‘Cancel’ culture and American politics

The following is the the results of a YouGov poll commissioned by the Cato Institute

The Cato Institute is a strongly libertarian organization, but the poll was conducted by YouGov, which is a reputable organization, so I don’t think these results are biased.

Now the poll did not reveal the specific political views that Americans are afraid to express, but if highly-educated Americans are more fearful of expressing their opinions than the rest of us, I don’t think these fears are restricted to neo-Nazis or Klansmen.

I think a lot of the USA’s problem are due to misgovernment by an entrenched elite, and I hope for the kind populist revival that Thomas Frank describes in his new book.

But the Cato poll indicates just how hard it will be to make that happen.  We are too divided among ourselves.

It used to be that most self-described liberals thought of ourselves as defenders of free speech for all.  No longer, apparently.

Donald Trump and the Republican leaders are not friends of free speech.  But the divisions indicated in these polls work to their advantage.


The poll did not ask people exactly what it is that they’re afraid of.  There is a difference between being afraid to share your opinions because others might disapprove, and being afraid because your career might be ruined.  Even so, this climate of fear is concerning.

While conservatives are more fearful than liberals, it is noteworthy that 42 percent even of “strong liberals” feel unable to express their opinions because of the political climate.

I don’t think the political climate is the only threat, or even the main threat, to free speech.  But we face a political and economic crisis, and it is not going to be addressed by people who are afraid to speak their minds, or who don’t want their neighbors to be able to speak their minds.


Sixty-two Percent of Americans Say They Have Political Views They’re Afraid to Share by Emily Ekins for The Cato Institute.

Our Oppressive Moment by John McWhorter for Quillette.

The Left Is Now the Right by Matt Taibbi.


Note.  I made some minor edits about eight hours after making the original post.

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2 Responses to “‘Cancel’ culture and American politics”

  1. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    This is a fantastically important post.

    Rant on.

    LOSE YOUR JOB OVER A CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION. Think about that. Your employer is already an informal part of the government. Your ability to feed, clothe, and shelter your family would depend on you being politically neutered, unable to support whatever contrarian political views you have in a meaningful way. College student? Your ability to get an education is at the whim of whoever happens to have the upper hand.

    This is a very touchy subject for me. Way back in the early 80s, before the internet, I was once loudly brated by a professor as being a tool of the military industrial complex in front of the whole class. Not even for voicing an opinion bt rather for engaing what I considered a civic duty. Some of the other students looked uncomfortable but of course nobody rose to my defense. The penalty for disagreement was too great. Imagine if I had been an employee at that college, maybe even an untenured professor. How threatening would that be?

    Now imagine the internet were stalking me. Imagine I was somebody of significance in the world. And my employer was fightened of negative social media.

    Now we have the internet and social media and the ability for “leaders” to generate a boycot at the drop of a hat. Can you imagine the damage someone like Joe McCarthy could have done? And yet it appears today that the left is a lot more more willing to destroy lives and livelihoods for politically incorrect speech than the right.

    It even shuts down perfectly legitimate science.


    Maybe, just maybe, that’s a part of why Trump still has significant support.

    This attitude of “free to be me but not to be thee” is the greatest threat to democracy and freedom. Not a Cold War with China. Not the rich/poor divide. Not racial inequity or homophobia or misogyny. Not corruption of politicians by corporate money. You can call it “cancel culture” or “politcal correctness” or the “politics of personal destruction” or McCarthyism or social credit monitoring or whatever you want. It is all the same, intolerance of diversity of opinion.

    Internet bubbles, created and encouraged by social media, make it easy to get a mob excited enough to rush off to a digital lynching.

    Rant off.

    Can you tell I’ve been “triggered?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fred (Au Natural) Says:

      By civic duty I mean I was in the National Guard. The only deployment we had was fighting forest fires. The main activity was drilling to maintain communications in case of an earthquake.

      That prof is not the only example of leftist antagonism I encountered but it did teach me to keep my mouth shut.


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