My criticism of cancel culture resulted in being canceled by SXSW

It appears that I’ve been canceled … for speaking up about cancel culture.

Organizers of the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival declined to approve my participation in a panel of speakers.

The reason? Concern that I’d dared to speak out against cancel culture.

An email from SXSW staff, shared with me by the panel’s organizer, reveals the festival was “hesitant to approve” my participation because my commentary has been “focused on the idea of cancel culture.”

Oh, the irony!

I’ve spent the past several months talking to audiences about my book, “The Canceling of the American Mind: Cancel Culture Undermines Trust and Threatens Us All — But There Is a Solution.”

Although my book is full of cancel culture horror stories — and countless speaker dis-invitations — I wasn’t quite prepared to weather one myself, let alone be canceled because I’ve been critical of cancel culture.

Rikki Schlott wrote The Canceling of the American Mind in 2023.

And I wasn’t even going to talk about cancel culture.

The panel of speakers, which was slated for this Saturday, was supposed to be a discussion on the power of independent voters to end polarization.

Why exactly my commentary on cancel culture has anything to do with my status as an independent voter is beyond me.

Funnily enough, I received an email with the subject line “Rikki was not approved for SXSW 🙁 ” just as I was about to speak at Cornell University — about cancel culture.

New York Post columnist Rikki Schlott has been an outspoken independent voter. Stephen Yang

SXSW, which runs from March 8 to 16 in Austin, Texas, will feature film screenings and keynote speakers like Conan O’Brien and Selena Gomez.

Stars have flocked to it in recent years. So too have politicians. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was there in 2019, Joe Biden spoke in 2017 when he was out of office, and President Barack Obama addressed it in 2016.

The festival also features panel discussions with experts and commentators discussing issues of the day.

Members of the public can pitch panel ideas and vote on their favorites, which are then approved by SXSW staff.

Lauren Postler, who founded the nonprofit Liberty Live Foundation, pitched the panel about independent voters.

She invited me to participate because she knows I’m an independent voter and an outspoken critic of the two-party system, putting my name alongside comedian Andrew Heaton and representatives from the organizations Veterans for All Voters and Sustainable Democracy.

Selena Gomez will be a keynote speaker at this year’s SXSW festival, fresh from a round of award shows including the Screen Actors Guild awards. AFP via Getty Images

But SXSW staff expressed particular concern about my personal participation in an email to Postler, singling me out among the lineup.

“Based on the research I’ve done, I am a bit hesitant to approve Rikki Schlott for this session,” SXSW’s senior director of conference programming wrote in a Tuesday email.

“Her focus the last few months has been nearly solely focused on the idea of cancel culture, which this session is not about.”

To the contrary, I’ve had plenty to say about the two-party system and am representative of the growing number of young people identifying as political independents.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic firebrand, addressed the festival in 2019. Getty Images for SXSW
Joe Biden spoke at South by Southwest in 2017. Ricardo Brazziell / USA TODAY NETWORK

I’ve used my column at The Post to interview third-party advocate Andrew Yang, to warn that a Trump-Biden rematch is leaving Gen Z disillusioned, and to call out New York for disenfranchising independent voters with their closed primary system.

Postler attempted to explain to SXSW staff that I’m a passionate independent — underscoring the importance of including a younger, right-leaning voice on the panel — but to no avail.

“I was really taken aback by the response that they didn’t want to feature someone who studied ‘cancel culture’ and the facts behind rising tribalism and the societal perception of polarization … on a panel about ending polarization,” she told The Post.

Ultimately, the event was called off at the last minute, leaving a coveted 4 p.m. Saturday slot empty — one might even say canceled. Postler also found herself personally out $5,000 in planning costs.

Lauren Postler, who invited Schlott to be part of the panel, was “taken aback” by South by Southwest’s response. Bunker Labs

“This session about the independent’s role in the context of partisan polarization and the upcoming election went through several last-minute changes, including speakers dropping out,” a SXSW spokesperson told The Post. “Ultimately, due to timing, the session organizer felt it was best to cancel.”

I’m hardly the first speaker to be canceled from an event. Everyone from Condoleezza Rice to James Franco has had invitations revoked — but there are countless examples of speakers being targeted for their viewpoints.

It’s impossible to know just how many speakers have been disinvited from events around the country. But the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression has quantified disinvitations on college campuses, counting 28 attempts to get speakers disinvited this year alone.

South by Southwest ultimately canceled the panel entirely. In addition to panels of speakers, the event features art exhibitions and musical performances.

A healthy future requires the open exchange of ideas. If you disagree with a speaker, challenge their point of view — don’t straight-up cancel them.

Of course, SXSW is under no obligation to host me — or any panel, for that matter. But nixing a speaker and expressly citing their cancel culture commentary is rich.

At the very least, I have SXSW to thank for proving my point for me. Cancel culture is real, and I can now officially count myself among the canceled.

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