One threat confronting Australia, in this year of threats, really does have the potential to divide us, one from another, and sow the seeds of civil discord.
This threat comes from ‘cancel culture’ which began in American universities and then spread to news rooms and board rooms, and then to other English-speaking countries, such as Australia.
The key idea behind cancel culture is sanction against a person, an image or a statue representing a view deemed offensive or hateful. Sanction involves eradication – or cancellation.
This kind of ideological cleansing imposes a new orthodoxy about what is acceptable – and what is true. Any further enquiry or debate is stifled.
When Harry Potter creator J.K Rowling said gender was determined not by choice but by biology, attempts were made to ‘cancel’ her. Further debate about gender would not be tolerated.
Fighting injustice, prejudice, and violence is worthy and important. But cancel culture has also meant that restrictions on freedom of speech have also gained ground.
Such restrictions are now deemed essential for upholding the dignity of those, such as transgender people, whose experiences are marginalised.
But we are paying a high price for this zealous, if understandable, defence of the ‘vulnerable’.
It can be perilous to question the tactics or motives of those who claim to be pursuing ‘justice’. When those who do raise such questions are vilified, debate becomes impossible.
Cancel culture imposes a new, dogmatic, and dangerous orthodoxy on our society with heavy penalties for any who dare to question, or express dissent.
Truth is no longer determined by a process of reasoned, informed enquiry in which evidence is evaluated and discussed. Rather, it is determined by tyrants of ideological cleansing.
No nation, including Australia, is able to claim its history is free from cruelty or the misuse of power. Nor can Australia claim it has addressed all forms of under-privilege or inequality.
But cancel culture is propagating a rejection of any reasoned capacity both to discuss our history and to address the many important social and political challenges we face.
A divided society – its people cowed into silence for fear of being condemned, humiliated, or forced from a job for saying ‘the wrong thing’ or stepping out of line – is a weakened society.
We must be alert and ensure that cancel culture does not become the scourge of everything we value about our nation.
This is an edited excerpt of an opinion piece published in The Australian as Coon cheese represents just one example of how cancel culture divides us