Mal Fletcher

Will the UK government finally call time on cancel culture? Boris Johnson's government is today announcing new laws to clamp down on cancel culture in universities and other spheres.

In 2018 former president Barack Obama warned students in his annual conference that judgementally calling out people with whom we disagree is not true activism.

Successful activists know that bringing wide-ranging change is often about working with people with whom they may strongly disagree.

As a futurist and keynote speaker, I have some experience with cancel culture. A few years ago I was disinvited from two events hosted by different levels of a national students' union.

I've had the priviledge of adressing students many times on the subject of future change, involving a broad range of interesting shifts. I worked hard on the presentation, which was to look at the future of education and the wider society university students would soon lead.

In preparing for the larger of the two events, which involved national student leaders, I worked in collaboration with the event director. Together, we shaped a presentation that would help students think proactively about the future.

In the last couple of weeks before the event, student union leaders pulled the plug. My session director rang me. He was upset about the decision and said he no longer planned even to go to the event.

Apparently, he said, I had written something in an article years ago with which some of his oversight disagreed. I was given no opportunity to speak to their concerns. Nor was any account taken of the fact that I would not deal with that particular subject in my presentation. It wasn't something I ever lectured about in public - or commented on in the media.

No-platforming speakers insults guests who've been invited to invest. Far more importantly, though, it denies students the opportunity to debate significant issues, which will shape their future. 

There's an even greater problem with cancel culture, however. The journey from denying free speech to refusing freedom of belief is a very short one.

Mal Fletcher (@MalFletcher) is the founder and chairman of 2030Plus. He is a respected keynote speaker, social commentator and social futurist, author and broadcaster based in London.

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