Stalin was a ‘cancel culture’ pioneer: the inside story on how he cancelled ‘Hamlet’

Stalin’s canceling of Hamlet showed government bans aren’t the only ways to suppress free expression, or even the most effective. As Shostakovich observed, Stalin’s ability to cancel Hamlet with a mere word was a far better demonstration of power than an official state ban. It required no law or formal announcement. All it took was a quiet word and fear, an emotion that Americans today are familiar with.

A recent Cato study shows self-censorship is surging in the US, with two-thirds of Americans saying they are afraid to share ideas in public because of the political climate, which is increasingly dominated by “wokeism.”

Fear lurks behind the disappearance of art and the suppression of free expression. For that reason alone, such efforts should be resisted.

These fears are not irrational. The examples of Americans fired, shamed, and canceled for being on the wrong side of woke culture are legion. The phenomenon last year prompted a letter in Harper’s Magazine signed by dozens of leading academics that condemned the intolerant climate of ideas.

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