- Nov 2021
Anne Applebaum looks at the ideas of public humiliation and cancel culture as a potential slippery slope toward authoritarianism. She provides numerous examples of people experiencing forms of cancel culture without any arguments for or against them, but instead explores the cultural space around it and what its consequences might possibly be.
Many of her examples focus on spaces related to academia rather than broader life, a space which needs further exploration as the scope and shape for those may differ dramatically.
She also brings up the broad phenomenon of "university justice" (my descriptor) and generally secret tribunals and justice administered by them rather than traditional governmental means.
This brings up some excellent avenues for thought about who we are as a country and a liberal democracy.
It’s true that some of the university sexual-harassment cases have been shaped by Department of Education Title IX regulations that are shockingly vague, and that can be interpreted in draconian ways.
Anne Applebaum indicates that the adjudication of university sexual-harassment cases have been shaped by the Department of Education Title IX regulations which can be "shockingly vague, and that can be interpreted in draconian ways."
This is worth delving into. How has this evolved? How can it be "fixed".
In both instances, people used these unregulated forms of “justice” to pursue personal grudges or gain professional advantage.
Rather than provide actual justice, unregulated extrajudicial bodies can be (and are often) used to pursue personal grudges or gain profession advantages.
Secretive procedures that take place outside the law and leave the accused feeling helpless and isolated have been an element of control in authoritarian regimes across the centuries,
Anne Applebaum indicates that the secretive procedures being practiced at American colleges and universities to prosecute their community members is very similar to authoritarian governments like the Argentine junta, Franco's Spain, and Stalin's troikas.
Kipnis, who was accused of sexual misconduct because she wrote about sexual harassment, was not initially allowed to know who her accusers were either, nor would anyone explain the rules governing her case. Nor, for that matter, were the rules clear to the people applying them, because, as she wrote in Unwanted Advances, “there’s no established or nationally uniform set of procedures.” On top of all that, Kipnis was supposed to keep the whole thing confidential: “I’d been plunged into an underground world of secret tribunals and capricious, medieval rules, and I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about it,’’ she wrote. This chimes with the story of another academic, who told me that his university “never even talked to me before it decided to actually punish me. They read the reports from the investigators, but they never brought me in a room, they never called me on the phone, so that I could say anything about my side of the story. And they openly told me that I was being punished based on allegations. Just because they didn’t find evidence of it, they told me, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”
While the accusers should definitely be believed and given a space to be heard and prosecute their cases, one of the most drastic harms I see here and repeated frequently are Universities sitting as judges and juries for harms that should be tried in the courts.
These cases have been removed entirely from the public social justice system and are tried in a space that is horribly ill-equipped to handle them. This results in tremendous potential for miscarriage of justice.
If universities are going to engage in these sorts of practices, they should at least endeavor to allow all parties to present their sides and provide some sort of restorative justice.
Somewhere I've read and linked to (Reddit?) communities practicing restorative justice in doing these practices. As I recall, it took a lot of work and effort to sort them out, but it also pointed to stronger and healthier communities over time. Why aren't colleges and universities looking into and practicing this if they're going to be wielding institutional power over individuals? Moving the case from one space to the next is simply passing the buck.
- cancel culture
- extrajudicial bodies
- Title IX
- restorative justice
- public shaming
- personal advantage
- Scarlet Letter
- higher education
- secret trials
- institutional power
- university justice
“keeping students safe” means you must violate due process?
<small><cite class='h-cite via'>ᔥ <span class='p-author h-card'>Anne Applebaum</span> in Mob Justice Is Trampling Democratic Discourse - The Atlantic (<time class='dt-published'>11/07/2021 13:41:11</time>)</cite></small>