Cancel culture isn't the problem, conformity culture is

The dynamic of cancellation, too, is at least tangible. People are offended. They protest audibly and demand redress. Often, their intent is reeducation and suppression. But we know when it occurs and can oppose it. To be sure, cancellation is a cudgel for conformity. Its influence as a background condition is undeniable.

But the intent of those who seek compliance more softly is not necessarily hostile or heavy-handed. They may, on the contrary, sincerely perceive themselves as charitable. The resulting dynamic is less severe and arguably more insidious: those who police, or rather shape, speech not with an intent to suppress dissent but rather on what they view to be the benevolent assumption that everyone agrees with them.

This attitude is familiar in academia and, doubtless, beyond. It is evident in conversations that are not intended to reeducate but rather to reenforce what everyone assumes everyone else already believes. Many proponents of critical race theory — whose animating idea is that race is the one thing needful, the single lens through which all other phenomena should be viewed — are indeed trying to compel compliance. But even more simply operate on the belief that everyone agrees with them. For this crowd, that is an act of sincere charity: Reasonable people agree with me, and the people I encounter are reasonable.