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06/08/2020 The Communication Science magazine

Why We Should Cancel ‘Cancel Culture’

What does it mean to get cancelled these days? Emma explains the downfall of cancel culture and why it should get cancelled.


If you’ve ever been on social media – especially Twitter – you probably have heard someone say a celebrity is ‘cancelled’ at least once. Particularly after 2016, the concept of ‘cancel culture’ quickly rose to fame, becoming part of our everyday virtual reality.

Its core idea is that everyone needs to be held accountable and publicly humiliated for their problematic actions – especially celebrities, given their social status and the influence they often provide to their young audience. The drill usually goes like this: a public figure says or does something offensive, hence the ensuing backlash on social media that forces them to acknowledge their actions. Eventually, they get cancelled – i.e. their career is ended by the general public, they lose fans and support from everyone.

That sounds pretty reasonable, doesn’t it? Well, truth be told, it is easier said than done.

Who Deserves to Be Cancelled?

The main problem with ‘cancel culture’ is that the people who get ‘cancelled’ are hardly ever the ones who actually deserve it.

After all, the people who have done truly despicable things and who continue to exhibit problematic behavior without growing from their mistakes, simply do not care. Ergo, they don’t let ‘being cancelled’ affect them in the least. The ones who are genuinely impacted by ‘cancel culture’ are the people who do care. They are the ones whose mistakes are usually the product of immaturity, uneducated upbringing and ignorance, and who have since then changed for the better.

Yes, they should get called out for what they did wrong, but the way the Internet does it just isn’t the right one. Having your social media mentions flooded by individuals demanding apologies or reminding you of that one insensitive comment you made in 2009, does not have the positive effect people wish it did. Instead, it will make people feel cornered and under attack, making them become so apprehensive about offending anyone that they will ultimately disappear from social media.

Meanwhile, the really bad apples are still around, unbothered, and their career won’t have suffered a single scratch.

He still manages to top the charts.

A perfect example of this nonsense is the American rapper 6ix9ine, who I cannot for the life of me understand why still has a career. Even ignoring the fact that his music constantly reaches new levels of mediocrity, the man is racist, homophobic and a convicted pedophile. Yet, he still manages to top the charts. That’s because he doesn’t care about the fact he has acted and spoken in a questionable, controversial manner, nor does he feel he has to atone for his behavior. Hence, he keeps on making music, which fans keep buying, as they do not understand the seriousness of his actions.

Growing from Mistakes

Nowadays ‘cancel culture’ doesn’t allow people to learn and grow from their mistakes anymore. Of course, I am just referring to those who have made mistakes because they were young and uneducated, not to those who are… well, criminals.

What ‘cancel culture’ fails to consider is that right now there is a higher social awareness and progressive enlightenment on the Internet, which was not present ten years ago. Again, this does not mean that celebrities do not deserve to be called out because of their misbehaviors – and educated. However, after being presented with new and better information on what is ‘politically correct’, it is more than possible for them to realize their wrongdoings and learn from them. Nevertheless, ‘cancel culture’ seems to not take this into account.

Furthermore, it makes it harder for people to differentiate between those who are genuinely apologetic for their ignorance and want to grow from it, and those who simply do not care. In fact, the fear of being cancelled leads celebrities to being overly cautious of what they say or do. It might seem like a good thing, but it actually just means that some of them might behave in a problematic way, but will do it privately in order to avoid losing fans and commercial success. Think about it: you might be supporting someone who doesn’t deserve it, just because you are unaware of what their true mindset it.

This is a huge drawback of ‘cancel culture’, as it makes it harder to spot who actually should be cancelled.

And the Bad People Are Still Bad

One of the biggest problems with how ‘cancel culture’ is implemented is that it’s so temporary that it is basically meaningless. Nowadays, we live in such a fast-paced society that even people’s anger and indignation are short-lived. Yes, the person gets bashed and called out on every social media platform by furious fans, but that outrage lasts for merely a week or so.

Some of them are driven off social media.

This happens especially if the person who was ‘cancelled’ is a big name in the industry they’re in, and therefore has lots of fans ready to back them up. Moreover, the sudden wave of forgiveness is more likely to occur if the celebrity just does not care and does not speak up about the issue. If they do talk about it – either with a post or an interview – it only adds fuel to the fire, as they bring more attention to the issue and prolong the frustrating situation, which is why some of them are driven off social media. However, if they do not speak up, everyone will soon forget about what happened, as quickly as they had become offended. That person who was ‘cancelled’ is simply forgiven, facing no real repercussions. Well, at least none that last.

Let’s take Justin Bieber as an example. The Canadian singer has been called out on various occasions throughout the years for his problematic behaviors, from saying the N word to being an out-right creep. However, even though the whole Internet world seems to be done with him each time one of these incidents resurfaces or occurs, his songs still reach #1. He still has millions of adoring fans, who say they are ‘cancelling’ him one day but turn a blind eye the next one. Is it sudden memory loss, or just simple hypocrisy?

Recognizing that ‘cancel culture’ has its toxic flaws does not mean thinking people shouldn’t be held accountable and called out for their problematic behaviors. It just means acknowledging that the way it’s currently being done is ineffective at its best and counterproductive at its worst. Perhaps, it is time for us to realize that the only thing we should cancel is ‘cancel culture’ itself.

Cover: viarami

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