Cancel culture – a blessing or a curse?

Do we need to cancel cancel culture?

In this day and age, the idea of getting cancelled is something a lot of us have heard of, especially people who use social media. It seems as if there’s always someone who needs to be canceled. But what does that really mean?

The idea behind cancelling someone is that primarily celebrities or other public figures such as politicians get held accountable if they say or do something offensive. You can, of course, also “cancel” someone who isn’t famous, like a friend who has caused you offence, but the main idea of cancel culture is to effectively end the career of a well-known person and/or revoke them of their status because they did something offensive. This happens either through boycott or disciplinary actions, like firing someone. If you look at it like that, cancelling someone seems like a good way to achieve more social justice. It gives power to the people who have been harmed and can also serve as a way of combatting the major power imbalances between the public and public figures with far-reaching platforms and audiences.

However, there’s also lots of criticism regarding this topic. Especially more conservative politicians have voiced their concerns. They think that cancelling someone is nothing more than the attempt of a furious mob to silence others who might have something important to say. Then-President Trump for example described cancel culture as a political weapon which demands total submission from anyone who disagrees with the overall opinion of the wide public. He even stated that he thinks of it as a “growing danger that threatens every blessing our ancestors fought for so hard”.

But in reality, it actually takes a lot to end someone’s career and there are very few people who truly have been canceled. Some might have had to experience periods of time where they had to face more or less momentous criticism, but most of the time cancelled people won’t be cancelled forever. Some even come back stronger than before because they gained fame from it. Louis CK, a very famous comedian, got cancelled because he sexually intimidated multiple women. That, in fact, really seems like something you should be declared “over” for. Even though to some extent his career has been impacted negatively, he still has been nominated for a Grammy afterwards and it surprisingly even looks like these incidents found him a new audience.

Regardless, there are also people who fear getting cancelled. They are afraid to communicate their real feelings and opinions which can also be problematic. We are fortunately privileged enough to have the right of free speech in our country. Some say that cancel culture infringes on that right. In a functioning democracy people need to be willing to hear one another out even if they disagree, but we need to be aware that free speech does not include racism, homophobia, sexism or any other kind of violence.

Author: Christina Bello

Is Cancel Culture working?

Why Cancel Culture is Problematic

Cancelling people has become a widespread phenomenon in the last decade. Not only celebrities, but journalists, politicians, professors, artists and across the entire media and political landscape are affected. Cancelling an individual, however, often goes beyond simply pointing out mistakes they made. It is often imbued with ideological beliefs, posing a huge threat to constructive criticism and real progress.

Understanding the Debate

Cancel Culture can be seen as a position of moral high ground which is used by an individual or a group of people to oust someone from social or professional circles. It’s often connected to social media, as it poses as an easy way to publicly point out mistakes people have made. An example where social media was predominantly involved is the #MeToo movement of 2017, in which women were encouraged to come forward with stories about sexual harassment they have experienced. A prominent figure that was – justly – cancelled was Harvey Weinstein. The case of Weinstein clearly shows one of the advantages Cancel Culture provides: successfully seeking and often rightfully pointing out grievances.

The Shortcomings of Cancel Culture

Even though there are many instances where Cancel Culture came forth as useful, inspiring entire movements, it shouldn’t be treated uncritically. Especially on social media, cancellations can happen almost at lightspeed. Earlier that day someone was a genuine, down-to-earth celebrity and from one moment to another, they are someone to avoid. Cancellation instead of conversation seems to be the mantra of such debates. James Gunn, for example, was called out when a right-wing media personality discovered offensive tweets that he posted in 2009 and 2010. The outcry on Twitter was tremendous, leading Disney to fire the director in a response to the outrage. The media backlash was mostly led by progressive leftists despite having originated from the opposite side of the political spectrum. All of this happened without taking into consideration how Gunn’s position on the matter has changed since then, rendering his personal growth in the past ten years practically invisible. Even after having apologised for the tweets that he posted a decade ago, it took a lot of effort from various actors and actresses to get him rehired by Disney. Judging people based on things they did throughout their lives doesn’t always paint an accurate picture of what they stand for today. Another shortcoming is the actual lack of reach and consequences for people that have been cancelled. Kanye West, for instance, faced a massive backlash as well after publicly supporting Donald Trump and calling slavery “a choice”. Yet the outcries have had very little consequences for his career, his music, and his fashion.

What Cancel Culture Misses

Cancel Culture can be problematic because it’s often used as a weapon more than it’s used to point out grievances. However, this isn’t to say that it can’t be used to hold people accountable. The way it is often executed is just missing vital parts of any discussion: constructivism and engagement in good faith.  Sometimes, it can be more about destroying a person and making way for personal beliefs rather than constructive criticism based on facts.

Author: Samuel Brand