UBC embraces cancel culture at its own peril

Sooner or later, people must realize that what seems like a mountain of complaint letters, are actually a vocal minority, spouting a plethora of defamatory statements.
Angelo Isidorou The Post Millennial

UBC is quickly making a name for itself as the nexus for cancel culture in Canada. Only weeks ago the University "distanced" itself from a basketball coach who dared to "like" a video criticizing Black Lives Matter. UBC has now excommunicated their Board of Governors, Chair. Michael Korenberg announced his resignation after it was revealed he had "liked" a number of tweets opposing the Black Lives Matter movement.

Many of the tweets liked by Korenberg were critical of Antifa. One such example is a tweet by Dinesh D’Souza, who likened Antifa to paramilitary organizations operated by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. President Trump recently designated Antifa as a terrorist organization yet comparing this domestic terrorist group to Hitler was a step too far for UBC.

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Korenberg also "liked" a tweet by Charlie Kirk in which Kirk wished President Trump a happy birthday. So basically, according to UBC, Korenberg is the Devil.

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In Korenberg's statement, he states that he is stepping down effective immediately.

“Over the last two weeks some articles/statements that I ‘liked’ on Twitter supported regressive voices and took aim at thousands of brave individuals standing up against racism, discrimination and hatred,” he wrote.

“While I do not support violence of any kind, I understand how my actions created questions about who I am and what I believed in.”

Upon his dismissal, the board of Governors also made a statement.

“The Board of Governors and Mr. Korenberg would like to recognize that this has been deeply hurtful to members of our community and that UBC has zero tolerance for racism and recognizes that real harm is created from both overt and structural racism.”

UBC education professor Annette Henry stated that Korenberg’s “likes” reflected a “white supremacist capitalist [hetero]patriarchy” worldview. A statement that is the definition of intersectionality. She went on to also declare “we still keep hiring white people where we have the opportunity not to.”

The cancel culture phenomenon is by no means new. In fact it has been prevalent for years, but has ramped up following the rising racial tensions in the US. Multiple television shows, books and even food products have been cancelled in the past month. Beyond this, protests and riots have become commonplace as the culture continues to become more polarized.

Although this new streak of cancel culture is new, UBC is no stranger to embarrassing itself publicly. The Steven Galloway case is still incredibly prominent in Canadian law. Steven Galloway is a Canadian novelist and a former professor at the University of British Columbia. UBC fired the award-winning author of The Cellist of Sarajevo, in June 2016 without severance. The school cited “a record of misconduct that resulted in an irreparable breach of the trust placed in faculty members.” Galloway was accused of sexual assault by a former student and the University fired him in a knee-jerk reaction that resulted $167,000 in damages for privacy violation.

I cannot conclude the long list of UBC’s sins without mentioning my own grievances. With the representation of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, The Free Speech Club is proceeding with legal action against the University of British Columbia for refusing to rescind its cancellation of a planned campus event, featuring Andy Ngo on the topic of Antifa violence. The UBC Executive unilaterally cancelled the event in December 2019, stating in an email shortly before Christmas that this was necessary due to concerns “about the safety and security of our campus community”

During this time, the school replied to our organization, stating “Mr. Ngo has been the target of violence in the past” and claims that “the risk to persons and property was too high.” In other words, “your speaker makes crazy people act crazy, and we are opting to embolden their violent threats.”

Ironically, an event about Antifa violence was cancelled due to Antifa violence. Even more ironically, the now tarred Michael Korenberg, was part of the overall body that handed us our cancellation. What started with us, will surely not end with us, but who exactly is spearheading these cancel campaigns?

Michael Korenberg’s tweets—and subsequent cancel campaign—was by UBC Students Against Bigotry, a student organization led by UBC PhD Student Jonathan Turcotte Summers. This same group was heavily involved in the cancellation of Andy Ngo at UBC. It’s admittedly impressive that a PhD Student successfully destroyed a man’s position in under 48 hours, and it goes to show how much power a single person with a computer can have.

Upon Korenbergs’ resignation, Students Against Bigotry immediately celebrated online and rejoiced in the fact that it is this easy to cancel people. Some statements can be seen below.

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The group has stated that their winning streak does not end with Korenberg, and that Dr. Santa Ono, President of UBC, appears to be the next head to roll off the cancel culture guillotine. Ono has thus done the only logical thing one can do when faced with a threats, immediately cave in and embolden the behavior. In a recent video, Ono echoes UBC’s previous actions of cancelling “speakers who seek only to offend and divide rather than educate.”

Sooner or later, people concerned with being cancelled must realize that what seems like a mountain of complaint letter, are actually a vocal minority, spouting a plethora of defamatory statements. I receive private messages daily from students, professors, and others, all expressing their admiration and belief in free expression and soon after expressing their fear of public openness of their beliefs. I call this, “dinner table transparency” where people often espouse their honest beliefs in the privacy of their home, and mask them in public.

After you receive enough messages however, you begin to realize that we may all be walking on social justice egg shells. This is due to the fear that crazy people will fall prey to Godwin's law, and call you a Nazi for being in favor of the basic enlightenment principles that built liberal democracy. As someone who was just recently falsely labelled as a fascist, I can assure you, it doesn’t mean much when it comes from people who hide behind masks and spend their collective time on the internet. There is no reason to hand over the keys to the culture to a small group of radicals.

It has becoming increasingly apparent that cancel culture is nothing more than the shifting of the Overton window. The mere fact that these Antifa groups refer to Korenberg’s “likes” as “white supremacist” is evidence of the increasing de-normalization of Conservatism in the space forum. Their joke is that anything right of Mao is “white supremacy” or “fascist” or any other buzz word that quickly articulates a “really bad guy” to the laymen.

This notion, although previously seen as hyperbolic, is clearly relevant as it relates to the current culture shift. It is also apparent that the cancel culture is completely weaponized as it doesn’t affect both sides equally. Korenberg liked a Trump tweet and got the boot, Justin Trudeau dresses in black face an uncountable amount of times, and is swiftly re-elected.

This is not merely conservative issue, it is an issue that applies to everyone. If academia is to survive, honest liberals and conservatives need to come together and collectively agree on the logocentric ideas that allow us to debate, converse and grow as human beings.

These protests and racial tensions that we're seeing are not entirely unjustified and the actions taken against George Floyd are undeniably evil. Yet, everyone at all levels of government has stated that unequivocally. Perhaps the means to turn this year around, and unite people is by talking. Instead of retreating to our collective tribes for validation, we should make it acceptable to share our opinions publicly without fearing exile. We should embrace our diverse voices and allow freedom of speech. Only then will we be united in our pursuit for truth and peace.

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Angelo Isidorou
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