Disinviting controversial speakers from campus speaking engagements is nothing new —the free speech watchdog group FIRE has a database that tracks such occurrences dating back to 1998—but the practice reached a new level in 2016 when conservative Ben Shapiro spoke at Cal State-Los Angeles. First, the university president tried to cancel the speech but relented. Then, as Shapiro spoke, a protester set off a fire alarm to try to force an evacuation.
Fast forward a few years, and it’s not events that some are trying to cancel, but people themselves. Did you tweet something offensive back when you were 16? Someone will try to get your college admission revoked. When The Atlantic hired conservative writer Kevin Williamson last year, he told his new boss there would be a campaign to have him fired. His boss scoffed. As Williamson wrote a few weeks later, “My first piece appeared in the Atlantic on April 2. I was fired on April 5.”
Atlantic contributor Yascha Mounk just last week listed some examples of how ordinary American citizens have had their lives destroyed and jobs lost over misunderstandings and overreactions to what appeared bigoted to a hypersensitive and overly online public. A Washington Post story “outing” a non-famous woman for having worn an offensive costume years ago aroused so much shock no one at the paper itself could defend it—yet done it was.
Welcome to life under the Great Awokening.