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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 represents a crisis where free speech is silenced

Cancel culture targets people who express contrary opinions. This directly opposes the ideal that everyone is entitled to freedom of expression, and turns those with unpopular opinions into outcasts.

The Argument

Modern society relies on freedom of expression. The diversity of opinions informs our politics, culture, and society. Unfortunately, cancel culture threatens to stifle this freedom. The fear it creates stifles people's freedom to express themselves. The growth of cancel culture goes hand in hand with the shrinking of free expression. Where it once existed to shut down extremism or ideas that incited dangerous behaviors, it now exists in the mainstream. It has become a form of "viewpoint discrimination" in which those who really suffer at its hands are ordinary people. As a result, the general population fears to express themselves, and they stay silent in order to protect themselves. The research backs this up. A 2018 McLaughlin and Associates poll revealed that 54% of American undergraduates felt too intimidated to share their opinions, for fear of being cancelled. This was a 9% increase from the year before. It is transforming the way that the individual perceives and expresses agency within a society, and encouraging a monoculture of opinion.

Counter arguments

Do half of American undergraduates exhibit some kind of hatred toward minorities, or have buried histories of sexual offenses? Because that's the only reason they need to be afraid to speak their minds. If they don't, they ought to feel free to participate in society. But if they do, they need to be called out. They need to be held accountable for holding and propagating hateful views.

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    This page was last edited on Thursday, 16 Jul 2020 at 20:28 UTC

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