The attack on the individual: Cancel Culture

By now everyone has noticed: The cancel culture is spreading exponentially and has meanwhile gone so far that even the most powerful man in the free world is kicked off the social networks and “no platform” should be offered to him. Not just him. Not just since January 6th. You can hardly keep up with documenting the cases. 70,000 Twitter accounts that have recently been deleted because of conspiracy theories. This includes criticism of Biden and the suspicion that there could have been electoral fraud.

What’s behind it? The fight for freedom of speech is not about who is allowed to speak and who is not. It goes deeper. In reality, it is about two questions – the question of whether an individual has the prerequisite to communicate in an understandable way and the question of what value such communication can have.

At least that’s how Jordan Peterson sees it, and he explains it in a short excerpt – from min. 36:05 to min. 39:42 – from a long interview.  

What is the answer?

The idea that there should be something like “free speech” is absurd in the eyes of the cancel culture warriors. Because the appreciation of free speech includes the conviction that each of us actually has something to say, that each individual has his own value, which defines his unique individuality. The existence of the individual is fundamentally denied. Only one group – or several groups – applies.

This also eliminates the idea that the fair exchange of ideas creates the prerequisites for social peace and a common search for truth can be started. So it is about nothing less than the cornerstones of so-called Western values, the rules of our civilization. The “war”, the “culture war” – or if you don’t want it too drastic: the “clash of civilizations” – is at the same time a political, a philosophical and a theological battle; one with which a totalitarian system is established.

Groups don’t talk to each other. What for?

But that need not be. It works like this too. Let’s keep in mind: If there is no individual anyway, then we don’t need free speech either, because all that someone is then only consists in the fact that he is just another member of some group (an avatar), whose voice as well can easily be replaced by anyone else in his group.

There is absolutely no interest in a group in listening to someone who is not in its own group. Especially since such groups, which have only recently formed anyway, do not really have a strong inner cohesion and cohesion is mainly built up through opposition to other groups. In any case, there is no longer any fruitful exchange of opinions and positions; every debate automatically becomes a pure power game in which the only aim is to humiliate the other.

The wolves are back

The Hobbesian nightmare we are talking about here marks the opposite position to the famous idea of ​​Rousseau that man – especially the noble savage – is basically good. Hobbes, on the other hand, sees in his equally famous – if not so popular – nightmare the human being as a wolf who becomes the wolf of the next wolf. Today, however, it is no longer about the fight “wolf vs. wolf”, but about “pack vs. pack”. Through the destructive power of the mob, the light of the Enlightenment is turned into its opposite, the truth becomes the counter-truth, the dream of the independence of people and their special worth becomes a nightmare.

People are not good

In 1964, images weren’t as widespread as sounds. The Beatles discovered this when, in order to boost advertising for their concerts, they walked up and down the Champs-Élysées in the hopes of provoking a crowd and possibly a press release – but in vain. They were not recognized, there were almost no autograph requests and the boys wondered where all the legendary young Parisienne beauties are.

The individual and the mass medium

Peterson, on the other hand, is recognized wherever he goes. Cars even stop because the drivers recognize him. He’s a pop star with no music. The possibility of mass reproduction of images allowed him to rise into the “higher sphere of products”. Why do we speak of a higher sphere? Because the “malaise of uniqueness” with which we are struck as a fragile individual is apparently overcome through mass reproduction with constant quality, as if someone had become almost immortal if he was photographed as often as possible and the images as far as possible have spread. A media star thus becomes a phantom, an intermediate being between man and image.

But Peterson’s role as a media star bites with the core of his message of the uniqueness of each of us and of the “divine spark” that each carries within. For such a sensitive person, it is simply overwhelming when worlds collide. At that time you could already have guessed that he would soon collapse under an excessive load and get sick in some way. It’s easy to say in retrospect, but his thin skin was evident early on.

Fortunately, he has recovered. Unfortunately,   cancel culture has now risen to the next level.

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