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The Cancel Culture Trap

This summer has brought about what seems to be the largest protest movement in American history. Between 15 million and 26 million Americans have participated in demonstrations against police brutality and racism since the killing of George Floyd, a fact almost as stunning as the velocity with which public opinion on American policing has changed. The scale and force of this revolution in social attitudes leaves one grasping for comparisons, however flawed. For instance, I keep reflexively measuring Black Lives Matter against the ways the Me Too movement felt when it erupted in 2017. That movement also tackled a set of deep-seated biases that justified or ignored abusive conduct. Anchored by the New York Times’ and the New Yorker’s reporting on Harvey Weinstein’s pattern of sexual misconduct, Me Too ushered in a nationwide discussion of the ways sexual harassment and assault had been normalized in Hollywood and other industries. Like Black Lives Matter (which started in 2013, after George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin), it got a clueless majority to acknowledge and accept as real much that the afflicted community already knew.

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