June 22, 2022

"[I]f I am being canceled I want my friends — and this includes not only my closest associates, but anyone who considers themselves friendly to me — to stand by, remain silent, and do nothing."

"If you care about me, let them eat me alive.... Anyone who writes for the public, and who maintains a social media presence, must accept some measure of risk.... My plan, if I am being canceled, is not to fight it. If I can quickly put an end to the accusations with some clarifying explanation, I will: the public deserves to hear the truth. But my efforts to rehabilitate myself will cease before I get to the point of reorganizing my public persona around the battle to do so.... I want friends whose minds are not tethered to my own in bonds of allegiance, but spin freely of their own accord.... I want friends, not allies. I value my public persona, but not enough to sacrifice the liberty of my friendships at its altar.... [L]ike Odysseus, am tying myself to the mast in advance. I commit now, publicly, in print: please don’t fight on my behalf. Don’t stand up for me. Don’t rescue my good name. Let it be tarnished. Let my reputation die."

Writes philosophy professor Agnes Callard, in "If I Get Canceled, Let Them Eat Me Alive" (NYT).

67 comments:

Kai Akker said...

Having never heard of her in the first place, I am not sure her reputation is as alive as she deems it. I will certainly go along with her request to this extent -- I won't read anything with her name on it. If I can remember it. K?

Jersey Fled said...

Bravely spoken by someone who doesn't expect to be canceled.

Wince said...

Playing 'possum?

Ampersand said...

Agnes, we hardly knew ya.

BarrySanders20 said...

OK Agnes.

Sebastian said...

"Them," "the mob": we know exactly who they are, who is doing the cancelling, who stands ready to ruin reputations.

But this philosopher can't even name "them" properly. She fails to analyze their motives, their goals, their impact.

The anticipatory self-cancellation is also a cowardly evasion.

Her web page says she teaches a course on courage. Must be a very short seminar.

R C Belaire said...

An example of anticipatory cancellation? Perhaps starting a trend?

Freeman Hunt said...

That's not how friendship works.

Plus, Odysseus is tied up so that he won't get hurt. His friends don't untie him and let him die.

Humperdink said...

The left created and and refined the cancel culture. Who from this gang would cancel a philosophy professor? Really. She is safely ensconced in the liberal bubble.

RideSpaceMountain said...

But...but...what if the cancelations were really the friends we made along the way?

Kate said...

I like what she's saying until she gets to Odysseus. He has his crew tie him to the mast so he can listen to the Sirens' song without jumping overboard from the mystical power of their call. Is being cancelled an enticing, overpowering need her friends must save her from?

Owen said...

What a wimp. She doesn’t believe in herself, so she believes in nothing. She believes in nothing, so she’ll believe anything. Why would anyone waste time trying to understand her, let alone defend her? There’s no there, there.

David Begley said...

Why is anyone being cancelled for their opinions? That’s totally fucked. America is a FREE country. We don’t live in fucking China or Iran.

Ann Althouse said...

"Having never heard of her in the first place, I am not sure her reputation is as alive as she deems it"... "Bravely spoken by someone who doesn't expect to be canceled...."

Well, read the whole column or concede that you don't know what she discussed. I can't quote the whole thing. But she does repeatedly say that her reputation is within a small sphere AND that she experienced an concerted effort at cancellation. So her credentials are established in the full text.

I try to keep my excerpts short, and don't like it when comments pick on somebody over what was really MY choice, as I selected a quote.

Ann Althouse said...

"Plus, Odysseus is tied up so that he won't get hurt. His friends don't untie him and let him die."

This is an important distinction, but I think she'd say that her point is the fighting the mob is harmful. The attacks are like the Sirens, and she's tying herself to the mast in the sense of committing not to respond to them. Obviously, though, she's perfectly free to respond if she changes her mind and doesn't need friends to free her. But she wants the friends to know not to enter the fight, and if she herself starts fighting the mob in the future, her fighting is what is equated to Odysseus demanding to be untied. They're supposed to say, no, we believe your original statement, not what you're saying now that you are lured by the Sirens/mob. The difference is that tied to the mast, Odysseus couldn't himself violate his original commitment not to respond to the Sirens.

Big Mike said...

Elon Musk had the right response to cancel culture. This foolish biddy, not so much.

Ann Althouse said...

"Is being cancelled an enticing, overpowering need her friends must save her from?"

It is enticing, but the friends aren't saving her from it only resisting joining the fight.

It's more like if Odysseus had said, I'm going to listen to the Sirens and try to resist going to them, and I want you friends to know that if I give in, don't you start listening too and going to them.

It's not even about saving her from going into the fight. She's just telling them to let her go alone if she's foolish enough to enter the fight. That's not at all like Odysseus, because his boatmates don't hear the Sirens at all. They've stopped up their ears.

Jersey Fled said...

You're right, Ann.

I let my blind assumption that anyone portrayed sympathetically in the NYT is a doofus get in the way of clear judgment.

Jefferson's Revenge said...

I see her as the crew in Odysseus tying her crew to the mast of non-intervention so they don't get caught up in the maelstrom.

But, in either event, if everyone everywhere had the same attitude that she does this would indeed be a barbarous, uncivilized world. I thought he were supposed to fight for what is right, fight for our ideals, stand up for our friends and allies, etc.

How old school I must be!

Ryan said...

The ex-Mormon in me cringes at that painting. I am pretty sure that is by Arnold Friberg, who illustrated the Book of Mormon.

M Jordan said...

Somehow I think this professor would be one to cancel others, maybe even me. Maybe it’s her tone, maybe the self-aggrandizing. Not sure but I highly suspect she’s from the tribe that cancels with gusto.

Jamie said...

Commenting before heading the other comments:

If I can quickly put an end to the accusations with some clarifying explanation, I will: the public deserves to hear the truth.

What stood out to me here was that this writer takes it as read that she (or anyone) might "deserve" to be cancelled, that social cancellation is a (or the?) proper response to wrong thinking, speaking, or writing.

Kai Akker said...

---Well, read the whole column or concede that you don't know what she discussed. [AA]

No. Not only is it a NYT item, which has so many problems to begin with, but your excerpt from it was so off-putting that I wouldn't spend more time on it even if I wanted to.

Thus my reaction and my comment. Or can't I read your blog and make the comment I think appropriate?

Will Cate said...

This is quite a high-minded attitude to take, and while I don't disagree with most of it, I believe if it came to (for example) losing my job over some sort-of false accusation, or political retribution, I can't imagine not fighting back.

West TX Intermediate Crude said...

Your terms are acceptable.

Humperdink said...

AA: "Well, read the whole column or concede that you don't know what she discussed."

Not that I didn't try, but it's behind the vaunted NYT paywall. Apparently I've used up my free articles. Funny how the NYTimes does not give us poor slubs free stuff. What are they, closet capitalists?

Mrs. X said...

I read the article. As far as I can tell, the philosopher is not being cancelled, nor is she threatened with cancellation. She’s tying herself to the mast with nary a siren in sight, er, earshot. Something happened to her ten years ago and it seemed like she might get cancelled, but here she is, writing an opinion piece for the NYT. Maybe the article presents an Althousian view of her own potential cancellation, her wishes with regard to her friends, her relentlessness.

Enigma said...

Cancellation is a power move. Some fight back and some meekly comply. Welcoming cancellation is it's own subversive type of power move, as the next step is to join the underground. The counterculture. A resistance movement. Then, the next generation or push for change will seek out censored people and rediscover what had been hidden. It's not what you believe, it what team you join and whether you bend a knee/tolerate hazing to stay on that team.

gilbar said...

Or can't I read your blog and make the comment I think appropriate?

The Althouse blog is Owned and Operated by the Google Corp (which is Owned and Operated by the Chinese)
The purposes of the Althouse blog
* To Get you to open the NYT's webpages
* To Get you to open the Tiktok webpages
* to Get you to make comments about the pages above, so that the 'algorithms" can learn about YOU
All of this helps Our Chinese Masters learn WHO is not obeying; so they can be dashed against the rocks
It Also helps us Learn To Obey.

MikeR said...

Sounds like someone who doesn't grasp that cancellation is an evil thing.
She will not get what she wants; her former "friends" will help in the pile-on.

Chris Lopes said...

"This is an important distinction, but I think she'd say that her point is the fighting the mob is harmful."

So is not fighting the mob, because then you just get more mob. That's what we have been experiencing the last few years. The mob gets bigger and bigger, and a lot more sensitive. Anything and everything is now a trigger for "outrage" and you can never be too woke to be immune to the mob's venom.

I'm sure "let them rip me apart" sounds noble at first glance, but it really isn't. Your "martyrdom" won't stop them. You are just giving them a win that will encourage them to go after their next victim.

MD Greene said...

The NYT has been tiptoeing into formerly alien territory with the article that quoted transgendered experts saying perhaps we've got a little far with this and now this op-ed by someone who claims a willingness to die on an undescribed hill that is vulnerable to a cancel-culture seige, presumably one of the seiges conducted mostly by people who think of themselves as "progressives."

The irony is that the paper's most profitable selling point in recent years has been its bias.

Said shorter, Donald Trump may be the best thing that ever happened to the New York Times.

mikee said...

Old Oddy tied himself to the master to experience an illicit and deadly pleasure. The author has exposed a true desire to be a martyr. Sick.

Iman said...

Eat me.

Ann Althouse said...

"Your "martyrdom" won't stop them. You are just giving them a win that will encourage them to go after their next victim."

Yes, this is the problem. But it may nevertheless be true that fighting the mob makes the mob stronger and more vicious.

Howard said...

This is a response that demonstrates a high level of emotional intelligence. The Kancel Karens use the explanations, excuses, reasons, defenses and apologies of the heretic and friends as fuel to double down and body slam the lot of them.

Right? It's like Internet trolls. They crave the response and attention generated by the protestations of the Marks. It's always best to ignore it. Watch the first half of Full Metal Jacket that shows how a drill instructor teaches emotional intelligence. Water off a ducks back. The strong silent type.

tim maguire said...

If I can quickly put an end to the accusations with some clarifying explanation, I will

Adorably naïve.

I can understand asking your friends not to sacrifice themselves for you. That's what friends do. They protect each other. But her friends, if friends they be, will do it anyway. Because that's what friends do. They protect each other.

Howard said...

timmacguire: friends don't let friends be drawn into an ambush. Discretion is the better part of Valor. Sometimes you have to play possum.

Balfegor said...

Don’t stand up for me. Don’t rescue my good name. Let it be tarnished. Let my reputation die.

A prior generation might have said that "Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing" (or more popularly, that "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.") But here, we have the philosopher's plea that good men should do nothing.

Contra the author:

I know some of the people who agitated against me. They are not bad people;

I want to say, "yes they are," but while becoming a bully is a bad thing, it is not the worst thing, and they may have other redeeming qualities. The risks of the cruel manichean worldview that underpuns cancel culture are obvious, after all. That said, while they may not be "bad people," they are certainly people who engaged in bad acts.

You imagine that you are fighting against the mob, but actually you are becoming a part of it. Within the mob there is no justice and no argument and no reasoning, no space for inquiry or investigation. The only good move is not to play.

It is sadly nihilistic to imagine that justice and reason can never shame or overcome the mob, that one can only hope the irruption of hatred and unreason will someday pass. Empirically -- is it even true? That no canceller will ever desist, when a man stands to ask: "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?"

That said, perhaps the message of this piece is really a warning to her friends that she's going to submit to her humiliation and wear the dunce cap, and that they're better off not looking like fools for defending her, and becoming targets themselves. The special cruelty of cancel culture isn't that it hounds the target after all (that's not cancellation, just criticism -- intemperate or profane though it might be). Rather, it's that the cancellers attack the target's family, friends, coworkers, and associates, to force them to cut ties with and denounce the target. To make them complicit. So go ahead; cut your losses and cut her off when the mob comes for her next time.

But this could also be a preemptive warning that they should expect no loyalty, no succour or defense from her when the Red Guards or the Brownshirts come for them. She'll cut them off if the mob demands.Well, I suppose there's a sort of twisted decency in that.

Yancey Ward said...

Odysseus' shipmates didn't leave the knots loose, did they? Or am I remembering it wrong?

Yancey Ward said...

I know of the author through Robin Hanson's blog and twitter feed. She is cancelable (is that a word?) in today's world, so her's is not just an empty directive.

Lurker21 said...

She may be a true philosopher, more interested in "truth" than in spin, a worthy follower of Socrates willing to follow him into dignified martyrdom, but was Socrates right? Today's world belongs to the Sophists, the spin doctors of their day. There is "truth," but that doesn't appear to belong to the world of human affairs, only to logic, mathematics, and science. Perhaps that's because, having developed the idea of "truth" in those fields, we can't find similar certainty in things pertaining to people and their activities.

And yet, for Socratics truth comes from dialogue, conversation, argument. If you simply accept martyrdom and die for what you think to be the truth, maybe you aren't doing truth as much of a service as if you fought for it. Truth may get lost in all the fighting, but possibly, in all of our arguing, grappling, spinning, and desperate counterattacks something more of reality enters into the conversation than polite and rational and dignified engagements allow. Even Socrates wasn't above throwing a few ironic barbs at his persecutors.

I can understand the desire to remain dignified and rational, but I wonder whether she is really serving truth. As others have noted, the idea that "cancellation" is itself wrong has to be considered as well.

Rusty said...

Howard said...
"This is a response that demonstrates a high level of emotional intelligence. The Kancel Karens use the explanations, excuses, reasons, defenses and apologies of the heretic and friends as fuel to double down and body slam the lot of them.

Right? It's like Internet trolls. They crave the response and attention generated by the protestations of the Marks."

Oh. The irony. It's laughable.

Robert Cook said...

"No. Not only is it a NYT item, which has so many problems to begin with, but your excerpt from it was so off-putting that I wouldn't spend more time on it even if I wanted to.

"Thus my reaction and my comment. Or can't I read your blog and make the comment I think appropriate?"


If you are unwilling to read the entire article, then you shouldn't comment at all, as you have insufficient knowledge to even develop, much less express, an intelligent perspective/opinion on the matter. Your "appropriate" comment is uninformed.

Temujin said...

Such bravery.

Temujin said...

If only Homer had lived in these times. The Odyssey would have had a much different edge to it.

\

Earnest Prole said...

I know this super highway
This bright familiar sun
I guess that I'm the lucky one
Who wrote that tired sea song
Set on this peaceful shore
You think you've heard this one before

Well the danger on the rocks is surely past
Still I remain tied to the mast
Could it be that I have found my home at last
Home at last

She serves the smooth retsina
She keeps me safe and warm
It's just the calm before the storm
Call in my reservation
So long hey thanks my friend
I guess I'll try my luck again

Well the danger on the rocks is surely past
Still I remain tied to the mast
Could it be that I have found my home at last
Home at last

Earnest Prole said...

The ex-Mormon in me cringes at that painting. I am pretty sure that is by Arnold Friberg, who illustrated the Book of Mormon.

Wiki: Ulysses and the Sirens is an 1891 painting by Pre-Raphaelite artist John William Waterhouse.

Tina Trent said...

Must be nice to have tenure. Among the other perks, imaginary courage.

What a grating princess. Why doesn't she use her extremely selective expressive privilege to defend those who lack it, instead?

Yancey Ward said...

Rusty,

I will suppose that Howard did that intentionally. It might be that an AI has been writing Howards comments, though, with the directive, "Write like an asshole."

Greg The Class Traitor said...

Sounds like we should "cancel" her

n.n said...

An altruistic plea: you can't help me, save yourselves... or a sadomasochistic grooming to encourage others to go along, take a knee, beg, ...

Fred Drinkwater said...

"fighting the mob makes the mob stronger and more vicious."
Supposedly, this is a reason why we give government a monopoly on the use of force to maintain civilization. To suppress mob violence.
But if, hypothetically of course, government sided with the mob, there might be problems. I wonder if that's ever happened anywhere?

Howard said...

Thanks for playing, Runty.

Lem said...

This professor is painting an unappealing picture of the mob. Could it lead some of them to think about what they are doing exactly?

Link to video

Rabel said...

I read it. She either doesn't understand the consequences of "cancellation" (job loss, inability to get published, exclusion from her preferred society), or she's just another boastful braggart, or she's "got hers" and is ready to move out to to lake house with the cats.

The philosopher may find that Stoicism is harder than it looks.

The Times may be backing down from some of the idiocy it has promoted as such idiocy becomes more and more unpopular. Minimizing the harm of a "cancellation" would be one way to go about that.

Kai Akker said...

---If you are unwilling to read the entire article, then you shouldn't comment at all, as you have insufficient knowledge to even develop, much less express, an intelligent perspective/opinion on the matter. Your "appropriate" comment is uninformed. [RobertCook]

Thanks, Robert. No, I got the point from the fairly extensive excerpt. I got the martyrdom tone loud and clear; who could miss it? And I got the silliness, I believe, that lay beneath the grandiosity. I am not unfamiliar with the publication source and its tastes, and I am a pretty good reader. So I had a basis for giving my opinion, I felt; I wouldn't have commented otherwise. But I could still be wrong -- just as you could be wrong. Feel free to click on by if you find my views objectionable.

MadTownGuy said...

Ann Althouse said...

["Your "martyrdom" won't stop them. You are just giving them a win that will encourage them to go after their next victim."]

"Yes, this is the problem. But it may nevertheless be true that fighting the mob makes the mob stronger and more vicious."

As someone who has been canceled by my woker-than-woke son and daughter-in-law, only to the point where they have no meaningful communication with us and have instructed our relatives never to share their information or pictures of their children with us, I would add that in this kind of situation there might be some value in exposing their deceit. They accused us of things we never did, and when confronted, ignored the facts we presented to counter their lies. I've considered discussions with my sisters, who are still in contact with them, to show that our son and his wife have told them the same lies, but have some reluctance to do so as I don't want to lose the connection with them as well.

I have told Number One Son that I don't intend to debate politics with him as he will not discuss the issues in good faith. Nevertheless we have kept the lines of communication open from our side, regardless of what they do.

I find it interesting that the timing of our cancelation was just before the COVID lockdowns. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd wonder if they had some advance warning.

Tina Trent said...

I sometimes think philosophers must have some sort of brain deficit or disorder. Down through the centuries, they appear, as a group, to lack the capacity to grasp the most rudimentary things, along with all other things.

I do not believe we should keep encouraging them.

Marc said...

I know AC's name only, via Zena Hitz (also a philosophy professor), on Twitter, whose book Lost in Thought is a wonderful defense of the intellectual life, of thinking as the way forward through the 'fog of war' that suffocates in so many places in the contemporary world. In any case, I'm prejudiced in Professor Callard's favor at the outset; now I'll read her essay.

realestateacct said...

I found this substack about cancellation helpful.

https://bendreyfuss.substack.com/p/the-problem-with-new-york-mags-story

Tina Trent said...

Marc: she still wrote an idiotic, self-contradicting, self-pitying, preening, culturally and referentially ignorant editorial for the Times.

I'll pass. She sounds like a sidewalk buffoon. Except they have an excuse, shallow as it may be.

Ken B said...

Kate nails it. The Odysseus reference is kinda backwards.

Marc said...

I don't understand where the emotional/amateur psychological responses ('grating princess', 'self-aggrandizing' etc) to Dr Callard's essay come from, really. And then there is the usual 'it's in the NYT so it has to be propaganda or worse' contingent; good folks all, I'm sure, but that nonsense is simply tiresome.

The use of the figure of Odysseus in Dr Callard's essay leaves me puzzled, so perhaps I ought to think about it for a while.

For once, the comments at the NYT provide some useful information. AC has already lived through a production of 'cancellation theatre' at the University of Chicago because she refused to condone the graduate students' union doing some idiot grad student strike or protest using the UC students 'as a means to an end'.

I'd enjoy listening to the recording of a conversation between Althouse, Callard, Rachel Fulton Brown (also at UC) and Zena Hitz (St John's, Annapolis, I believe) about this 'cancellation' nonsense etc.

Ralph L said...

I'd say she needs better friends--or they do.

Tina Trent said...

Marc, I have read this princesses' work and read the Times cover to cover every day, barring stories about the Yankees, music, and love interests.

Otherwise, I wouldn't comment. But she misapprehends metaphors in which she should be expert in at least two languages, and she succulently poaches the persecution of others, and those things alone are intellectually and morally cringeworthy.

To put it nicely. Also, I use my real name to say so. Skin in the game, eh Mark? Relevant to the subject.

Marc said...

To put it nicely. Also, I use my real name to say so. Skin in the game, eh Mark? Relevant to the subject.

I suppose (click on my name?) that all might be an elaborate fabrication. I understand that some people need to use pseudonyms online but I'm not one of them.