Writing Question

Writing

Rutgers university

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I'm working on a writing question and need support to help me learn.

By now, you've read some pieces about “cancel culture” and free speech.

The goal here is pretty simple. In the same way that people at a cocktail party might engage in fervent conversation, these authors are doing the same thing in print. Each author is expressing his or her viewpoint, complicating the view of another. What comes next involves you. Amid these differences of opinion and perspective, you need to decide what your contribution to the discussion will be.
The central question to which you'll be responding is this:
To what extent is cancel culture a threat to free speech in 2020? How extreme is that threat?

It should be a minimum of three double-spaced pages, but will likely need to be longer. For a more comprehensive list of requirements, consult "Essay #1: Expectations and Goals."

As always, any ideas from outside sources should be cited in MLA Style.

The paper should be typed in size 12 Times New Roman, double spaced, and appropriately formatted.

Unformatted Attachment Preview

N$%"+%1&%$- B7##79 O'$."*."1'' CDE"B7##79$&+ F7(",1G$"!"8&$$"3$3)$&H7.#I"+%7&*$+"#$8%"%,*+"37.%,J"K*:."('"87&"L$-*(3"1.-":$%"1."$M%&1"7.$ !"#$%&'(")'*)+&,(-.(/01(*2&(301&+4)'(3'#5(67%*78 !"#$%%$&"'()#*+,$-"*."/01&'$&2+2"3*+%14$+"5&*%*6($+"78"%,$"'79$&8(#"87&"%,$"+*#$.5*.:"78 8&$$"+'$$5, ;$++*51"<1#$.%* ;(#"=>"?@?@ · A"3*."&$1- ;JEJ"P79#*.:J"Q,7%7R"S$..$%%"P1:#*.TN$%%I"U31:$+ A few years back, my old high school found itself embroiled in a controversy over dress codes. The girls were protesting what they believed were sexist rules: bans on bare shoulders and midri=s and code violations that almost entirely targeted female students. What I remember most, though, was the response by the school principal, who said, “Some things are a distraction, and we don’t need to distract students from what is supposed to be going on here, which is learning.” But whose learning was he talking about? Surely not the young women who were being pulled out of class just to be forced to change into oversized T-shirts. No, the principal was referring to the boys: He feared the girls’ clothing and bodies would distract from their learning. It didn’t occur to the school that routinely pulling girls out of class would be a distraction — not to mention a humiliation — because the girls’ learning was never really the point. It was a perfect distillation of how institutions center policies around those they deem most important. That’s why an old dress code was the Lrst thing that came to my mind when I read the public letter in Harper’s decrying America’s “intolerant climate” and “a vogue for public shaming.” The letter’s signatories read like a who’s who: political luminaries, columnists, authors, and professors — people with powerful platforms, and access to large audiences. And at Lrst glance, the letter seems innocuous — there’s nothing wrong with being against “the restriction of debate” or wanting to “preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences.” But a closer look shows the “good-faith disagreements” are anything but. The letter mentions professors being “investigated for quoting works of literature in class,” for example. What I assume they’re referring to is a white teacher at UCLA who used the nword repeatedly in class while quoting Martin Luther King Jr. even after Black students asked him to stop. (Ohio State University professor Koritha Mitchell has a terriLc podcast episode on why teachers shouldn’t be doing this.) The students made a formal complaint, as is their right, but there’s been no mention of their free speech in the ensuing media furor. The Harper’s letter also mentions editors being “Lred for running controversial pieces” — a reference to the ouster of New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet. What the letter doesn’t mention is that Bennet lost his job for, among other things, running an op-ed section that published a senator advocating the use of military force against peaceful American protesters — a column that employees pointed out literally put Black lives in danger — and without even having read it before publication. Who signed the letter in Harper’s is just as important as what’s written in it. Ian Buruma, for example, was Lred from his job at the New York Review of Books after he published an essay by Jian Ghomeshi — a Canadian radio personality who had been accused by more than 20 women of sexual assault. Buruma later defended the decision in a disastrous interview where he said, “The exact nature of his behavior — how much consent was involved — I have no idea nor is it really my concern.” New York Times opinion writer Bari Weiss, who has made a career for herself railing against “safe spaces,” was recently outed for reporting a Black editor to management just because she declined an invitation for co=ee. Emily Yo=e, who has been criticized by anti-rape activists for multiple columns in the past, was recently taken to task by a Washington Post journalist for publishing the story of her assault in a piece riddled with errors and bias. Olivia Nuzzi just wrote a fawning obituary of a woman known for harassing a leading Black journalist and his family. Then of course there’s J.K. Rowling, who recently used her considerable platform to push forward bigoted ideas and debunked myths about trans women while fashioning herself a defender of women’s rights. 9$(#++&.*&:(;0)+$#'7.*(7.($&<&+(+&4&++&:(*0(#.(=%#$%&'&:> $0+(7.(#(108#$(120(2#.(?&&$(4+0@&$(0)*(04(#$(7$:).*+5 #4*&+(%08A'#7$7$B(#?0)*(.&C)#'(2#+#..8&$*D I could go on. The point is that a good number of the people attached to the letter — which presents itself as an objective defense of free speech — are those eager to excuse their own bad behavior and bigotries. (There are also signatories I respect; since its publication, New York Times columnist Jennifer Finney Boylan, who is trans, has apologized and tweeted that she didn’t know who else had signed the letter.) The truth is that we are in a political moment when free speech is in danger, just not in the way this letter outlines. Americans have watched as thousands of protesters have taken to the streets to demonstrate against racist police violence — only to be teargassed and beaten. Video after video shows journalists, clearly identifying themselves as such, being hit and dragged, knocked over and arrested. The most challenged book in American libraries last year? A children’s book about a trans child. Where is the free speech outrage, the letter signed by powerful thinkers, over these injustices? The only speech these powerful people seem to care about is their own: They want to be able to say whatever they want without consequence and to paint themselves as the victims even as they wield more institutional and systemic power than anyone criticizing them. As the Washington Post’s Karen Attiah put it, “This is about whose ideas, opinions and expressions are worth protecting.” At the end of the day, “cancel culture” is a term full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It’s certainly not about free speech: After all, an arrested journalist is never referred to as “canceled” nor is a woman who has been frozen out of an industry after complaining about sexual harassment. “Canceled” is a label we all understand to mean a powerful person who’s been held to account. It’s a term meant to re-center sympathy on those who already have privilege and inauence — a convenient tool to maintain the status quo. But facing consequences for what you say and do is not a free speech violation. And there’s nothing new or brave about signing a letter that characterizes criticism of the powerful as dangerous. V(#%(&$ B&$$"K'$$5, V1.5$#"V(#%(&$ ;$++*51"<1#$.%* 01&'$&+ !)7(% 0$#' W$:1# N$%"%,$"L$-*(3"1'' Subscribe CULTURE A Deeply Provincial View of Free Speech Many prominent writers and thinkers seem invested in the notion that simply facing strong public criticism is a threat to free speech. HANNAH GIORGIS JULY 13, 2020 2 more articles this month Thank you for reading The Atlantic. Subscribe Now Already a subscriber? Sign in BETTMANN / GETTY As protests against racist violence continue around the country during a deadly pandemic, a group of journalists, authors, artists, and academics has taken a stand against “a “stifling atmosphere [that] will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time.” ADVERTISEMENT In an open letter published on the Harper’s website last week, 153 figures, including J. K. Rowling, Fareed Zakaria, and Malcolm Gladwell, condemned the rise of a culture characterized by “an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.” The short manifesto argued that the “forces of illiberalism” are gaining strength across the political spectrum, beyond the radical right and the supporters of Donald Trump, as writers and thinkers face severe professional consequences for “perceived transgressions of speech and thought.” Several of my colleagues at The Atlantic signed the letter, which echoes the sentiment of other recent pieces from prominent writers, including the Rolling Stone contributing editor Matt Taibbi, the New York magazine columnist Andrew Sullivan, and the Johns Hopkins professor and Atlantic contributor Yascha Mounk. All of these statements contend that the democratic ideal of open debate is under siege at a time when it is most needed. [ Read: What a direct attack on free speech looks like ] The Harper’s letter’s ostensible message championing the “free exchange of information and ideas” is easy enough to agree with, especially at a time when the president of the United States has made himself an enemy of the First Amendment and a free press. And yet the letter has led to a charged debate in the current fraught media climate. In recent years, defenses of “free speech” have often been wielded by people in positions of power in response to critics who want to hold them accountable for the real-life harm their words might cause. Many of these public figures frame any such consequences for their ideas as “cancel culture,” a phrase both hazy and incendiary that is broadly applied and often used defensively, the way someone might describe an article they don’t like as “clickbait,” simply to dismiss it. RECOMMENDED READING Who's Afraid of Free Speech? THOMAS HEALY What a Direct Attack on Free Speech Looks Like DAVID A . GRAHAM Sometimes There Are More Important Goals Than Civility VANN R. NEWKIRK II The letter in Harper’s vaguely alludes to instances of alleged silencing that sparked complicated discussions, very often about institutional racism. “Whatever the arguments around each particular incident,” the letter concludes, “the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal.” (At least two of the signatories have since distanced themselves from the statement, and on Friday another group of writers and academics published a lengthy counterletter that originated in a Slack channel called Journalists of Color.) That the signatories of a letter denouncing a perceived constriction of public speech are among their industries’ highest-paid and most widely published figures is a large and obvious irony. Many of the writers who signed their name have been employed or commissioned by outlets including The New Yorker, The New York Times, Vox, The Washington Post, and this magazine. Several have received lucrative book deals; others—like Rowling, Salman Rushdie, and Wynton Marsalis—are global icons. The educators on the list are affiliated with universities including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Columbia. There’s something darkly comical about the fretfulness of these elite petitioners. It’s telling that the censoriousness they identify as a national plague isn’t the racism that keeps Black journalists from reporting on political issues, or the transphobia that threatens their colleagues’ lives. The letter denounces “the restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society,” strategically blurring the line between these two forces. But the letter’s chief concern is not journalists living under hostile governments, despite the fact that countries around the world impose draconian limits on press freedom. Across the globe, the challenge facing journalists and intellectuals is not the pain of Twitter scorn; the Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that at least 250 journalists were imprisoned worldwide last year for their reporting. In the U.S., the Trump administration continues to threaten reporters’ safety and undermine the belief that journalists play a valuable role in a democracy. The country is moving deeper into an economic recession, decimating industries including journalism and academia. And yet the suddenly unemployed people the Harper’s statement references clearly lost their jobs not because of a pandemic or government pressure, but for actions criticized as potentially harming marginalized groups. This small group includes James Bennet, the former editor of the New York Times editorial page (and a former editor in chief of this magazine), who was forced to resign after the op-ed page he supervised published an article by Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton that endorsed state violence. To meaningfully acknowledge the political threat that many journalists face worldwide, or to name the violence and economic insecurity that disproportionately affect certain groups working in media, would require conceding that critical tweets are not censorship. But the passively worded Harper’s statement is damaging in large part because of the issues it doesn’t name—but which are apparent through the work of its signatories. Rowling, Jesse Singal, and Katie Herzog, for example, have all attracted criticism in recent years for their writing and public comments about transgender people. Many activists, scientists, and other experts on gender identity have argued that these writers’ work actively contributes to circumstances in which trans people suffer disproportionately high rates of violence, unemployment, and suicide. In response to such challenges, writers like Singal frequently invoke the importance of “open debate” and “freedom of speech”—all while continuing to enjoy the privilege of writing cover stories for national publications like The Atlantic. This subtext isn’t explained in the letter. But as the writer Gabrielle Bellot (who also contributes to The Atlantic) pointed out in an essay for LitHub, these signatories’ refusal to seriously weigh their own frustrations against others’ experiences effectively sidelines entire groups of public thinkers, especially transgender people, who have often been the subject of their writing: “The largest issue seemed clear to me, in part because I was accustomed to it: that the letter, at core, was at once a theoretical defense of intellectual freedom and a carefully veiled invitation to use dehumanizing rhetoric under the bastion of ‘the free exchange of ideas.’” In addition, the Harper’s letter tacitly conflates the president’s raft of anti-media practices and open disdain for the press with the signatories’ own irritation at the prospect of being ratioed on Twitter or fired because of the “woke” brigade. The author Thomas Chatterton Williams, who spearheaded the letter, told The New York Times that some of the events that inspired the statement echoed the actions of Donald Trump, whom he dubbed the “Canceler in Chief.” But Trump would more accurately be described as a violent demagogue and a mendacious racist. He is not, as Williams seems to suggest, dangerous simply because of his interest in stifling free expression. Even this comparison is revelatory. Amid a worsening pandemic and ongoing protests against lethal state violence, using glib internetspeak to describe the president of the United States betrays a deep detachment from the carnage wrought by his policies and ideology. It is important to remember: The president is not merely a Twitter troll, but the leader of an awesomely powerful government security apparatus. [ Read: Civility is overrated ] Therein lies the central paradox of calls to return to an (always unspecified) era of civil discourse: What is the value of a debate that considers some human lives mainly as theoretical quandaries? Statements like the Harper’s letter rely on a key assumption—that the romanticized concept of “open debate” is inherently democratic or even “open” at all. (Such arguments dovetail neatly with the media’s industry-wide obsession with mythic objectivity.) But public discourse is always governed by some set of implicit guidelines or barriers. Too often, the people who wax poetic about free speech from safely behind a MacBook Air somewhere on the Upper West Side have not historically faced prohibitive obstacles to advancing their ideas. Any good-faith understanding of principles such as free speech and due process requires acknowledging some basic truths: Facing widespread criticism on Twitter, undergoing an internal workplace review, or having one’s book panned does not, in fact, erode one’s constitutional rights or endanger a liberal society. (And for that matter, even authors who have received powerful social-media backlash have continued to find support with other prominent publishers and media outlets.) As the writer Osita Nwanevu recently argued in The New Republic, “When a speaker is denied or when staffers at a publication argue that something should not have been published, the rights of the parties in question haven’t been violated in any way.” A forceful and sweeping case for free speech—again, a constitutional principle, not one governing private institutions or Twitter feeds—would require engaging with the history of discrimination in journalism, academia, and literature. But the brief and ambiguous Harper’s letter does not convey the complexity of the forces shaping open discourse today. Who has most often shared their ideas with impunity? Who is discouraged, even banned, from doing so? Who cannot afford to enter the field at all, because legacy publications such as Harper’s still do not pay their interns? Serious grappling with these issues, instead of virtue signaling, would actually help foster the conditions for more vibrant public dialogue. Instead, in their rush to fetishize civil disagreement, the would-be defenders of free speech reproduce the same circular logic that has powered elite circles for generations. Nobody needed an open letter to be reminded of that. Outlining Essay One Thesis Although many argue that cancel culture is a threat to freedom of speech in the 21st century, it does not violate the first amendment, but instead, is a beneficial tool that contributes to advancing our society. Cancel culture in no form, involves government repression so, in turn, doesn’t prevent or threaten the public from exercising freedom of speech. Although some may argue cancel culture encourages unwarranted violence on individuals giving their honest opinion, this point still isn’t valid. Those who fall “victim” to cancel culture aren’t getting arrested right? Free speech is the right to express opinions without government restraint. Us as a society must understand this, otherwise, people may not be held accountable for insensitive comments or may not become educated on why it may be insensitive. Sub-argument questions 1. What is cancel culture? a. Cancel culture can be defined as a modern form of ostracism where public figures or companies are removed from social or professional circles, and support is denied from the public due to something being said or done that was deemed offensive. 2. What happens to people who fall “victim” to cancel culture? a. Those who fall victim to cancel culture often miss out on job opportunities or may even lose their job. They also receive criticism from the public 3. Why may some argue that cancel culture encourages unwarranted violence? a. In some cases, people have received death threats after being cancelled. 4. Why do many argue that cancel culture is a threat to freedom of speech in the 21st century? a. Some may argue that cancel culture is a threat to freedom of speech because it suppresses people from sharing their opinions on sensitive topics. 5. What is the first amendment? a. The first amendment of the US constitution protects freedom of speech, religion, the press, and the right to petition the government without government restraint. 6. How is cancel culture a beneficial tool that contribute ...
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