The professionally cancelled pundit is a genre of primarily center-right contrarian who makes their living by deliberately provoking outrage online, and then claiming that the outrage directed at them is evidence of an intolerant left run amok. Usually but not exclusively white millennials or Gen-X writers, the cancelled pundit has a sheen of faded patrician prestige, like a stack of unread New Yorkers in a basket beside a toilet. They believe themselves deserving of deference and they think themselves brave for complaining when they don’t get it. They’re beloved by white boomers, Romney Republicans and those who use the word “woke” derisively. Their work is meant to appeal to people uncomfortable with social forces that challenge the established hierarchy of power.

Their work is meant to appeal to people uncomfortable with social forces that challenge the established hierarchy of power…

Are the professionally cancelled pundits naive about the way social media platforms incentivize crudeness, or are they merely playing dumb? I suspect the latter. The cancelled pundits are right that social media can be asinine. But they are not victims of this dynamic: they seem to be savvy manipulators of it. Signatories of the open letter, including Weiss but also many others, have built careers and their own notoriety by seeming to solicit and revel in online anger. They direct deliberately offensive screeds at the sections of social media that are most likely to be incensed by them; they pick fights with people with large Twitter followings so that those people will publicly retort.