See below for a great discussion thread by Georgetown University Visiting Professor Thomas Zimmer on the controversy surrounding former Vice President Mike Pence’s speech to the UVA chapter of the (far-right) Young America’s Foundation last week. If you want to watch the speech — which was, as usual with Pence, smarmy, oily, tasteless, filled with lies and distortions, alarmist, bigoted and generally right-wing — look on CSPAN. But yeah, it really sucks. As for the controversy around Pence giving the speech — and the Washington Post’s role in stoking that controversy — Thomas Zimmer really nails it. For example, as he writes:
- “Remember when the editorial board of The Washington Post issued an urgent warning two weeks ago that an insidious campaign to ‘cancel’ Mike Pence was underway at UVA? Well, this week Pence finally gave his speech – and absolutely no “cancellation” occurred.
- “That’s a very interesting way of putting it, because it was in fact the editorial board of WaPo that contributed significantly to making this a national debate by warning us against the dangerous efforts to “silence and cancel” Mike Pence at the UVA.”
- “The WaPo op-ed has received far less attention than the New York Times editorial board’s claim that ‘America has a free speech problem’ from mid-March – but that’s not was no less problematic, crystallizing many pathologies of the “cancel culture” discourse.
- “The first thing that strikes is the huge power imbalance playing out here: The editorial board of one of the nation’s most important media institutions takes on a student newspaper. That should probably sound the alarm.
- “Clearly the Cavalier Daily did not like the fact that Pence was asked to speak on campus. But they’re not calling for a boycott, and no one else was trying to ‘silence’ Pence either: no one was taking action to stop him from speaking out.”
- “In order to justify making this a national story about the insidious forces of cancel culture, the WaPo presents a superficial caricature of the student editorial.
- “All the general fallacies and pathologies of the ‘cancel culture’ discourse are also present in WaPo’s short op-ed, of course. Efforts to “silence and nullify” Pence have been “bipartisan,” we are told. On both sides. What is the proof? From the right, as the Editorial Board acknowledges, people are attacking Pence as a “traitor” and wanted to hang him for not stealing the 2020 election. On the left? A student newspaper refuses to tolerate its platform. According to the WaPo, these things are the same. We are told the same story over and over again: radical left forces, especially on campuses, engage in cancel culture – a sign of creeping authoritarianism, a national emergency, a veritable crisis of free speech, a threat for American freedom. ”
- “WaPo’s editorial board should examine this and offer a self-critical assessment of what they got wrong, why they got it so wrong, and how it will shape their perspective and coverage of the reactionary panic of the “culture of cancellation” in the future. . This will of course never happen. The “cancel culture” discourse is completely uninterested in carefully weighing the available empirical evidence. It is a moral panic in the service of a reactionary political project. And as such, it was, unfortunately, extremely effective.