The death of free speech…and common sense

Graham Norton, a BBC talk show host, has declared that cancel culture is just “accountability”. He obliquely referred to J.K. Rowling, a liberal feminist author who was “canceled” in 2020 for declaring that there is an inextricable link between biological sex and socially acknowledged gender.

Actually, J.K. Rowling wasn’t canceled, because she simply makes publishing and media companies too much money. The craven chieftains in the head offices of those firms will always look to their own paychecks first and foremost.

But a lesser known author who expressed support for J.K. Rowling, one Gillian Philip, was canceled. Gillian Philip was fired by the corrupt overlords of Working Partners and HarperCollins in 2020 after she tweeted the hashtag #ISTANDWITHJKROWLING.

If this isn’t “cancel culture”, then what is? The concept here is that once a critical mass of social media influencers, tech CEOs, and journalists have “ruled” on an issue, there is to be no further public debate. The matter is closed, and all dissenters will be punished, in one way or another.

Accountability? Accountability is what happens when there are consequences for genuine, objective wrongdoing. J.K. Rowling’s basic assertion—that the term “woman” has an immutable, biological basis—would have been accepted as simple common sense in basically all quarters a mere twenty years ago. What we are witnessing here is not just the death of free speech, but of skeptical inquiry itself. Evidence is to be willfully ignored, if it conflicts with the latest ideological orthodoxy.

That said, I agree with Graham Norton insofar we need a new word for mob-enforced thought policing. Jacobinism—and perhaps Maoism—are far more apt descriptors for what is commonly referred to nowadays as “cancel culture”.