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‘Cancel culture’: should humanists be concerned? | Young Humanists

October 20th, 2021 19:30   --   21:00

This event has been postponed. A new date will be announced shortly.

‘Cancel culture’ is a term that is increasingly common in discussions about free speech. Although there is no universal definition of the concept, it is widely understood to refer to ‘the phenomenon or practice of publicly rejecting, boycotting, or ending support for particular people or groups because of their socially or morally unacceptable views or actions’ – per the dictionary. But is it real? And, if so, should humanists be concerned?

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Some of the most important ideas in history caused great offence in their time. And being spared offence is not a human right. Those who are ‘cancelled’ often have their reputations tarnished and their income and careers can be damaged as a result. However, there are also ethical problems associated with attempts to ‘stamp out cancel culture’. If a student invites a speaker to an event, could a law reasonably prevent them from changing their mind, for any reason? If we scratch beneath the surface, will ‘cancel culture’ turn out to be simply the new ‘political correctness gone mad’? The stakes are high. We are either in the midst of an unprecedented free speech crisis, or another moral panic that sells newspapers.

As humanists, we value debate and view freedom of speech as an essential liberty. We also stand against oppression and campaign for a more tolerant society. Should we be sounding the alarm about ‘cancel culture’, or is the term too often exaggerated or misused to be of any use? If not, are there other, more useful or nuanced ways to discuss threats to free speech, or the intersection of online activism, reputation, and the universal right to free expression?

Join us for a discussion about these questions, and more, with a panel of experts. Expect no easy answers. All are welcome and there will be plenty of opportunities to put your questions to the speakers!

Spaces are limited and registration is essential. To reserve a space for you and your household, please book now. We will be using Zoom, and a link will be emailed to you ahead of the event.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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