Book/Cancel Culture, Identity Politics, and Academic Freedom
Personal notes and review of Norman Finkelstein’s new book about cancel culture, identity politics, and academic freedom. Critiquing everyone from Robin DiAngelo to Barack Obama, Norman Finkelstein delivers a rigorous argument for free expression along with a death blow to leftist hypocrisy.
At the risk of sounding like a groupie, I posit that Norman Finkelstein’s latest book I’ll Burn That Bridge When I get There is a masterpiece. The language is exquisite; I have to use the dictionary on almost every page, marveling at the choice of words and quotes.
My favourite passage is in the section about Political Correctness, p.49-62. What Norman Finkelstein presents on these pages is the most succinct and clear arsenal of arguments against repression of speech I have seen. Having read that passage multiple times, I think the case he built against the standard arguments designed to curb liberty of speech because…
(1) the suppressed speech is false, (2) or the purveyor of the suppressed speech is evil, (3) or the suppressed speech is offensive, (4) or the suppressed speech is regressive,
…is impeccable and reinforced by outstanding and therefore compelling examples. Simply beautiful!
I have to be honest and admit having uttered variants of those arguments in favour of curbing liberty of speech in the past. This book and Norman Finkelstein’s class on “No Free Speech For Fascists?” convinced me otherwise. Some of the arguments in favour of curtailing free speech are very difficult to challenge effectively unless one spends a lot of time reading and thinking about liberty of speech (the economy of time argument); therefore, Norman Finkelstein’s exposé of curbing liberty of speech is an absolute treasure!
While reading the first chapter of the book, I couldn’t help but wonder why “professional” advance comment on this book has been so savage.
After reading chapters 2-6 I fathom what happened, the savage advance comments really are instances of cancel culture silencing truth when it touches too close to home. This must feel like a déjà-vu for Norman Finkelstein, almost anytime he writes a book (e.g. The Holocaust Industry) this happens. However, this time it comes from the other end (i.e. the left) of the spectrum.
Finally, let me just say how much I enjoyed how he obliterated the nonsense spouted by characters such as Kimberlé Crenshaw, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Robin DiAngelo, and Ibram X Kendi. I did not know most of these people (they did not receive media attention in Europe) but I went through the effort of looking them up, listening to what they have to say, and agree with the conclusions in the book: there is nothing there!
Norman Finkelstein has certainly earned the right to go after Black charlatans and hucksters after going after Jewish “hoaxers and hucksters” in The Holocaust Industry. For those that say that some parts of the book are too ad hominem, I wonder how else one should refer to someone like Jeffry Goldberg other than a “racist sack of sh*t”, having parsed the arguments. After all, this book is in defiance of political correctness; Norman Finkelstein first presents the evidence why someone deserves to be called a certain name followed by the appropriate name-calling. Very refreshing for a change, given the current climate of political correctness!
The book started as a response to “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate” published in Harper’s magazine.
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