Cancel Culture: Free Speech and Accountability

Conversation Guide

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With the advance of technology, it’s easy to broadcast our thoughts and feelings and connect with both friends and strangers online. With the rise of the 24/7 news cycle and social media, there has been an increase of high-profile cases in which people receive public rebuke or lose professional opportunities due something they do, say, or post online, or when something from their past surfaces. Some believe that these instances are appropriate forms of accountability, while others believe they represent an out-of-control “cancel culture” that violates the spirit of free speech.

This conversation provides an opportunity to discuss our personal relationships with free speech, the lines we draw for ourselves, and whether we see the need for lines to be drawn by the government and other public or private entities.

Let's Get Started!

Living Room Conversations offers a simple, sociable and structured way to practice communicating across differences while building understanding and relationships. Typically, 4-6 people meet in person or by video call for about 90 minutes to listen to and be heard by others on one of our nearly 100 topics. Rather than debating or convincing others, we take turns talking to share, learn, and be curious. No preparation is required, though background links with balanced views are available on some topic pages online. Anyone can host using these italicized instructions. Hosts also participate. 

Why We're Here (~10 min)

Each participant has 1 minute to introduce themselves.

Share your name, where you live, what drew you here, and if this is your first conversation.

Conversation Agreements:
How We'll Engage (~5 min)

These will set the tone of our conversation; participants may volunteer to take turns reading them aloud. (Click here for the full conversation agreements.)

  • Be curious and listen to understand.
  • Show respect and suspend judgment. 
  • Note any common ground as well as any differences. 
  • Be authentic and welcome that from others. 
  • Be purposeful and to the point. 
  • Own and guide the conversation. 

Question Rounds:
What We’ll Talk About

Optional: a participant can keep track of time and gently let people know when their time has elapsed.

Round 1:
Getting to Know Each Other (~10 min)

Each participant can take 1-2 minutes to answer one of these questions:

  • What are your hopes and concerns for your family, community and/or the country?
  • What would your best friend say about who you are?
  • What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?

Round 2:

Cancel Culture: Free Speech and Accountability (~40 min)

One participant can volunteer to read the paragraph at the top of the web page.

Take ~2 minutes each to answer a question below without interruption or crosstalk. After everyone has answered, the group may take a few minutes for clarifying or follow up questions/responses. Continue exploring additional questions as time allows..

  • How does your expression vary in personal interactions, via text, or on social media? What norms do you follow?
  • Have you had a personal experience where you received backlash from something you said or posted? Have there been times when you were hesitant to speak or to write/post something for fear of backlash or “being canceled?”
  • How do you define “cancel culture”? Where have you seen it happen? What impact has it had on you, on the “canceled” person, on society?
  • What do you see as the difference between “canceling someone” and “holding that person accountable”? What are some examples you have seen of this?

Round 3:
Reflecting on the Conversation (~15 min)

Take 2 minutes to answer one of the following questions:

  • What was most meaningful / valuable to you in this Living Room Conversation?
  • What learning, new understanding or common ground was found on the topic?
  • How has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group?
  • Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation?

Closing (~5 min)

  • Give us feedback! Find our feedback form here.
  • Donate! Make more of these possible; give here.
  • Join or host more conversations! With a) this group by exchanging your emails; b) others in person and/or by video call online. Get more involved or learn how to host here.

Thank You!