“Imagine not publishing Gay Talese because he had the frankness to say that no woman journalist had ever had any influence on his life,” wrote the great Orlando Avendaño a couple of days ago. This exhortation to escape cancel culture, far from being puerile or short-lived, deserves our reflection. In this (still imaginary) world in which the cancel culture wins, the only substantial thing that happens is that we all lose (and we lose it all).
There is no culture in cancel culture; such neologism is nothing but a euphemism for “censorship”. There isn’t —and there won’t be— any culture where only a handful of cowards can give washed speeches that don’t condemn or provoke, that don’t suggest or agitate, that don’t incite or stimulate.
Culture is only possible in diversity, in freedom and within the framework of republican values. The rest (that insipid and obscure alternative proposed by some) is a pamphlet that requires the prior consent, and therefore the formation, of a thought police, of a “ministry of truth” that digests, sifts and molds facts according to the moral whims of a generation that choked on its prosperity. Culture is only possible with dissident voices that investigate and question every precept or revealed truth that fashions want to impose.
Without culture, there is no critical judgment. Without critical judgment, there is only tyranny and repression; obedience and cynicism. That and no other is the path set by the well-intentioned, the “measurers” of correctness and good behavior. It is that and no other the path sought by those who, from the top of their throne, organize witch hunts with the excuse of the common good under their arms. Those who seek such an absurd chimera don’t have as their enemy, as they claim, the “offense” or the heteropatriarchy or the white man. Their enemy, what they fight against, what they find abominable and unforgivable is freedom, that precious natural faculty of the human being for which so many have sacrificed their lives.
Let us imagine, then, a world without Gay Talese. Without Woody Allen and Monty Python. Without J.K. Rowling and Michael Jackson. Let’s imagine that neat and pristine world in which there is no offense or shock, but in which there is also no intellectual challenge or cultural variety. Let us imagine that world without a sense of humor, boring to death, in which every word spoken in public has been previously passed through the immense strainer of angelism. Imagine a world in which our source of work, emotional well-being and physical integrity depend on the approval of the enemies of freedom. Imagine a world in which the only way to escape homogeneity is lynching.
Let us imagine that world and let us fear it, because its frigidity knocks at our doors. Let us imagine that world and let us resist it, because on our resistance depends the free.