The Capitol Rioters Were a Right-Wing Cancel Mob
Over and over in the past decade, we have seen students, usually left-wing, respond to the presence or expected presence of right-of-center speakers with attempts to stop them from speaking, either by threatening to show up in force or by demonstrating in large, often unruly groups. These scenes have tended to feature raucous activists disrupting orderly and peaceful proceedings. And while they rarely result in serious violence, they frequently devolve into tense, seemingly out-of-control situations where the speakers and those who gathered to hear them have legitimate reason to fear for their physical safety.
Typically, this has limited immediate effect. The targeted speakers might delay their speeches or appear off campus. Even if they cancel entirely, they can still get their message out through social media and other forums.
But over time, this has a corrosive effect on campus culture. Colleges are institutions founded on open debate and intellectual inquiry. Mobs undermine that foundation by chilling the speech of students, professors, and others who don’t wish to risk face their wrath. The direct results may not always be visible, but over time, the chilling effect can degrade an institution’s values and capabilities, rendering it unable to fulfill its mission. And while the physical threats are often modest, sometimes people are injured.
These mob tactics have been lumped in with an array of speech-squelching activities that have come to be called “cancel culture.” As Greg Lukianoff, the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights In Education, has noted, the rise of campus cancel culture has been driven in large part by students, who in the early 2010s began to demand strict speech codes and the disinvitation of unwanted speakers. But although the demands originated with students, administrators played a key role in encouraging them, supporting cancel mobs through explicit policies and implicit support. The administrators may not have participated directly in the mobs, but they shared some culpability for coddling and even encouraging their obnoxious and destructive behavior.
There has been some debate about what to call the scene at the United States Capitol yesterday, in which hundreds of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the building, vandalized offices, stole equipment, and caused Congress—which was in the middle of certifying Joe Biden’s election as president—to drop
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