Many public figures, including the signatories of an open letter published in Harper’s Magazine, are criticizing the “illiberalism” of cancel culture spreading across American society as a threat to democracy. The Harper’s letter was signed by 153 journalists, academics, and public figures, and drew its own firestorm of public controversy and criticism.
“Cancel culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.” (Dictionary.com)
1. If you believe that some ideas are too offensive or too dangerous to be expressed, how do you distinguish those ideas? What ideas are worthy of cancellation? Who decides?
2. Why is the freedom of speech intrinsically valuable? When can the value of free speech be over-ridden by other competing values?
3. Why does “cancelling” someone sometimes backfire? Should it still be done even if you know that it will backfire?
4. What is really at stake in arguments over cancel culture?