Society/Culture Has cancel culture gone too far?

Sweet Jesus

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In the days after 9/11, a major US radio chain called Clear Channel circulated an internal memo blacklisting certain songs deemed "lyrically questionable" in light of the attacks in NYC. It included a bunch of AC/DC songs but also, bizarrely, John Lennon's Imagine.

It seemed crazy to me at the time. But here we are 20 years later and this impulse to "protect" audiences from content deemed problematic or potentially offensive/hurtful has gone into overdrive.

Don't get me wrong: I can accept the arguments for classifying pornography and removing ISIS beheading videos from Youtube or Twitter. I'm talking about Gone With The Wind being removed by HBO because of its questionable portrayal of African Americans, slavery and the civil war.

"These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today, and we felt that to keep this title up without an explanation and a denouncement of those depictions would be irresponsible," the HBO spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that when the film returns to HBO Max, it "will return with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions," and will be presented "as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed".

This is insane. Are we seriously going to re-examine every piece of film, music or literature and then repackage it with an accompanying "cultural health warning" based on the standards of 2020? Careful, this contains hazardous materials.

Apparently Little Britain also falls into the same category, deemed "unseeable" by the BBC streaming service.

The content has already been produced, distributed and widely consumed. What risk are these outlets trying to mitigate by removing these newly problematic programmes? Is HBO worried that by continuing to screen Gone With The Wind they would be tacitly endorsing racism? It is nothing but pandering to some imaginary consensus about what is now acceptable or unacceptable. People can make up their own minds. They don't need to be spoonfed a set of pre-approved objections.

When the Nazis started burning books it was, as Goebbels said, "to commit to the flames the evil spirit of the past". A great purge of anything no longer approved. Of course, the Nazis did a lot of other far worse things so this is not intended as a direct comparison. People pushing for these cancellations are not literally as bad as Nazis, obviously. Rather, it is to emphasise the fundamentally illiberal spirit of taking texts and seeking to erase them because they do not align with the new pieties of the day. That's why it was bad for Nazis to burn books. That's why it came to typify the malignancy of the Nazis' worldview. You need only see them burning books and you know something has gone awry.




Of course, on Amazon you can still buy a copy of Mein Kampf. And you can access unlimited pornography any time you're online, so I've heard. But heaven forbid you watch Gone With The Wind, lest you be triggered by the mores of 1930s Hollywood. Where does it end? Maybe start by revoking the Oscar awarded to child rapist Roman Polanski. But that's another story, I guess.

Jonathan Haidt has written a great deal about this phenomenon of "safetyism" - the idea that words or content can constitute "violence". And that people have some right to be protected from offending material. There's a lot of him on YouTube but here are a couple of appearances he made on Sam Harris and Joe Rogan promoting his most recent book, The Coddling of the American Mind.

Please share further examples of cancel culture gone too far. And although I accept that this current spate of cancel culture is generally an expression of the preoccupations of the regressive left or "wokeness", any RWers tempted to insist they're immune would do well to remember the Dixie Chicks and Colin Kaepernick. Both cancelled for their transgressions against RW versions of political correctness.

 
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Seeds

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In the days after 9/11, a major US radio chain called Clear Channel circulated an internal memo blacklisting certain songs deemed "lyrically questionable" in light of the attacks in NYC. It included a bunch of AC/DC songs but also, bizarrely, John Lennon's Imagine.

It seemed crazy to me at the time. But here we are 20 years later and this impulse to "protect" audiences from content deemed problematic or potentially offensive/hurtful has gone into overdrive.

Don't get me wrong: I can accept the arguments for classifying pornography and removing ISIS beheading videos from Youtube or Twitter. I'm talking about Gone With The Wind being removed by HBO because of its questionable portrayal of African Americans, slavery and the civil war.




This is insane. Are we seriously going to re-examine every piece of film, music or literature and then repackage it with an accompanying "cultural health warning" based on the standards of 2020? Careful, this contains hazardous materials.

Apparently Little Britain also falls into the same category, deemed "unseeable" by the BBC streaming service.

The content has already been produced, distributed and widely consumed. What risk are these outlets trying to mitigate by removing the newly problematic content? Is HBO worried that by continuing to screen Gone With The Wind they would be tacitly endorsing racism? It is nothing but pandering to some imaginary consensus about what is now acceptable or unacceptable. People can make up their own minds. They don't need to be spoonfed a set of pre-approved objections.

When the Nazis started burning books it was, as Goebbels said, "to commit to the flames the evil spirit of the past". A great purge of anything no longer approved. Of course, the Nazis did a lot of other far worse things so this is not intended as a direct comparison. People pushing for these cancellations are not literally as bad as Nazis, obviously. Rather, it is to emphasise the fundamentally illiberal spirit of taking texts and seeking to erase them because they do not align with the new pieties of the day. That's why it was bad for Nazis to burn books. That's why it came to typify the malignancy of the Nazis' worldview. You need only see them burning books and you know something has gone awry.




Of course, on Amazon you can still buy a copy of Mein Kampf. And you can access unlimited pornography any time you're online, so I've heard. But heaven forbid you watch Gone With The Wind, lest you be triggered by the mores of 1930s Hollywood. Where does it end? Maybe start by revoking the Oscar awarded to child rapist Roman Polanski. But that's another story, I guess.

Jonathan Haidt has written a great deal about this phenomenon of "safetyism" - the idea that words or content can constitute "violence". And that people have some right to be protected from offending material. There's a lot of him on YouTube but here are a couple of appearances he made on Sam Harris and Joe Rogan promoting his most recent book, The Coddling of the American Mind.

Please share further examples of cancel culture gone too far. And although I accept that this current spate of cancel culture is generally an expression of the preoccupations of the regressive left or "wokeness", any RWers tempted to insist they're immune would do well to remember the Dixie Chicks and Colin Kaepernick. Both cancelled for their transgressions against RW versions of political correctness.

Great post.

like the haidt reference.

as for examples:

jk rowling being cancelled for stating the dictionary meaning of women on twitter.

seeds thread about jk rowling being cancelled was also recently cancelled.

Liam neeson for admitting to having brief racist thoughts when someone he knew was raped twenty five years ago.

johnny depp was cancelled for having an argument with his spouse who then made stuff up.
 
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Sweet Jesus

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jk rowling being cancelled for stating the dictionary meaning of women on twitter.

seeds thread about jk rowling being cancelled was also recently cancelled.

Liam neeson for admitting to having brief racist thoughts when someone he knew was raped twenty five years ago.

johnny depp was cancelled for having an argument with his spouse who then made stuff up.
Were they cancelled though?

People can criticise someone who does/says something they find disagreeable. Cancel culture is something beyond that.
 

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Sweet Jesus

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What's wrong with adding context to a film? Education is good. If you don't want to hear the editorial next time GWTW is shown, skip it.
Why is the film in its current state deemed unseeable?

Are you going to go through every film, novel, TV show and song in history and add "context" for the sake of "education"?

These texts were conceived and produced to stand alone. Why do we now believe they need to be annotated to be fit for consumption? If people want that extra information, they are free to seek it themselves. Why does it have to be pre-emptively delivered like lung cancer warnings on a packet of cigarettes?

Where does it end?

Every copy of Nabokov's Lolita should be seized and destroyed. If it is republished, it should come with a publisher's note that provides "context" about the importance of consent. Because education.

Some people are "uncomfortable" with the language in To Kill A Mockingbird. And Huckleberry Finn. Better not teach them in schools unless they're republished with notes about "context".

Ultimately you create a broader, more elastic template to enable censorship and purity tests. You create a framework for fundamentalists to object on the grounds of blasphemy. It's illiberal and it won't end well.
 
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iBeng

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Its sort of a mob mentality plus the desire to be seen as virtuous. It makes it harder for legitimate victims to be identified in many cases and just leads to social and online pile ons that lead to no benefit for anyone.
 

PP34

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It’s very scary that people are suddenly finding movies like Gone With The Wind too offensive to view and refusing to use a bit of intelligence to put things in historical context or learning about the context.

Far out. Are people that lazy or stupid now that they can’t seriously watch a movie or read a book from decades ago and quickly come to the conclusion that things were a lot different back then?

I watch plenty of old movies. How can you not be well aware that you’re going to be seeing stuff that wouldn’t fly today? Society is always progressing.

I swear people are getting dumber.
 

PP34

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What's wrong with adding context to a film? Education is good. If you don't want to hear the editorial next time GWTW is shown, skip it.
Who the hell should need context for a film made in 1939?

If it is a child watching then surely their parents should be bright enough to explain the time when the film was made.

If an adult goes to the effort to watch this film and is too stupid to comprehend why things in the movie are the way they are then they are beyond help. Use your brain or if you are totally devoid of any sliver of knowledge about 20th century history, spend 30 seconds on Google. Far out.
 

Sweet Jesus

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If you start revoking and annotating texts because of "racial offence", what do you say when the fundamentalists ask you to do it citing "religious offence"?

These purity tests are creating a basis for blasphemy complaints.

I mean, maybe The Satanic Verses should never have been published, right? Salman Rushdie offended some hardline Muslim fundamentalists so maybe it simply shouldn't have been available for anyone to read in the first place. Right?

Also, the Taliban probably isn't super keen on Lady Gaga.

Which kinds of offence are we meant to take seriously? Which ones should we privilege or ignore?

The answer to this used to be: chill out, live and let live. No hardcore porn on FTA television and no snuff films but otherwise make up your own minds. If Gone With The Wind triggers you, don't watch it. No one is forcing you. Everyone else can do as they please and we don't need to insert a public health warning to stop them from joining the KKK after seeing it.
 
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iBeng

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If you start revoking and annotating texts because of "racial offence", what do you say when the fundamentalists ask you to do it citing "religious offence"?

These purity tests are creating a basis for blasphemy complaints.
Oh, see, when RELIGIOUS people call out things its their right as free speech. But if someone else calls out a RELIGIOUS thing as bullshit, thats religious persecution and just disgusting!
 

Sweet Jesus

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Oh, see, when RELIGIOUS people call out things its their right as free speech. But if someone else calls out a RELIGIOUS thing as bullshit, thats religious persecution and just disgusting!
The religious hypocrisy is obvious.

My concern is creating a framework where anyone who claims offence now gets the right of veto over a text.

If you withdraw Gone With The Wind over concerns about "racial insensitivity", you open the door to complaints about "religious insensitivity", having already abandoned the liberal principles that would otherwise supersede those complaints.
 

iBeng

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The religious hypocrisy is obvious.

My concern is creating a framework where anyone who claims offence now gets the right of veto over a text.

If you withdraw Gone With The Wind over concerns about "racial insensitivity", you open the door to complaints about "religious insensitivity", having already abandoned the liberal principles that would otherwise supersede those complaints.
Disney Plus gets around this by putting a blurb before the show. I think in this day and age we forget that parents are a major factor in how the next generation is going to act. Sitting your child down and saying "This is a movie from a long time ago, there are things in it you'll see that dont make sense or that we dont do now and thats a good thing. If you have any questions, you can ask during or after the movie and we'll chat about it."

Of course there are situations where this is a bit different. A statue celebrating a known violator of human rights is very different to a story told in a time when things were, unfortunately, acceptable by those days standards.

End of the day, not everyone is going to be satisfied and someone will ALWAYS find offence at something. What you decide to do with that offence is the big kicker here.
 

Malifice

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Why is the film in its current state deemed unseeable?
It's not. Pretty sure you can buy it, or even watch it online if you want.

HBO (and HBO alone) who own rights to the film have decided to temporarily remove it (they expressly stated this was temporary) in order to create an appropriate caveat/ warning/ context text for when it's re-uploaded in the near future.

They're hardly the first. Disney did this a while ago with a lot of their films to explain/ caveat/ warn about the ridiculously racist stereotypes in its films (most notably the ridiculously offensive black crows in the animated 1941 film, Dumbo):



Disney even named the main Crow 'Jim Crow' which is the name of the Civil rights era segregation laws!

That's the worst of recent times by Disney, and the product of far less enlightened times, but it's not the only one.
 

Sweet Jesus

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It's not. Pretty sure you can buy it, or even watch it online if you want.
Deemed unseeable by HBO.

Clearly that's what we're discussing. Did you really need me to clarify that I was talking about the company that pulled it?

HBO (and HBO alone) who own rights to the film have decided to temporarily remove it (they expressly stated this was temporary) in order to create an appropriate caveat/ warning/ context text for when it's re-uploaded in the near future.
Was this not clear in the OP?

They're hardly the first.
Yeah I don't think I said HBO were the first. It is a recent example of an increasingly pervasive trend.
 

iBeng

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Its also good to remember that Disney is, and always has been, a commercial venture and so would have produced things palatable to the times in order to procure as much profit as possible. They were not an organisation interesting in driving social change. They were fine with using stereotypes that made people laugh and made their profits...better.
 

Malifice

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Deemed unseeable by HBO.
No it's not. From your own OP:

The spokesperson added that when the film returns to HBO Max, it "will return with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions," and will be presented "as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed".
That's hardly them deeming it 'unseeable'. They specifically stated that they will be returning it to HBO as it was originally created, simply with a denouncement of the racist stereotypes it contains.

They're briefly pulling the film, to work on an appropriate caveat (like what Disney have put up) for the film that it contains racist stereotypes.
 

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