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Speech bans and 'cancel culture' put democracy at risk

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When, despite all efforts, a meeting cannot be avoided, the encounters seem to be of the third kind: One side accuses the other of spreading "fake news," whereupon the other "cancels" those who have just attacked them.

Those who cry "fake news" are the ones who allege that leftists, a cosmopolitan elite and the media are restructuring society. It is the war cry, for example, of supporters of US President Donald Trump when they claim that the COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax from the Democrats and thus not true, but "fake."

On the flip side, those who are the target of such claims draw a sharp dividing line between themselves and the others. They rigorously define words, their meaning and the contexts in which they are allowed to be spoken, so that anyone deviating from these definitions is ostracized in much the same way as people were excommunicated from the church in the Middle Ages.

Tim Hunt, a British Nobel laureate in medicine, had a taste of this in 2015, after he put his foot in it with something he said. Hunt told a conference that women scientists in laboratories "...fall in love with you, and when you criticize them, they cry." All his apologies for this stupid statement were to no avail; he was forced to return various honors and lost an honorary professorship. One lapse and Hunt was "canceled," along with his life's........

© Deutsche Welle

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