Is Cancel Culture Killing the Arts?

October 17, 2022

CSS–UK at the 2022 Battle of Ideas festival

Common Sense Society–United Kingdom (CSS–UK) was pleased to take part in the Battle of Ideas festival, held October 15-16 in London. This annual gathering aims to be “an antidote to intellectual silos and closed-off echo chambers.”

CSS–UK’s Emma Webb participated in a timely panel discussion “Is Cancel Culture Killing the Arts?” alongside author and broadcaster Dr. Tiffany Jenkins, dancer and K2CO LTD C.E.O. Ms. Rosie Kay, and Grammy-winning musician Mr. Winston Marshall. The conversation was moderated by Baroness Claire Fox.

Throughout the weekend, CSS and CSS–UK staff were also able to meet with many alumni and fellow champions of liberty, prosperity, and beauty at our stall. If you are interested in learning more about the work of Common Sense Society in the U.K., we would love to hear from you. Subscribe or reach out to us directly here.

What did we discuss?

Of the many conversations that took place at the Battle of Ideas, we were particularly interested in discussing cancel culture in the arts. Does it have a negative or a positive impact on creative expression? Do bans and cancellations cripple artistic expression, or does the experience of cancellation foment even greater art? Will “sensitivity readers” and diversity box-ticking allow more socially conscious art to grow? Or will it kill off the more unorthodox works that have always pushed at the boundaries of artistic freedom?

What may we conclude?

Emma Webb and some of her fellow panelists argued that cancel culture is terminally detrimental to the arts. It has instrumentalized artistic expression to meet ideological goals, reducing art to a singular moralizing perspective. This has ultimately stifled creativity and crippled artistic expression, both out of self-censorship and coercive censorship from third parties. Panelist Winston Marshall, who gave up his position in the band Mumford and Sons to speak freely, argued that an artists’ experience with cancel culture can ultimately forge even greater, freer art.

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