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The recent attempt to cancel Whoopi Goldberg for a racist and anti-Semitic comment is a sign of the revolution eating the revolutionaries. It is inevitable to see some “poetic justice” there. Goldberg used critical race theory to deny that the Holocaust was “about race” because in her view it was a conflict between “white people.”
For Goldberg, as for every racist, the arbitrary “correct” definition of race belongs to her exclusively.
She does not accept the nationalists’ categories of race, which would be fine if she did not intend to impose on us her own racist categories which are no less absurd and no less dangerous than those of the Nazis. All racism is dangerous, there is no harmless or good racism.
She has her own “correct” racist categories and by sticking to them, she believed she could say anything about “white people” with impunity. She was wrong and was “canceled,” but only a little bit, with complicit hypocrisy to avoid discussing the substance of her anti-Semitic racism. She was “canceled” for reverse racism by those who deny that reverse racism exists. Of course, her anti-Semitic comment, and the vicious reverse racism that inspired it, were offensive to any decent person of any “race.” But canceling it, actually or falsely, is wrong because it avoids discussion by obscuring the problem.
The cancelation is not by free association and voluntary action in the free market, but the opposite. Those who decide for themselves which companies or people they want to reward by buying products or opinions from them, as well as those who punish companies or people by refusing to buy what they offer, whether their reasons are good or bad, are within their rights.
No one, no matter how offended they may feel, has the right to force themselves on other adults, deciding for them what they are allowed to read, watch or buy. And yes, free association allows us to band together to convince others of our views. We can criticize a reverse anti-Semite and racist like Goldberg and recommend that others reject her vicious views. But we cannot force her to shut up, nor force others not to listen to her.
An angry mob of the “offended” invading a venue to shout in the faces of others, violently blocking a speaker’s access to the microphone, physically assaulting others and even shooting them for wanting to hear what offends them, is harassment and intimidation to censor ideas. However repugnant the ideas to be censored were, and in Goldberg’s case they indisputably are, it is unacceptable.
The actions of a virtual mob differ in nothing relevant to the definition, colloquial or legal, of coercion from those of a physical mob. The culture of cancelation is to harass anyone who, in the arbitrary opinion of the cancelers, expresses “unacceptable” words and ideas. No more, no less.
Censorship was never a practice reserved exclusively for governments. Although claiming otherwise is a contrived anti-historical rationalization of those who today, while denying that the cancelation culture exists, fervently support that which according to them “does not exist” to “free us” from “the bad guys.”
It is and should remain perfectly legal in a free market of ideas to advocate that no one listen to Joe Rogan or Whoopi Goldberg. But it is not and cannot be permissible to prevent them, or anyone else, from expressing their opinions, whether we like them or not.
While it is legal and to some extent legitimate to advocate that certain opinions not be heard, and Whoopi Goldberg’s anti-Semitic racism is a good example that there are opinions that are not only wrong but also evil, it is not a good idea to advocate, without coercion, that opinions not be heard. We must discuss them and show that they are wrong and evil.
To criticize is to express disagreement and dissatisfaction with actions, words or ideas. The critic does not silence the other, he responds to him and initiates the discussion. The mob shouting to prevent others from hearing what anyone has to say is not criticism. He does not respond and does not argue because he has no arguments. Those who cannot argue can only impose their opinions by censoring others. A society incapable of debating without appealing to coercion against what displeases or offends some or others, is a society condemned to lose all freedom.
Guillermo Rodríguez is a professor of Political Economy in the extension area of the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences at Universidad Monteávila, in Caracas. A researcher at the Juan de Mariana Center and author of several books // Guillermo es profesor de Economía Política en el área de extensión de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Administrativas de la Universidad Monteávila, en Caracas, investigador en el Centro Juan de Mariana y autor de varios libros