BY ZOIE LAMBERT, BLOGGER
To put it simply, 2020 has been a whirlwind of unprecedented circumstances. It has given the world COVID-19, exposed racism across a variety of industries, created an “anti-mask” movement [think anti-vaxxers, but with protective face masks] and to top it off, “cancel culture” is at an all-time high.
Cancel culture is defined as “the withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.” Recently, as a result of the racial unrest and ongoing health crisis across the world, celebrities are finding themselves on the receiving end of this societal movement more than ever before.
This phenomenon initially combatted those who opposed unity in an already divided era. One positive result of cancel culture is, the change, or “canceling,” of the Washington Redskins’ offensive mascot; this cancellation was accomplished through constant petitioning online. Yet, cancel culture has now spiraled into toxicity and renders as much controversy from some of its victims. People criticize its ineffectiveness and its malevolent effects on mental health and are now calling for a cancelation of cancel culture itself.
How Cancel Culture Lost its Way
IT DOES NOT ADVOCATE FOR THE FIRST AMENDMENT
New York Times writer Ross Douthat reports, “ … Even if [cancel culture] doesn’t violate the Constitution, cancellation cuts against that promise — which is one reason arguments about cancel culture so often become arguments about liberalism itself.”
Similar to hate speech, individual opinions are protected under the first amendment, regardless of how controversial. The best example of an opinionated though controversial Tweet can be seen by none other than Kanye West.
In 2018, West Tweeted, “You don’t have to agree with Trump but the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone. I don’t agree with everything anyone does. That’s what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought.” Many Twitter users quickly called for West to be “canceled” after stating his opinion.
CANCEL CULTURE RUINS CAREERS
Those who are just beginning to enter the professional world might just rethink their career choice because they are scared of saying something that offends someone. The threat of being “canceled” for certain statements deters creativity.
Actress Kristen Stewart despises the constant pressure that comes from being under the public’s microscope. According to Bustle, in a Harper’s Bazaar U.K. interview in 2015 Stewart says, “Fame is the worst thing in the world. Especially if it’s pointless. When people say, ‘I want to be famous’ – why? You don’t do anything?” She also discussed the pressure of doing interviews, press conferences and red carpets, “Having that much human energy thrust at you and then being critically analyzed is obviously disarming,” she says.
The fear of being canceled, fired or turned away from a job for old statements creates a similar toxic environment on the Internet.
IT JEOPARDIZES THE MENTAL HEALTH OF THE PUBLIC AND SUPPORTS MOB MENTALITY
Do people not forgive anymore? Medium Writer Patrice N. Douglas raises an important question about cancel culture; “How can we ask for people to accept our growth as well [as] accept people that continue to hurt us or never offer an apology when we won’t give public figures the same courtesy … because they [are] human too remember?”
Across the Internet, social influencers are finding themselves being called out for controversial statements they made prior to being thrust into the public eye. Immediately, critics call for the cancelation of these influencers without giving them a chance to apologize, explain or make amends for their actions. Nevertheless, even if these public figures apologize, the public mocks or does not accept their apologies.
Canceling could be an effective boycott if it involved more abstaining from the problem and focused on educating the people involved. Instead, the phenomenon opts for constant attacks on these problematic entities with little room for redemption or forgiveness. The problem with public blitzes is that it provokes supporters to come out, which diverts awareness from social justice work. Additionally, these internet ambushes of #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo are used to the public’s convenience (when it is most flattering). Thus, when the public is done, they will abandon the cause. A more effective way to enact real change among these problematic mindsets would be to allow people to educate themselves on these topics and not repeat their same mistakes.
Loretta Ross a Black Feminist recalls the moment she realized cancel culture was toxic. In an article for the New York Times she wrote, “[I] called them out while trying to explain intersectionality and white supremacy. I rarely questioned whether the way I addressed their white privilege was actually counterproductive. They barely understood what it meant to be white women in the system of white supremacy. Was it realistic to expect them to comprehend the experiences of black women?”
To Ross’s point, if society is not using cancel culture as a teaching tool, but to bully each other, then the fight for social justice has been futile. Cancel culture was originally used as space for justice, but now has become a place of lawlessness. It has driven individuals to judgment, unforgiveness and hate.