This talk is an apologetic for what many would take to be unsavory features of our present political discourse and practice. In it, I do two things. First, I establish that we, the public, may justifiably impose asymmetric and highly demanding normative standards on public figures – even in light of plausible charges of unfairness and hypocrisy. Second, I argue that where those standards are breached, we may be justified in cancelling public figures – in engaging in the public expression of outrage with the goal of the public figure’s removal from their position as a public figure. In making my case, I offer an ameliorative account of cancel culture. Addressed as a response to norm violations by public figures, I argue that cancelling has a legitimate, even admirable, social function in a democratic context. It is a function, moreover, that need not connote blame or punition – it need not be understood as a penalty, and need not be scrutinized in moral terms. There is no right to public status – public figures are there at the gift and on the terms of the public, which is equally empowered to instate and remove them.
Speaker: Simone Gubler (University of Nevada, Reno)
TIME: 5:30PM EST, May 27, 2021
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