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Video Cancel Culture Crusades | Claire Lehmann | CIS – YouTube
Cis as many of you know is a sydney based public policy research organization and and we’re profoundly committed to promoting the principles of classical liberalism. We oppose and is crucially important for this evening’s event attempts to shut down debate over subjects that the sophisticates and the activists alike don’t agree with let’s turn to this. Evening’s panel. We have a great panel first claire lehmann. She’s a founding editor of the online magazine quillette and she recently released a collection of essays it’s called 20 tales of excommunication in the digital age panics and persecutions and copies are available down the back there peter kurdi heads our culture and prosperity program at the center for independent studies. Peter’s been at cis for more than a decade. Now and during the past decade. He’s published many cis publications including the tyranny of tolerance threats to religious liberty in australia. And most recently cancelled how ideological cleansing threatens australia and finally our moderator this evening is monica wilkie. A policy analyst here at cis. She’s the author of respect and division. How australians view religion. And most recently australians attitudes to social media. Connection or curse. And with that please welcome monica wilkie. Thank you all for coming out. It’s been a more than a year since we’ve seen a lot of you here. And it’s going to be a fantastic conversation this evening. So we’re going to have a moderated conversation and then we’re going to be going to questions from the audience a little bit later and i just want to make sure that everyone knows that just because peter cody is my boss. I’m not going to be throwing softball questions at him so with that peter curti. In your outstanding report on cancel culture that you wrote last year you you started off with a definition of cancer culture. And i thought that would be a natural point to start tonight. Because often we talk about these things and it runs along. But what are we actually talking about so. What is cancel culture here. Thanks monica okay and you can ask any question you like and you’ll have your job tomorrow. I guarantee. That cancel culture is the practice um. Which involves calls for the removal or the denunciation of mainly people. But it can be objects that are deemed to have transgressed. The norms of what it now is known as social justice theory or critical theory. Claire would you agree or have anything to add. Yeah. I i’d i broadly agree with that and the important distinction is that activists or participants in cancer culture lobby. A third party. So if they want someone an academic to be fired. They will write a petition and deliver it to a university’s president. It’s about getting a third party to punish an individual that they want punished because they’ve breached some kind of norm that maybe two years ago was mainstream. But is now beyond the pale for social justice culture. Yes. I agree i think that’s right and we saw that most recently for example in australia. With margaret court. Um. And the calls were for the arena. Margaret quarter arena to be renamed. So you’re right a a third party was lobbied because of things that margaret court was deemed to have said or that she does stand for i agree with that but if you’re talking about claire. You said you know transgressing norms. I mean is this is this particularly new i mean in the 1970s australia had quite a harsh regime of censorship. There were various books that weren’t even allowed into the country you know um fortnight’s complaint lady chadley’s lover. There are stories about how people smuggled these in so isn’t this sort of just a another version of that is it particularly new what we now call cancer culture. It’s new what’s new about it is the speed at. Which the churn is happening and the way the speed at which norms are changing. So it would be perfectly reasonable and normal for a person to say that a trans woman is not a real woman maybe five years ago or ten years ago. If i was to say that now on a in a public forum such as this one or on i can’t be cancelled because i work for myself. But if i were to say that there could there would be outrage and people be writing petitions and trying to get me cancelled. But so i for me. What’s different is that social media is accelerating the pace of change. And what is normal today won’t be normal in a year from now and so on and so on it keeps going yes. I would just add to that i mean i think social media has allowed this change to happen. But i think we’re seeing a particular form um of what we might just call broadly post modernism. It’s the and in its latest form. Which has been around for the last 10 or 15 years. The the the theorists have become activists and now it’s not enough. It is no longer enough for theory to be propounded in the academy for papers to be written um for conferences to be held uh and and for these issues to be confined to the life of the academy. It spilled out it spilled over into into the public realm. And it’s it’s driven by activism and these activists want to bring about change and to that he said. I think it’s actually more dangerous because i think it’s it’s it’s marked by a revolutionary zeal. But this has emerged from all that’s gone before this is not something new. It’s just a particular manifestation. If you’re saying. The activists. Just want change then how how the specific cancer culture and the specific things that we’re talking about concern you from change movements of the past. I mean there are various movements you know to end certain forms of legal discrimination and other such things that us as classical liberals would support those things happened about change. You know the government didn’t just hand it to you society. Just didn’t change without people you know working and actors just towards that so how is how is this different to just another movement of that nature peter uh. It’s very different because in the uh in the 70s when for example. The the race discrimination act was passed in britain. It was 68. I think in britain and in here the racial discrimination act in the 70s those changes happened within the the framework of a secular liberal democracy and certain principles certain ways of viewing of understanding truth uh a way of ways of uh. Evaluating evidence were generally accepted what’s new now is that and this is a particular mark of of the most radical forms of of council culture of of social justice. Theory. With a capital s. And a capital j. Is. That uh objective. Truth is a concept that’s rejected that that truth is regarded as something that one makes for oneself and is determined by one’s lived experience and that knowledge is not something that is that is dependent upon reasoned for me the reason formulation and assessment of evidence. But comes from uh from feelings from experience from spirituality. So these changes are being advanced from a completely different uh standpoint to use one of the the coded terms. But from a completely different standpoint from the changes that were advocated for negotiated and legislated in the 60s and 70s. We’ve said that activists don’t use the term cancer culture. Do you think that they would agree with peter in the sense that they don’t believe in objective truth. It’s all about quote unquote. Lived experience is that something that they themselves would advocate for uh well. I think if if you listen to the language. That they use there’s a lot of subjective internal experiences that are sort of held up as being some kind of authority. So if i feel offended or if i’m harmed in one way or another that trumps another person’s right to you know fair treatment in the eyes of the law. So there’s a there’s a turn towards uh emotional reasoning over and above rational reasoning. And i kind of one way. I think about it is um. It is this emotional reasoning is like uh a continuation of carol gilligan’s care ethics. She formulated this uh idea of moral reasoning. Where where people generally caregivers and generally women care for their children. Over and above. You know other people in their uh in the in their community in their um. You know broadest sphere. But this caring was sort of all all encompassing and this form of moral reasoning. Somehow seems to have been scaled up to higher levels of society. Where the the only thing that matters is people that we care for their subjective feelings. And then other qualities or other moral virtues such as fairness proportionality respect for authority those sorts of other moral values are just you know all swept away because we’ve got this compassion. You know ideology of compassion overruling. Everything you you mentioned the notion of harm. There. Which has been written about quite a lot you know in terms of that’s often a justification. You know this ex person or whatever causes harm. So therefore they should be shut down. Peter isn’t isn’t harm a concept that was introduced by our side in a. Sense famously by js. Mill. Is that would you would you agree with that or have they taken that to a certain extreme. They’ve taken the word and given it a completely different meaning and um. Claire you you you mentioned language. Just now. And i think language is at the crux of what this is about and we need to understand the complexities around the use of language. If we have to begin to get to grips with this phenomenon. Because and with to go down this track too far. But we can trace it back to the development of the philosophy of language in the course of the 20th century and the emergence of the idea that certain kinds of language belong to certain forms of life or ways of living. It was wittgenstein the later wittgenstein who who argued this uh and that could be one you know you can look that up and and read about that and i think it’s actually very interesting. But it was the idea essentially that oh that language that is used in one context isn’t applicable in another context. And what’s happened to distill. This is that the words that you and i might understand uh like harm like race uh like violence like oppression are now used in very different ways to mean other things and they are used to refer to the experience that somebody has so anyone can claim i i can claim to have been harmed or oppressed by your question. It doesn’t matter. What you intended my experience of having been on the receiving end of the question is all that matters and i can use the word. But it by meaning something very different and i think that’s that in some ways goes to the heart of what this challenge is about for us because we’re trying to engage using as it were the language that we know. But the words that we’re using no longer mean this uh. They mean something else and we are being tripped up on that and this is why i think it makes it very difficult to to to engage effectively with this it’s a real challenge. I think an important paper came out a few years ago by a melbourne psychologist. Called. Nick haslam. And it’s on a con. What he calls concept creep in psychology in particular and it’s an excellent paper. And he looks at how harm distort. The the terms harm disorder. Addiction abuse and trauma. Have become diluted. Over time. Their definition has expanded both vertically and horizontally to include things that two decades ago. We would never consider to be traumatic or harmful. And he he gives very concrete examples so neglect you know neglect of children. Didn’t used to be considered a form of child abuse
Now. It is things like sex addiction. Didn’t used to be considered addictions. Now they are so these terms keep. Expanding and expanding and expanding and so now we’re getting to um a situation where activists. I don’t know if they do this in australia. But at least in the united states you will see um signs saying. Silence is violence. You know you’ve got this expansion and and and you’ll you’ll hear terms such as epistemic violence. If i disagree with your argument. I’ve committed epistemic violence against you so i’ve got this horrible disfiguration of the english language and you’re absolutely correct in that it’s tripping us up. Because you know if you take a a word like racism. It used to mean something quite specific it used to mean that you were discriminating against someone. According to their race. Sort of proactively against an individual now it means uh if you’re a white person. And you don’t admit that you’re a racist just by virtue of being white. Then you’re a racist. It’s changed its meaning to being completely it used to be an action now it’s just a passive sort of mystical magical thing that’s just in the air and if we don’t if we don’t acknowledge that it’s there then we’re racist. So it this disfiguration of the language is a huge part of what’s going on and i think it’s key for us to identify how the language is being disfigured to properly address. It and neutralize it i think that’s wrong in addition to be able to understand this disfiguring of language in order to address. It does the disfiguration of language also in a way create almost a false consensus around these things so you know if you ask the average person you know do you want to reduce racism. You know this just causes harm should we end it because a lot of people don’t know about this. Most people look good. The instinctive. Answer is yes. Yes. Claire don’t don’t you think people are getting trapped. In that as well yeah. And there’s a rhetorical trick. Um. Called the mott and bailey. Where you’ll have i might get it i might get the mott and the bailey confused. But the the the idea is that um. The soldiers would go down and fight either in the bailly or the mot and then when and then when they were under attack they would retreat into their more safe position. What’s what’s a crazy argument that a social justice theorist might present well you you get really vague like we just want to fair a society. We just want you know well. I think i think probably around black lives matter is probably some of the best. They say you know we want a fairer society. And then that’s followed by diff on the police well yeah. Exactly defund. The police is a perfect example we want to that would be the crazy argument. We want to defund. The police and then when people say well actually hang on maybe we shouldn’t defund. The police. The return argument is why are you so racist against black people. So there’s this rhetorical trick. Where a crazy argument is put forward and if you disagree with it they retreat into the sensible argument that everybody already agrees with um. There’s many examples like that so we’ve talked you know about cancer culture. And you know black lives matter and defend the place. And that sort of thing. So peter. What is the actual impact of these things you know we haven’t talked too much about specific examples. But what concerns you specifically about people or objects or something being cancelled and why why is that a problem a lot of things worry me about this but i think i think why it’s a problem is that it um first of all it sews discord. Because it sets people against each other somebody might say. But i’m not a racist and and the response that it’s met with is oh. But you are a racist you just don’t know it and so so discord breaks out between people and then it becomes harder for us to to discuss things as a community as a society and so social cohesion is threatened. Because we are all we are we are disagreeing about different things um and and the meaning coming back to the language. The the meaning slips away from us. And i think as social cohesion breaks down uh. Always is is comes under threat. So it makes community life much harder and harder for us as a society to to to engage and have the sorts of discussions and political debates. The economic debates. The political debates that we need to have as a society because we end up talking past each other so i think it’s it’s it’s very dangerous. I mean in one sense you know we it’s sort of slightly comical that a brand of cheese has to be renamed or that an ice cream has to be renamed. I think it’s it’s it’s offensive. When uh statues are torn down. Because i think that is um that suggests that somehow there’s an objective standard of of truth which of course the critical justice theorists uh deny there is no such thing as objective truth. But there’s like there’s a stand of truth by which everything in the past could be judged. And i think that’s that’s very troubling and once we start to move into that territory um. We who is safe from that who is safe from that kind of judgment. So i think it can begin from the slightly comical and irritating to the profoundly threatening and then it becomes uh much more dangerous when people themselves are torn down for expressing uh points of view. I mean claire on just picking up on the point that peter made that i mean. Which cancellations should we be concerned about i mean you know you can have a laugh about you know changing the name of cheese and all that sort of thing. But at the end of the day that’s still the same product you can go into the supermarket and buy whatever you like. But when you talk about people losing their jobs losing book deals and that that’s just the ones that we know about i mean we all know stories of people who work in certain businesses that keep mum on those sort of things so what is some of you know talking about the names of brands should we be less focused on that and more focused on people and their careers. Yeah. I think and one argument that uh the deniers cancel country cancel culture deniers have is that people are cancelled and then they can go on and and have lucrative careers. Writing books. And you know creating podcasts. And so on and so forth. And that’s true up to a point. But when they leave their industry. Whether it’s academia or some kind of artistic community. Other people are left behind and they remain terrified because they don’t want to lose their jobs and they don’t want to be sacked. And so i’m less concerned about i am concerned about people being cancelled who aren’t famous. But i’m less concerned about the big famous individuals who we all know about and all hear about because it’s true they will be fine. But it’s the everyday people who have a mortgage who have kids to feed who can’t say mainstream normal opinions in their workplace. Because they’re scared of getting fired now on an on a personal individual level. It’s upsetting to me that people have to live their lives in fear on a on a broader scale. I don’t want to live in a society. Where people aren’t speaking the truth how can we how can we get better how can we invent new things. How can we have better scholarship. Better ideas. If everybody’s inhibiting themselves. And no one is speaking the truth and sharing ideas and coming up with you know if you’re going to come up with a scientific theory that changes the world you’ve got to have the freedom to make mistakes. And what i fear is that we’re creating a culture. Where we don’t have that freedom. We don’t have the freedom to make mistakes. We don’t have the freedom to come up with hypotheses. We don’t have the freedom to talk to each other and share ideas and make mistakes. And redeem each other and and and forgive each other we’re just losing that freedom and that will create a stagnant dying culture. I mean that’s a that’s that’s a good point there and peter. I think i mean sometimes when these cancellations come up the you know particularly notable people you’ll find the soon after the groveling apology. Which is never enough you know no matter. What you do if you say you know sorry you’re you’re still probably going to get cancelled are we living in a society. Without forgiveness and then what’s the possible consequences of that well yes. I think because i think you can never apologize enough you can you can never be forgiven for for a transgression um. And the the vilification can continue i agree you know. If you’re if you’re rich. Enough. Like jk. Rowling. Um. You probably can can not worry about it too much. But uh. I think it does create a climate of fear. And i think that we we end up living with this kind of terrible uncertainty. I think uh and that’s the that’s the that’s why it is such a systemic threat to the to the kind of society. We we believe that we live in and that we want to uphold. So i think i mean to answer your question. I think that um that the challenge for us is to i think have the confidence to seize the debate and argue it on our own terms and not feel that we always have to be dragged uh onto the other side of the net as it were to try to argue it on the terms in which it’s advanced if that makes sense. Yeah. Sure do you think claire there are some optimistic signs that we are seizing the debate. I mean you’ve got now in america. The conservative outlet. The daily wire which has become very popular after gina carrano was fired from disney they immediately picked her up and they’re now having a movie deal with her and they’re saying you know we’re gonna we’re gonna keep doing this so is it is it almost now that’s that’s a business model of you know well you know if you get cancelled here. We’ll pick you up here. And if people like our products. Then they’re going to come to us and leave disney and all these other major networks. If you keep cancelling people yeah. I think there are some positive signs and i mean. It’s easy to be overcome with pessimism about all of this. But there are some positive signs so in the united states. One large technology company put out a statement saying to all of its employees leave your politics at the door. We don’t want activism here this is our our company’s mission. This is our mission statement and i think that will be a model that is a model going forward for not just companies. But any organization that wants to survive this period of upheaval. I think organizational leaders have to figure out what the values are for their company and put forward a mission statement like the ceo of coinbase. Did. I think what happened at minter elsin. Here in australia is a positive sign and that might be look i mean it’s in australia. But that might actually be looked at at other places around the world where people organizational leaders realize that actually they need to stand for something they need to stand their company has to have a set of values they need to know what they are and they need to not fall. In a pack like a pack of cards anytime. An activist or a social media. Mob or a you know some kind of upheaval. Happens in its junior staff. I mean people just basically have to grow a spine. Particularly in organizations. Peter
Was uh. The ceo of vinta ellison cancelled. Well. I wish i could be as optimistic as claire on this um. I i think that the minter ellison affair was a is a false dawn. I think there was a managing partner who was not a lawyer who managed to make a major law firm look stupid. And i think she had to go um. But it wasn’t because of the her particular views about um about the matters of the case. Concerning christian porter. It just made a law firm look stupid. It looked they looked silly. And she had to go because otherwise their reputation as a law firm would have been harmed and and the bottom line would have been harmed so i don’t think she was cancelled. I think she was um. I think she was she was fired you can be censored without being cancelled. But being cancelled as a form of censorship. But the reason i’m less optimistic than claire is that i think that i mean yes. It companies may put out these sorts of statements and and i think we’ve yet to see some of that happening in this country yet. But i’m concerned about the the people who are being who are pouring out of universities who have been indoctrinated in this sort of stuff for by which i mean critical theory social justice theory for a long time. Now. Now. They are the people who are going to be working in personnel departments. They’re going to be working in as diversity officers. They’re going to be people who are monitoring their own workspace they bring with them the the the the whole mental framework of of oppression about epistemic violence of of social justice. They are looking for things they will be looking for things. And if they don’t find them in the workplace. I don’t think they’ll say oh well this place isn’t for me i better go look somewhere else. That’s not what activists do activists want to change and they want to revolutionize and they want to overthrow and i think if there is a company that seems not to be uh sufficiently radicalized. Then they will the activists will will bring their their um their weaponry to bear. I hope i’m wrong. But i i i’m i’m less optimistic about this i think it’s a this is one of the most serious issues we face as a culture because i think i mean i think there is a there is a a in the there’s a there’s a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Which we can talk about later. But i’m see i’m pessimistic about this because i think it’s a it’s a a very very pervasive cultural change that has been brewing for a long time. And we’re seeing a particular manifestation of it now i see no evidence that it’s going to stop if you’re talking particularly about the workplace. As well claire is isn’t this particularly what millennials and young people want i mean you know you you see you know all these corporations putting out various statements. I mean in america supporting black lives matter. In here. You always have it around around mardi gras and those sort of things don’t people new employees. Want these companies to do that so all their incentives are in the direction to cater to that that audience. Yeah. That’s a that’s a good point and particularly uh comp. You know technology companies and companies that need to employ younger people for you know marketing. Reason you know because they do marketing and digital technology. And that kind of thing um. I do think. However. There’s enough young people who aren’t ideologues and who just want to work and just want a job that corporate leaders can have a mission statement that isn’t aligned with social justice. And and find good employees. I think one one of the things i have a problem with it with the current discourse around cancer culture and social justice culture. Is you know all of the blame is put on young people and they certainly have their problems. But the spinelessness of baby boomers. When it comes to dealing with that just boggles my mind like university presidents just counts you know just uh groveling and and and submitting to the demands of children and you know a and a recent episode in the united states was um. The deputy editor of the journal of the american medical association was on a podcast and he said he voiced a very reasonable reasonable opinion in which he said he’s not a fan of this idea of structural racism because he doesn’t think all white people are racist by virtue of being white now that poor guy. A doctor is now fired from his position. As deputy editor of the journal and the editor in chief is on administrative leave. But he put out this groveling apology apologizing for not being educated enough about racism this guy is a doctor. He’s probably relatively senior in his career. He should know better so my i mean i understand that there are there is a cohort or a generation of ideologues coming out of universities. But the elders in our community need to stand need to understand what their values are if they have any and start standing up for them that’s my view uh peter as the elder and baby boomer on the panel is it all your fault. No would you would you do you think that the the problem is that when these activists make these demands. There’s not a cool voice from above saying no well. But they don’t because they’re they’re frightened. And they don’t want to be they want to be called out i mean i agree i think. It’s a it’s a form of spinelessness um. And i think one of uh. There was douglas murray wrote about this in the spectator recently about the about the justin welby. The archbishop of canterbury and the church of england to which i was ordained some 35 years ago that has become the most incredibly woke organization and welby and it’s just astonishing to me welby is apologizing for all kinds of sins that the church of england is supposed to be guilty of and i think it’s it’s disappointing and dispiriting to see that kind of supine leadership. Or that the leadership should be exercised in such a supine way. I should say i think it’s there’s a lot of fear. There’s a degree of spinelessness and i don’t it’s it it mystifies me because i don’t know i wonder where what is well be looking at i mean john centamu. The recently retired archbishop of york was black. There are black bishops in england. There are black women bishops in the church of england uh. There are black clergy. The church has rich ministries uh in that in in in if i can use this term interracial ministries and into ethnic ministries. I’m wondering what is it that somebody like justin welby sees that leads him to utter these pronouncements is it does he believe it or does he just don’t want to get caught out and if it’s the latter. If he’s the former i despair if it’s the latter then i think he needs to you know muscle up as it were i think the spinelessness is is very troubling that nobody’s prepared to say enough speaking of being caught out i thought just change tax slightly for a second and ask the question sort of broadly of what isn’t cancer culture. Because often when we talk about cancer culture. You know a commit a comment. You hear back is you know well you don’t care about this person being fired or you don’t care about this person who’s been fired. But surely there are some circumstances in which a firing is warranted. I mean we just briefly spoke about mint ellison. There was a slight disagreement. But you know probably agree that good for the ceo to go other examples of you know certain certain behavior by people claire isn’t it isn’t in many circumstances. People do deserve to be fired uh well. I one thing that gets confused with cancer culture is criticism. So i publish articles that are critical of public figures. And so on and i’ve been accused of trying to cancel them so i think there’s there’s sometimes a conflation between criticism and trying to get someone fired or cancelled. They’re not the same thing like any you know if you want to be in the public sphere. You have to be able to withstand criticism. But it’s not the same thing as having a thousand of your colleagues sign a petition. Asking your boss to fire. You the two separate things um and and when it comes to people being fired. I mean i just look to the reasonable person’s standard in the law. I mean if you’re going to be a repeat offender and harass people in the workplace. Sure i mean you should be fired. But it’s not that’s not really my you know workplace law is not really my area. But yeah i would just take the reasonable person’s standard that’s often something here as well when you bring up these examples. It’s all you know they’re private companies they can do whatever they like. But that that sort of cuts. The conversation a little bit short doesn’t it it’s like okay maybe legally. Yes. Claire. But you know do we want to live in this society. You know if someone who like peter said. They’re a talk show host. They’re doing their job. And you just immediately get the plug pulled on you yeah. And i think it’s disappointing anytime someone either on the left or the right because you know people on the left get fired for tweeting things in sensitive things. As well um. I know and i believe there should be a mandatory cooling down period like if you’ve tweeted. Something that’s caused outrage it should be a mandatory four week cooling down period your boss cannot fire you for four weeks and if he or she is still angry about it four weeks later then maybe. But i really i really dislike this thing. Where people say something like make a bad joke. And then you hear that they’re fired within 24 hours. It seems totally unfair to me because you know we sh. We should all be able to make a bad joke once in a while. But maybe have a quota of lifetime bad. Things that could be a good one. I mean we obviously claire you run quillette at the center for independent studies. We talk a lot about these things. But i would be interested first i’ll go to you peter in what do you think that we can do about this i mean particularly in america. Where these things are probably a lot hotter. I mean the sort of you kind of see almost a tit for tat now so you know disney fires gina carano. Then you know boycott disney is trending and that’s sort of happening. A lot you say these decisions are made and then there’s a calling for a boycott or not using a certain product. Do you think that is a helpful way to deal with it for example. If people say you know okay. If disney or whatever wants to play the cancel culture game. We’re just not going to use your product and then people are advocating for that do you think that’s a a good way to deal with it well. I think consumer choice is always very important and we want to maintain a free market. So that there is a free exchange of goods. But i think it becomes harder. When corporations um fall into line one with another and decide that they’re not going they watch what happens they see what what happens to a dairy company or a shampoo company and they think well we don’t want to get caught out we better get in ahead of the game. And it’s driven often i think by campaigners on the one hand. But also by um by the the diversity people who crew these these companies. But i think there is something that we can do i think it’s it’s a difficult challenge. But i think what’s important to understand about about um. Critical theory is that there is at a at its heart. A contradiction. Because it propounds. It rejects theory rejects the idea of objective truth. There is no such thing as objective truth. Because my truth is based on my lived experience as is your truth. That’s base your based on your lived experience um. And it’s i and it’s one of the reasons. Why it’s such a serious assault on uh on the the the traditions. The institutions. The thought processes of the west this is rejection of objective truth. But that in itself means in turn means that it’s very hard to to establish any sense of the objective truth of theory
It’s entirely subjective. I mean i think in its most recent form. There’s been a certain amount of what’s often called rarification that the the subjective has been asserted with such aggression that it’s almost it almost assumes the form of an objective truth. But at its heart because of its uh because of the the the cultural relativism that it embraces this idea of the the plasticity of language and the fact that that boundaries between objective and subjective truth are blurred. There is hope for us because i think it means that we can argue against it and we can stand against it. But what we mustn’t do is try to do so on the terms of theory. We have to do so on our own terms using our own frames of reference and our own our own intellectual armory. I don’t think we can do this on on their terms. Claire would you would you agree that because of the culture relative as other when people call for things like boycotts or even even buy cots. I mean after the whole colonial brewing beer company their sales went through the roof. Because people wanted to support them. Do you think those things are sort of a distraction and not actually getting at the heart of the problem. I think we have to be wary of copying the tactics you know if we’re against cancer culture and against censorship. We shouldn’t emulate those kinds of tactics. And it’s sad. I’m disappointed when i see people who are you know who want to fight fire with fire. I think you can always go to a higher ground and i would just say that you know it’s really easy to be overcome with pessimism in this current cultural climate. But there are opportunities to be seized at the same time that you know i see it with the decline in um news and media organizations. Particularly in the united states they’re becoming so insular and closed and they’re hiring activists to do this journalism. Which is going down in prestige in everybody’s eyes. I mean. It’s a fantastic opportunity for new organizations new companies new societies to emerge with people who are gener genuinely committed to the principles that made you know that got us to a liberal democratic society. So open inquiry freedom of speech civil debate. It’s there are opportunities for new growth and i think we should know it’s a particularly concerning time. But we still live in a free society. And when you can still make new companies or can still create a new educational institution. You can still create a think tank grab that opportunity while you still can before i go to my um last question we’ll go we’ll go to questions from the audience after i ask my question so just get yourself nice and ready so final final question that i’ll throw at you to sort of continue either down. The optimistic or pessimistic degree out. I mean are things going to get worse. I mean at the moment. The sort of favorite phrase is that they’re eating their own. I mean you know at there was this thing. A teen vogue. Where the editor incoming editor was fired because of tweets and then one of the people who was calling for her firing was also fired so peter are things i think is going to get a lot worse before they get better. I i think they are likely to get worse before they get better. But i do think that as long as there are people like you and organizations like colette. Who make a determined stand and make sure that points of view are aired. And that you’re not cowed into silence as long as there are people who are prepared to um act with courage. Then i think there’s hope um. But i think it’s it’s going to be it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be a tough slog. Because it doesn’t take much for the forces to be turned against an organization or an institution or a person. But i think my pessimism is not doesn’t derive from the fact that i don’t think anybody is doing anything. It’s that i think that the the patterns of our pa. Our way of life which i mean by which i really mean western civilization is is under grave threat. Now. I think we have to be if we care about it we have to be courageous and stand up and defend. It um. I’m optimistic to the extent that there are people and organizations who do that and and and long may that be the case and i have to say i mean colette has won the center for independent studies is is another and i think we need to embrace the freedom uh and the principles of freedom that we stand for and live by them do you think they’re going to keep eating their own. Claire before we can get out of it laughter. Well you know. It’s interesting because they’re not the the the work ideologues and the activists can’t produce art or culture that anyone wants to buy or consume so their books don’t sell. Whereas. Jordan peterson can sell five million copies. So i think there’s you know there’s something in that that it has to die out because it’s boring. They don’t produce any art or any you know literature that we want to consume like it’s it’s just gonna die. Because people find it tedious and boring and totalitarian and so you know i’m optimistic that it will run out of steam on its own accord. But as peter says. We have to remain vigilant. And what worries me the most is if this ideology gets into our legal system. Then i think we’re in it we’ll be in bad shape. So we’ll be in bad shape. Let’s see if the audience can make us more or less pessimistic. Um. I believe do we have roving microphones max. So. I think um. James phillips. Hand was up first. So i’ll go that way first. Thank you yeah. Thanks. I was a bit preemptive. There i thought i’d better be the um. It seems to me a very important question in this uh debate. Because of the fact that people from anywhere uh right of center are very underrepresented in american universities educational institutions. But also many of the cultural institutions. Including much of the media uh. How american liberals um respond to this is uh. Really vitally important uh. So far. They’ve just been letting the sort of ultra progressives. Or social justice. Warriors take all the oxygen out of the left side of american politics. And wonder. If the panel sees any signs of hope that liberals might start re asserting some sort of rationality uh and um liberal discourse from from the left of center. In america. Claire you’re you’re quite involved with through colette with you know you have a large american audience. Do you want to take that one first yeah. I think uh. It’s an interesting question and uh. I can the way. I think of it is the center left versus. You know a lot of these battles are between the center. Left and the hard left. And i think that the center left have been quite defenseless when it comes to attacks on it from the hard left. And i think one of the reasons for that is because over the past few decades. The liberal left or the center left have redefined itself as being morally and politically concerned with compassion above all else caring for the marginalized above all else they don’t have to be you know radicals or you know neo marxist or whatever. But if you’re overriding moral and political orientation. Is to just care for people or care for marginalized. Groups. It’s very difficult for you to withstand attacks from radical activists. Who demand that you um address their harm or address them ameliorate. The harm that they they have somehow encountered so i think the problem with the liberal left or the center. Left is that because they don’t have a framework other than this ideology of compassion. They are defenseless. When it comes to the exploitation of the progressives. So and and you can see it with liberal left or center left institutions. One by one they’re all falling to this work ideology and even in the business world uh. I you know i hear from venture. Capitalists that unless. An organization is explicitly classically liberal or conservative or anti work. They just fall. They just succumb to this ideology. Because they’re ha. They’re depleted. They have no they don’t have no sense of moral authority. Other than this ideolog ideology of compassion and that makes them weak makes them open to exploitation by these activists. Just the lady of the back. There yep. Thank you hi. Thanks for having us. Here um. Claire. You spoke a lot about the spinelessness of uni administration. I’m a uni student and i have seen it firsthand last year. I tweeted that the uni taught colonialism in a biased way and the uni tried to suspend me for that. And i saw firsthand how the uni was set up to punish students that disagreed with the typical thoughts of the uni and my question is you said that you know you can start think tanks. And we should start finding ways to create movements that fight back against the spinelessness of the universities. But as a student who doesn’t have access to millions of dollars to fund a think tank and who isn’t a uni administrator. What can we do to help rally people that are the quiet australians that are too scared to speak out against the mob mentality. And is is there anything that young people or just people that don’t have those access to all the funds to make all those big changes can do yeah. Great question um and and i completely sympathize with your position. And yeah. I completely and it’s terrible that you would try your university try to censor you i would say to someone in your position. That uh you might feel powerless within your immediate community which is your university. But if you start a blog or a newsletter and a social media account you can actually reach people all over the world that’s what i did with collette it just started as my own personal blog and i set up a way to capture people’s emails. So i did a newsletter and you know now we get three million hits a month. So you can you can take it in small steps. And there are you know you don’t have to start a magazine. But there are ways to get your message across to have your voice heard if it’s not recognized in your immediate community. You might find that what you have to say will be listened to by other people in australia. If you go and publish an op ed in the newspaper or if you write a newsletter and you share it online. There are ways to communicate with people outside of that immediate community and i’m not necessarily advocating for activism within the university. Because you just want to be able to get your degree and you know get through. But just because you feel powerless within that particular context doesn’t mean there are other there aren’t other avenues to have an impact yes sure um. I think thank you for your question. I think. It’s a really important one colonial well you will know this from your own lived experience
As it were colonialism is one of the hot button topics. Um and i would encourage you i i completely uh. Support. What claire says and i would encourage you to to take that advice. But also to read widely to don’t be restricted by the the the reading that you’re recommended at university. Read widely there are people who are writing intelligently and thoughtfully about these sorts of matters. The issues of colonialism and empire are really in my view. Interesting. Albeit contentious topics. So make yourself well informed. And make your business to be informed. And that i think will give you a great deal of confidence as your own understanding matures. Particularly. Since you’ve had this experience. So good luck to you. Simon um. A. Lot’s been i’ve spoken tonight about the process of cancel culture. But if you look at i’m interested in finding out what you guys think is the end game of cancer culture. Because if you actually look at a lot of the behavior of it it seems to be a grasp for power by a group of people who normally would not survive in any reasonable meritocracy and yet by using cancer culture. They all of a sudden get an amount of power. Which even rupert murdoch would envy because of what they’re able to do to society. What do you think of that grasp of power and do you think that’s the end point of cancer culture. Peter is it just a power grab. I think that power is part of it i i think. It’s certainly. A revolutionary exercise that seeks to tear down and to replace what are deemed unjust structures with just structures. But i think it is ultimately destructive and i think the end game is and claire has touched on this. I think there will be the barrenness of um of a landscape. That’s been destroyed there will be nothing that’s created or generated. I think in time i don’t know how long that will be though. But i think in time it will be seen to have been uh will be understood to for the for the uh for the baron and taken to be the barren and destructive and revolutionary force that it is and i think like many revolutions. I mean eventually revolutions play out and that and the energy that sustains them plays out it happened with the french revolution. Um. It hap it happened with um with marxist regimes in 30 odd years ago um. So we’ve seen the the revolutionary zeal of communism not be extinguished completely. But we’ve seen it we’ve seen it uh diminish and peter out and i think in time this will happen. But i think it will leave a lot of destruction uh. In its wake. I have to say. Yes. Sir hi. Ray hood. Uh. Cis. Member. Um. Just as a first comment. I’m. A broadcaster on a fairly well known uh community station. And i do find i have to self censor. It’s a music show. But there’s certain things i want to go into. But that’s anyway just by the by first off. I just want to comment really for discussion. Both douglas murray uh. The writer of the excellent book the madness of crowds and publisher conrad. Black. Have recently commented on how emanuel macron. In france. Has made a stand for french values against what he described as american cultural suicide and he’s said. There’s going to be no statute toppling in france and there has not been and also surprisingly the academy in france has not opposed macron. They’ve remained silent or supported him basically. Which is surprising given that post modernism and dereda etc. All came from france um and spain is not going to uh. Cancel bull fighting. It’s not going to cancel the bull run. I think in russia and china they wouldn’t even know what woke meant um. So really is is what we’re seeing this this cultural social dogmatism. I guess you could call it or work whatever is it a product really of the anglo saxon countries and the really the middle class and the upper middle class of those countries. The anglo phone countries. It’s not going on in the rest of the world clear. Yeah. I think that’s exactly right and i think it comes from the upper class of amer of the united states particularly the elite colleges the elite liberal arts colleges you can see ground zero of this ideology the work ideology is being like maybe yale. I think post modernism was most popular in yale back in the 80s and the french. You know they know who foucault is they know he was a pederast they know he supported the ayatollah. But the americans are in you know enthrall of the french philosophers because they’re somewhat exotic. They’re somewhat you know different um. But so it’s the very elite colleges. And that the problem has been that because the rich kids at these ivy league colleges are going around doing these behaviors on social media you know petitioning and organizing protests and that kind of thing because they’re rich and from the ivy leagues. It sort of trickled down. Because it’s seen as prestigious and you know the cool kids are doing it so. It’s cop. You know people conform and copy and and of course. America has this huge cultural impact all over the world we published an essay on quillette about how america used to export coca cola and action movies and now exports cancel culture. But i think the french have it right and and the more uh pushback that happens from either france or other european countries. The more you know the other countries will copy as well so i think macron’s showing great global leadership on this issue. And i salute him for it yes back there hi. Just a question to the panel in terms of the social isolation that comes with being cancelled. But also just in terms of having views that would not necessarily be exactly as those of your friends i’ve graduated with a bachelor of arts. Most of my friends um share a lot of these work views and while you know i consider myself. A centrist. I feel further and further far away from them. And it’s hard to express your views amongst friends. It’s extremely isolating and i wonder how a young person coming into this world. And this new generation of woke is supposed to go forward and express their opinion. Not silence themselves completely and risk losing essentially entire social networks and potentially your job peter. How do people young people balance that oldest person on the panel is the oldest person on the panel uh thank you i think it’s i think. It’s an important question um. And i don’t have a pat answer. But i think that if one if one one reads history you can see that there are people throughout history. Who have taken a courageous um stand and a a stand that has led them to be quite isolated from from their colleagues. I’m just reading um richie robertson’s magnificent. But monumental history of the enlightenment. It’s a vast book. But but an amazing book and it’s it’s such a rich history of this century he takes the century 1690 to about 1780 or 1790. When we see how intellectual life flourished and people contended with popularity and ostracism and censorship and vilification. But they remain true to their principles and when they when they and in doing so maintained their integrity even though there was some high personal cast. So i think taking inspiration from the figures of the past is is an important thing to do and to remember that that one’s own integrity is actually something that one should never compromise because that’s that’s what we have that’s what we live by we are who we are and if we stand if we remain true to who we are and and and work to to act with integrity then i think we grow in stature. We grow in strength and and i think we can and to fail to do so. Uh or or to to give in is actually leads to a form of self diminishment. I think i mean claire you spoke before about the impact of various french philosophers on this do you think. There is an impact of communism as well oh of course. There is and um. You know the con. The the way it’s like a the marxist framework of looking at the world you know with the oppressed oppressor class versus the oppressed class and the way it simplifies the world into sort of black and white. You know of course. It has this tremendous influence on social justice theory and culture. I don’t agree i i think it’s complicated and i don’t think. There’s some kind of top down global plan to enforce communism around the world. I don’t subscribe to that kind of thinking. But i do think that the marxist framework in its simplicity is very seductive to almost every generation that comes through and it’s like each generation has to fight back against it because it is so seductive. And it is it simplifies the world so much and it’s so alluring for people who can’t cope with the uncertainty and the chaos and the randomness of the world we have to keep fighting at every generation and because it just doesn’t seem to die. So i i agree up to a point i do i do think that marxism marxist framework is uh terribly influential at the moment even though it might not look like it because we’re not talking about materialism and and and class. We’re talking about race and gender the way. It’s views. The world is basically the same claire in 60 seconds. Or less is it time to make social media companies you know live by the first amendment and those sorts of things is it time to have legal remedies against some of these cancellations that’s a huge question. I’m not sure i can answer in 60 seconds uh. I think the it’s a can of worms. I think i personally i believe in breaking up some of the social media companies and that’s not a terribly classical. Liberal view. But i think there’s there’s too much power in the hands of too few and but then in breaking up. We potentially would get more diversity that’s just my view peter. I think it’s popular do you think it’s time to have legal remedies against some of these things i’ve been agnostic about this i’m afraid i’m a pretty light user of social media. Myself so i don’t have i don’t i don’t engage really deeply with the issue. I think that um. We’ve seen this pattern of of of industrial commercial development being repeated since the 19th century and the rise of huge companies in the united states like standard oil and every so often a company becomes large. It dominates it attracts political attention and then um. The lawmakers act. I’m sure that is going to happen now. But i think it’s much harder to regulate social media than it is to deal with a company that makes gasoline. Yeah thank you very much music monica. Thank you and thank you peter and claire and i think it’s fair to say that the consensus here was that this cultural push in many western institutions strikes at liberal values. And i have to say that tonight. We’ve heard from brave and sound scholars. Who stand up against this illiberalism of cancer culture. So with that please join me in thanking claire layman. Peter kirdi and monica wilkie music you
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