Culture War Casualties Aren’t “Cancel Culture” Battles

4 min readMay 4
Photo by Birmingham Museums Trust on Unsplash

Five years ago, The College Fix reported “11 times campus speakers were shouted down by leftist protesters” between 2017 and 2018. Ever since pundits debated whether cancel culture actually existed. Ernest Owens, a journalist, attempted to settle the dispute in his 2023 book, The Case for Cancel Culture: How This Democratic Tool Works to Liberate Us All. Owens not only confirmed the existence of cancel culture, but also declared its necessity. He described cancel culture as when a person cancels a person, location, or object that they believe is detrimental to their way of life.

No matter how cleverly Owens explained cancel culture, the fact remains that the majority of student disruptions are caused by personal dislike for the speaker rather than serious disagreement.

It is the personal factor that distinguishes a cancel culture battle from a culture war casualty.

For instance, in 2013, Brown University invited NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly to participate in a lecture series. A group of students felt Brown University should not be used to legitimize the police commissioner’s racial policy of “stop and frisk.” The students organized a petition, garnered 300 signatures, and brought it to the administration in order to have the lecture canceled.

The university did not give in to student demands.

The administration opted to extend the lecture’s question-and-answer period so that students could directly address Kelly about “stop and frisk.”

Glenn Loury, a Brown University professor, attended the event in order to debate Kelly about the discriminatory nature of “stop and frisk” after the lecture. Unfortunately, Loury was never given the opportunity. The students disrupted Kelly’s presentation, preventing him from speaking. The administration was forced to empty the room and cancel the event.

The term “cancel culture” didn’t exist in 2013, but culture war did. In culture wars, both sides think they have a monopoly on truth while their opponents should be silenced.

Brown University President Christina H. Paxon described the commotion as a “sad day for the Brown community.” Professor Loury, on the other hand, thought the episode had ramifications outside…


J. Pharoah Doss is a columnist for the New Pittsburgh Courier.