Cancel Culture — Salem Witch Trials Redux

Freedom of speech and expression is the indispensable foundation of a society of free individuals. Civilization cannot long survive without it any more than it can survive without food. As Rowan Atkinson so eloquently argued in his defense of free speech, it is the second most essential thing; the first being food in your mouth and the third being a roof over your head. I am afraid that the trend has not been good in that sphere and it is imperative that we fight for our freedoms. The mindless collective is the greatest threat humanity faces, not climate change or even total nuclear war.

I present to you Rowan Atkinson’s address to the British Parliament in 2012. In the last eight years or so since then, things have taken a decidedly negative trend.

He was speaking against something called “Public Order Act” under which

… you arrest anybody for saying anything that might be construed by anyone else as insulting. They don’t seem to need a real victim. They need only need to make the judgement that somebody could have been offended if they had heard or read what has been said. The most ludicrous degree of latitude the storms that surround Twitter and Facebook comment have raised some fascinating issues about free speech which we haven’t really yet come to terms with. Firstly, we all have to take responsibility for what we say which is quite a good lesson to learn. But secondly we’ve learned how appallingly prickly and intolerance some have become of even the mildest adverse comment. The law should not be aiding and abetting this new intolerance. Free speech can only suffer if the law prevents us from dealing with its consequences.

Here’s another video which deals with the contemporary poisonous “cancel culture.” Paul Joseph Watson posted his commentary  in August 2020. Quote:

Social media cancel culture is a form of public shaming. Social media cancel culture is a form of virtue signaling and the Salem witch trials were the original cancel culture in the era of me-too. We’ve also seen how false accusations driven by moral panic can ensnare totally innocent people but we’ve also observed how some of the biggest virtue signalers for me-too turned out to be actual rapists and sexual abusers. Self-righteousness is always a marker for secret creepiness. The people yelling the loudest are usually hiding the most. If someone’s twitter feed is almost entirely retweets for woke causes, watch out. It’s someone’s primary motivation is them self-aggrandizing their own righteousness.

Watson leads his presentation above with a paper titled Signaling Virtuous Victimhood as Indicators of Dark Triad Personalities (© 2000 American Psychological Association) by Ekin Ok, et al. Well worth a quick read of the first part. Quote from the paper:

… we propose that claiming victim status, an act we refer to as victim signaling, also allows victims to pursue an environmental resource extraction strategy that helps them survive, flourish, and achieve their goals in situations that are responsive to their claims. By resource extraction we mean that resources are transferred from either individuals or larger institutions (e.g., the state, organization) to the person who signals victimhood. There are many resources that can be transferred to someone claiming victim status, and so we use the term resource broadly to refer to any material (e.g., money, jobs, access to education) and/or symbolic (e.g., respect, tolerance, compassion) assets that one party possesses and that another party wants to acquire.

We argue that contemporary Western democracies have become particularly hospitable environments for victim signalers to execute a strategy of nonreciprocal resource extraction because several features of these societies make victimhood potentially advantageous.

The Western liberal democracies are failing to push back against the evils that were actually defeated during the Enlightenment. It seems that they are regressing toward third rate repressive countries. Americans have to protect the Bill of Rights, especially the First Amendment, if America has to survive the coming Dark Years of the new administration.

Be afraid, be very afraid. And fight for freedom because the alternative to living in chains is not preferable to death.

Author: Atanu Dey


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