The heretics of the web and the Cancel culture
From Artemisia Gentileschi to Alan Turing to Julian Assange and Richard Stallman, the accusation of depraved sexuality and discriminatory language is often an instrument of normalization against heretics who do not embrace the prevailing orthodoxy
Arturo Di Corinto
If there is an easy way to destroy someone’s reputation, it is to attribute coercive, libertine or reprehensible sexual behavior to them. Even without certainties and without trial.
When politics, governments or multinationals wanted to silence or censor people and movements, technological innovations or places of free expression, they have always done so, even on the Web.
The stigma of depraved sexuality has been frequent in the human history of “heretics”: from painter Artemisia Gentileschi to Oscar Wilde, from Frida Kahlo to Alan Turing.
Accused of sodomy, perversion and pedophilia, we know how it ended.
Alan Turing, the creator of modern computer science, bit a poisoned apple because he could not stand the sentence of chemical castration imposed on him by an English court for being homosexual.
We cannot help but notice that this treatment has concerned those heretics of the Web who have made it clear — by constructing alternatives - that capitalism and governments cannot appropriate collective knowledge.
Julian Assange, targeted by banks, secret services and governments for his investigative journalism, was framed by two women who had previously accused him of non-consenting sex and without a condom and then retracted.
Lawrence Lessig, the inventor of the Creative Commons, was reviled and ostracized for the New York Times mistake that he had been credited with defending Medialab funding by billionaire serial rapist Jeffrey Epstein.
Richard Stallman, the inventor of Free Software, is persecuted for another journalistic error that represented as a “defense” his doubts about an alleged sexual relationship between a 17-year-old and Marvin Minsky, a pioneer of Artificial Intelligence.
There is something wrong. Michele Serra reminded us of this in La Repubblica: “The new hell is built around the sexual life of people, as if the corrupt and the murderer were representatives of a lesser evil and the greater evil was all contained in the sexual sphere. Obsession that leads to the suspicion that a wave of puritanism, censorship and blackmail is superimposed on a settling of scores with the waste of patriarchy “.
The new sexual-McCarthy crusades have the reversed sign: the former oppressed become the oppressors. Progressives who fight against sexual discrimination or the death penalty are ready to pulverize the life of those who have stained themselves even in the distant past with words and behaviors that today we define misogynistic, transphobic and discriminatory, the legacy of a culture that we are laboriously changing.
The shit-shaming technique is winning thanks to the Web, apps and platforms where you coordinate to hit the targets, and it is an instrument of the “cancel culture”, the culture of cancellation which, according to Wikipedia (let’s support it!) it is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is pushed out of social or professional circles.
The result of an extreme politically correct, Cancel culture takes the form of protest and boycott and hits public figures, but also literary works that represent questionable or offensive things for someone.
It is impossible to compensate victims of rape, slavery or genocide. There is no remedy for such infamies, if not proximity to the victims and our stubborn obstinacy to prevent them from happening again, even by catching the slightest linguistic signs.
But beware of McCarthyism towards the alleged culprits. We could end up as Martin Niemöller said: “they came to get me … and there was no one left to protest”.