Cancelling China (2)

In part 1 of this mini-series, I mentioned David Potts’s comments on China from an earlier post, promising to respond more directly to them. DP’s comments on China fall into three parts: a condemnation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on grounds of its systematic disrespect for human rights; an accusation of hypocrisy against activists for their relative indifference to China’s human rights record; and a skeptical shrug of the shoulders about collective action against China.

I put my summary response to his argument this way in part 1:

Either his remarks are meant to rebut my claims or not. If they are, I don’t see how they do; if they’re not I don’t see why they’re there.

I’m going to focus here on the first of these conditionals, assuming that his remarks were intended to rebut my claims, and arguing that they don’t. Continue reading


Suppose I’m a judge in state (government) S1 and, in the judicial system of this state, due to cultural and institutional factors that do not prominently include explicit bigotry or anything like this, those in the non-dominant ethnic groups are twice as likely to get a death sentence than are those in the dominant ethnic group. If I’m in this position, it seems morally objectionable for me not to speak out and do something (or this or that specific thing) about the situation or my connection to it. It is not just that speaking out and doing something (or some particular thing like organizing for change or quitting) is morally best, morally ideal, apt for moral praise (as supererogatory acts are).

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Cancelling China (1)

In his post critiquing my original post on cancellation, David Potts has a long passage about the politics of our dealings with the People’s Republic of China (the PRC). Instead of quoting it at length right now, I mention it as preface to what I want to say about China in this post; I’ll respond directly to DP’s comments in part 2 of this post. For now, suffice it say that one of the things I find puzzling is how DP’s discussion of China relates to, or rebuts, anything I’ve said in defense of cancellation. Either his remarks are meant to rebut my claims or not. If they are, I don’t see how they do; if they’re not, I don’t see why they’re there. But let me save the development of that thought for part 2. For now, I want to say something more directly about the idea of cancelling the PRC. The tl;dr here is: I’m all in. The PRC is on my list of countries that badly need to be cancelled. Continue reading

Cancellation and the Great Resignation

I realize that I’m very late on responding to comments, but my plan is to press forward with all the cancellations on my initial list (still a handful left), then double back to respond to comments. I wish I had the time to do both things at once–post and comment–but I don’t. Cancel me.

In a pair of earlier posts on cancellation, I described “cancellation” (as currently used in specifically ideological disputes) as an “anti concept” designed to cast unwarranted aspersions on the concept and practice of moral accountability outside of legal contexts, and defined “cancellation” (in a broader, and to my mind more legitimate sense) as “the nullification of a prior arrangement or expectation on grounds of justice.” The existing understanding of “cancellation,” as conceived by its critics is, in my view, tendentious and question-begging: it identifies ill-conceived or badly executed cancellations with cancellations as such, then insists, by repeated iterations of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy, that no cancellation qualifies as a “true” cancellation unless it’s ill-conceived or misapplied by the critic’s standards. Continue reading

To Cancel or Not to Cancel

To cancel, or not to cancel, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.

–Hamlet* in Shakespeare*’s Hamlet*

That’s the question, all right. For some reason, critics of cancellation seem to be under the impression that advocacy of cancellation in some cases requires advocacy in all, or at least advocacy that leads to a slippery slope involving all. The one claim is an obvious misinference, the other a much bigger assertion than its proponents have proven, or even tried to prove. To argue as they do is like claiming that litigation either entails or necessarily leads to frivolous lawsuits, or that law enforcement either entails or necessarily leads to abuse. No one (or almost no one) thinks that when it comes to litigation, arrest, or prosecution. And yet, when it comes cancellation, they do. Continue reading

Excuse Me While I Kiss This Guy

“Dude, holy shit! Those guys are gay! They’re holding hands…they’re actually gay!”
–Me to my cousin Waseem, on our first visit to Greenwich Village, summer 1981

“Dude, was Hendrix gay? How is that even possible? What if a lot of people are gay?”
–My cousin Waseem to me, on mishearing “Purple Haze” later that summer

I’m going to assume from the outset that homosexuality is morally on par with heterosexuality. If so, gay relationships and families are morally on par with straight ones, and those who denigrate either are guilty of a bigotry of sexual orientation. Bigotries of sexual orientation, like those of race or gender, are an injustice whose advocates and supporters deserve, among other things, cancellation.

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Prolegomenon to Any Future Cancellation that Claims the Mantle of Social Justice

As someone who lacks permanent housing, I spend a lot of time in public places. One of them is the public library, which I regard as a second home. So I’m sensitive to how the public library is run. The library I happen to frequent, the Princeton Public Library, is one of the nicest in the state, in one of the most affluent communities in New Jersey. Naturally, it’s heavily patrolled by private security guards. I have no objection to the use of private security guards, or even to the idea of their heavily patrolling the library. What I object to are double standards when it comes to what they do.  Continue reading

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.)

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