Some of the targets of these campaigns may have spoken or acted clumsily, but apologists for cancel culture can find reasons to stigmatize or banish anyone. For some, the destruction of social goods like academic freedom and political pluralism is merely collateral damage if the goal is seen as just. We doubt most Americans agree with this unforgiving and punitive approach to cultural change, but the revolutionaries are now in charge with a vengeance.

They won’t stop by themselves because their campaign is essentially about power and control, and they need new villains. But as they march through liberal institutions, they are also laying waste to liberal values of free speech, democratic debate and cultural tolerance.

Someone has to stop this, and first and foremost that means the liberal establishment. The leaders of universities, foundations, museums, the media and corporations need to draw on their remaining moral authority to make the case for a liberal society. There is a risk that anyone who speaks up, however reasonably, will become a mob target. But if one or two lead, perhaps others will follow.