Cancel culture is quickly moving toward its logical end as an unabashed, even celebrated, tool of cultural Marxists, who are keen to repress views outside the accepted orthodoxy of the day.
Those who initially promoted campus shout-downs and dis-invitations have escalated their assault on academic freedom. They now employ threats of violence, intimidation tactics, and mob “justice” to silence those they label “oppressors.”
Dr. Bruce Gilley, professor of political science at Portland State University, is the most recent victim of this brand of academic vigilantism. Dr. Gilley was to be the co-editor of a new series published by Rowman & Littlefield’s academic press, Lexington Books, titled Problems of Anti-Colonialism. He also wrote the first book of the series, The Last Imperialist, which presents a rigorous scholarly study of Sir Alan Burns, a British administrator of several colonies.
Prof. Gilley’s book was due out in mid-October, but Rowman & Littlefield got cold feet when a petition began circulating, calling on the publisher to “terminate” both Prof. Gilley’s book and the series as a whole.
The book had been announced for some time on the publisher’s site and had been available for pre-order on Amazon for over a month. So what prompted the petition? Prof. Gilley posted a call for essays on the Colonial and Post-Colonial History/Studies page of H-Net, an academic networking site, to encourage submissions for the series.
A York University professor of philosophy, Joshua Moufawad-Paul, discovered the series and created the petition to stop it.
Prof. Moufawad-Paul is an avowed Maoist and used openly Marxist language to claim that Prof. Gilley’s work, and the series as a whole, deserves to be consigned to the dustbin of history. The petition was opened on Saturday, September 26th, and by Monday the entire series was removed from Rowman & Littlefield’s website. The next day, Dr. Gilley was informed that he had been released from his contract with the publisher. Total victory, as far as the mob is concerned.
In a recent post, he writes, “It is thus easy to see how this outrage and moral panic around ‘cancel culture’ is largely performative: those engaging in it do not care about history… The performance, then, is about denying history, and denying the everyday violence that proceeds from this history, and instead wanting to conserve dominant power relations.”
Cancel culture has gone far beyond mere disagreement. We have reached the point where the academic left believes its view of history to be unchallengeable and sees any opposition to “accepted” views as heretical and worthy of a swift and merciless response. When the “wrong” speech (or the absence of the “right” speech) is equated with violence, then higher ed’s ideological gatekeepers feel at liberty to utilize their own tyrannical methods to quash that which they perceive as a real, physical threat.
No longer do we simply catch glimpses of the tactics of Soviet-style communism within academia. Many now employ these stratagems in the open, practicing on the weekends what they preach to students during the week.
Cancel culture cannot be stopped by appeals to high, liberal principles. The progressive left has clearly demonstrated their eagerness to use every means at their disposal, however violent, riotous, or unprincipled. If we hope to fight back against cancel culture, appeals to fair play and reasoned debate just won’t cut it. We must be willing to use whatever legal means we can to demonstrate the ferocity of the threat and push back against it.
That is not to say that we stoop to the Maoist’s level. Moral principles of truth and justice must guide our response. But it’s high time we realize that the heterodox approach to resolving these issues isn’t working, and hasn’t for some time.
Here’s one way you can help. The National Association of Scholars has published a counter-petition in support of Prof. Gilley. Go sign it. Then send it to your family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues, and urge them to sign it. Cancel culture can be stopped, but only if we step up.
Image: Jp16103, Public Domain