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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 is an insidious form of virtue signalling

Cancel culture isn't really about justice. Instead, it's a vicious competition of who can make themselves look better by putting someone else down.

The Argument

Cancel culture is presented by its proponents as a form of protest or a social justice. But the method and character they use contradict this claim. The language of cancel culture seeks to tear down one person while building another up. It is not about empowering the weak; it is about ganging up on one person to make yourself look good. Cancel culture is being weaponized under the guise of "liberal" values. It has become a competitive sport in which people effectively dehumanize their opponents to prove their own "wokeness". It promotes a toxic culture of self-elevation for the influencer generation, in which power is handed to those who most convincingly undermine their opponents. It makes a show out of attacking, demoralizing, and destroying someone else. Cancel culture’s vicious nature threatens human interaction at every level. It teaches people to prioritize their own image at the expense of others. This way of thinking doesn’t promote justice; it’s just a vanity project on a broad scale. And in attacking certain values, it teaches its own brand of values that are ultimately harmful for society.

Counter arguments

This is a disingenuous misrepresentation of what cancel culture is. Yes, there will always be some people who twist a good thing and take it too far. But for the most part, cancel culture is comprised of people fighting a powerful individual spreading hateful ideas. And they fight them not with hateful words, but with silence and withholding their money. It’s not about self-empowerment. In fact, cancel culture comes from the acknowledgement that most people simply don’t have the same power as celebrities. The only way for those that do have power to be held accountable is if the people band together online and denounce them.

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This page was last edited on Thursday, 16 Jul 2020 at 20:19 UTC

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