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Is Cancel Culture Literally Killing Us?

Cancel Culture

In both cases, fear of repercussions is preventing doctors from providing patients with better care.


The following is a transcript of my radar from Wednesday’s edition of “Rising” on Hill TV.

Over the summer, we talked here about the tyranny of jargon, about the immediate real-world consequences of political correctness. Nobody loves the media as much as the media, so the cancel culture conversation tends to be dominated by high-profile cases of celebrities and journalists, many of whom are thoroughly unsympathetic. But cancel culture hurts people with less privilege much more than the media will acknowledge.

I wanted to revisit this point today in light of two pieces of reporting that were published on Substack this week, by Abigail Shrier and Matt Taibbi. Note the platform, by the way. This is no small point. Both Shrier and Taibbi have worked at mainstream outlets and mainstream outlets should eagerly be doing the same reporting as them. But they’re not, and that’s why Shrier and Taibbi are self-publishing huge stories of national import on Substack.

Let’s start with Shrier’s report, which featured testimony from surgeon Dr. Marci Bowers and child psychologist at the UCSF gender clinic Erica Anderson.

Shrier summarized the revelations in her story: “For the first time in the U.S., top gender medical providers collectively acknowledged four facts,” she wrote, “early puberty blockade can lead to significant surgical complication and also permanent sexual dysfunction; peer and social media influence do seem to play a role in encouraging the current, unprecedented spike in transgender identification by teen girls; and the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) – of which both Bowers Anderson are board members – has been excluding doctors who question current medical protocols to its detriment.”

Despite the smear campaigns from ideologues, Shrier is a careful and factual reporter whose work leans heavily on serious research. The four findings she notes are individually important, but one is crucial to the rest: “The World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) has been excluding doctors who question current medical protocols,” as Shrier reported.

This recalls the last time I did a radar on this subject, which was inspired by reporting from Katie Herzog, also on Substack, that revealed a group of mostly progressive doctors was meeting secretly over Zoom, concerned about creeping illiberalism from PC dogma. “Whole areas of research are off-limits” because of that dogma, Herzog wrote.

In both cases, fear of repercussions is preventing doctors from providing patients with better care.

Let’s turn to Taibbi. On his Substack, Matt reported on the curious arc of molnupiravir, which was treated very differently under Donald Trump than Joe Biden.

“In any other context, a drug like molnupiravir would have been much more likely to be evaluated on the merits,” he wrote. “But in the context of a spat between an Obama appointee and Trump officials in the run-up to a presidential election, the drug became, as an enormous number of other irrelevant things in the last five years have become, a stand-in for a larger culture war.”

“It could have been out six months ago,” Dr. Robert Kadlec, a former DHS official, told Taibbi. “It would have been a game-changer… It would have saved tens of thousands of lives.”

As elites treat these questions like they’re intellectual playthings, jockeying to see who can rack up the most virtue points on the video game that is Twitter, they’re creating and maintaining an environment that is literally starting to cost lives. And the people who bear the brunt of those consequences are the people who already have fewer resources to deal with bad medical treatment and even less incentive to speak up in these debates because they don’t have the luxury of jumping over to Substack if they’re a nurse or a Postmate or bartender.

The result is an environment in which only one position on questions of enormous consequence is accepted in polite society. And the result of that is now a matter of life and death. It harms all of us, but good luck telling that to elites who rack up likes and retweets and editorial affirmation in the short term.