So, why won’t Foucault be canceled? There are, it seems to me, two rules that dictate cancel culture. First, the offense needs to be some kind of abuse of power, or at least a violation of modern sensibilities around minorities. No one gets canceled for tax fraud, adultery, or affray because they do not touch on identity politics.
Roman Polanski’s Macbeth is deemed by some to be tainted because its producer fled accusations of sexual assault on a minor. But no one has suggested that, say, Heathers is similarly tainted because Winona Ryder was convicted of shoplifting. Dr. Seuss’s And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street has been withdrawn because it contains a picture of a Chinese man in robes eating from a bowl with chopsticks. But you would sound utterly deranged if you suggested withdrawing the tracks “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” or “River Deep, Mountain High” on the grounds that they were produced by Phil Spector, who was found guilty of an actual murder. (“Talented but flawed producer Phil Spector dies aged 81” was how the BBC headlined his death in prison earlier this year.)
There is a second rule, though, more powerful even than this curious hierarchy of offenses. Cancel culture is almost always directed rightward. Being on the soft Left does not offer much protection, as Woody Allen, J.K. Rowling, and, indeed, Dr. Seuss himself show. But Foucault occupies a far more important place in the social justice warriors’ pantheon than these milksop liberals, for it is his theory of truth and power that defines the woke world view.