“Cancel culture” is becoming synonymous with fragility. Pundits increasingly resent when racial, cultural and sexual norms are enforced in public. They bemoan cancel culture as a form of censorship, despite the fact that no one has actually been “cancelled.” They grieve the loss of free speech when they’re merely being taught a lesson: there is currency in our words and the price paid is accountability.
The first task of information warfare is to recognize when you’re in one, because you might not be fighting the information war, but the information war is fighting you. This essay revisits the wartime writing of Archibald MacLeish, poet-warrior, playwright-propagandist, and Librarian of Congress from 1939 through 1944. It explores whether we’re experiencing an information war now, and how the library community can respond.
Harper’s Magazine recently ran an open letter calling for the reestablishment of open debate in this culture war being fought on the front lines of social media. It was refreshing to learn of a written rebuttal to this open letter, but the cause would benefit more if you didn’t read it at all.
The ability to stymy humiliation, to withhold judgement about intellectual pursuits is a pillar of intellectual freedom. Hachette’s recent move to cancel Woody Allen’s memoir represents an irreparable crack in this pillar as it buckles to sentiments anathema to an adult’s right to read.