by Gareth Roberts
Thursday, 17
June 2021
Reaction
10:34

So you’ve been cancelled? Here’s what to expect

Some will offer support, while others will deliver a full-throated denunciation
by Gareth Roberts
Don’t leave me this way

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s blistering blog on the borderline-sociopathic behaviour of one of her former students after she dared to venture her opinion on transgender identities has rightly gone globally viral. A couple of years ago I had a similar, but much lower-status, brush with insane overreaction to stating simple biological reality. Adichie writes with searing accuracy about her students, but I’ve found it fascinating how a person’s colleagues and friends (and the subset where these overlap) react in these circumstances. So I’ve put together this guide for the cancelled, and those contemplating it. 

I’ve boiled it down to about six sets of people. (I won’t name names; it would be fruitless for obsessives to try to pin down who I’m talking about.)

1. Total unwavering public support. I had plenty of this on social media and in the physical world from readers and viewers who liked my work, but nobody in the ‘industry’ did this. But this didn’t surprise or bother me, for who can blame them? They have mouths to feed. 

2. Private support, public silence. By far the largest group. I received a torrent of supportive emails and calls from friends and colleagues in the media, all of them frank about having to say nothing in public out of fear for themselves. All openly gender-critical people will know this category well. Again, I cannot criticise them for it. But it is concerning. If even the most timid expression of personal regard for someone stating common facts could lead to Armageddon, then what does that leave us with?

3. Said nothing at all but disappeared. The more terror-stricken version of category 2. A small set who suddenly melted away like convective clouds. 

4. ‘Don’t mention the war’. People who didn’t say anything at all in public or private but just carried on being colleagues and/or chums.  

5. Full denunciation. I only received this — what we might call the Daniel Radcliffe Reaction — a couple of times, and their identities frankly I could have predicted (in fact I did, and I got it right). These were people fully signed up to ‘social justice’, who had to publicly denounce to keep themselves pure. (Despite long association and, as Adichie says in her examples, knowing full well that I was neither an idiot nor a fascist.)

6. Private support and enthusiastic public support of the exact opposite to their own private opinions. This was another very small set, but I find it the most psychologically fascinating of them all. I know a couple of people who are loudly dismissive of gender ideology and other modish nonsenses in private, but who support them equally loudly in public. These are the people I’m genuinely scared of, and that I do blame. They are uncanny, and have me reaching for the crucifix and the garlic. It’s these kinds of people, I think, who are largely responsible for the unholy cultural mess we find ourselves in. Beware Category 6!

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Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago

When Adichie wrote

In certain young people today … I notice what I find increasingly troubling: a cold-blooded grasping, a hunger to take and take and take, but never give; a massive sense of entitlement; an inability to show gratitude; an ease with dishonesty and pretension and selfishness that is couched in the language of self-care; an expectation always to be helped and rewarded no matter whether deserving or not; language that is slick and sleek but with little emotional intelligence; an astonishing level of self-absorption; an unrealistic expectation of puritanism from others; an over-inflated sense of ability, or of talent where there is any at all; an inability to apologize, truly and fully, without justifications; a passionate performance of virtue that is well executed in the public space of Twitter but not in the intimate space of friendship.

I instantly thought of Meghan Markle.

Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Adichie’s piece is much more insightful — and braver — than the article here. I wouldn’t care if it were just MM, but this is about a whole swathe of young people across the continents…

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago

She does write beautifully (and taught me 2 new words 😉 )
But did she buy that domain only for that one post?

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrea X
Gunner Myrtle
Gunner Myrtle
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I doubt young people are worse on average than any other period. Social media just creates a platform for the sanctimonious that didn’t exist in the past.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Remarkable writing from Adichie and seemingly well covered. But her essay on her website seems to have been removed. Odd bit, that. But she is so well known the Internet Archive has a copy of her essay She starts with “In this age of social media, where a story travels the world in minutes, silence sometimes means that other people can hijack your story and soon, their false version becomes the defining story about you.” Sad that she removed her own essay.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
1 year ago

Numbers (2)-(6) are basically what happened in Medieval witch-hunts.
Interesting to note who gets cancelled – it’s mostly people on the Left (broadly defined) – hence the Left eating its own. The Right meanwhile are pretty much uncancellable because they follow the Milwall Principle (“We are Rightwing, no one likes us, we don’t care”, etc.)

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
1 year ago

“it’s mostly people on the Left (broadly defined) – hence the Left eating its own”
Yes, but definition is everything.

Simon Coulthard
Simon Coulthard
1 year ago

So true about medieval witch hunts! I’m not so sure that it’s only people on the left that get cancelled though – I think it depends who sits above the progressive heretic. Ie, a right wing person could be fired for saying something that doesn’t fit with their company’s woke mantra.

Albireo Double
Albireo Double
1 year ago

I don’t use Twitter or Facebook. All of this stuff just passes me by, except when I read about it in publications like this.

I really have no idea why anybody would use Facebook or Twitter, Tik-tok etc.. they all appear to be full of people who are mad and stupid.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
1 year ago

It’s very disheartening to know that this vicious nonsense is as rife in Nigeria as in ‘the West’.

Simon Coulthard
Simon Coulthard
1 year ago

The blog by Adichie is real power to it. It speaks to both the dehumanisation that comes with fame and the ugly insincerity of some of the more vocal social justice warriors.