CounterCurrent: Week of 6/21
“Cancel culture,” a new form of mob rule used to enforce progressive orthodoxy in, well, everywhere, has grown all too common in American higher education. Administrators, students, and even professors run the risk of “cancellation” whenever expressing views deemed out of step with the ideological homogeneity dominating our colleges and universities.
We’ve all seen it happen: a professor says, publishes, or even Tweets an allegedly controversial statement, and the “anti-racist” barbeque gets started. Students create petitions to demand that their teacher is fired; colleagues condemn their peer’s views as “perpetuating” one of the myriad “isms” or “phobias” seen as heretical by the modern left; and college administration gives in to the mob’s demands, punishing the “culprit.”
To be sure, some of the aforementioned statements are unsavory and may be worthy of institutional discipline. But the vast majority are not. And yet, woke higher education bureaucrats show an eager willingness to placate the angry students and professors insisting that “justice” be served. Meanwhile, “cancelees” have their professional reputations permanently sullied and, in many cases, ruined.
A recent example of “academic cancellation” is the case of Kathleen Lowery, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Alberta. Professor Lowery is a self-described "gender-critical feminist," that is, she does not believe that transgender identity should supercede biological sex in public policy decisions. For example, she has said that “housing trans-identified men in women’s prisons is not fair to women prisoners and I think it puts women at risk.” Seems pretty reasonable.
And yet, Professor Lowery has been canceled. She expressed this view to one of her classes in order to expose students to varying opinions on sex and gender identity, causing some to “feel uncomfortable” and report Lowery’s alleged transphobia to administration. Two months later, she was informed of her dismissal from the university, effective July 1, 2020.
Cancel culture in higher education has reached crisis levels. That’s why NAS has decided to track cancellations and record them in a downloadable archive, to expose administrative malfeasance and provide concerned scholars and citizens with a helpful resource. In this week’s featured article, I expound further on the nature of cancel culture and present our current list. I write:
The threat to academic freedom is obvious: when those within academia are unable to contradict progressive orthodoxy, the disinterested pursuit of truth is lost. Reasoned scholarship is traded in for the cheap, vapid substitute of political activism. And in the long run, higher education itself dies.
Those who violate academic freedom must be called out, publicly exposed, and permanently marked for their misbehavior. Ideally, violators’ sullied reputations will then limit their ability to inflict further damage. This is not to form a counter-mob in opposition to the current one, but rather to hold the guilty parties responsible in the court of public opinion. Let the punishment fit the crime.
NAS needs your help to cancel the cancel culture. If you know of academics not in our archive facing the mob for running afoul of the campus thought police, please email us at [email protected].
CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’ weekly newsletter, written by Communications & Administrative Associate John David. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.