A Polemic Against Cancel Culture in the Book Community
A Polemic Against Cancel Culture in the Book Community
Cancel Culture, or “Accountability Culture” as it’s proponents like to call it, is a movement that capitalizes on public shaming: Ostracism until demands have been met is its ultimate purpose. In the book community, this has manifested in many ways – particularly attacks on authors for problematic elements in their books or for not speaking out on current issues, but also attacks on small business who haven’t made statements or who have made the “wrong” statements, and on readers who continue to read “problematic” books. The way the book community carries out this public shaming is, frankly, despicable. Verbal assaults, derogatory name calling, threats, vitriol and pure hatred; businesses destroyed, reputations ruined. I’ve experienced it firsthand – last summer when I shared my pro-life convictions on my platform, I was harassed, defamed, publicly slandered, threatened, and I lost business opportunities. All in the name of “progress,” of course.
I have found there to be very little pushback against the progressive book community. I’m happy to be the one to spark some conversation about whether your methods are truly honorable and effective. Unfortunately, this community no longer seems to be a community of ideas. Intellectual curiosity, inclusivity, tolerance, and diversity of thought have unfortunately abandoned us as well. If you (you being the larger bookstagram community) cannot read the words of one woman critiquing cancel culture without dissolving into temper tantrums to the tune of hundreds of derogatory comments, messages, and posts/stories filled with slander and threats, then it is not me who is the problem.
You put modern day creatives in a difficult position. They are required to cater to the feelings of every single person who encounters their work. How can they? They are only human. The only acceptable authors in this space are ones who hold a progressive worldview and pander to the woke mob; any hint of dissent or of something you deem “problematic” and you turn on them in an instant. You go from fawning over a series to launching a witch hunt in moments. It’s almost like you feed on making people miserable. And if the author is conservative you don’t give them a chance to begin with.
It’s hubris to think that authors owe you anything. It’s arrogant to think that they ought to fit perfectly into a box of your own creating. In doing so, you strip them of the ability to be individuals.
Are you allowing authors the freedom to think independently, to write creatively, to choose when to speak out or remain silent on current issues, to make mistakes and correct themselves? To live outside the collective mind of woke progressivity? When you find yourself upset, is it because the author did something wrong (a criminal or immoral act) or is it because you perceive their words, in the light of your own personal beliefs, to be problematic?
If the answer is that you simply have a different worldview, to cancel the author is the height of intolerance. To use a popular phrase in your circle: Check your privilege.
If the answer is that the author made a mistake – can we not show grace? State your case and move on. Cruelty is not an effective way to eradicate harmful behavior. We don’t teach our children not to hit by hitting them back.
And if you find an author’s words problematic but your friend says “I don’t see it that way,” why do you condemn your friend as well? What makes your perception more valid than his? You, the progressive book community, are making it impossible for people with different perspectives to coexist.
We are constantly told that the words of your victims are “harmful” and that is why they must be held accountable. If their words are harmful, yours are more so. You find yourself threatened by any view that doesn’t fall in line with yours. I remember when I posted about Ben Carson and Shelby Steele – both black conservatives – and you called them coons. I remember when you sent your hounds after an indie author last summer for being a conservative Christian. A multitude of 1 star reviews left on her self published book on goodreads. You claim that no one is actually harmed by Cancel Culture – “You can still read their books! JK Rowling is still rich!” But if canceling authors (and readers and business owners in the book community) isn’t effective, why are you still doing it? The truth is you’ve successfully ostracized and evicted many people in this community. You have ruined careers. It’s the already downtrodden you love to stomp on the most.
So let me ask: How does your vitriol make the world a better place? How does your hatred affect those who stand up for a conviction that you happen to dislike?
If we require the authors we read to share our worldview, our range of literature becomes very narrow. The way we strengthen our minds and our convictions is by reading books we disagree with. We learn empathy by reading about lifestyles that don’t align with our own. My favorite authors aren’t all Christian. Thomas Hardy, Edith Wharton, Oscar Wilde, F Scott Fitzgerald, Francis Hodgson Burnett – they were flawed people who made mistakes and whose worldviews were different than mine. But it’s their individual worldviews that make their work so beautiful, unique, and memorable. I don’t agree with everything in their books; I don’t agree with all of the choices they made in their personal lives. But I can respect them as the brilliant creatives that they were.
If we neuter the creative freedoms of current day authors by way of cancel culture and political correctness, will any books of our time live on as classics? If authors are afraid to write what they want or if their careers are ruined now, what will the future landscape of books look like? If we accept and celebrate the cancelling of books now, how long until it begins to trickle down to the classics? How long before we’re editing out the “problematic” parts, and then just throwing out the whole book?
There is much in literature that offends me. JK Rowling has said things that offend me. Sarah J Maas writes books I won’t read. In fact, many of the authors you have canceled I personally don’t care for. However, I respect their rights to have opinions and convictions and viewpoints that differ from my own, and that differ from yours. I respect the rights of others to read and enjoy the books that I don’t. I don’t force my worldview down the throats of those I associate with. The same cannot be said of the progressive book community.
How we respond to being offended is a personal choice. If something offends me because I am a Christian, I cannot place blame on a person who doesn’t share my worldview. I can’t expect an atheist to live by the same standards that I live by. Therefore, if I am irrevocably offended by something that an atheist writes, I must put the book aside and pick something else up. I don’t attack the atheist for offending me – it is not his responsibility to coddle my feelings. This applies not just to me, but to everyone. Only you can decide how you react to something that bothers you. You are responsible to yourself. If an author’s words offend you, it is your responsibility as a reader to stop reading and find something better suited to you.
On that note, I will defend authors when I feel they need defending, even if I do not agree with everything they stand for. I will always defend someone’s right to free speech and privacy. I came to the defense of Sarah J Maas because I believe that to run a crusade against someone for not denouncing her Jewish heritage is disgusting and discriminatory. The attack on Sarah J Maas was one of the most blatant displays of arrogance that I have ever seen come out of this community. I don’t know where she stands, but wherever it is she has the right to keep her opinions private. She owes you nothing.
Ultimately, the main issue I have with the book community today is the toxic and destructive way you go about making your case known. Hurting others in the name of “progress” doesn’t make you a hero – it makes you a tyrant. Excusing your own problematic behavior while you condemn others for theirs, is not just hypocritical, but also manipulative.
You question my methods without leaving me room to question yours. All I ask for is an environment that allows for all ideas, that allows for conversations to be had. A true intellectual does not balk at the prospect of a debate.
You call Cancel Culture “Accountability Culture”. Well, this is me holding you accountable. How will you respond?
“Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.” – Socrates