by Peter Franklin
Monday, 23
November 2020
Idea
07:00

Should we ‘call in’ people instead of calling them out?

There's a humane alternative to cancel culture
by Peter Franklin
Protestors in Edinburgh demand free speech. Credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Countries differ as to what is considered offensive. For instance, an East Asian acquaintance of mine once casually remarked that she found it hard to tell apart European faces. I wasn’t in the least bit offended by what she said and she clearly didn’t mean to offend, but I wondered whether I should let her know that other people in this country might take a different attitude.

If I had, it would have been a very small example of what Professor Loretta J Ross describes as “calling in”. As the term suggests, it’s the opposite of ‘calling out’ — i.e. publicly criticising someone over some actual or perceived transgression.

Her humane alternative is the subject a profile piece by Jessica Bennett for the New York Times:

“…Professor Ross, 67, [is] an unlikely figure in the culture wars. A radical Black feminist who has been doing human rights work for four decades, she was one of the signatories of a widely denounced letter in Harper’s Magazine, for which she herself was called out. ‘There’s such an irony for being called out for calling out the calling-out culture,’ she said. ‘It really was amusing.’”
- Jessica Bennett, The New York Times

So how does calling in work?

“Calling in is like calling out, but done privately and with respect. ‘It’s a call out done with love,’ [Ross] said. That may mean simply sending someone a private message, or even ringing them on the telephone (!) to discuss the matter, or simply taking a

breath before commenting, screen-shotting or demanding one ‘do better’ without explaining how.”
- Jessica Bennet, The New York Times

That seems very reasonable — at least in situations where there’s no intention to cause upset.

However, there needs to a safe and discreet opportunity to do the calling in. Ironically, social media makes it easier to publicly condemn someone than to have a quiet word with them.

And there’s an even bigger obstacle — and that’s the ideological framing imposed by wokeness. If someone says or does something  that genuinely needs to be challenged (a big ‘if’), then it makes a difference whether the offence is perceived to be an individual failure of awareness or if it’s automatically assumed to be a symptom of some wider group mentality. If the issue is made all about the transgressions of ‘whiteness’ or the ‘patriarchy’ or whatever the oppressive collective might be, then anything particular to the offending individual is of secondary or no importance. To the woke way of thinking, calling in is irrelevant to the bigger picture.

Calling in also implies a conversation – including the opportunity for the offending individual to defend themselves or even to express hurt feelings of their own. That too contravenes the laws of wokeness, where to deny whatever ‘ism’ one is accused of is itself proof of guilt.

In short, calling in is a great idea. But as long as wokeness is allowed to dominate the conversations that we need to have about race, sex and other issues, then they’ll begin and end with calling out.

Join the discussion


  • Miss the opportunity to highlight your own superiority with the wokeraty?

    Never going to catch on.

  • ” For instance, an East Asian acquaintance of mine once casually remarked
    that she found it hard to tell apart European faces. I wasn’t in the
    least bit offended by what she said”

    I cannot even comprehend anyone being offended by this honest, and understandable, comment. I have a hard time telling Far East people’s faces apart, is that wrong of me? because I do not have this issue by choice. Or is it wrong to say what is real with me? Is he saying never tell a truth till you have washed it through several levels offense detection?

  • FFS, what are the young people thinking? Calling out, calling in? You seem to live in a world where thinking is correct or incorrect and one must always be looking to point out errors in thought. My life has been exceedingly weird, living in many outlandish places and outlandish ways with many really odd individuals and groups. All this has me fall back on old fashioned Conservatism of beliefs. I have seen the fringe of all kinds, been down with them, been one, and realized the traditional is the one which makes most sense.

    The weirder your life experiences I believe the more which was normal back before modern Liberalism seems reasonable. 10 commandments sort of stuff, right and wrong, rather than the situational ethics and relative morality of current thinking. Once everyone knew right from wrong pretty much, now almost no one does, and so they go about calling out and calling in over what ever stupid thing they currently have been indoctrinated in.

    “”When a man stops believing in God, he doesn’t believe in nothing, he believes in anything.”Substitute conventional morality for ‘God’, and you have today’s messed up people. And then they become all evangelical about it.

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