Robert Henderson seems to think that cancel culture is a tool of successful “social strivers […] to move up by taking others down”. That is not my understanding of cancel culture, even if you account for the fact that Henderson appears to be describing calling-out not, specifically, the canceling variant.

Let alone, as described by Osita Nwanevu, that “‘cancel culture’ seems to be the name mediocrities and legends on their way to mediocrity have given their own waning relevance”. In other words, while canceling is a real thing, cancel culture is akin to political correctness or virtue signaling in that it’s a term generally used to denigrate and discredit the idea of having to “suffer” consequence or responsibility when it comes to your words and deeds.

Nowhere does Henderson even consider, let alone actually explore, the idea that callings-out and cancels might possibly have a moral component of the punching-up sort. He does a lot of work to make it instead seem merely a cynical jockeying for social position.

(Literally even the very New York Times piece Henderson cites as evidence for his take is…almost entirely about teenagers punching-up against privilege and misuse of its power, not jockeying for social position.)

It turns out—he links to this himself—he’s previously described concerned students at Yale as a “mob” for daring to wonder why Erika Christakis felt the need to push back on a university letter urging students to not engage in racist or otherwise offensive Halloween costumes. Henderson is fond is linking to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a rightwing group.

When someone pushes this hard against so-called “cancel culture”, you need to ask yourself why. It’s not hard to imagine Henderson himself being afraid of being, at some point, called-out or canceled. The next question, then, is why didn’t Psychology Today ask that question?

Hello. My name is Bix. @bix