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For more on the "political correctness" term, the best piece was Moira Weigel in The Guardian, 2016:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/30/political-correctness-how-the-right-invented-phantom-enemy-donald-trump

I have to challenge whether this is a "precursor", or just the same phenomenon going back to the sixties at least. I liked the comment that they invent a new insult for "empathy for the powerless" every few decades. The key to seeing it as all one phenomenon, is that the old insult vanishes from popular usage when the new one is adopted: "bleeding-heart liberals" lasted to 1990, when "politically correct" was invented, and "political correctness" has vanished from discourse since the more economical "woke" came into use. (I noted one truck with a faded "politically incorrect" sticker and several newer "woke" stickers here: http://brander.ca/stackback#woke )

As to the argument over whether it has ever been a valid complaint, just go back to those sixties, when the Berkeley Free Speech Movement was all about whether you could even stand on a soapbox in the Quad and make an anti-war speech. Now they complain if you don't support their business model of charging students to hear them by renting them a hall. (Hall down the street, not good enough: they want that "speaking at Stanford" on the poster, for status.)

I would be grateful to anybody who can google up an article I've lost. Dating back to when Milo Yianopoulis was still an alt-right celeb, the article said that 80% of the complaints about 'cancellation' were from five celebrity speakers: Ann Coulter, Ben Shapiro, Milo, and two I forget. And they were notorious for publicly saying something extra-outrageous before a talk, to get publicity, and hopefully, get themselves cancelled. It's a business model.

Not just the Bad Old Days, of course: try the Iraq War. Pat Robertson's show was cancelled. Most popular on MSNBC. Then they cancelled Jesse Ventura's, just a few episodes in, when they realized he was anti-war. That's cancelled.

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"But a lot of people don’t agree with the assumption that the boundaries should be drawn in accordance with the sensibilities of the Friedersdorfs and TCWs of this world"

That is a gross (intentional?) misreading of what Friedersdorf and TCW really said. The idea is that there has to be collective consensus about a norm to be enforced and NOT that any activist group can stipulate them unilaterally.

Secondly, what many (including Zimmer) confuse, is a distinction between punitive consequences and no-platforming. There is seldom a case where punishment for an act of free speech is warranted. Instead, "cancellations" in this vein (that includes most firings but not all) are usually purely vengance-driven acts of tyrrany. With no-platforming it is more complex. Generally, any institution is free to determine who they want to give a platform and who not. But: the grounds for that need to be reasonable, dependend on to the type of institution (public vs private, partisan vs neutral etc.) and they need to incorporate the epistemic uncertainty about a subject. Often we don't know yet as a society which answer is factually or morally correct. And exactly that is what those who Zimmer scolds as "reactionary centrists" - people like Friedersdorf, TCW, Matt Yglesias, Yascha Mounk and others - intend.

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How is the "woke" side of this acting any different? They are also claiming that *they* should define what is and is not acceptable public speech and deciding what the norms are - they're just drawing the line at different, more speech-restricive places than TCW and friends.

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Your comment is very intriguing, a great question and a possible springboard to a helpful discussion.

Can you give an example of the “woke” side setting the standards for what is not acceptable in public speech and how that new demanded standard is offensive to the traditional White male dominated Christian sector of our society?

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A couple of examples, where progressive activists unilaterally try to set norms:

- That quoting the N-word is forbidden in any circumstance (https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/08/whites-refer-to-the-n-word/596872/ ), even if redacted (https://www.thefire.org/news/lawsuit-professor-suspended-redacted-slurs-law-school-exam-sues-university-illinois-chicago )

- That dicussing the best way to treat trans minors in a public forum "harms trans people" (see the current row about the NYT trans reporting and Jonathan Chaits rebuttal of the activists points: https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2023/02/nytimes-letter-trans-gender-youth-accountability.html )

- That professors shall not critizise affirmative action in public (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/20/us/dorian-abbot-mit.html - )

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There's plenty of other examples, and Martin's examples are fine. But my favorite is probably the Stanford "Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative", in which Stanford's IT department tries to draw the line of what is acceptable speech to include words like "guys", "he", and "American". https://s.wsj.net/public/resources/documents/stanfordlanguage.pdf

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Did you read the first part of this series?

Your 'favorite example' is discussed and shown to be bullshit.

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It actually proves my point! Thomas relied on someone else’s Substack for his argument there, which claims: “The document proposes (again: proposes) to regulate something that the IT department is also responsible for: what kind of language appears on Stanford’s official websites.” So, despite all of the downplaying about how inconsequential it was, it was only a suggestion and not policy, blah blah blah, it was still an attempt by these students to unilaterally “define what is and is not acceptable public speech and deciding what the norms are.” Thanks for that, though

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Stanford deciding how it presents itself on it's website is not an attempt to define acceptable public speech. They are exploring how best to attract students as societal norms are changing.

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An excellent piece. It's main points fit neatly into what the "establishment" free-speech clique fear most. They recoil in horror at the fact that, slowly but surely, America is becoming a true multi-ethnic, multi-racial, democracy. One in which, as the author points out, the white patriarchal elements are no longer calling the tune.

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