Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has posted a reflection on her experience with ‘cancel culture’ and young people whom she helped who then turned on her immediately when the mob demanded it. This part is important:
There are many social-media-savvy people who are choking on sanctimony and lacking in compassion, who can fluidly pontificate on Twitter about kindness but are unable to actually show kindness. People whose social media lives are case studies in emotional aridity. People for whom friendship, and its expectations of loyalty and compassion and support, no longer matter. People who claim to love literature – the messy stories of our humanity – but are also monomaniacally obsessed with whatever is the prevailing ideological orthodoxy. People who demand that you denounce your friends for flimsy reasons in order to remain a member of the chosen puritan class.
I refuse to turn on people and denounce them on demand from the mob. You all know what I’m talking about. Some of my friends have been called on to denounce me, and some have. They are weak. Most people are weak. This period is useful because it will help us separate the true friends from those whose friendship is conditional on the winds of favor.
More generally, social media makes preening performance public and scalable in a way that it never was. The behavior described by Adichie is as old as humanity itself. The main difference is today it is produced and distributed on an industrial scale. As Ray Kurzweil likes to say, information technology is exponential…