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How do we think about cancel culture? Show more Show less
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In June 2020, cancel culture claimed its latest victim: the popular children's television show Paw Patrol. People claimed that its protagonists - animated dogs who operate as police in a fictional universe - were being derided. These pieces said critics saw its positive portrayal of law enforcement strengthened a culture of deference to the police. Headlines around the world stated cancel culture had gone mad. But none of this was true. What began as a joke about cancel culture had grown into a conspiracy tearing across the internet. This crisis underpinned the bigger picture: anyone can be cancelled, and it has gone so far it can reach the international news without questioning. In recent years, the practice of withdrawing support for public figures who hold controversial views has exploded. And not just amongst the cartoons. Michael Jackson, JK Rowling, Louis CK, Woody Allen: the list of its celebrity victims is growing. The boom has divided opinion. Some believe it is a form of online activism that helps the marginalised hold the powerful to account. Their opponents see it as a devastating attack on civil liberties. So, what are the pros and cons of cancel culture?

Cancel culture must be cancelled Show more Show less

This approach argues that cancel culture exposes a crisis of individual liberty. It considers freedom of expression to be an inalienable right. Disagreement is being weaponised to silence those who hold unpopular views.
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Cancel culture discourages dialogue and creates a climate of fear

Cancel culture threatens to destroy the lives and livelihoods of its victims for holding unpopular views. In this, it creates a social environment in which few have the courage to express themselves for fear of being attacked.

The Argument

There is a contradiction in a movement that claims to dismantle institutionalized oppression, yet thrives on fear mongering. Cancel culture refers to boycotting a person's career or public platform in response to allegations of misconduct, often in the form of distasteful comments or opinions. People use this method to respond to and counter views they see as harmful to society. But when their attacks focus on the people themselves, and their livelihoods, it raises the stakes in a way that people aren't ready to deal with yet. Cancel culture involves effectively shunning a person out of their jobs and out of society. The threat of this kind of exile creates fear online and in the real world. People become afraid that they will become the next target, the next person to be exiled. What's more, they almost expect their favorite celebrities and personalities to be exiled as well, as more and more renowned figures get "cancelled." Rather than create a more equal society, cancel culture fosters discord, fear and a social hierarchy built on conflict. Instead of encouraging dialogue, it makes people withdraw their voice. People no longer feel comfortable speaking freely; after all, they don't want to be the next person cancelled.

Counter arguments

Cancel culture serves to deter the spread of views that are objectively and irrevocably opposed to modern society, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. If racists and sexists feel stifled by this movement, that’s good; they should be, and that’s the point of this movement. But such people are the only ones who have cause for fear. For everybody else, cancel culture actually creates a more liberating environment; one free from hate and prejudice, and those who propagate it.

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Rejecting the premises

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This page was last edited on Thursday, 16 Jul 2020 at 20:10 UTC

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