Canceling Liberalism

This is a glimpse, a mere snippet of what's likely going to be a long series about the geopolitics of #cancel culture.

Let's start by asking: who are the people complaining loudly about being canceled?

The noises aren't coming from the right wing. It's not as if Rush Limbaugh or some KKK hack is crying that he's being bullied in the Twitter playground. No, it's people who for the most part have impeccable liberal credentials.

Tenured professors at Harvard whose self-image is that of an anti-racist pro-LGBT progressive. People who believe in reason and science and wouldn't be caught denying climate change if their lives depended on it.

So what are they being canceled?

To understand the answer, we have to go back to the 'End of History.' No, not the day of judgment but Francis Fukuyama's famous book of that name, which claimed at the end of the Cold War that liberal democracy combined with market capitalism have solved the basic problems of humankind for ever. The west had won. First Sauron (Hitler) was defeated and then Saruman (Stalin) was taken down.

In that EOH world, liberal exemplars at Harvard and Princeton were creatures who commanded worldwide respect. Others might disagree with them, but they were good people and expected to be treated as such by everyone. Even the radicals like Chomsky lived at the margins of liberalism and were protected because they were frenemies.

Not so anymore.

Cancel culture doesn't respect liberal champions as moral exemplars, people to be respected or even accommodated. They are no longer history's winners. Brexit and Trump have shown liberalism to be weak at home and the rise of China is showing liberalism to be weak abroad. The disastrous handling of the COVID crisis is only adding to that failure.

A new world is being born, a world in which liberalism as an idea is being challenged from both sides. Equally importantly, the center of moral gravity is also shifting.

Where to?