cancel culture

Is Cancel Culture Silencing Open Debate?

14 September, 2020

There are risks to shutting down opinions we disagree with.

Hugh Breakey, President, Australian Association for Professional & Applied Ethics, Senior Research Fellow, Moral philosophy, Institute for Ethics, Governance & Law, Law Futures Centre, Griffith University says “Seeing mistaken views as intolerable speech carries genuine ethical costs.”

In the wake of an open letter signed by 150 high-profile authors, commentators and scholars claiming that “open debate and toleration of differences” are under attack, Breakey considers the ethical concerns around derailing of debates and silencing of opinions.

Signatories to the letter included JK Rowling, Margaret Atwood, Gloria Steinem and Noam Chomsky. While prefacing their comments with support for current racial and social justice movements, the signatories argue there has been a weakening of the norms of open debate in favour of dogma, coercion and ideological conformity. They perceive

an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Harper’s letter has received spirited critique. Some commentators noted past cases where the signatories had themselves been censorious. Others argued that any perceived threat was overblown.

Yet, it is nevertheless worth considering whether important ethical outcomes are threatened in a culture of outrage, de-platforming and cancelling.

The Conversation, 10 July 2020, Hugh Breakey. Read the full article here.

Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership’s programs include the 2 day Executive Ethics, 6 day Executive Colloquium and year-long Vincent Fairfax Fellowship. We also deliver online and tailored corporate programs. Find the right program for you. They are all held under the Chatham House Rule to encourage genuine and open debate, and allow participants to candidly discuss sometimes sensitive issues in private while allowing the topic and nature of the debate to be made public, and contribute to a broader conversation. The alumni program offers ongoing leadership development support and a lifelong connection with Cranlana.

Photo by Tobi Oluremi on Unsplash