Nesrine Malik, a columnist for the Guardian, has covered many of the cultural and political controversies that have emerged in the U.S. and Britain over the past half decade, including debates over Islamophobia and the cultural aspects of Brexit. In her first book, “We Need New Stories: The Myths That Subvert Freedom,” Malik argues that much of the angst and anger over “cancel culture” and free speech are the result of misleading stories that Americans tell themselves. Her aim, she writes, is to “tackle the ways in which history, race, gender, and classical liberal values are being leveraged to halt any disruption of a centuries-old hierarchy that is paying dividends for fewer and fewer people.”
I recently spoke by phone with Malik, who was born in Sudan and lives in London. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed the state of free speech, how much of cancel culture is really corporate damage control, and why the work of the anti-racism consultant Robin DiAngelo represents “an extreme bout of group narcissism.”
It seems to me that fights over political correctness or cancel culture are happening more within liberal institutions. Does that seem accurate?
That is entirely accurate. The front line has moved, as you accurately point out, from between right and left, or right and progressive, to within progressive circles and within liberal circles. And now we’re hand-wringing