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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 endangers democracy and freedom of expression

Democracy mediates different groups of people with differing viewpoints. Cancel culture upsets that balance, rejecting diversity of opinion and keeping one viewpoint in power.

The Argument

Democracy is built on freedom of expression. In any democratic society, giving space to multiple perspectives underpins the health of the state. It is the mediation of these perspectives through dialogue and other societal and governmental devices that forms the foundation of a democratic society. It is no surprise, then, that this formulation is threatened by the effects of cancel culture. Cancel culture is the refusal to acknowledge contrary views, and - more damningly - the assumption that being accused is equal to deserving blame. The movement's growth represents a shift away from democracy and establishes a witch-hunting culture, whereby unpopular opinion is banished. This puts societies on the road to ideological authoritarianism. It is the same genre of control that Stalinist Russia used to turn government critics into "unpersons". Disagreement, and objection to others' views, is not in itself a bad thing. In fact, it forms the basis of a healthy democracy. But when disagreement becomes a crime, democracy dies. Unfortunately, this is the trend caused by cancel culture today.

Counter arguments

As mentioned elsewhere, cancel culture is not an oppressive force, but rather a means to fight that oppression. Cancel culture empowers the marginalized, and holds the people who don't respect them accountable. It is literally anti-oppression; it is about as far from white or supremacist as one can get. Most importantly, it is driven by the people, not the government; there need be no fear of, say, the White House suddenly using cancel culture in a tyrannical way.



Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Thursday, 16 Jul 2020 at 20:13 UTC

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