Cancel culture is a modern form of ostracism, grown on yeast of populism, critical race theory, and struggle for equality.

Had been a university professor for 29 years, I remember students’ quest for satisfying clarity: no grey area – this is white or black; no uncertainty – this is right or wrong.

Here comes a probable reason for visible success of critical race theory – simplification: you are man, you are wrong; you are women, you are right…You can multiply the superficial oppositions as current diversity of students –  by gender, by race, by place of origin, by family income but not by opinions. Your opinion is given and predetermined by your “identity.”

This is а proverbial drop of water with smell of the ocean. Invented “Blackness“ of the History Professor Jessica Krug at George Washington University, or comment of Presidential Candidate from Democratic Party Joe Biden: “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or for Trump, then you ain’t black”- they are both about identity, the basic concept of critical race theory.

As simplification of life, critical race theory is a good fit for populism which speaks to an eternal division in any society – the elite and everyone else. There is a benevolent expectation for the elite to represent society as one entity. Elites believed that they own the society as it had been illustrated by centuries of international rivalry and wars between kingdoms with rulers making fatal decision on behalf of the rest who foot the bill of suffering.  In times of social tensions, produced by famine, military defeat and other calamities, elites faced, again and again, a troubling discovery: the existence of the majority, who they are not, and the minority, who they are.

Universal suffrage gives lungs to populism. Numbers count! Your contribution to society by work, military service, inventions, taxes don’t matter – this is quantity over quality.  Power of numbers determines gerrymandering and quotas for representation, hiring and university admissions. In all this-and similar cases-identifiable groups need bigger numbers – voters, incumbents, matriculates, enrollees, basketball players and Nobel laureates.

Populism reflects inequality in social conditions, including inequality of knowledge and power; the more people, the less knowledge and less power. But is it really less power? People who are against freedom of discussion usually don’t believe in their own intellectual victory; the easy way to avoid defeat is to avoid the battle. Cancel culture is unofficial censorship but with official sanctions – if you should be silenced, but keep expressing your incorrect opinion, then you have to be silenced. The technological revolution, with access to the Internet, works as universal suffrage for viewers and listeners– again, quantity over quality, no special knowledge and skills are necessary, but tools to punish available: few ‘likes’ and you are fired!

The Inequality that people see, feel, like, even love or hate and fight is given them by society: it reflects its values, beliefs and norms, expresses its values, beliefs and norms, and has been protected by values, beliefs and norms. Some critics of the Letter on Justice and Open Debate, published by Harper’s, should be envious to people invited to sign … Ostracon, ceramic shards with names Pericles (dies 429 BC), Themistocles (died 460 BC), Aristides (died 468 BC) have survived more than two thousand years. Been ostracized along with J.K. Rowling is a badge of superiority; your signature might give more weight to the letter… and to you, too.

However, the more society makes people equal, the more it makes visible and felt the gap  between equality, that is formal, and inequality that is factual, and in many cases  – primordial or given. Regardless of society, some people are stronger, younger, smarter, and – absolutely awful! – even more attractive than others. The closer society comes to obtaining desirable equality, the more visible inequality becomes as basic fact of life. There is a discrepancy between equal rights and the unequal ability to use them. And the basic fields of inequality are gender, age, and power.

Unequal distribution of more or less important abilities – from simple agility to the deepest insight – is unjust because nobody deserves more than anybody else to be born Plato or Confucius or Beethoven or Tolstoy or Rowling.

In expectation of uncertain choice between life of Prince or Beggar, you can minimize everybody’s risk of beggary by establishing pensions, allowances, insurance, gratuity and charity but you unable  to make everybody Plato, or Confucius, or Beethoven, or Tolstoy or Rowling; so in the sake of fairness, you go in reverse and secure that nobody became Plato, Confucius, Beethoven, Tolstoy, or Rowling; for that purpose Kurt Vonnegut in his dystopian science-fiction of 1961 had already invented Handicapper General, aligning everybody down to the level available for everybody – the lowest one, canceling this way any unfair alternatives.

Do you like to cancel teaching of Jesus Christ, or Mohammad, or Buddha or any classes where color or gender of professor and students don’t match?  No Bill Gates, who is unfairly unique and with wrong color, means No Microsoft; No Steve Jobs, who is with wrong color and unfairly unique, means No I-phone; are you ready?

Dr Victor M Kogan: From 1970 to 1979, Victor M. Kogan worked as a researcher at the All-Union Institute for the Study of Crime and Crime Prevention. From 1979 to 1989, he worked as Senior Researcher at the Institute of State and Law, USSR Academy of Sciences.

From 1990 to the 2019, Dr. Kogan has been a professor of Criminal Justice and Sociology at Saint Martin’s University, where he has taught Criminology and Juvenile Delinquency, Law and Society, Judicial Process, American Social Problems, Race, Sex and Disability, and Intercultural Communication. Accordingly, his current interests include the functioning of the jury system, race and ethnic relations, and multiculturalism. Dr. Kogan was two terms chair of the social justice department.

Select Publications

“Logical-Judicial Structure of Soviet Criminal Law,” Alma-Ata, 1966
“Social Characteristics of Crime,” Moscow, 1977
“Social Mechanism of Criminal Law Influence,” Moscow, 1983
“Russian Criminological Outlook,” Moscow, dedicated to Dr. Kogan the Issue 1, 2011 (www.crimimology/ru ).

See also my Academia.edu page : Victor M Kogan | saint martin’s university – academia.edu

Dr. Kogan’s works had been included in the top 100 books in criminal law and criminology according to Russian Criminological Outlook, 2014 nos. 2 and 3.


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