The real problem with "cancel culture"

In fairness, the insiders of cancel culture might say that they have no choice: Twitter was their only way to accelerate urgent value shifts that might otherwise have taken decades. They’re right that Twitter speeds everything up, and they’re right that causes like racial equality are urgent — and also that white, straight, cisgender liberals always seem to be asking marginalized people to wait until they get around to fixing things.

And yet, even the critics clearly recognize that there is great value in these institutions. They might also recognize that there are reasons that institutions favor incremental, internal change. If you hold those sorts of fights on a public and inherently limited platform, then some part of your audience will inevitably wonder whether the ensuing consensus, such as it is, reflects what people actually think, rather than who they are afraid of.

So achieving victory this way risks damaging the ultimate prize, which is the power those institutions have as institutions, not just algorithmic amplifiers. That power is rooted in the perception that they are the patient accumulators, and, yes, the occasional revisionists, of something broad enough to be called “mainstream discourse.”