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How ‘cancel culture’ has turned liberals against each other and is rocking newsrooms

In episode 523 of #CutTheClutter, Shekhar Gupta delves into the controversy surrounding the Harper's Magazine letter, NYT editor Bari Weiss' resignation & growing trend of cancel culture.

J.K. Rowling, Salman Rushdie and Fareed Zakaria signed the Harpers Magazine letter against 'cancel culture' | ThePrint

New Delhi: Liberals are at war with each other and this is due to growing polarisation, a push for ideological conformity and the ‘cancel culture’, said ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta in episode 523 of ‘Cut The Clutter’.

Cancel culture is when someone is politically incorrect and is ‘cancelled’ as a result. At this point, cancel culture goes beyond just unfollowing them and is threatening livelihoods with several people forced to resign for their diverging opinions.

Two letters have expressed concern over these trends.

The first is the strongly worded resignation letter of Bari Weiss, former editor and writer in the Opinion section of The New York Times.

Weiss accused the US newspaper of choosing stories to pander to a narrow audience due to its misjudgement about Hilary Clinton in the 2016 US Presidential Elections. Weiss said “Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times” but it’s become its “ultimate editor” that has eroded an environment for diverse opinion.

This comes just a month after the resignation of James Bennet, the former New York Times Opinion Editor, after the publishing of a controversial op-ed by Senator Tom Cotton. Senator Cotton had called for a wide-scale military crackdown on the Black Lives Matter protests in the US.

Also read: No, cancel culture isn’t a threat to civilization

The ‘cancel culture’ letter

The second is an open letter recently published by Harper’s Magazine. It was jointly written by over 150 eminent and ‘liberal’ voices including authors J.K. Rowling and Salman Rushdie, feminist critic Gloria Steinem, linguist Noam Chomsky and political scientist Fareed Zakaria.

They argued that an intolerance of public views is emerging in the US discourse, which is a threat to free speech. They also noted that ‘cancel culture’ is a threat to liberalism that seeks to silence opinions and cost them their jobs.

For instance, the president and some board members of the National Book Critics Circle recently resigned amid claims of racism. This was after a colleague posted screenshots of an internal email correspondence, exposing the president’s controversial opinions on the Black Lives Matter protests.

Harvard Professor Steven Pinker, one of the signatories of the letter, called cancel culture “Orwellian” and said, “Twitter is not an example of literate humanity”.

On the other hand, critics like author Pankaj Mishra have argued that those attacking cancel culture are fighting more for their own freedom than the freedom of free speech of everybody else because they feel threatened.

However, Gupta noted, journalism and newsrooms in particular are supposed to be a large tent of diverse opinions. Expelling people from the ideological vertical for speaking out will turn journalism away from ‘factivism’ and towards activism.

Global liberalism has clearly broken out into anarchy and is fighting itself, he added. This is liberal cannibalism and look who’s smiling — the ideological Right.

US political commentator David Rubin has described this as the liberal “mob” which used to attack the Right but has now turned on itself.

Watch the latest episode of CTC here:

Also read: You can’t cancel Modi, RSS: Why US-style identity politics won’t help Indian liberals’ fight