It’s time to cancel cancel culture

The spiked team discusses the Harper’s letter, JK Rowling and free speech.


Is this the beginning of a free-speech fightback? Can the BBC get any more woke? Why did the reopening of pubs unleash such a wave of snobbery? Tom Slater, Ella Whelan, Fraser Myers, and special guest Andrew Doyle, discuss all this and more on this week’s spiked podcast.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


dom torato

13th July 2020 at 6:53 am

You people disgust me, it’s like you actually just want us all to die. Shameful! HERE► Read More

K Tojo

12th July 2020 at 3:53 pm

People don’t just “get cancelled”. Other people cancel them. Other people, needing to confirm their moral uprightness, are keen to act as cultural gatekeepers (doing their bit for the good of humanity, you understand). Not for them to stand idly by while capitalist white people, bold as brass, flaunt their privilege unchallenged.

But who are these gatekeepers really? Too often, these tales of cancellation name only the cancelled one and the big sin against woke orthodoxy they are alleged to have committed. The denouncers, on the other hand, often enjoy a comfortable anonimity or a collective identity at best.

We need a rogues gallery of those influencers who lead the cancel culture and key backroom activists in publishing, the broadcast media and higher education who are succeeding in making woke politics the new normal. Who are they and why are they allowed to get away with it?

nick hunt

12th July 2020 at 5:02 pm

A league table might be statistically superior to a rogues gallery. But I’m with you all the wat on naming and shaming wokist tyrants

K Tojo

12th July 2020 at 5:24 pm

Names are the important thing. We all know about public figures such as Owen Jones and James O’Brien. What I find most worrying is when you hear the the drive to cancel has come from virtually anonymous sources such as “production staff at the BBC” or a group of “young staff members” at The New York Times in the cancelling of James Bennet or the mystery accuser of Boeing’s Niel Golightly or the graduate students’ union denouncing Steve Hsu of Michigan State University. Who are these people and why do senior administrators cave in to them?

jacquline fariendess fariendess

12th July 2020 at 1:09 pm

But then they’ll just cancel the cancellation of the cancel culture and then you’ll want to cancel their cancellation of your cancellation and HERE► Click For Full Detail.

MarilynEBrown EBrown

12th July 2020 at 11:24 am



12th July 2020 at 7:37 am

I’m more concerned about Rowling’s crimes against literature.

dom torato

12th July 2020 at 7:34 am

But then they’ll just cancel the cancellation of the cancel culture and then you’ll want to cancel their cancellation of your cancellation and HERE► Read More

Colin Jones

12th July 2020 at 6:43 am

Where does this group-think detestation of Katie Hopkins at Spiked come from? It’s deranged. She takes on difficult topics Siked won’t touch and you universally denigrate her at every opportunity.

What is the group knowledge that fundamentally justifies your opinions?

Brandy Cluster

12th July 2020 at 12:20 am

This is the inescapable fact: people of the Left are not the sharpest tools in the shed. Because they are blinded by virtue and follow any and all SJW guru, they have zero idea about the real world. They’re actually dangerous because they want everybody else to be like them.

Remember: the little Corporal came to power entirely aided and abetted by the affluent middle class, public servants and intellectuals. It gives me goose bumps thinking about how we live now and the growing similarities.

Brandy Cluster

12th July 2020 at 12:24 am

PS: Consistent with what I just wrote; this has been posted on our national daily newspaper, “The Australian”:

ASIC chairman James Shipton is expected to use next week’s appearance at a joint Parliamentary Committee hearing to express the corporate watchdog’s concerns about how banks are treating customer loan deferrals at a time when continued COVID-19 outbreaks further threaten the economy.

The concerns are at both ends of the spectrum, starting with those who can afford to pay their loans back and whether they should start doing so now, because otherwise they are just feeding easy money to the banks on extended loan terms.

At the other end are those who can’t afford to pay back the loans and just maybe the bank ought to take control of those loans today and declare them problem loans and work with the customers accordingly.

This comes at a cost to the banks, but it is far better for the customers to start the repair work immediately.

*ASIC has made its concerns known to the banks. (*Australian Securities and Investments Commission)

Some lenders, such as Macquarie and Judo, are being singled out as doing the right thing by having the tough discussion with the customer now.

Constantine Sotiriou

11th July 2020 at 9:04 pm

Ok so cancel it. Stop talking about it.


11th July 2020 at 11:29 am

JK Rowling has the honesty, intelligence and integrity of her well-known character, Harry Potter.
The ‘trans’ Voldemorts and their ilk will be defeated.

Jonathan Palmer

11th July 2020 at 5:13 pm

I’d agree if you could cite one occasion on which she has defended the right to free speech of someone she disagrees with (say Jordan Petersen) Voltaire she ain’t

Jonathan Palmer

11th July 2020 at 5:29 pm

Please tell me why I got deleted (on a blog about free speech and cancel) for asserting that JK Rowling until now had never defended the free-speech rights of those with whom she disagreed.
Even now (with her wisecrack about Trump) she seems reluctant to.
If I’m wrong provide evidence but this is disgraceful. What would Voltaire say?

Hugh Oxford

10th July 2020 at 6:49 pm

Freedom of speech includes the right to say what you like without negative consequences. Otherwise it can hardly be called freedom.

If I can’t walk down the road without being assaulted, I’m not free to walk down the road.

James Clark

11th July 2020 at 11:18 am

If I’m not allowed to assault you as you walk down the road, does that mean I’m not really free?


11th July 2020 at 11:33 am

You need to read JS Mill’s “Essay On Liberty”, especially the introduction.

Jim Lawrie

11th July 2020 at 3:34 pm

If you’d rather the law of the jungle there are plenty places you can go and live where no-one walks the streets in safety.
I prefer civil society where the vast majority oppose assaulting people and impose that part of their will on all of society.

Rikhard Wright

11th July 2020 at 10:41 pm

For a person worthy of the name, “human”, the essence of freedom is actually beyond the Law. It consists of the option of doing good or evil, but choosing to do the good.
The Law only comes into the equation inasfar as your evil actions may harm other people, who therefore need to be protected.


10th July 2020 at 6:20 pm

These people already broke the rules -that you should behave in a civilized way to everyone. This cancel culture has been around for a few years but accelerated when Trump stood for President. When someone tried to shoot him a British newspaper offered a sympathetic platform to the would-be shooter’s mother and help raised funds. Lecturers , teachers , charity workers etc send hate messages ie what a shame it was only a milkshake chucked at Farage-I don’t remember J K Rowling with her army of child fans say that that was wrong.You can’t really expect to take the high moral ground by signing a letter to stop something that you have done yourself. It would be like a murderer saying it is wrong to take a life.

James Knight

10th July 2020 at 2:39 pm

Surely there has to be a technical solution to some of this. Think of bitcoin as a decentralised currency, why not have something similar for social media platforms? The irony is that social media giants were originally posing as champions of free speech and opening up the media to the masses. They pushed a decentralised model for the media as more democratic. But now these huge monopolistic businesses act as censor in chief.

Gordon Te Gopher

10th July 2020 at 10:11 pm

I think getting rid of ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ would be a start. These things attract the most polarised of views and they also give an unfair advantage to celebs and people who are already famous.

Christopher Tyson

11th July 2020 at 7:40 am

The old joke is that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged and a liberal is a conservative who’s been arrested. You talk about ‘ opening up the media’, whose media? That’s not to say that liberals are not sincere, but there is a contradiction in liberalism, liberalism and democracy are not the same things. Liberalism is about the management of conflicts, liberals like to see themselves as above the fray but they have their own vested interests, this is liberal capitalism, the liberal capitalist will protect their vested interest or succumb to state pressure if democracy threatens the status quo. More free speech is better than less, but we cannot expect self sacrifice from media capitalist.

Christopher Tyson

11th July 2020 at 7:07 pm

I’ve been thinking about my post, I’m not really happy with it. Trying to stay away from the question of ‘rights’ and keep things simple, freedom of speech, along with freedom of association, and freedom in general, specifically from state interference, are core liberal values. I can’t really see why capitalists and liberals and liberal capitalists cannot make a more robust defence of free speech today, what are they afraid of? Or is it something other than fear? Classical liberalism saw the dangers of a paternalistic state, so really there is an absence of classical liberals within the media and the political establishment certainly in the UK. The role of the state as protector has grown, classical liberals would have understood the role of the state as protector in terms of the police and armed forces. Today we have a therapeutic state, I have called it an ’emotionally manipulative state’, a state pre-occupied with minority rights, and overseeing the emergence of endless new minorities.
We no longer have liberal politics, and maybe we don’t have enough people who value liberal politics, we have opportunist politicians and corporations, corporations of course are concerned about the bottom line, and may simply be going with the flow, they may also be feeling pressure from the state, which is also going with the flow, which begs the question of who is driving the zeitgeist? The chilling effect comes into play, the risks of standing up to the new orthodoxy are potentially high, going along with it is easy, risk free, and may even be profitable, just get down on your knee.
So basically, I can understand (but not condone) the suppression of free speech where it is a danger to your material interests, or some other interest as defined by you. But we have a closing down of debate and a constraining of free speech that seems to serve no one, could it simply be a gratuitous demonstration of power? But even then, it’s more passive aggression, a reactive response, more fearful, paranoid manic.
I’m sure that I’m not alone in not seeing the way I see things represented in the media and politics. If free speech is restricted ostensibly to protect (who?), or to marginalise the nasty and unpleasant, sometimes these definitions are subjective ( a strong argument for free speech) and some people are objectively unpleasant, if free speech is restricted for the nasties, it has the effect of narrowing discussion in general, increasing suspicion and paranoia, and preventing the development of new ideas and new thinking, and suppressing freedom of speech and thought in general.

Brandy Cluster

12th July 2020 at 12:17 am

It’s much more cynical than that, I’m afraid. The corporate world has embraced PC and identitarianism as the ultimate red herring. They are cleverly able to distract the gulls of the Left by reiterating their bromides and garbage all the while doing less savoury things under cover. It’s a classic case of “Oh, look over THERE”. The smug, overpaid corporate types have mastered the art of obfuscation.

In Australia we’ve had our 4 big banks; the pillars of our financial institutions and up until now respected. A Royal Commission recently highlighted very bad and illegal business practices which added fuel to pre-existing bank bashing. “But”, many of us said, “what about their social justice credentials?”. Most remotely sophisticated people merely smiled the smile of the cynical and worldly. And people like me are losing thousands in shareholder value and dividends as the banks now play social worker catch-up during the pandemic, telling people they don’t have to repay their loans until next year.

If you want your corporations to be SJWs don’t complain when they resort to covert, dodgy behaviours all the while earning praise from the Left. Conversely, if you want healthy capitalism with growth and prosperity you need to stop thinking about corporations as charity organizations.

Gordon Te Gopher

10th July 2020 at 2:05 pm

But then they’ll just cancel the cancellation of the cancel culture and then you’ll want to cancel their cancellation of your cancellation and then at some point there’ll be so much cancelling going on that the turning of the world will be cancelled and we’ll all just die.

You people disgust me, it’s like you actually just want us all to die. Shameful!

nick hunt

10th July 2020 at 4:34 pm

who disgusts you and why, exactly?

Graham Southern

10th July 2020 at 8:13 pm

Are you in favour of cancel culture, then? What’s your point?

Gordon Te Gopher

10th July 2020 at 10:06 pm

Nick, Graham

I don’t think the world is going to stop turning. It was a joke

Jim Lawrie

11th July 2020 at 3:37 pm

Do you think it is going to start cooling any time soon i.e. the next 20 years?

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