Can't Cancel Texan

Cancel Culture and Offensive Stereotypes

Is there a political hot button any hotter right now than cancel culture? The BBC aptly suggests these words have become potent weapons in political culture wars. A former president, voted out of office, defends himself a victim of cancel culture. The list is long for people who feel like aggrieved victims. So perhaps this defense from Lifestyle Medicine should not surprise us. The journal’s editors are defending an article that asserts people with obesity are less intelligent than others. In a new commentary, they tell us that concern about these stereotypes is an example of cancel culture:

“It would be a curious approach to sanitise the content due to potential for misinterpretation rather than accept submitted articles based on their scientific quality.”

“We welcome rational scientific debate and hope that by publishing both the letter and reply we
can encourage a constructive collaborative approach to destigmatising obesity rather than shaming those who do not avoid addressing difficult and complex issues.”

Forgive us, but offensive stereotypes are not difficult and complex issues. This argument is nonsense.

Fishing for Associations with Intelligence

Fishing for statistical associations between intelligence and various other characteristics has a long and offensive history. It was the foundation for the ethically disgraced dogma of eugenics. That dogma was a key ingredient in the holocaust.

Such associations also provide the basis for scientific racism. Though repeatedly repudiated, the human impulse for bigotry keeps it coming back. As recently as 2020, the scientific publisher Elsevier retracted an article promoting the idea that skin color is related to aggression and sexuality in humans. It took them eight years to do so.


So we wonder, would Lifestyle Medicine editors disagree with that retraction? Do they think that Elsevier was “sanitising” its publication with the retraction? Or are some stereotypes more tolerable than others?

Let us be clear. Promoting the idea that people with obesity are less intelligent than others has no scientific merit. It is offensive and causes great harm. There is no way to “santise” that line of thinking.

Click here for the original article, here for a letter to the editor with concerns about it, here for the response from the authors, and here for the commentary from the journal. For further perspective, click here.

Can’t Cancel Texan, photograph © Ampersand72 / flickr

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February 28, 2021