In the late 1960s-1970s, China empowered young people to accuse elders of thought crimes and hidden capitalist agendas. Professors and other intellectuals were made to face public shame and removed from their positions. Sometimes they were sent to re-education camps— farms in which they heard propaganda and could not read anything other than Mao’s writings. China actually closed its universities for several years.
We are not doing anything remotely like that in the US today. However, we read in an amazing number of cases of institutions capitulating to the yearning for group attack on individuals. Such attacks sometimes ferret out actual criminals or repeatedly cruel people. Harvey Weinstein comes to mind. Other times, however, the people claiming offense act more as a mob, reminiscent of the boys in the novel Lord of the Flies or the iconic Madame DuFarges from Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities or McCarythite whispering of Communist sympathy. An attack is made without regard to the decency or intent of the accused speaker or the context of the speech.
I do not subscribe to the ideas of “politically correct” or “cancel culture” as they are used by the political right, but I do recognize individual cases of injustice emerge from a lack of process and the whim of the mob. A new similar travesty appears to be the case for a science journalist for the New York Times as well described in this Newsweek article, “The New York Times Succumbed to Another Mob“.
Demand that individuals receive careful process and justice before their careers are destroyed or someday, someone you love may be the person who is destroyed.