Natalie Wynn's critique of cancel culture (as someone in the midst of being canceled)

Since I just wrote about a trans person behaving like a nut, I thought I’d close out this Friday by sharing a video from a trans person who, in my opinion, is just the opposite. Natalie Wynn makes long, thoughtful videos about contemporary social issues. Back in 2018 I wrote about a video she made about Jordan Peterson. Even though I ultimately disagreed with the argument she made in that video I thought her presentation of the issues was pretty balanced and fair-minded. As you may have noticed, those are qualities that seem to be in short supply these days.

Recently, Wynn released a new video about cancel culture which is not only reasonable and thoughtful but which I happen to agree with completely. Wynn critcizes both the left and right in this clip but the core of her argument is a response to a specific (and popular) progressive idea, i.e. there’s no such thing as cancel culture, just accountability for people in power.

Wynn argues that cancel culture is actually a distinct phenomenon, though not necessarily a new one. The distinction she arrives at is fairly simple: Cancel culture isn’t aimed at disagreement with ideas or changing minds, it’s aimed at isolating and punishing people who’ve been judged the enemy. As Wynn says early on in the clip, “We do have a teensy bit of a reign-of-terror situation on our hands.”

Wynn focuses on two distinct cancellations in the clip: James Charles and herself. Even if you don’t know who James Charles is or don’t care, the points she makes by looking at his case seem universal. In short, cancellation operates using a series of tropes or tactics:

  1. Presumption of Guilt – Doubt about the accusation is set aside. There’s no need to investigate claims. It’s easier to just make assumptions.
  2. Abstraction – Generalizing the specific instance into a vague accusation that is harder to dispute because it lacks specifics.
  3. Essentialism – The generalized claim morphs into a personal statement. We’re no longer talking about what someone said or did but who they are.
  4. No forgiveness – Having made the initial, unproven accusations into a grand statement about a person’s essential nature, the last key is to never let it be over, even if the person sincerely apologizes or otherwise demonstrates a lack of hateful intent. Once accused the accused is forever guilty.

If all of this sounds familiar it may be because you’ve seen progressive activists use these same tactics against conservatives. If someone says something the left doesn’t like or can construe uncharitably, they are judged to be racist/sexist/homophobic persons and their sins (both real and imagined) are brought up forever, regardless of how they respond. To be clear, I don’t know if Wynn would agree on that point but it’s something I’ve seen dozens if not hundreds of times.

Most of this clip is really about Wynn’s own experience of being canceled over having a controversial figure read a single line of dialogue in her previous video. She has a lot of first hand experience being cancelled and points out it’s not so easy to shrug off the experience if you’re a relatively minor YouTube figure and not JK Rowling or Dave Chappelle.

Anyway, you may not agree with all of this or care about all of it but it’s a relief to see someone coming from a very different perspective who nevertheless concludes that cancel culture is a) real and b) a plague, especially on people who aren’t rich and famous. Note that there is a lot of NSFW language in this clip, especially when Wynn is reading the tweets from people trying to cancel her: