October 25, 2023

Gaza and Cancel Culture

“Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen said on Saturday a Jewish organization in New York City canceled a reading he was due to give on Friday without explanation, a day after he said he signed an open letter condemning Israel's ‘indiscriminate violence’ against Palestinians in Gaza.” Reuters

“A concert of young Palestinian musicians was indefinitely postponed in London. The Boston Palestine Film Festival decided not to hold live screenings and went online. And in one of the most high-profile cancellations, a German literary organization called off an awards ceremony at the Frankfurt Book Fair to honor the Palestinian novelist Adania Shibli.” New York Times

“U.S. law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell [last] Tuesday rescinded job offers to law students who signed on to public statements supporting Palestine in the wake of Hamas’ deadly attacks in Israel…

“Davis Polk’s decision comes one week after Winston & Strawn said it had rescinded a job offer to former New York University Student Bar Association president Ryna Workman, after Workman wrote that ‘Israel bears full responsibility’ for Hamas’ deadly attack in Israel in an online SBA newsletter. Students at other universities, including Harvard, have also drawn condemnation from alumni and others over similar statements they issued in the aftermath of the Hamas attacks.” Reuters

See past issues

From the Left

The left argues that pro-Palestinian voices are unfairly being silenced and calls for protecting free expression.

“Obviously some people are, in fact, saying hateful and bigoted antisemitic things. Nguyen pretty clearly was not. He was articulating a standard left-wing foreign policy view that’s consistent with his overall leftist political commitments. Muddying the waters between these two things is, I think, an objectionable tactic, whether pursued by the left or the right…  

“It’s not the case that everyone who is vocally critical of Israel has a problem with Jewish people, but for obvious reasons, anti-Israel politics is kind of a flytrap for antisemites. In much the same way, it’s not racist to worry about street crime or to think that proactive policing is useful, but it’s definitely true that racists are attracted to this set of issues…

“But you can’t, like, x-ray a person’s brain and know the precise motives for their words or deeds. You can try to foster a culture that values debate and the exchange of ideas, or you can try to foster a culture that assumes the worst and tries to shut down or bully people. The former is a better path.”

Matthew Yglesias, Slow Boring

“As the civilian population of Gaza is starved and bombed, it is staggering to see the words and gestures of Palestinians and others calling for the protection of innocent people treated as threats. France has banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Berlin schools have instructed students not to wear the kaffiyeh. The British home secretary has suggested that waiving the Palestinian flag might be illegitimate…

“Palestinians are constantly told to condemn violence, but everything they do — from peacefully marching to the Gaza border in 2018, to organizing boycott campaigns, to putting on a play or writing a novel — is framed as an act of violence… The cynical capitalizing upon the horror of Hamas’s violence to invalidate all Palestinian voices is part of a campaign to constrict the space for empathy, thought, debate and truth.”

Ursula Lindsey, Washington Post

Regarding the students, “A dozen business leaders have demanded, Joe McCarthy–style, that Harvard release the names of students who belong to the organizations that signed the Hamas letter, ‘so as to insure [sic] that none of us inadvertently hire [sic] any of their members,’ according to Bill Ackman, CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management…

“People are getting ostracized or bullied into silence, and it’s got to stop. If you don’t like this article, go ahead and argue with it. But please don’t question my character, or endanger my safety, or try to get me fired, just because you disagree. It’s especially urgent not to apply such tactics in a university setting, because that’s where ideas come from. Let’s have more discussion, please, and less shouting. We might learn something.”

Timothy Noah, New Republic

From the Right

The right is focused on the students, and argues that support for Hamas is egregious enough to merit losing employment.

The right is focused on the students, and argues that support for Hamas is egregious enough to merit losing employment.

“Cancel culture is really not what many people claim it is. It ought to be properly understood as unfairly canceling normal people from their jobs for saying things that are at worst an apology level offense — such as a bad joke, a sexist comment, a racial epithet, or something similar. The point is that for most of the history of American life, you could apologize for these things and move on

“Normal people in this sense means: people outside public life, random students, small business owners and people who aren’t on TV. So Josh Hawley losing his book deal over big ideological differences is not cancel culture (he can and did get a new deal), but a random high school student who said a racial epithet at fifteen and lost her cheerleading scholarship is perhaps the perfect definition of cancel culture…

“[The standard is] elevated if you work in the field of media or politics, working in Congress or elsewhere in a prominent place…

“The letter signers have taken a clear political position in support of a terrorist military group who raped and murdered women, children and babies. There are consequences for that. There have always been consequences for that! If you drive into your job interview with a giant ISIS flag on the back of your Toyota pick-up, you’re probably not going to get the job!… That’s not new, and it’s not cancel culture.”

Ben Domenech, Spectator World

“A law firm's decision to withdraw job offers from law students who openly support acts of terrorism is a legitimate exercise of the firm's right to free association. Their actions are not merely reactions to unpopular opinions but a stand against associating with viewpoints that glorify terrorism. It's about making a conscious choice not to work with individuals whose values fundamentally conflict with universally accepted moral principles and the mission of that employer.”

Mark R. Weaver, Newsweek

“When the Covington high school boys wore their Make America Great hats in Washington, DC or when conservative Parkland student Kyle Kashuv was accused of using the n-word when he was 15, the repercussions were swift and unchallenged. The Covington boys had to sue to recover their reputations. Kashuv lost his acceptance offer from Harvard. The left set the rules and the rest of us abided by them…

“They canceled conservative speakers, they allowed the kids to target their political enemies for firing or general life destruction and now we’re supposed to take it easy on the very bullies that sullied our culture with their totalitarian methods. No, mutually assured destruction is the only way forward. Consequence culture, you say? Let’s see some.”

Karol Markowicz, Fox News

A libertarian's take

“Like most of you, I’m appalled by the idea that maybe terrorism is okay, if you target the right civilians. I’m mad at these people for saying awful, stupid things. I’m also mad that I now have to defend the worst of them from cancellation. Because make no mistake: What is being done, or at least attempted, is cancel culture

“Free speech is the cornerstone of our democracy, and free speech by definition requires protecting unpopular ideas. Since bad ideas are often unpopular, this will include protecting some bad ones — fighting them with good ideas, rather than threats… The world is not neatly divided into good people who deserve protection and irredeemably bad people who deserve anything they get; it is full of complicated, flawed human beings who can often be better, with a little bit of grace.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

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