Cancelations Are Seldom Permanent

The weirdness of Internet outrage culture.

Cancelled stamp

Following an article down a rabbit hole yesterday afternoon, I came upon this June 28 New York Times column headlined “Everyone Is Canceled” and with the subhed “It only takes one thing — and sometimes, nothing — for fans to dump a celebrity.”

Almost everyone worth knowing has been canceled by someone.

Bill Gates is canceled. Gwen Stefani and Erykah Badu are canceled. Despite his relatively strong play in the World Cup, Cristiano Ronaldo has been canceledTaylor Swift is canceled and Common is canceled and, Wednesday, Antoni Porowski, a “Queer Eye” fan favorite was also canceled. Needless to say, Kanye West is canceled, too.

Also canceled: concepts! 2018 is “officially, extremely canceled,” and so is love. And, inevitably, saying something “is canceled” is also canceled.

With the exception of Porowski, of whom I’ve never heard, I’m pretty sure none of those people are still canceled. Gates and Swift, in particular, seem to be doing extraordinarily well. West is ostensibly running for President. Common still seems to be putting out music and making movies.

Indeed, without following the links, I’m not even sure I remember what any of those people did that got them “canceled” in the first place.

And, indeed, the piece sort of got there:

Celebrities who are also television personalities — like Bill O’Reilly, Charlie Rose and Roseanne Barr — have had their shows quite literally canceled. That is due, in some part, to public pressure.

But an act of cancellation is still mostly conceptual or socially performative. Despite the hordes who declared him canceled, Logan Paul is still making videos (albeit, less regularly). And Kanye West saw his recently released album debut at No. 1 on the Billboard chart.

“We may have canceled Kanye,” Ms. Clark said, but “that may not mean that it’s universal and uniform.”

[…]

Changing culture meaningfully means approaching folks from the standpoint of ‘these harmful ideas you are perpetuating need to go,'” she said. “We’re not going to accept this anymore. But the people themselves can be recovered.”

Which is to say, the canceled can be uncanceled — if they’re willing to do the work. Or hire a good publicist.

Barr seems indeed to be permanently “canceled,” in that she lost her show and is likely permanently off the A-list. Similarly, Rose and O’Reilly will likely never recover anything like their former stature. But their transgressions were all rather severe.

West has constantly outraged people with his bizarre behavior but he seems to recover almost immediately. And I don’t think it’s because he’s “willing to do the work.”

For years, I had a feature here I called “Outrage of the Day,” which highlighted controversies that were cycling through the blogosphere, cable news, or wherever that were rather silly. After I while, I tired of the schtick; there were just too many faux outrages to keep up with them.

Twitter has magnified the problem, creating constant pile-ons over relatively minor transgressions from the ever-changing orthodoxy of the youngish left. The algorithms highlight the tweet that’s getting so much attention and the culture rewards the pile-on. It can be devastating for those victimized by it but, inevitably, the crowd moves on to the next outrage in a day or two—often an hour or two.

With rare exceptions, powerful celebrities can ride out the wave and recover. Barr wasn’t “cancelled” for a single dumb tweet but because she’s a truly awful human being; the tweet was just the last straw. O’Reilly and Rose really shouldn’t even be in this conversation; they’re serial sexual abusers, not people who had their careers impacted by expressing controversial viewpoints.

The real problem are non-public figures, often with little real power, who get suddenly become public figures because someone has caught them being jerks on video. While it’s hard to feel sorry for some asshole who goes apeshit over wearing a mask at a big box store or threatening to call the police on a black man who’s doing nothing wrong, I’m not sure losing their jobs and being shamed nationally is fair punishment. It seems disproportionate to both the offense and their stature.

Kanye West, on the other hand, can probably take it. And he’ll be just fine at the end of the tweet-storm.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Social Media, Society
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. KM says:

    The real problem are non-public figures, often with little real power, who get suddenly become public figures because someone has caught them being jerks on video.

    I would have agreed with you when this phenomenon first started. However, like smoking, at this point you *have* to know what’s going to happen to you if you chose to have a public meltdown or go full asshat. Welcome to the modern version of shunning – much like you would have been in the back in the day had you violated social norms as badly as these folks have. It’s ironic that many of these people would have been fired for doing this in public back in like the 50’s and gossip spread as well. Nobody wants to be known for employing terrible people.

    In vino veritas is truth for a reason – people don’t suddenly change when drunk but rather the filters drop and who they are really shines through. In socialis media veritas* functions the same way. These unstable, nasty people are getting caught doing things they very well might do on the job – a massive concern and liability for companies, especially in the digital age. It’s unfair to expect a business and their employees to suffer negative consequences because one Karen just had to speak to the manager or a maskhole screams they’re being oppressed.

    You have right to be an ass in America. You do not have the right to be an employed ass or have people politely pretend you aren’t a screaming nut who can treat them that way just as easily. It’s incredibly simple to not be a Karen or its male equivalent (Kevin??). It’s incredibly simple to not be a terrible person in public unless you happen to be terrible. Why should they be rewarded with keeping a cushy lifestyle while abusing random people? Why does the public have to tolerate it and why should their employer assume that risk and negative association? Actions have consequences – our society needs to remember that.

    *idk what it would be, never took Latin and google translate was unhelpful

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  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    Cancel culture says more about those doing the cancelling than the cancelled.

    With regard to moronic private citizens, the only people cancelling them are folks they don’t know in real life, so why should they care.

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  3. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @KM:

    I’d go with “et in sociali verum visum est id’

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  4. James Joyner says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    With regard to moronic private citizens, the only people cancelling them are folks they don’t know in real life, so why should they care.

    Because, quite frequently, they lose their livelihoods because they’re in jobs that allow them to be easily replaced. Employers don’t like controversy and will simply dump someone who brings them negative attention.

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  5. de stijl says:

    I have gotten pretty fair along my life and have shared my opinions quite freely.

    I have never once been filmed berating a store clerk, slagging a server, getting overwrought at a neighbor. Never been fired.

    As @KM says, it is super easy.

    Counter argument to James’. It was easy to call the cops on a black bird watcher in Central Park because he asked you to leash your dog. Who are the cops gonna side with?

    Now, a lot of folks have phones and can record the proceedings. What was once a minor blip on the police blotter “Black man accosted White woman in CP” can be judged truly.

    BLM exists because of video. Rodney King was a thing because everyone saw it. Absent that it was “Subject subdued and was transported to county.”

    George Floyd’s murder would have been unremarked had someone not videoed it. Another snippet on page 13.

    JK Rowling could have shut her damn trap. She chose not to. Consequences.

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  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    It occurs to me that I have been “cancelled” on a number of occasions in my life. A few times I didn’t even know it. Regardless, I got over it all with my one remaining feeling still intact.

    I saw these yesterday:

    Julia Ioffe
    @juliaioffe
    ·
    Jul 8
    If you want to be a truly public intellectual, you need the capacity for introspection and self-criticism, and a thick skin. If you can’t take the heat, you’re in the wrong profession.

    Julia Ioffe
    @juliaioffe
    ·
    Jul 8
    One last thought, as someone who has been ratio-ed to hell and back by both the left and right, who has gotten death threats, as someone who has lost two jobs bc of one tweet because of pressure from the WH, and who has covered actual suppression of free speech: grow a pair.

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  7. SKI says:

    I need a bot that auto-replaces “cancelled” with “criticized” – it would make most of the sentences/tweets/stories with that phrase more accurate and understandable.

    Are there situations where humans go overboard? Absolutely.
    Is this new? Nope.

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  8. wr says:

    This is why the hysteria over “cancel culture” has always seemed so ridiculous to me. All it means is that some people say mean things about you on Twitter for a while. I suppose that if your celebrity is entirely dependent on having a big Twitter following that could be a problem, but aside from that it is less than nothing.

    And you can bring up, say, the way the Louis CK has lost his big platform, but that’s not “cancel culture” — that’s his audience learning things about his private life that make them not want to look at or laugh at him. And that’s hardly unique to “cancel culture,” unless you think it was Twitter that ended Fatty Arbuckle’s career.

    Yes, there have been some serious issues — as MR will happily tell you again, what happened in YA lit was truly evil — but most of the hysteria over CC comes from wealthy, well-established people who are used to being able to say whatever they want and have it greeted with hosannas who now find that the little people have a way of criticizing them.

    Oh, and if they’re bold fighters against Cancel Culture like, say, Bret Stephens, they strike their bold blow for freedom by trying to get people who say mean things about them fired.

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  9. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    I need a bot that auto-replaces “cancelled” with “criticized”

    I think a lot of people use “cancel culture” and “call-out culture” interchangeably. But they’re not the same thing. To criticize is to say “I disagree with what you said. And here’s why.” To cancel is to say “I disagree with the thing you said and think you should be fired and/or drummed from polite society.” Those are not the same thing.

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  10. de stijl says:

    A long time ago there was a nazi punk problem.

    In our area we quashed it by social shunning. Don’t invite them, escort them out, don’t go to their stuff, do not interact at all not even to share a meal. You are not welcome.

    For years I wore an armband with a really aggressive red circle and a slash thru a hateful bit of iconography. Wore it proudly.

    Dead Kennedys had the correct response.

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  11. gVOR08 says:

    It would seem cancel culture is another conservative Mount Molehill. Somewhere on line there’s a long list of conservative boycotts. I think they’re still boycotting Disney. It’s all projection from those conservative snowflakes.

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  12. de stijl says:

    Trump has been cancel culture his entire adult life. His go-to move is to ask that someone who criticized him should be fired.

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  13. Kylopod says:

    “Cancel culture.” “Woke.” “SJWs.” These are all relatively new terms that cropped up in just the last few years, but they’re all essentially a rebranding of the older concept of “political correctness.”

    When right-wingers first started complaining about PC back in the ’80s, it was a genius bit of branding, and the labeling of trends they didn’t like as “PC” was so seductive that even many liberals began using the term. I’ve mentioned the anecdote before. I was once reading a blog discussion involving a critique of some book that had nothing to do with politics. One of the commenters called the author an idiot. The blogger said he agreed with the criticism but that there was no need to engage in ad hominem attacks. The commenter retorted, “Oh, don’t be so PC.”

    When people accuse something of being “PC,” they are implying that oversensitivity is being used in a censorial way against the plain, commonsense truth–even if the “censorship” turns out to be little more than banal criticism. This accusation was being leveled against the left decades before Twitter. That’s not to suggest there aren’t examples of people on the left going too far. The problem is that when that threshold has been reached is completely in the eye of the beholder. Plenty of liberals can come up with examples of when they think people are being overly “PC” or “woke” or engaged in “cancel culture.”

    But conservatives are invariably going to use those terms a lot more broadly. Regnery’s Politically Incorrect Guide series, for example, consists of books debunking such “PC” beliefs as the idea that the Civil War was about slavery, that the Robber Barons were the bad guys, and that HIV leads to AIDS. In 2015, Trump called criticisms of his attacks on the appearance of women like Rosie O’Donnell “political correctness,” and Ben Carson meanwhile responded to criticisms of torture by saying we can’t be fighting a “politically correct war.” Today, conservatives complain about “woke-scolds” who believe in such Bolshevik ideas as that there is systemic racism in the US or that trans people should be referred to by the pronouns they prefer. White nationalists who have been removed from Youtube and other platforms complain that they are the victims of “cancel culture.”

    Because of all this, I have always been very cautious about using these terms myself, even though I admit there are times when I have been tempted to use them. By no means do I think the left is blameless in its egalitarian crusades. But I do not wish to enable the right’s deceptive strategy of trying to promote their reactionary agenda under the guise of expanding freedom.

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  14. KM says:

    @James:

    To cancel is to say “I disagree with the thing you said and think you should be fired and/or drummed from polite society.”

    As the premise is that cancellation is seldom permanent, one could argue that while seeming severe or disproportionate, it’s not nearly as bad as shunning used to be. You can always get another job. It might not be as high paying or what you want but you can get employed in America despite some serious personal drawbacks. Polite society may not want you but you can always find like-minded individuals online who will tell you that you did nothing wrong and those meanies online just hate freedom. Back in the day, they tarred and feathered you, ran you out of town (on rails sometimes) or just flat out refused to acknowledge you in public or spit in your face for being “unacceptable”. You wouldn’t be allowed in certain places, your house and person were subject to abuse and attack. You could be economically ruined forever if you didn’t leave everything you ever knew and went West / frontier / new state.

    Again, society needs to remember that actions have consequences up to and including nobody wanting to have anything to do with you. You are not entitled to acceptance by society or to have good-paying employment… although the liberal in me disagrees with those notions. Social norms have changed and this is how adoption becomes widespread. Shunning’s tradition purpose was to make life unpleasant enough that the offender repented of their ways and rejoined polite society. Should these folks truly repent – not “I’m sorry I was filmed, please don’t fire me” – then they will be welcomed back.

    Nobody’s saying you can’t have these beliefs; we’re saying you can’t act like a maniac in public and expect nothing bad is going to happen. Frankly, it’s entitlement of the highest order to think otherwise. Perhaps it is disproportional for that specific instance but people like this rarely act this way once and and likely gotten away with it before. Consider it karma, paid in full upon delivery when they are held accountable.

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  15. Tony W says:

    Twitter was awash yesterday with people saying they’ll never watch the NFL again after the Washington DC team decided to change its name.

    My guess is those are the same people who will never watch the NFL again after the Kneeling protests.

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  16. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Tony W:

    To be fair though, overall NFL viewership is indeed net down. As with NASCAR, that decline can’t be laid at the feet of one or two simple issues, but it would be simplistic not to attribute at least part of that to some former viewers tuning out because of the kneeling thing.

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  17. Northerner says:

    I wonder how many of the people who’ve canceled Bill Gates refuse to use anything he’s responsible for — that would be almost all Microsoft products (including Windows and Word). I’m sure there are Apple users that happily avoid what he’s been involved in, but I wonder how many people have cancelled him but still use Windows and Word?

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  18. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    To cancel is to say “I disagree with the thing you said and think you should be fired and/or drummed from polite society.” Those are not the same thing.

    When I say Nazis are bad and should be drummed out of polite society, is that something new? Or has that always been “cancel culture”?

    Do you really think such sentiments are bad?

    Also note I said “most”.

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  19. James Joyner says:

    @SKI: I think Nazis and child molesters are different from, say, someone who hasn’t fully bought into the transgender argument. “Canceling” of highish profile public figures is more likely to impact the likes of Katie Herzog and Jesse Singal, who are 80 percent allies, than, say, a Tucker Carlson who’s a 98 percent foe.

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  20. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think Nazis and child molesters are different from, say, someone who hasn’t fully bought into the transgender argument. “Canceling” of highish profile public figures is more likely to impact the likes of Katie Herzog and Jesse Singal, who are 80 percent allies, than, say, a Tucker Carlson who’s a 98 percent foe.

    So whether or not it qualifies as “cancelling” is not the action itself but whether or not you agree that the person deserves to be “cancelled”?

    And even if we buy into your conception, isn’t that decision-matrix constantly evolving? Sexual harrassment wouldn’t have gotten an executive fired a few decades ago but would now. Same with racism or antisemitism or most other bigotry.

    Today, you think it is wrong to decry and harshly criticize TERFS and anti-trans idiots like Rowling, do you think history will look kindly on that acceptance?

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  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    Yes, there have been some serious issues — as MR will happily tell you again, what happened in YA lit was truly evil — but most of the hysteria over CC comes from wealthy, well-established people who are used to being able to say whatever they want and have it greeted with hosannas who now find that the little people have a way of criticizing them.

    At the point where I was being ‘canceled’ that term had not yet been invented. But I know for a fact that I was, for example, excluded from prize competitions with the phrase, ‘He’s not a good literary citizen.’ Now, my reaction (lifelong pattern for me) was, ‘Cool, you don’t like me? I’ll go somewhere else.’ I wrote some adult books and now I’m writing screenplays. I expect to sell a screenplay within 6 months. And in the last two weeks I’ve had publishers approach me about writing YA and adult books. So, yeah, I survived.

    But I’m one of the exceptions, not the rule. Most writers can’t shift gears as easily as I can, you know, they’re invested in one thing, maybe can only do the one thing. People who thrived on and profited from public events lost their livelihoods. Over nothing. Others though, even some with MeToo allegations, sailed on unperturbed. Most writers aren’t as paranoid as I am – for example my hard and fast rule that I am never alone with a minor reader ever, under any circumstances.

    It does help that I’m not a racist or a misogynist, so no blackface, no N-bombs, no calling women fat pigs.

    I was canceled for correctly pointing out that insisting that white writers not write POC characters was fucking nuts unless you wanted to see a drastic drop in diverse characters. Also for deriding trigger warnings – which research since then has shown have no benefit. And for calling a self-aggrandizing liar a liar. She’s since been canceled for insufficient intersectionality. And for pointing out that the idea of ‘cultural appropriation’ is nonsense beyond the question of Halloween costumes.

    Kidlit has come around to my position on all but that last, and they’ll eventually figure that out, too. But make no mistake, I’m still a bad guy. You never want to get the answers before the rest of the class.

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  22. de stijl says:

    Calling criticism cancel culture is saying the plebs have no input, no say. Dismissable on its face.

    Fuck that.

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  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:
    Shooting allies in the back is standard operating procedure for extremists on both ends of the political spectrum, though rather more on the Left at this point. Loyalty, pragmatism and perspective are almost absent.

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  24. SKI says:

    @Michael Reynolds: We can criticize crazy extremists without insisting on a new word to describe their behavior or falsely implying that it is something new.

    Humans have *always* had folks go to the extremes. Sometimes that is good as it moves society over time and sometimes it is bad in that it causes more harm than it prevents. Whatever it is in a particular place, it isn’t something that social media invented.

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  25. Michael Reynolds says:

    @de stijl:
    I mostly agree with you, but let’s not be naive. It’s not always the plebs, it is frequently people looking to make a name, to attract social followers, or to turn a profit. Sometimes it’s simply malicious. Power corrupts, and canceling is a power.

    By the way, it irritates me when ‘they’ve got money’ is used to dismiss the issue. Right and Wrong are not functions of income.

    That said, no one is above criticism. I’ve engaged Rowling directly on trans issues on more than one occasion. She’s wrong, IMO, but I didn’t unfollow her to express my disapproval. I prefer argument to sticking my fingers in my ears.

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  26. Michael Reynolds says:

    @SKI:
    I agree. I’ve made that argument myself, that social media is a return to village life where everyone knew your business and your reputation was a fragile thing, carefully guarded. As usual, the fault is not in our stars, dear Brutus, but in ourselves.

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  27. Gustopher says:

    While it’s hard to feel sorry for some asshole who goes apeshit over wearing a mask at a big box store or threatening to call the police on a black man who’s doing nothing wrong, I’m not sure losing their jobs and being shamed nationally is fair punishment. It seems disproportionate to both the offense and their stature.

    Part of punishment is the deterrent effect, and part of not-punishing is a normalizing effect.

    Being an aggressive asshole who uses the implicit threat of violence to intimidate others so they can get their way needs to be stomped out — I feel the same way about armed protestors.

    I have a little more sympathy for the women who do it, because the threat of violence usually isn’t there. If the woman who went apeshit in a grocery and started throwing meat around released a statement that said she was feeling claustrophobic, had a panic attack, and is ashamed of her behavior, I expect the vast majority of people would say “well, don’t do it again”. I don’t remember if she lost her job or not.

    The woman who calmly lied when calling 911 on the birdwatcher because he asked her to leash her dog? She’s evil and deserves everything she got and more.

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  28. Mu Yixiao says:

    I guess I’m more distinct in my definition of Cancel vs. Criticize. JK Rowling hasn’t been canceled. She’s been criticized. Timothy Hutton was canceled (were the accusations against him ever verified?)

    Most of where I see “Cancel Culture” is in universities (where the term started). When a prof is put on leave for reading MLK’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”, that’s canceling. When a speaker is invited by a group that wants to hear the speaker, and an outside group complains and gets the administration to step in and “uninvite” that speaker, that’s canceling.

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  29. steve says:

    Link goes to philosophy professor who has an interesting take on the subject (via Cowen).
    http://dailynous.com/2020/07/09/illusion-agreement-debate-intolerance/

    I am a bit bothered that this is claimed to be a free speech issue. People have every right to say stupid stuff and no one is stopping them. In return, people have the right to say intolerant stuff, even claiming that the first person shouldn’t be allowed to talk, write whatever. If you eliminate the intolerant responses you are eliminating are speech. What is bad here I think is that in some cases employers are firing people in response to people with intolerant responses, and often these groups are fairly small.

    So businesses are choosing to rid themselves of employees with minimal provocation, just because a small group of zealots are upset. (Yes, there are cases where the stuff that was initially said was truly awful like the cop who was hoping for race wars so he could kill blacks, but I am thinking of the marginal cases here.) So for me the issue here is trying to figure out what has happened with employers? Certainly employees have virtually no rights anymore so it is easy to dump people. I suspect that some of these people getting cancelled were also marginal employees to begin with. Still, this is mostly a change in the behavior of employers. (Granted, it is in response to social media which is also still kind of new.) I have to admit that having seen employers fold so easily if I were part of a radical special interest group I would have every incentive to go after and try to have “enemies” cancelled since it seems to work so well and you don’t need many people to make it work.

    Steve

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  30. DrDaveT says:

    @KM:

    It’s incredibly simple to not be a Karen or its male equivalent (Kevin??).

    FWIW, there is no male equivalent of “Karen” etymologically. Karen began as a diminutive of Katherine, which goes back to ancient Greek and is “of obscure origin”.

    Kevin is a pretty good functional equivalent, though. Karen is a nice waspy name that peaked in US popularity at around 2% in the late 1950s and is pretty rare now. Kevin peaked a bit later (early 60s) at about 1.5%, and hasn’t fallen quite as far, but given the sound similarity it’s a great match. Well chosen! (“Mark” would be a closer match demographically, but it’s not worth losing the close sound match.)

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  31. KM says:

    @Gustopher:

    she was feeling claustrophobic, had a panic attack, and is ashamed of her behavior

    OK, panic attacks generally don’t involve you screaming your personal beliefs at people and destroying property. Neither does claustrophobia. Both usually involve you trying to get the hell away from whatever is freaking you out, not aggressively challenge it and pick fights with strangers.

    As a white woman, I really dislike that these Karens seem to get a social pass with their aggressive behavior that others don’t. If a male or minority was screaming in your face and throwing meat at you, I doubt the answer would be “don’t do it again”. It feeds into the stereotype that hysterics and meltdowns are somehow normal for women. It’s not and its insulting that the violence displayed (going apeshit) gets downplayed because it’s “just yelling” or doesn’t involve fists. I have no sympathy for entitled twits who freak out on poor low-wage workers because they can’t handle being inconvenienced. If shopping gets too much, go to the bathroom, go in a stall and lower your mask to calm your breathing. Leave the store if you have to and have them bring your items to the car. Go when it’s not so crowded or have someone with you so they can take over when it gets too much for you. People get panic / claustrophobic / PTSD attacks all the time and manage to not scream at innocent people just going about their day. Being female shouldn’t get you pity points when you’re a jerk.

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  32. DrDaveT says:

    @steve:

    What is bad here I think is that in some cases employers are firing people in response to people with intolerant responses, and often these groups are fairly small.

    Keep in mind that you are talking about employers making business decisions. These are economic decisions, not philosophical or ethical decisions. “Free speech” doesn’t enter into the question; future profits do. It’s a legal matter between the employer and the employee whether those are adequate grounds for dismissal. If they are, and the contract was fairly negotiated, it’s hard to see how the employee has a legitimate beef.

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  33. Kylopod says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    When a speaker is invited by a group that wants to hear the speaker, and an outside group complains and gets the administration to step in and “uninvite” that speaker, that’s canceling.

    That gets to the heart of the problem with the term “cancel culture.” The term tries to cast a sense of illegitimacy on all attempts to stop a person’s views from being heard in any particular venue–but do you really hold that position consistently? Would you want a university to allow anyone to speak, even, say, a neo-Nazi? Now, I realize that as soon as I mention that example, I’m going to get accused of calling anyone I disagree with a neo-Nazi. But the point is, almost everyone, including the people complaining about cancel culture, draws the line somewhere. We can debate where the line ought to be drawn, but the “cancel culture” critics imply a blanket condemnation of the entire practice of “canceling,” even though that’s not a standard they would ever actually stick to consistently themselves.

    Some years back Bill Maher complained on his show about a petition to disinvite him from speaking at a university due to his statements on Islam. (The petition didn’t succeed, by the way, and he did end up speaking without much fanfare.) One of the panelists asked him how he’d feel about a speaker expressing anti-Semitic views. Maher reacted with outrage to the suggestion that his views were in any way comparable to that of an anti-Semite. The fact that he answered in that way was very revealing, because it showed he wasn’t actually following the standard he claimed to be upholding. He wasn’t saying that everyone deserved to be heard; he was saying that he deserved to be heard, and wrapping his indignation that anyone might disagree under the principle of support for unlimited free expression and open inquiry that he himself doesn’t follow consistently.

    This is very different from the First Amendment issue of having the government silence someone’s views. When I say everyone has the right to express their views without government interference, I do mean that in a blanket way: neo-Nazis have the right to speak just as much as people who oppose trans rights, or ordinary conservatives or liberals, or communists, or anyone else. Opponents of “cancel culture” often imply that the “right to free speech” implies an obligation by any organization to give literally anyone a platform–but in practice they don’t actually follow this absurd standard themselves, they just pretend to whenever people they approve of are being given the cold shoulder.

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  34. gVOR08 says:

    Bari Weiss has resigned from NYY, whining about cancel culture all the way out.

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  35. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Kylopod:

    Would you want a university to allow anyone to speak, even, say, a neo-Nazi?

    If the speaker followed all the same rules that apply to the feminist, the evolutionary biologist and, the children’s book author, then yes. I would want the university to allow them to speak.

    I’m pretty damn adamant in my belief that people should be allowed to speak–especially those who are “on the wrong side of public opinion”. There’s two reasons for this: 1) If the rights only apply to “the correct side”, then they’re not rights (I’ve lived in a place where the wrong words on social media would result in a knock on the door and “being invited for tea” by uniformed officers), and 2) I’d rather that they say these things in public where we can keep an eye on them than secretly in a back room somewhere.

    A friend of mine said something in University that has really stuck with me: The most dangerous thing the Klan ever did was take off their robes and put on suits.

    Please note that speakers are invited. That means that someone not only wants to hear what they have to say, but is willing to pay them to say it.

    That does not, however, preclude those opposing the speaker to protest outside, bring in their own speaker to express opposing views, or just sit at home and ignore it.

    This is very different from the First Amendment issue of having the government silence someone’s views.

    State-owned universities are the government.

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  36. Kylopod says:

    @DrDaveT:

    FWIW, there is no male equivalent of “Karen” etymologically.

    I have to confess something that’s been bugging me for the past several weeks: I think this new “Karen” term is sexist. And I’m rather baffled that so many progressives are using it.

    Sure, one can hand-wave away the objections by trying to apply the term to men or coming up with an equivalent male term–but the fact is that most people aren’t. A few days ago there was a Sam Seder video titled “Dallas Karen FREAKS OUT Over Mask Policy in Grocery Store.” If you click on the video, while it begins with a discussion of the woman who was throwing things in the grocery, later in the video it shows a man ranting and raving about masks and lockdowns. The hosts don’t call the man a “Karen” or anything else.

    I understand the desire to highlight the deplorable and reactionary behavior of various people in this society, but it seems the “Karen” term is being used to lay the problem almost solely on the backs of women.

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  37. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: “I disagree with the thing you said and think you should be fired and/or drummed from polite society.”

    That is a tale as old as man.

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  38. Kylopod says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    If the speaker followed all the same rules that apply to the feminist, the evolutionary biologist and, the children’s book author, then yes. I would want the university to allow them to speak.

    Fair enough. That is, however, distinctly a minority opinion that very few of the “cancel culture” critics would stick to. In any case, it’s not a standard any university has ever followed, and it’s not reasonable to think they ever will.

    State-owned universities are the government.

    So you’re okay with “cancel culture” at private universities?

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  39. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: a Tucker Carlson who’s a 98 percent foe.

    Funny you should say that right after he announces he’s going “trout fishing” because people are being just too mean.

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  40. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Kylopod:

    So you’re okay with “cancel culture” at private universities?

    No.

    But I recognize that they operate under different rules. I would hope that they’d allow the speaker, but I allow for the fact that they have the right to say “Not in my living room”.

    The world is not black and white.

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  41. KM says:

    @Kylopod:
    “Karen” originated to describe a particular type of entitled behavior that is almost exclusively tied to female behavior. See, the behavior in question is not being bossy per se but invoking the authority of others as a threat aka “speak to the manager”. You may have known it in a different context as a child as “wait till your father gets home.” The woman in question is abusing the fact that she can call on someone to kick your ass to get you to comply with their insane demands. A man generally isn’t going to invoke someone else’s authority because they’ll use their own as a man; when they say “no” or complain, it has greater weight socially then a cranky, usually middle-aged woman. It’s not a coincidence that the typical Karen is middle-aged as she likely has children and has learned this condescending behavior dealing with them.

    Karens are almost exclusively women because women have been socialized to call in reinforcements when challenged and to threaten those they think are lower then them with a higher authority. That’s why I asked if there was a male equivalent and came up short. It’s seems sexist because it *is* a very gendered behavior.

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  42. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mu Yixiao: I’m pretty damn adamant in my belief that people should be allowed to speak–especially those who are “on the wrong side of public opinion”.

    Everybody very much has the right to speak. Nobody in this country is denying them that right. What they do NOT have a right to is an audience. If Condi Rice is coming to a university to give a speech and a whole bunch of students get together and persuade the Admin to renege on the invite to her, her speech has not been denied. What’s been denied is the audience at that university.

    She is still very much free to give her speech, whether it be from a soapbox on a street corner, posted on her own personal blog, or in a prime time slot on FOX (if they were agreeable to it).

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  43. Gustopher says:

    @KM:

    People get panic / claustrophobic / PTSD attacks all the time and manage to not scream at innocent people just going about their day. Being female shouldn’t get you pity points when you’re a jerk.

    As someone who has panic attacks, I can say that 95% of the time the flight-or-fight response goes to flight. 95% of the time. The other 5%, I have to make a conscious choice to get out of there.

    And I don’t give women a pass out of pity, but I penalize the men for their physical strength. At 6’6”, I have to be careful to not show anger because it’s way more threatening from a large man.

    And finally, I find the term Karen clearly misogynistic. Why don’t we have a male equivalent? Misogyny. If a man wants to speak to the manager, it’s treated very differently than a woman. If I give women a break here it’s because I overcompensate for knowing that.

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  44. Northerner says:

    @steve:

    Certainly employees have virtually no rights anymore so it is easy to dump people. I suspect that some of these people getting cancelled were also marginal employees to begin with.

    I think in practical terms this is a large part of it, and will probably increase. Almost everyone insults one group or another. If not according to race than because of gender or body fat or height or intelligence (ie insulting stupid people) or ugly — just about every insult out there applies to more than one individual. That will for a time make it relatively easy to get rid of unwanted employees (employee X insulted group Y and we can’t support that at our workplace). However, it’ll only be applied to people they want to get rid of — employees they value will be given second (and third etc) chances.

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  45. Kylopod says:

    @KM:

    Karens are almost exclusively women because women have been socialized to call in reinforcements when challenged and to threaten those they think are lower then them with a higher authority.

    Sorry, that’s a thin excuse. First of all, there are numerous examples of men “calling in” when seeing a black person or immigrant or whatever. Second, a lot of the “Karens” being highlighted aren’t doing call-in behavior at all. Some of them have been vocally harassing people of color, which is not in any way remotely a behavior exclusive to women. Some of them are simply speaking at public forums–like Deborah Baber or that pizzagate lady–which is indistinguishable from what the man in the aforementioned video did. Whatever its original meaning, “Karen” is being used as a catch-all term for bad behavior by reactionary white women while ignoring that there are men who do the same shit all the time.

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  46. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @KM: That’s why I asked if there was a male equivalent and came up short. It’s seems sexist because it *is* a very gendered behavior.

    Actually had this discussion not too long ago. I think we settled on Chad.

    ETA: And yes, there are some perfectly nice Chads out there, but if there is a Chad who thinks we might be talking about him? We probably are.

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  47. Mu Yixiao says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    What they do NOT have a right to is an audience. If Condi Rice is coming to a university to give a speech and a whole bunch of students get together and persuade the Admin to renege on the invite to her, her speech has not been denied. What’s been denied is the audience at that university.

    What of the rights of the audience that invited her? They’re being denied the right to hear the message (they invited her, after all). They are also being denied the right to speak–in the form of questions (university speakers almost always have a Q&A portion at the end). And Ms. Rice is being denied the right to hear those questions and speak to them.

    Nobody is forcing anyone to listen to her. Those who don’t want to hear her speak can just not go listen to her.

    If you’re being denied the right to an audience who wants to hear you speak, then you’re being denied the right of speech.

    ETA: You’re also being denied the right of free association.

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  48. Kylopod says:

    @Gustopher: I had a panic attack last week. I was sitting at my computer working when I had the oddest sensation. You know the feeling that your foot or arm is asleep due to lack of blood circulation? I felt that sensation–on my face. At first I ignored it because it wasn’t even altogether unpleasant, but as it kept persisting for hours I began to wonder about it. I looked it up on Google, and it said that while such a sensation could be something minor, it can also be a sign of a stroke or MS or some other serious condition. I walked over to the local urgent-care clinic, and as I waited there for about thirty minutes, the condition seemed to be spreading–I felt the tingling on my arms, and the feeling on my face was starting to resemble a throbbing sensation. When I finally was seen, they informed me that I was physically fine and that I’d had a panic attack. As soon as they told me that, the feeling completely disappeared, and it hasn’t returned. Which was proof enough for me that the diagnosis was accurate.

    I think it was triggered by hearing about Nick Cardero’s death. I think I also had a panic attack several weeks ago after hearing about my childhood friend who passed away from Covid-19. I think I need to avoid listening to stories about people my age or younger getting destroyed by the virus. But just learning that it was a panic attack has actually made me a lot calmer. It’s not clear whether getting Covid-19 and recovering confers any immunity, or if it does whether it’s temporary or not, but for what it’s worth my tests showed that I do have a high amount of the antibodies in my system, for now. I’m still avoiding going out, and taking all the necessary precautions when I do.

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  49. de stijl says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I nominate Brett. (No offense to actual Bretts.) Goes by Be Retty to his buddies.

    Brett would be the guy that calls the cops prematurely and preemptively.

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  50. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    What of the rights of the audience that invited her? They’re being denied the right to hear the message (they invited her, after all). They are also being denied the right to speak–in the form of questions (university speakers almost always have a Q&A portion at the end). And Ms. Rice is being denied the right to hear those questions and speak to them.

    Bull shit. None of that is true. IF that were to happen, they would only be denied those things in that venue. Go to a city park. Give your speech. Take questions, give answers. I have heard of *Student Republican* groups inviting all kinds of people but the only one I recall being denied was Milo Yianopoopis or what ever his name is.

    In the particular case I was referring to about Condi Rice, she had been invited to give a commencement speech at graduation. A whole lot of seniors said they did not want to hear a warmonger on that day. I do not recall for certain what the upshot was (I think the Admin disinvited her) but it wasn’t students who invited her to begin with.

    **yes yes, I am quite sure other student groups invite whack-a-doodle folks too, but I don’t hear about them, because they aren’t well known Republicans that quite a few students find reprehensible because of war crimes or corruption or racism or whatever.

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  51. steve says:

    This may have been linked to above but there is a site which keeps track of speaker disinvitations.

    https://www.thefire.org/research/disinvitation-database/

    Steve

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  52. de stijl says:

    @Gustopher:
    @Kylopod:

    One night on a bus I had a panic attack – my very first.

    It was the home stretch of a death spiral project where I had worked every day for months on end. 8 until I finished my task list on top of 30 phone calls and 80 e-mails – if I was lucky 10 pm.

    One time on that gig I went to work on Friday morning and went home Sunday late afternoon. Brutal stress. Crushing hours.

    I started hyperventilating so hard I couldn’t stand. Collapsed in the aisle. Could not oxygenate. Thought I was having a heartattack. I was so freaked.

    Bus driver pulls over. Passengers trying to help. Cop cars. Ambulance. The whole shebang. It was so embarrassing. Took me to HCMC.

    God damn that was fucking brutal.

    I eventually made it home. Slept two hours. Went to work next morning. Never told a soul. Because it was shameful. I cracked.

    We delivered on time but way under scope.

    Delivery day I just quit. Decided I should spend time in the park looking at ducks.

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  53. Mu Yixiao says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I have heard of *Student Republican* groups inviting all kinds of people but the only one I recall being denied was Milo Yianopoopis or what ever his name is.

    Are conservative groups not allowed the same considerations as liberal/progressive groups?

    And… quick search:

    Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-Texas)
    Ann Coulter
    Alan Dershowitz
    Antonia Okafor
    Sheriff David Clarke
    Elisha Krauss
    Texas State Rep. Briscoe Cain

    Along with events discussing Israel & Palestine, a student “jail & bail” charity event benefiting child literacy, and The Vagina Monologues (for not being “trans-inclusive).

    I’m done with this conversation.

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  54. grumpy realist says:

    @Mu Yixiao: I remember when I was a grad student we discovered that some group on campus (public university, BTW) had invited a UFO conspiracy nut to give a talk. Our reaction was immediate: we invited someone who was well-known as a military aircraft/UFO debunker to give a talk.

    Our talk was very well attended, I remember. (Large STEM departments at university.)

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  55. Tyrell says:

    Just another fad. And what goes around comes around.
    A lot of this is the old “do as I say, not as I do”

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  56. de stijl says:

    @Kylopod:

    Pay attention and seek help if you think you need it.

    I have dealt with avoidance, anxiety, and agoraphobia since the incident I relayed because I was too stupid to ask for help and thought I could bull my way through.

    You do not want that. Asking for help can be very difficult. Getting help now is way better than later.

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  57. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: Delivery day I just quit. Decided I should spend time in the park looking at ducks.

    Good choice.

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  58. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-Texas)
    Ann Coulter
    Alan Dershowitz
    Antonia Okafor
    Sheriff David Clarke
    Elisha Krauss
    Texas State Rep. Briscoe Cain

    Ah yes, at least 3 of those I can’t blame anyone for protesting against in the least. And I really don’t care what “issues” they were there to speak about, we all know of cranks on every side of every issue. But none of that matters to my point, which is that speaking in any specific location is a privilege. If I was a well known white supremacist who was invited to speak at a HBCU by a student group (for whatever reason), do you really think I have a right to speak there? I wouldn’t. Speaking there would be privilege they are free to revoke.

    It is not and never has been a right to whatever you want where ever you want how ever you want, and the people screaming the loudest about not being allowed to speak whatever inanities they feel like where ever they want? They are the snowflakes.

    I’m done with this conversation.

    This is your right and I respect your choice, because as I’ve stated above, I have the right to speak, but I don’t have the right to an audience, and the fact that James allows me to speak here, is a privilege I am grateful for.

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  59. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl:

    Decided I should spend time in the park looking at ducks.

    Ducks are good.

    My first, full-blown panic attack was in a crowded subway car, stuck on the Manhattan Bridge, overlooking the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center about 5 days after 9/11. People saw that I was visibly off, and thought I was having a heart attack or something, while I was saying “it’s probably a panic attack, i’ll be fine.”

    A doctor pushed his way through the crowd, asked about five questions, made me breathe in through the nose and out through pursed lips until I calmed down, and announced to the car “It’s a panic attack, seems reasonable all things considered.”

    There were smaller ones before that, where I just got nervous and had to leave or got irritable, but that was the first one big enough that it got a name and pointed out “here’s what’s wrong”. I kind of wish I didn’t just blow it off at the time… took me another decade at least to start getting it under control.

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  60. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @steve: Mr Rogers? Ha! And here I didn’t think I could like him any more.

    ETA: and I was wrong, Condi Rice did not get disinvited.

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  61. Gustopher says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Actually had this discussion not too long ago. I think we settled on Chad.

    But, Chads are the guys who sleep with all the women incels want to sleep with.

    @de stijl:

    I nominate Brett. (No offense to actual Bretts.) Goes by Be Retty to his buddies.

    Bret Bedbug Stevens uses a single t in his name.

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  62. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kylopod: @de stijl: @Gustopher: I have anxiety, really bad anxiety any time I have to deal with the govt. Taxes? Haysoos Chrispo thank dawg for accountants. Going to court? Always get a lawyer, I don’t care if it’s for jaywalking, get a lawyer. Chances are good I won’t even have to go to court.

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  63. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gustopher: Hmmm…. I did say some Chads are good.

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  64. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl:

    Pay attention and seek help if you think you need it.

    @Kylopod: If you don’t think you need help, set a reminder to re-evaluate in two months. Maybe you do need help, maybe you don’t.

    It’s an unpleasant time with a lot more stressors than most times. If you’re having a panic attack, it often means you aren’t handling stress as well as you need to, which either means you don’t know how, or you haven’t been doing the things you know you should be doing.

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  65. wr says:

    @Mu Yixiao: “Timothy Hutton was canceled”

    He’s got a feature, a TV movie and a series all in post-production. How was he cancelled?

    (It is true that his last show was cancelled, but that was because no one was watching it before or after the accusation…)

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  66. wr says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: “In the particular case I was referring to about Condi Rice, she had been invited to give a commencement speech at graduation. ”

    And part of it was that she was to be given an honorary degree, in effect to be bestowed with the university’s highest honor. And she wasn’t just speaking to any group — she was to be the graduation speaker, which meant that everyone who was graduating would be a captive audience.

    It’s never quite as simple as the Right wants to make it.

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  67. Mu Yixiao says:

    @wr:

    He’s got a feature, a TV movie and a series all in post-production. How was he cancelled?

    (It is true that his last show was cancelled, but that was because no one was watching it before or after the accusation…)

    He was removed before the show was cancelled, as I recall. And he was specifically excluded from the “Leverage” sequel.

    As for the 3 things in post-production: Were those completed before the accusation? (Asking honestly).

    And… as the title says: It doesn’t mean it’s permanent.

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  68. de stijl says:

    @Gustopher:
    @Kylopod:

    Concur with Gustopher. Highly concur.

    One day I decided it was best to mow my lawn at 11 pm (my neighbors must have hated me) because then no one could see. I watched the street and if headlights approached I hid behind a bush.

    The USPS cancelled delivery because I didn’t clear out my mail box for several weeks.

    I wasted 6 years as a basket case chock full of PTSD related pathologies.

    Don’t waste 6 years. It’s stupid and preventable.

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  69. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @wr: I had forgotten about the honorary degree.

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  70. wr says:

    @Mu Yixiao: “And… as the title says: It doesn’t mean it’s permanent.”

    Which means it’s… nothing.

    Not quite like major corporations teaming up with one of the political party to ensure that no one who has ever held opposing political beliefs is allowed to work in media, academia, or anywhere else that might be of influence.

    But that was back when we were fighting Communists, and I’m sure all those people who signed petitions in the 30s deserved to be excluded from society. That doesn’t hold a candle to people saying mean things on Twitter.

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  71. An Interested Party says:

    It would seem that a public service announcement is needed…by the way, apparently Andrew Sullivan is on his way out the door from New York Magazine…perhaps him and Bari Weiss will be starting something new…

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