Cancel culture cancels freedom of speech

A Tennessee lawyer was forced from his position by a state board because a lawyer he was investigating called him an “anti-Muslim bigot.”

TANDING BEFORE a playground, Dr. Jill Biden speaks during a ‘back to school’ tour of Shortlidge Academy in Wilmington, Delaware, on September 1.  (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
TANDING BEFORE a playground, Dr. Jill Biden speaks during a ‘back to school’ tour of Shortlidge Academy in Wilmington, Delaware, on September 1.
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
To be or not to be called “doctor” is not the question. The fury released by an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal and the questioning of responsibility of media following are of grave importance. Whether Jill Biden wants to be addressed as Dr. Jill or first lady and the merits of her dissertation are not my concern. However, the response to the WSJ op-ed by Joseph Epstein should concern us all.
“Those who cancel ideas and burn books end up canceling people and burning them as well,” stated Reed Rubinstein, lead general counsel for the US Department of Education in his introductory remarks in an online department event titled “What is to Be Done? Confronting a Culture of Censorship on Campus.” A short video of television news reports highlighted violent protest scenes on the campuses of UC Berkeley and SUNY Binghamton.
Cancel culture and woke have entered our lexicon. Intolerance to ideas by progressive ideology coupled with a desire to seek retribution by ostracizing those not sharing those views has become a threat to democracy and freedom of speech.
According to Robert King, presently serving as the United States Department of Education assistant secretary of postsecondary education, cancel culture is “dangerous to our democracy when administrators cave to the mob.” The tradition of vigorous debate and discussion is at the core of American values. Being silenced by those who do not agree with you stifles freedom of speech.
Academic freedom is based on the Bill of Rights which provides for freedom of speech. The emerging prominence of social progressives shuts out not only conservative voices but an academic’s ability to express his or her opinions.
Kristina Arriaga, a former commissioner on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, explained how laws become inefficient and useless if not culturally supported. We are told being a dissenter is actually a threat to the tribe, a threat to our way of life. It was reported that 63% of Americans are afraid to speak their mind because they might offend someone.
We are polarized right now. It is a vital human right to speak out. No one can take what is in our minds and hearts away from us. “Silencing is not good,” emphasized the human rights expert.
A Tennessee lawyer was forced from his position by a state board because a lawyer he was investigating called him an “anti-Muslim bigot.”
A meme against Joe Biden roused a complaint against a veteran elementary principal who was then removed by the school board. Postings on her private social media, including support for the police and Republican candidates, were reasons given to force her resignation.
A former supervisor of special education in Pennsylvania was forced to resign after reposting criticism of Black Lives Matter on Facebook for ignoring black conservatives, black unborn babies and black police officers.
“The animosity against ‘Israel’ on campus, used to mask animosity against Jewishness, did not cease, even as the classroom was replaced with the Zoom call,” wrote Blake Flayton in “The Hate Can’t Be Contained” for Tablet. His article contains a long list of incidents against Jewish students in leading US universities, from coast to coast.
In response to US university professor and student harassment, the US Department of Education recently initiated a hotline to report abuse and seek assistance. The new hotline – [email protected] – is open to emails reporting abuse on campus.
Cancel culture mobs have taken down statues and barricaded streets while rioting to defund police. Rewriting history by removing “offending” books from library shelves and scrubbing names from buildings has already occurred. Thomas Wolfe’s You Can’t Go Home Again is one of his books removed. Flannery O’Connor, Mark Twain and others are being banned because of cancel culture. American literature is being destroyed by political correctness.
Whether the new US administration will be strong enough to hold off the threat to free speech and democracy is a question that should concern us all.
The author is a freelance photojournalist and writer originally from the US, for the past 14 years based in Jerusalem.