April 19, 2021, 6 PM.
Part of the Benson Center's 2020-21 "The Canceled" lecture series.
About the Lecture
For generations, progressives understood their movement to be, among other things, a check on corporate power. But that has changed as progressives have attained positions of power — often monopoly positions of power — in the commanding heights of American corporate life, from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. Rather than counterbalancing the power of business, modern progressives seek to create the “disciplinary corporation,” an arrangement in which employment, education, and access to technology are made contingent upon political conformism. The template is not George Orwell’s 1984 but the “Lavender Scare,” which sought to exclude homosexuals from economic and cultural life, especially in Hollywood and in government employment: a kind of all-volunteer police regime enforcing cultural, sexual, and political homogeneity.
About the Speaker
Kevin D. Williamson is the roving correspondent for National Review and the author of several books, including his most recent, Big White Ghetto. He worked as a newspaper editor in India and the United States, served as the theater critic for The New Criterion, and taught at The King’s College, New York. His work has appeared everywhere from The Washington Post to Playboy.
About the Series
In recent months, social coercion has become a more effective means of restricting political speech than legal coercion. Opinions that were once common are now anathema, and campaigns to de-platform or even “cancel” proponents of these opinions are increasingly frequent. These attempts at "cancellation" are not merely fair-minded criticism. Rather, they involve efforts to punish those with heterodox views by banishing them from social media, pressuring their employers to fire them, harassing them in public, or threatening their families. These new methods of social coercion have curtailed the range political views that can be expressed publicly without fear of social sanction. This series considers the implications of the new cancel culture, the norms it imposes on thought and expression, and the conformism it attempts to compel.