By VINCENT CORTES
As western social-culture continues to grow and evolve, there has been an increasing fear of a phenomenon spurred by social media: cancel culture. However, some fears are more irrational than others.
As former President Barack Obama describes, “Among certain young people, and this is accelerated by social media, there is this sense that the way [I make a] change is to be as judgemental as possible about other people, and that’s enough.” He closes off by emphasizing that cancel culture and Twitter outrage is not activism nor is it bringing about change. Obama is right—but not completely.
Indeed, the premise of “canceling” someone, debasing someone’s platform because of his or her actions, has its problems. For example, by canceling someone because of his or her past beliefs, it defeats the notion of “growing from our mistakes.” In this sense, it sets the precedent that individuals need to be morally upstanding and infallible. Through this lens, cancel culture is the embodiment of a hierarchical system based on merits, where pandering to the masses can elevate one’s rank; however, this rudimentary perspective is a gross misinterpretation of what cancel culture is; it is not real.
Simply, cancel culture is about accountability. The stigma surrounding the topic is analogous to fear-mongering that shames individuals in partaking in it. The term has become so stigmatized, that an individual facing criticism or condemnation for his or her actions is considered “canceled.” However, this should simply be a part of life. As minority groups continue to expand their influence on social-culture, our society’s ethics and values progress. Misogyny, racism and downright discrimination should not be acceptable in this day and age. Canceling someone, in reality, is condemning those who still partake in those ignorant behaviors; it holds people, especially people in power, accountable because their words and actions bear more weight than the individual.
The notion that canceling someone immediately removes their platform is a hyper exaggerated fantasy created by those not willing to be held accountable for his or her actions. In reality, those who face the ire of cancel culture face zero repercussions in real life—because ultimately, cancel culture only exists in online spaces. What this boils down to is this: In order for cancel culture to truly exist, its consequences must also extend into the real world, and it most likely will not. Ultimately, those in positions of power and his or her reputations are able to escape unscathed after being canceled. Not only do such individuals possess social power, but also economic power to recover from experiencing public backlash.
As the sentiment against cancel culture grows, it enables the ethically wrong actions of popular influencers to be forgotten. Essentially, a simple apology is sufficient enough to warrant the public to forgive and forget—even the most heinous of crimes. At some point the question needs to be asked: does this person deserve a platform?
Indeed, people learn from their mistakes, but there are some actions that even ignorance cannot excuse. As abusers and rapists still remain in the public spotlight with a career as successful or even more than before, it is clear that people are not held responsible for his or her actions.
As cancel culture’s stigma continues to grow, people’s ignorant actions continue to slip through the cracks. Cancel culture is important. It is a step towards progressing our society’s ethics and morals, and a step towards progression for minorities. Ultimately, while cancel culture does not possess the impact its detractors claim it has, it is a gateway to hold those accountable for their actions.