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Culture wars

We can’t just cancel history

Lisa Berg/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay about online cancel culture, It Is Obscene, was a “blast of delicious fire”, says Hadley Freeman in The Guardian. The Nigerian author’s point about virtue-signalling on social media was spot-on. Three years ago a trans-related piece I wrote “so outraged someone I knew that they lost the ability to tell me directly”, instead tweeting their disdain publicly. It looked like “someone burnishing their own brand”. Why can’t we disagree peacefully? I’ve lost at least a dozen friends over my apparently transphobic beliefs, but, although I found Jeremy Corbyn’s “frequent proximity to antisemites truly upsetting”, I didn’t drop his supporters from my life.

“American puritanism” is at play here. Don’t forget, the US was colonised by Calvinist pilgrims who believed Europe was getting “too louche”. This “strand of purer-than-thou-ism” has persisted: staff at American publishing houses now protest about publishing books by “morally impure” authors such as Woody Allen and Mike Pence. Donald Trump is allegedly having trouble finding a publisher for his book, due to the “onerous” fact-checking that would be needed, and the fact that staff and other authors might walk out. But not to publish a memoir by a former president would be “absurd”. People might fear being on the wrong side of history, “but pretending history didn’t happen is never the right side of anything”.

Read the full article here.