Weekly Newsletter from Christian Vegetarian Association CVA - April 12, 2021
From Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

  1. Dangers of Cancel Culture part 2
  2. All-Creatures.org Ministry

1. Dangers of Cancel Culture part 2

This week, I will consider the argument that “cancel culture” is a legitimate means by which those with limited power can undermine elites who otherwise would be free to harm whomever they please. Historically, those with power have often abused their positions in ways that have harmed vulnerable human and nonhuman individuals. While most people continue to contribute directly or indirect to obscene abuse of nonhuman beings, there has been greater awareness of and response to routine harassment and abuse of some vulnerable humans, such as women and members of several minority groups. “Cancel culture” has empowered these humans and, hopefully, reduced harmful activities. For example, the “me too” movement has identified and punished numerous people (predominantly men) who have used their positions of power in government, business, and sometimes even social justice organizations to harasses subordinates sexually and in other ways.

A reconning was certainly in order, and I admire the many brave people who have come forward, told their stories, and helped create a more just society. Nonetheless, to the degree that justice can been procured by “cancel culture,” I have concerns.

First, the mob rule that characterizes “cancel culture” is a blunt and imprecise instrument for gaining justice. Sometimes the outrage of the mob is fully warranted, but sometimes mobs can be manipulated to serve nefarious ends. In the United States, the courts and the electoral process should be the means by which people, including those with limited economic and other sources of power, can obtain justice. Deference to the mob indicates a profound lack of faith in these institutions. Importantly, members of a relatively marginalized group should not welcome mob rule. It might be effective initially, particularly when the more powerful groups are caught by surprise. However, in the long run, the mobs of the majority will tend to overpower the mobs of the minority.

Second, I have been disturbed by how unforgiving those engaged in “cancel culture” have seemed. Jesus taught that we should forgive, and indeed many reprehensible racists, sexists, homophobes, speciesists etc. have come to acknowledge their past harmful ideologies and actions and become strong advocates for social justice. Nevertheless, even inadvertent or misinterpreted “missteps” have led to calls for dismissals, firings, and other severe consequences. For example, a UCLA professor was suspended and then removed from a course for mentioning a Mandarin (Chinese) word meaning “that,” which, he had never before realized, happens to resemble a racial epithet. The restrictions of free speech on university campuses are most disconcerting, because universities should exemplify the virtues of free inquiry, discussion, and debate. If they fail to promote these values, they should not garner public support.

Third, the anonymity of the Internet makes it easier for people to be mean. People can indulge unsavory human desires that would be restrained if there were fear of consequences. Indeed, it has seemed that some people derive a certain sense of pleasure from ruining the careers of other people. This appears to be analogous to the pleasure some people derive from hunting – a sense of power that evidently comes from overpowering and profoundly changing the life story of another individual. This gives a sense of superiority, which enhances self-esteem and is a salve against the universal fear of death (as discussed at length in my book Guided by the Faith of Christ).

Fourth, mob behavior of all kinds avoids individual accountability because everyone is responsible. This in turn avoids thinking about whether or not one’s cause is just. Indeed, the consensus of the mob tends to affirm in the minds of participants that they are right.

This fourth consideration points to the scapegoating process, about which I will elaborate next week. I think that viewing cancel culture through the lens of the scapegoating process offers helpful insights.

Stephen R. Kaufman, MD

2. All-Creatures.org Ministry

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