asked what a racist gesture was, and she said it was the OK sign. I was shocked -- they punished a 10 year old child for making the OK sign? In what context was that read as racist? Does the kid even know what it means?? Fiance shrugged and pointed out that it is technically designated as a hate symbol right now, so we treat it like a hate symbol.

Months later, the principal sent out a school-wide memo in support of Black Lives Matter. The only people who got tweaked by that? Parents of the OK-Sign kid.

funny that