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Is cancel culture a toxic and perfectionist movement?

Social media is polarising debates

By Seb Vanhoonacker

Image courtesy of Francis McKee via Flickr

Firstly, lets break down what cancel culture stands for: cancel culture or call-out culture is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is kicked out of social or professional circles—whether it be online or in person. Those subject to this dehumanising process are said to have been ‘cancelled’.

Callout culture is a movement that amounts to bullying, incites violence and generates threats.

Simply, ostracising people is no solution. What the world needs is collective unity, and scapegoating people for the world’s problems is no solution. The irony is that many people who support cancel culture also advocate for mental health issues, as humans we are flawed and bound to make mistakes but cancel culture vows for perfection. No single person on this planet has never not said or done something mean so why aim for perfection? The real issue though is that people think cancel culture is activism, it’s not! As Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter, notes, ‘People don’t understand that [social activism] organising isn’t going online and cussing people out or going to a protest and calling something out’. Activism is in fact hard work which includes group meetings, strategy sessions, starting campaign, and getting petitions signed.

Cancel cultures have led to an intolerant society, a society that only accepts the mainstream opinion, anyone who disagrees has the risk of jeopardising their entire career, social life, and personal life. Arguably, if one keeps making the same mistake or repeats the so-called misdeed several times, then any reasonable person can get behind cancel culture. The thing is very often a person makes a mistake from when they were younger for example in the case of Ollie Robinson (the English cricket player), he made racist and sexist tweets—8 years ago.

In no way is this acceptable, but after if one shows remorse and a willingness to learn, should they still be punished?

For example, in prisons many people have shown that rehabilitation is far more effective than simply locking up the prisoners for extended jail time. Cancel culture should follow a similar pattern: one should claim responsibility, apologise, and educate themselves for why what they did was wrong—not be shunned for eternity.

Finally, on the effectiveness of cancel culture, I strongly believe it has only led to the tendency of people to become more polarised politically. If people sat down and had face to face conversations much like Middle-Ground by Jubilee on YouTube, people would realise that we have more similarities than differences. But because of social media we have this tendency to say things that we probably wouldn’t say if we were face to face with someone. Not to mention that often it leads to people picking the wrong sides in these debates, R. Kelly and Michael Jackson who have both been in sexual scandals have actually seen an increase in their streams, the reason being is the counter to cancel culture. Cancel culture somewhat ironically has led to many of the accused actually gaining a platform of sorts, so all cancel culture has done is deepen the divide between those for and against it. In reality cancel culture causes problems via scapegoats, rather than actually solving the issues through education!

In conclusion, cancel culture could have been used for a force for change, but it has reached a toxic point of no return. Barrack Obama on cancel culture said ‘If all you're doing is casting stones, you are probably not going to get that far’. To say cancel culture is a stone throwing process is a gross understatement of its horrible dehumanising role. Finally, it’s a never-ending process of perfection as Ricky Gervais said ’I want to live long enough to see the younger generation not be woke enough for the next generation. It’s going to happen’. Followed by ’Don’t they realise that, it’s like, they’re next. That’s what’s funny’.