Novak Djokovic: Cancelled

I’ve defended both the idea of cancellation in the abstract, as well as specific cancellations, done in specific ways, on this blog. My critics have done an end-run around what I’ve actually said about cancellation, as well as the examples I’ve adduced, focusing on the unintended consequences of cancellation that lead, or supposedly lead, to “lynch mobs,” the “thought police,” and the like.*

I still have a great deal more to say about cancellation as both a philosophical and a historical matter, but in honor of one of the greatest cancelers in American history, Martin Luther King Jr (whose birthday is celebrated tomorrow), I’ve decided to descend to casuistry and inaugurate Cancel Week: a week of posts devoted to nothing but cancellations and anti-cancellations. (Sotto voce confession: I have a lot more than seven examples at my disposal, so this “week” may last awhile. But if revolutionism entails revisionism, revisionism about the meaning of “week” is to be expected.)

A “cancellation,” as I understand it, is the nullification of a prior expectation or arrangement on grounds of justice. An “anti-cancellation” is the rejection of a proposed cancellation for failing to satisfy the criteria for a justified cancellation. My aim across this mini-series is to illustrate the distinction between justified and unjustified cancellations in particular cases.

The definition of “cancellation” I’ve adopted follows ordinary usage as described by several online dictionaries, and also coheres with the ordinary idea of a cancellation, a topic I’ve belabored here at PoT. Ideological cancellations are a species of cancellation alongside ordinary cancellations (e.g., of appointments). Media hype aside, there’s no reason to treat “cancellation” as a sui generis phenomenon rather than a fairly ordinary phenomenon motivated by different-than-usual considerations.

Mild digression: I do workflow for health care organizations–including Scheduling, Insurance Verification and Authorization, Billing, and Denials–and I can say with some confidence that patients cancel medical appointments every day to the tune of thousands, for reasons far less justified than many ideological cancellations. Similarly, insurance companies deny reimbursement for medical treatment–also a kind of cancellation by my definition–on egregiously frivolous or unjustified grounds, also to the tune of thousands, every day.

These “ordinary” cancellations are (to put it mildly) at least as disruptive to business and clinical operations in health care organizations, and to people’s lives generally, as many ideological cancellations. But they don’t figure in the reckonings of critics of “woke culture,” because such critics have defined their terms in such a way as to facilitate cherry-picking about evidence: political activism, as they see it, is a sui generis evil; hence, ideological cancellation is a sui generis manifestation of this evil. How it is that the trials and tribulations of a handful of intellectuals victimized by left-wing activists have come to dominate our discourse and define the very meaning of “cancellation” is, as far as I can see, an unsolved mystery.

There are of course hard cases involving cancellation, as there are in the application of any rule or principle to anything, but overall, the practice of cancellation is not nearly the mystery or object of terror that my critics have made of it. The examples I intend to bring up this “week” are intended to illustrate my point just as well as, if not better than, lengthy philosophical disquisitions about would-be principles and would-be cases (not that I intend to skimp there). In this respect, my Cancel Week (or however long it ends up being) mini-series serves the same purpose as the many examples I’ve adduced of character-based voting, examples likewise undiscussed by critics of that idea.

Novak Djokovic is a Serbian tennis star who was recently invited to compete in the Australian Open. He has, in general, a rather loopy, pseudo-scientific worldview, and has expressed some offensively idiotic views about politics, mostly of a right-wing Serbian nationalist nature. I find the first of these silly, and the second morally contemptible, but both things are irrelevant to the cancellation I have in mind.

More to the point: Djokovic tested positive for COVID-19 in December 2021, has refused to get vaccinated, and, in applying for entry to Australia, misrepresented relevant facts on his travel application form. In doing these things, he flagrantly and obviously violated the legal conditions for entry into Australia. He also violated what I would regard as canons of ordinary decency and common sense. Yet such pedestrian matters seem not to be of consequence to Djokovic, who regards himself as above ordinary ethical or rational considerations.**

Despite failing to satisfy the conditions on entry into Australia, Djokovic insisted on making an abortive attempt on entering the country, was predictably denied entry, and on being denied, initiated a frivolous lawsuit with the intention of challenging the denial. The facts are laid out in this piece by Jemele Hill in The Atlantic, and in many other places in the mainstream press.

The relevant facts are easily mastered. In essence, there are only two sets of relevant facts: Djokovic failed to satisfy the conditions on entry, and knew it; the Australian authorities had both the legal (and to my mind, moral) authority to deny him entry, and did.*** None of these sets of facts is in dispute, even by Djokovic. His response to them appears, transparently, like an act of infantile petulance justified, if that’s the right word, by a series of non-sequiturs, appeals to pseudo-science, and descents into special pleading. Though Djokovic was initially granted an exception by the Australian authorities, and relied on it, no legitimate reason has been adduced for having granted this exception in the first place. His reliance on it, through regrettable, cannot be an argument for holding public health hostage to an ill-considered decision that lacked a rational basis from the outset.

Djokovic was eventually barred from entering Australia after a series of judicial hearings, but in my view, there was no need for this time- and money-wasting, and publicity-producing, expedient. Or rather, there was no need for legal proceedings to take place in lieu of non-legal ones. The non-governmental authorities governing the Australian Open could and should simply have cancelled Djokovic’s appearance at the Australian Open from the outset, barring him entry to the competition by early January. The relevant facts were clear a week, maybe two weeks ago. We can quibble about exactly when they became clear, but there is no disputing that they were clear days before the final judicial decision was handed down, and could have been acted on days before that decision, as well.

Cancelling Djokovic’s appearance at the tournament would not have barred him from entry into Australia per se (properly a government matter), but would have deprived him of a motivation for making entry, and also deprived him of a motivation for initiating his pointless lawsuit. It would also have demonstrated that the supposedly eminent people running the Australian Open have minds and principles of their own, rather than minds and motivations outsourced to the Australian government. Once Djokovic insisted that he intended to play at the Australian Open without being vaccinated, he should at that point have been cancelled, full stop. The idea of an “exception” should never have been entertained, whether by the authorities or by the organizers of the tournament. And if the exception had been granted by the authorities, it should have been overruled by the Australian Open. Djokovic was the one who politicized the Australian Open with the special pleading involved in demanding an exception to the rules. He should have been given a taste of his own medicine, so to speak.

That’s it. That’s my whole proposal for cancellation here. I’m not suggesting any more or less than what I’ve just suggested. No “vigilantes.” No “lynch mobs.” No Communist re-education camps or detention centers. No physical force whatsoever. No wholesale termination of Djokovic’s job, or of his career. No hysterical tweets on Twitter, or summoning of woke mobs. No attacks on his family, or on his Serb ethnicity. Indeed, I’m urging no further repercussions for poor, hapless Djokovic than exclusion from this one competition, plus public criticism tailored precisely to the facts (as per Hill’s article above). Is that really so terrible? Does he not deserve it? Does it really threaten a lynch mob? To refrain from issuing moral judgment and corresponding action for fear of how other people might misinterpret one’s views is in effect to engage in an act of self-cancellation. It’s to rig the world indefinitely to favor the status quo.

No one can reasonably say that Novak Djokovic is an inconsequential “pipsqueak,” much less that in calling for his cancellation, a junior business analyst with no permanent housing, no car, no savings, and mountains of debt, is somehow punching down.

Yet no one can dispute that what I’m urging is a cancellation, either. I described cancellation in a previous post as a matter of non-legalized accountability based on what people deserve for their thoughts and actions. The preceding proposal fits that description without descending, or implying any descent, into the parade of horribles that are reflexively invoked when cancellation is mentioned or advocated. If someone can explain why my proposal cannot be restricted to the appropriate target (and/or limited in the way that I’ve described), I’d be interested to hear it. But the answer has to be better than “just look around, and you’ll see that once you target Djokovic, the next step is the lynch mob.” It isn’t.

Does my proposal have the feel of a moralistic crusade? Yes, but I don’t regard that as objection.

Is it fueled by emotion? Emotion is involved, but I don’t see that the motivation involved can be reduced to an expression of nothing-but-emotion. I generally don’t care about sports, and prior to this episode, had little interest in Djokovic. I didn’t find it hard to restrain my emotions in this case, despite having some.

Is a moral principle involved? I think so, and think I’ve made plain how and why.

Are the rank and file ignorant of the facts? I don’t know, but don’t see why it matters, as long as I know them.

Is the expression of outrage cost-free? I don’t know. It’s taken me awhile to write this post. Even at my wage, I’d like to think that monetization of my time would involve a positive integer.

Is the target small in the sense of being soft or inconsequential? No.

Is the explosion short-lived? Hard to say, but to my mind, irrelevant.

Has there been an intense expression of public outrage? Yes, on both sides. Serbian nationalists are outraged that Djokovic was deported; many Australians are indignant that Djokovic made such a spectacle of himself. My sympathies are with the indignant Australians, but I think I’ve been impartial enough to think clearly about the matter.

Was the collective outrage driven by social media? Probably, but I regard that as irrelevant. A decision had to be made, and was made. The real issue, as I see it, is the abdication of moral judgment to lawyers throughout the case, on the assumption that lawyers are the only ones authorized to make moral judgments and enact them. As I see it, moral judgments should be made by moral agents qua moral agents, not by legalistic hacks trained in hair-splitting for high fees. When critics of cancel culture complain about “vigilantism,” what they’re actually promoting is a culture in which lawyers get a monopoly on moral matters, and one that reduces ordinary moral agents to spectators made subservient to the legalistic blather of hired guns for vested interests.

So, I so far don’t see the problem with cancellation.

There’s more to come. Stay tuned all week. And maybe even beyond. There’s no shortage of people to cancel. And anti-cancel.

*Most recently, I’ve defended the idea of canceling PornHub and other sites that rely on or facilitate human trafficking of children in pornography. The activist organization in question, Exodus Cry, has gotten Mastercard, among other companies, to sign on to their campaign. Mastercard is not exactly low hanging fruit. Neither is PornHub.

Previously (well before the Saudi-sanctioned murder of Jamal Khashoggi), I defended the idea of Muslims’ boycotting the lesser and major pilgrimages (umra and hajj) in Saudi Arabia, separately complaining of a double standard in the way the Saudi Arabia is discussed by advocates of cancellation as contrasted with Israel. In doing so, I predictably had to take issue with libertarian academics apparently opposed, on principle, to boycotts of any nature on grounds of (you guessed it) “academic freedom.”

Twenty-two years ago, I called on Princeton University to discontinue its study abroad program in the People’s Republic of China on grounds of…yes, academic freedom (scroll down to “Academic Freedom” in the preceding link). That fell on deaf ears, too. One critic called my proposal “fascistic.”

**This blog post, by an Australian legal firm, argues that Djokovic’s exclusion was “unreasonable.” What it shows is simply that procedural errors were made by the Australian authorities. But since discretion always rested, legally speaking, with the Minister for Immigration, and he ruled against Djokovic, there was no illegality. And since permitting Djokovic to enter the country on the basis of a confabulated “exception,” on false information, was a mistake from the outset, the Immigration Minister’s exercise of discretion served to correct the procedural error made in the first place. What these legalisms conceal is the abdication of moral responsibility by those in charge of the Australian Open, who should have canceled Djokovic on non-legal grounds prior to and independently of the Philistine nonsense engaged in by the legal authorities. It is simply a mistake to permit legal authorities to co-opt or pre-empt ordinary moral judgment in all cases.

***I’m assuming that full vaccination plays some (defeasible) role in stopping the spread of COVID-19 itself. It is, however defeasible, better than non-vaccination.

18 thoughts on “Novak Djokovic: Cancelled

  1. It’s good that you mentioned, even in a footnote, that you are assuming the mRNA treatments are actually effective in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 – because it means you recognize the possibility that it’s not true, and that your case depends on it being true. Alas, it isn’t. The firms making those treatments, and the public health authorities in several nations (who have mandated their use) have admitted that those treatments do not keep the patients from infection, or from transmitting the virus to others. Hence they are not vaccines in any sense that word carried before 2019. Their effect is, rather, in the event of the patient catching the disease, to reduce the severity of its symptoms, and so preserve the patient’s life.

    That being the case, the policy of Australia’s government to require travelers to the country to take those treatments, in the name of public health, is irrational. Indeed, “superstitious” would not be too strong a word for it. It would be as effective as requiring all travelers to Australia to burn a pinch of incense before a statue of Apollo and recite a prayer to him, in his aspect as god of medicine, to protect them from illness. The fact that Djokovic has recently had COVID-19 and recovered from it makes him less likely to infect anyone else than if he’d had the treatment but not the disease. The decision to take the treatment or not affects only his own health, and therefore is no one’s business but his.

    And, that being the case, it would be wholly unjustified for the Australian Open to rescind its invitation to Djokovic to play in the tournament. To do so would have been to endorse the government’s policy, which would be an injustice since that policy has no rational basis. In addition, since Djokovic is one of the foremost tennis players in the world just now, and the Australian Open is one of the four principal tennis tournaments in the world, his forced absence from it is an injury not just to him, but to the other players who were there to compete against him, and to the audiences who attend to see the best professionals in the sport exhibiting their skill. Naturally if there were a risk that Djokovic would spread a lethal disease if he came these injuries would be less important than the risk to public health, but no such risk actually exists.

    We can hardly say, then, that the Australian Open “abdicated its moral responsibility” by letting its invitation stand. They made a judgement, different from that of Australia’s government, about the relative risks involved; and on the facts as they stand, their judgement is better than the government’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing the transmission of that disease. The operative word is “effective” which does not imply PERFECT, and never has. No vaccine ever is expected to be 100% effective.

    This makes Irfan’s argument rock solid and Australia’s policy quite rational.

    The facts as they stand are that Djokovic should have gotten the vaccine, that the government should have never entertained allowing him into Australia, and the Australian Open’s officials abdicated their moral responsibilities.

    This “cancellation” was very much justified.

    sean s.


      • I think that, prior to Omicron, the vaccines were pretty effective in preventing infection, as indicated by the data you show. But it’s pretty clear that the game has changed. With Omicron, the situation seems to be pretty much as Michael Brazier says; namely, that the vaccines’ ability to prevent infection is quite reduced, although they still dramatically reduce the severity of the disease and the risk of hospitalization and death.

        Unfortunately, I don’t know of any “gold standard” analysis that shows this. But look at the data shown here:

        These data show a number of cases that has grown in the last three weeks to more than three times higher than it has EVER been! At the same time, deaths are low. These data are from the San Francisco Bay Area, where the vaccination rate is something like 80% or higher. They are what we should expect if vaccination isn’t very good at preventing infection but is good at preventing severity/death.

        More formally, here is a paper (not yet published or even through the review process) that attempts an analysis:

        Click to access 2022.01.03.21268111v1.full.pdf

        I learned about this paper from the best “Covid-Watcher” blogger I know, whose site is here:

        The link is to the post that cites the article.

        Relevant excerpt from the article:

        In this study, we demonstrate both markedly decreased neutralization in serology assays and real-world vaccine effectiveness in recipients of two doses of vaccine, with efficacy partially recovered by a third mRNA booster dose. We also show that immunity from natural infection (without vaccination) is more protective than two doses of vaccine but inferior to three doses. Finally, we demonstrate fundamental changes in the Omicron entry process in vitro, towards TMPRSS2-independent fusion, representing a major shift in the replication properties of SARS-CoV-2. Overall, these findings underlie rapid global transmission and may alter the clinical severity of disease associated with the Omicron variant.

        Our estimates of protection in the current GG&C cohort, whose median time since most recent dose is 5 months, were notably lower (Fig.4D). This waning of protection was evident for both variants, leading to very low levels of protection against Omicron in double vaccine recipients of ChAdOx1, BNT162b2 and mRNA-1273 (5.19%, 24.39% and 24.86% respectively). Our estimates for current protection against Omicron in recipients of a third booster dose of BNT162b2 or mRNA-1273 were much higher at 59.21% and 64.9%. We next estimated the additive protective effect of previous natural infection. Infection-acquired immunity directed against other VOCs may be broader in nature and may wane more slowly than that induced by vaccines. The level of protection following previous infection was 53.2% for Omicron, and 88.7% for Delta.


        • David;

          There’s nothing in the ABC news data to indicate the effect of vaccines; so that data does not tell us much at all about Omicron and vaccines. It is sheer speculation for you to opine on what the data tells us.

          Since this paper you referenced is still in review, it cannot be dismissed out-of-hand, but it’s premature to conclude anything from it. But even it only finds reduced effectiveness, not ineffectiveness. Other papers have come to different conclusions:

          Click to access 2021.12.10.21267594.full.pdf

 (this is also a preprint and is not through with peer-review)

          (H/T: Logic of Science)

          sean s.


          • Hi Sean,

            Actually, the ABC news data are powerful evidence that vaccination is not preventing the spread of Omicron. It is more convincing to me than the formal studies, because it’s hard to know exactly how a study was conducted, and—I hate to say it—researcher bias is a huge problem in medical research (as well as some other areas). The argument is simple: most people (some 80%) in the Bay Area are vaccinated, but cases are ten times what they were only a month ago. (They are about four times the highest they ever were before the advent of the vaccines.) For these cases to be coming only from the unvaccinated Bay Area population, Omicron would have to be 50 times more contagious than Delta. Safe to say that nobody thinks Omicron is anything like that much more contagious. Here is an article about fully vaccinated people getting Omicron. It says that “researchers” have concluded that Omicron is 2.7 to 3.7 times more contagious than Delta.

            That figure may be high. This article says “health experts” say Omicron could be 25% to 50% more contagious than Delta.

            As for the studies, I looked at the first three and then stopped, because they say the same thing as my study. This is gratifying, actually. It’s nice to see consistent results in this kind of research.

            The bottom line is that, if you’ve been quite recently vaccinated or gotten a booster, then vaccination is modestly effective (60% or maybe 70%) against Omicron, and otherwise you may as well not have bothered. (I am not against vaccines, by the way. I’m double vaccinated and got my booster a few weeks ago, and glad of it.)

            In the first study (UK Security Agency), see the chart on page 11. The second (NEJM) looks at people who are quite recently vaccinated. It estimates 70% effectiveness. The third (medRxiv preprint) has this to say (my emphasis):

            Overall, these analyses indicate that vaccine effectiveness against severe disease is significantly diminished for waned individuals, and protection against infection, symptomatic disease and transmission is nearly eliminated. However, third doses significantly ameliorate these reductions but only restore protection to levels equivalent to waned protection against the Delta variant. The invasion of Omicron is likely to result in widespread infection, and substantial hospitalizations unless widespread boosting of immunity occurs.


            • David;

              Your accounting of “powerful evidence” is light on evidence.

              it’s hard to know exactly how a study was conducted”; that is an Appeal to Ignorance; a classic fallacy. We provide training to turn students into experts, and then doubt their work because we don’t understand it. I’ll wager you have some kind of expertise; which you worked hard to acquire and keep. Imagine being told that your expert opinions are unreliable by someone who’s position was they were ignorant, so you are untrustworthy.

              researcher bias is a huge problem in medical research (as well as some other areas)” Your bias is showing, too. There is media bias too, it’s a huge problem; so shouldn’t we discount ABC’s news report? Then there’s your bias, and mine, and Michael B.’s, and Irfan’s. Bias needs to be on our radar always, but its existence does not presumptive invalidate otherwise good conclusions.

              Regarding the ABC news report: the population of the Bay Area is about 7.8 million; at an 80% vaccination rate, there are about 1.6 million unvaccinated persons in the Bay area. The spike in cases approaches 25,000 per day; or 2% of the unvaccinated. Doing the math on your own data would show you that it’s quite possible that the vast majority of new cases are from the unvaccinated. This is consistent with the proposition that the vaccines are effective. This becomes doubly apparent when you look at the deaths, which are averaging only about 10/day; well within the expected range of a population that is effectively vaccinated at an 80% rate.

              Here is an article about fully vaccinated people getting Omicron”. Since no informed person expected the vaccine to prevent 100% of cases within the vaccinated population, this is not news worthy. The fact that almost no vaccinated person dies, and few need hospitalization, is an expected effect of an effective vaccine.

              I am glad that you recognize the value and importance of vaccinations (I got my booster on Halloween). However, your conclusions are quite different from Michael Brazier’s; who referred to vaccines as little more than “superstitions”.

              Given the demonstrable effectiveness of the vaccines, it was very rational for the Government of Australia to require inbound travelers be vaccinated. Novak Djokovic (remember him?) was not vaccinated so refusing him entry was justified. If this harmed Djokovic in some way, well-he could have been vaccinated.

              sean s.


        • “They are what we should expect if vaccination isn’t very good at preventing infection but is good at preventing severity/death.”
          To be fair, they are also what we’d expect if the Omicron variant is considerably less severe in itself, and catching it confers natural immunity to the other variants. Which would be excellent news, as we could then allow Omicron to become endemic and stop using the “vaccines” altogether, except for people who are so close to dying already that the common cold would kill them.


          • Michael B;

            There’s no evidence that catching Omicron “confers natural immunity to the other variants”; it does not really work that way for other diseases; so expecting that for COVID is unrealistic. Vaccines will always be needed because there will always be people who, for medical reasons, cannot be vaccinated at all. That would include many of those in precarious health. We’ve been fighting Influenza for more than a century; we still need our flu shots; and Covid is much worse.

            sean s.


  3. Hi Irfan,

    Novak Djokovic was not canceled. Obviously. However, I think it is a useful exercise to try to say exactly why. It may help to sharpen our—or my, anyway—ideas about cancelation and what we’re really talking about here.

    “Cancelation,” as it appears in the phrase “cancel culture” and in the context of this particular debate does not have its ordinary meaning of “nullifying a prior expectation or engagement.” Rather, it is a term of art. It refers roughly to the public shaming and punishment of somebody for perceived moral transgressions. To call this “canceling” seems to have originated as a snarky metaphor.

    Interestingly, the online Merriam-Webster actually has an entry for “cancel culture” [] and also for “cancel” in the relevant sense. They aren’t bad definitions, but I don’t think a dictionary should be treated as authoritative here, because the term is new and contentious. What is the best way to define it is going to depend on what one thinks of a whole host of related issues.

    Anyway, let me tentatively propose the following criteria for cancelation.

    First, a cancelation is an attempt to do material and social harm to its target, which is generally an individual person. This can mean getting them censured, kicked out of an organization, deprived of some honor, fired from their job, etc.

    Second, the intended harm is conceived as punishment for moral offenses. These can be a matter of alleged misdeeds, but often it is a matter of having or expressing the “wrong” views, thoughts, or opinions. (It’s the latter sort of case that most concerns me.)

    Third and last, the attempt is made by a large number of people, whether organized or not. The practice is greatly facilitated by the ease of online communication and social media (without which indeed I don’t think “cancel culture” would exist).

    Given this characterization of cancelation, “cancel culture” refers to the widespread practice and acceptability of cancelation.

    By these criteria, Djokovic was not canceled by Australia or the Australian Open. They were not trying to “get” him or harm him at all. Nor were they trying to punish him. Nor does his offense seem to have been conceived in moral terms. On the other hand, I believe (or anyway I heard) there was a popular outcry about his being given an exception by the authorities. So, in this way, the third criterion seems to be at least partially satisfied. But the first two are not.

    The basic facts of this case are simple. It’s the Aussies’ country and their tournament. They can make the rules as to who may enter and participate. They decided Djokovic didn’t meet their criteria. Their criteria had to do with public health, specifically Covid vaccination policy, not moral transgression. It wasn’t a matter of whether Djokovic was a “bad person” or had “stepped over the line.” He wasn’t vaccinated, and they decided he didn’t qualify for an exception (although he met what other institutions have decided are sufficient criteria; namely, having had Covid). He was no more canceled than a person in San Francisco who isn’t allowed to eat in a restaurant because they aren’t vaccinated is “canceled.” Frankly, to speak of cancelation here seems ridiculous to me.

    It seems to me that you face the following problem. On the one hand, you want to endorse cancelation. On the other, you want to disavow the evil consequences on display in all the “cherry picking” examples that people like me keep bringing up. This is a problem because those unfortunate examples aren’t accidental; rather, they are exactly what we should expect to find cancelation resulting in. It seems that now your way out of this problem is to define cancelation as no different from canceling a doctor’s appointment. But this won’t do, because that’s just not what cancelation is.

    Hester Prynne was canceled. Hypatia was canceled. Djokovic was not canceled.


  4. The exception given (temporarily) to Djokovic raised moral and political issues, prompting the controversy; this satisfies your Second criteria.

    Depriving him of participating in the Australian Open caused him a harm; along with prize money, deportation deprived him of a chance to break the record for Grand Slam singles titles (hence his resistance to being send packing); this satisfies you First criteria.

    George Floyd was cancelled.
    Ahmaud Arberry was cancelled.
    Breonna Taylor was cancelled.
    Emmett Till was cancelled.
    Eric Garner was cancelled.
    The Black Wall Street of Tulsa, OK was cancelled.

    And on and on. There are some case for you to engage with.

    sean s.


    • Hi Sean,

      The first part of this does not merit a reply.

      As to your list of “cancelations,” I’d say only Emmett Till and the Tulsa race riot qualify. But what the hell— let them all in. Unless you approve of these actions, you would be making my point. You do get that, right? No, apparently not.


  5. So, David; direct responses to your criteria don’t merit a reply? Gottcha.

    You’d say of my list that “only Emmett Till and the Tulsa race riot qualify”. OK. If George Floyd was not cancelled, nor Ahmaud Arberry, Breonna Taylor, or Eric Garner, then Hypatia was not cancelled, neither was Justine Sacco or Walter Palmer. Thanks for that clarification.

    As for your point, the only significant thing we seem to disagree on is that malicious cancellation comes from all ideological stances. My point is, as always, that we need not look to 19th century fiction nor ancient history to find instances of cancellation.

    sean s.


    • sean samis: OK. If George Floyd was not cancelled, nor Ahmaud Arberry, Breonna Taylor, or Eric Garner, then Hypatia was not cancelled, neither was Justine Sacco or Walter Palmer…

      I think you missed David’s point, perhaps because you responded to only two of his stated criteria; he listed three (3).

      The third criterion he lists, “the attempt is made by a large number of people, whether organized or not,” is relevant to understanding why he includes the cases that he includes, and excludes the cases he excludes.

      The point is not that Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd (for example) is somehow less grave or severe of a wrong than, say, a bunch of angry people on Twitter publicly shaming Justine Sacco or getting her fired from her job and run out of polite society. It’s not; killing a man is more severe of a harm than shaming and ostracism. But the point is that David’s stated criteria don’t just have to do with grading wrongs as more severe or less severe, they also have to do with distinctions about who does the wrong, how many they are, and how they go about doing it.

      In general, his stated criteria would count harms that are committed by large groups of ordinary private citizens. They would not cover murders or violence in general, unless it had the aspect of mob violence, nor would they cover violence, oppression or murder committed by the police or other agents of the state. Not because those things aren’t bad, but because they are different kinds of bad things covered by different categories.


      • radgeekdotcom,

        There were at least four police officers on the scene when Floyd was murdered; all are morally if not legally culpable.

        Since David did not quantify what constitutes a “large number of people”: four armed, trained police officers publicly murdering a single man under color of law is arguably a crime committed by a “large number of people”. David did not quantify that number for good reasons, but it leaves the question unsettled. And to clarify: David did not limit his large number of people to “ordinary private citizens”. The police and the military are included in David’s criteria.

        One thing that is clear is that the term “lynching” has been used here repeatedly to refer to cancellations: these are over-the-top metaphors which are defended as fair characterizations of “cancellations”. So, how could those metaphoric lynchings be fairly considered “cancellation” but the far more literal lynching of George Floyd is not? If a lynching meets all three of David’s criteria, then it’s a cancellation by his definition.

        George Floyd was cancelled.

        sean s.


      • @radgeekdotcom

        Right, and thanks for trying to explain (however futile the endeavor).

        And the characterization of cancelation as a phenomenon of popular, not official (in the sense of being carried out by government officials), action was clearly implied by my criterion of a large number of people. And it has been the context of this whole discussion. Irfan has been clear that we are talking about popular, not official, action, and I have agreed.


  6. David,

    Thanks for your clarification: “cancelation as a phenomenon of popular, not official … action”.

    However, on Wednesday you wrote that, “only Emmett Till and the Tulsa race riot qualify” as cancellations. This contradicts your clarification because the Tulsa Race Riot was largely carried out by “official action”. To the best of my knowledge Tulsa is one of only two US cities to be intentionally attacked and bombed by military aircraft.

    The other, of course is Honolulu, Hawai’i. There may be others, but they are few in number.

    You also wrote (in a different comment on the 19th) that, “Djokovic was not canceled by Australia or the Australian Open” for reasons you then stated. That Australia acted “officially” was not among your reasons. This added vagueness to your rule regarding “official action”.

    Accepting your clarification requires rejecting your third criteria; if “a large number of people, whether organized or not” “attempts to do material and social harm to their target” as “punishment for moral offenses” there is no good reason to exclude this event from the category “cancellation” because of the occupations of the persons carrying it out.

    The only obvious purpose of this distinction is to put a barrier between “cancellations” and the events that often trigger them, to make them “a different topic”.

    Cancellations don’t happen in a vacuum. Irfan’s story and comments about the PPL is quite on point; cancellations happen for the most part because of unresolved social issues. If criminal “official actions” are a “different topic” then that topic must be part of any discussion about “cancellations”.

    sean s.


  7. Pingback: Cancellations and the Great Resignation | Policy of Truth

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s