The most famous Sherlock Holmes story is probably “Silver Blaze,” better-known as “the story of the dog who did not bark”:
“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.
When I saw this graph, this famous Sherlock Holmes story immediately came to mind:
What’s the connection? Simple: Given the left-right imbalance at top social media companies, their level of cancelling is shockingly low. The D/R donation ratio for Twitter is more than 75:1. Facebook’s D/R donation ratio is “only” 17:1. With this overwhelming imbalance, you’d think both companies would long since have kicked off everyone even vaguely right-wing. They’re private companies. They have the legal right to clean house. Yet they’ve cancelled less than 1% of what you’d think they want to cancel.
What’s going on? I stand by the obvious Beckerian explanation. Twitter and Facebook may be packed with hard-left employees, but they’re still for-profit businesses. If they cancelled everyone with cancel-worthy political views, they’d lose a large share of their customers. Which would soon cost them a large share of their current profits - and spur new competition. Since the financial cost of ideological purity is high, they buy only a token quantity.
Amplifying this effect: Conflict is exciting - and customers crave excitement. If Twitter and Facebook thoroughly purged their ideological enemies, the resulting monoculture would be dull as watching paint dry. Instead, they keep the vast majority of their enemies around to keep the global shocking match going.
The “dog that didn’t bark,” to repeat, is the vast majority of non-left voices and positions that hasn’t been cancelled. What about the tiny sliver of dogs who do bark? What’s going on there?
A consistent Beckerian would say: Social media only cancels to maximize profits. When a voice is so obnoxious that it actually, on net, drives customers away, they muzzle it.
Beckerian as I am, this is a bridge too far. Yes, it’s probably good business to ban the Nazis. Most of the cancellations, though, are just too arbitrary to make sense from a profit-maximizing point of view. I suppose you could say that Twitter cancelled the Babylon Bee as part of a grand strategy to goad Elon Musk into bidding $44B for Twitter, but that’s absurd.
The better story is that social media companies are so rich that they’re willing to sacrifice a tiny share of their profits to get petty revenge on their least-favorite people. And when they select their “least-favorite people,” they do so in the same haphazard manner as most of the human race - what I call “the Unbearable Arbitrariness of Deploring.” What drives their cancellations is neither profit nor philosophy, but hysteria and herding.
P.S. I’m driving to Mount Etna, Syracuse, and the Valley of the Temples this weekend. If you want to meet up, email me.
I am a tech employee and went from convincing my wife to vote for Sanders and not Clinton in the then-primary and then, after becoming more engaged politically in 2018-20, gradually drifted back to being much more anti-government (the last time I was anti-government was in Russia). I think I have a tentative explanation.
Most tech employees are VERY apolitical and (I hate the word but...) privileged. I've never talked politics with my coworkers, even those I was on hang-out-on-weekends/invite-to-wedding terms. Literally never remember an occasion. Tech employees are busy with tech, work, overwork, families, hobbies, etc. This is helped by the fact that we live in nice areas and have a ~lot of money, so we see few bad effects of govt policies and don't notice minor economic effects at all. E.g. $3 gas and $5 gas makes no real difference to me, I feel like the only reason I even notice now is that... I'm more engaged politically, so it's symbolic of something.
So... the only time I'd see a bad thing in 2015 is if someone pointed it out to me. Sanders would point out homelessness, student debt, whatever, and say wouldn't it be nice if we were nice to these nice people and gave them money? Sounds nice! Also I saw homeless people in cities and I can easily empathize with a college-goer. Republicans would rant about abortion, for heaven's sake, or border wall. Sounds like being mean to people, and also being anti-science (we love science), and also tech companies are full of immigrants. And even if we grant that some of these could be real problems (let's say immigrants were actually taking low-skilled jobs), they never affect me-the-techie in any obvious way.
If I devote 10 minutes a month to politics, who am I going to donate to (and did donate before actually reading DSA website, etc. :))? Nice people who want to do nice things to other nice people, or mean-spirited people who want to, I dunno, tilt at random irrelevant windmills in a mean-spirited way? I don't think most tech employees are really "woke", or tuned or engaged in any of that. If engaged at all, they are more likely to be Obama/Clinton democrats; but most likely they just follow the "nice" slogans. The fact that many are immigrants probably also makes them more apolitical.
Dem behavior isn't the only kind driven by herds and hysteria. It almost certainly also drives the notion/fear that most Dems are ruthless "cancelers" in the first place