It has gotten so far, that material used for educational purposes are being aimed at by the cancel culture society. For example, many of these people believe that educational and influential literature should be ‘canceled’ due to its depictions of slavery. However, slavery needs to be remembered for both what it was considered and how it was perceived at that given time along with what it is considered and perceived as in today’s day and age. How can the world move forward if it does not acknowledge the past? DC Insider spoke with Norman Finkelstein, a prominent American political scientist, activist, professor, and author, on the subject matter.
DC Insider: What do you believe brought on cancel culture initially and do you believe that it has always been prevalent?
Finkelstein: “There’s an extremely complex history behind how it all evolved to the point that it is today. What I discuss in my [upcoming] book is that a version of cancel culture has always been with us. As I was growing up, that version was McCarthyism, and so we all have grown up in different eras of cancel culture. What differentiates cancel culture today from the cancel culture of yesterday is that a lot of people who claim to be leftists nowadays are part of all this cancelling. I think that in today’s society, there is this tendency to want to make history - along with all other humanities- into feel-goods… It’s no longer about whether you’ve correctly learned the subject matter but whether the subject matter makes you feel good. As is commonly said, truth is often a bitter pill to swallow which is to say that there are going to be things that you discover in history- AKA the truth- which will be painful to hear... They may offend you, but they’re nonetheless factually correct.”
DC Insider: Censorship has always been a form of disarming the general public from disseminating information that should be allowed to be consumed by any and every person willing to do so… Do you see cancelling ‘someone’ or ‘something’ as a form of censorship?
Finkelstein: “Yes, I do. I think that there is a group of people that set themselves up as the arbiters of what everybody else is entitled to hear, read, listen to, etc. I don’t think that anybody has the right to set themselves up as an arbiter of what others listen to or read. If you think that an idea is wrong, I don't think that the way to go about addressing it is by suppressing it… You go about it by engaging this idea that you think is wrong and you may just actually discover that the idea was right.”
DC Insider: Would you consider cancel culture as a form of erasing or mending the past?
Finkelstein: “Yes, and I don't think it's our job to erase or mend the past. Nobody has monopoly on truth. Nobody comes into the world infallible, we’re all fallible creatures… Each and all of us can be wrong about anything and everything and so I’m against suppression of an idea because I simply don’t think that it could ever work. You may force a person into not saying something, but they’ll still be thinking about it.”
DC Insider: Is it possible that cancel culture is simply just another contemporary fad; a mere phase that could already have a pre-determined expiration date that may not be too far down the line?
Finkelstein: “I think that’s a possibility. I think that people are tiring of it and tiring of being intimidated by it. People are exhausted of self-proclaimed experts and self-proclaimed authorities deciding what you can or can’t hear, can or can’t listen to, etc. Yes, definitely, I think that people are tiring of it… They are tiring of the charlatans and because of this, you’re probably right: This won’t last forever.”
DC Insider: Many believe that cancel culture itself should be canceled, and if it were to be, I believe that the world would be in a much better place. Do you agree?
Finkelstein: “I agree with you on that… I think that any silencing of opinion on the grounds that you believe that it is wrong or harmful - premised on the fact that you believe that you’re right while there’s no certainty to that - should be canceled. The opinion that you’re trying to silence may be correct and you can’t be sure that something is correct unless you claim to be God.”
DC Insider: What role does identity politics play in cancel culture and how does it affect government politics?
Finkelstein: “In my opinion, the clearest and most apparent case of identity politics in cancel culture was the whole cult that surrounded former president, Barack Obama. We were all supposed to believe that Obama was some genius while in fact, if Obama had been white, he would have just been another moderate Democrat. However, the identity politics caused a large number of people to blindly worship Obama, even as his eight years in office did nothing for most working people. Identity politics is what causes large numbers of people to rally around moderate Democrats, such as Obama. He was a beneficiary of cancel culture because of political correctness, as well as it being the ‘politically correct’ thing to do. Nobody could criticize him without being called a racist, and that’s what made him the greatest beneficiary of identity politics- this is how cancel culture ties in with politics.”
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