Throughout the whole history, humanity has observed various forms of ex-communication or public humiliation, primarily executed concerning famous and influential figures to make them correspond to social conformity. Nowadays, a new version, generally known as “canceling” or “calling-out,” has acquired tremendous significance, directed at depriving support or even condemning public people for committing offensives or expressing outrageous opinions. Herewith, condemned individuals, mostly celebrities and other public persons, firstly canceled on social media to enhance public awareness of their presumable wrongdoings, and eventually reflect on their careers and personal lives. This paper argues that cancel culture mainly causes harm rather than a benefit to social justice despite its increased popularity.
The Causes of Increased Popularity
It is evident that to be prosperous, society should be grounded on the principle of social justice, according to which all persons are equally responsible before the law. Nevertheless, numerous high-profile precedents occurred when celebrities and politicians managed to avoid legal retribution thanks to their PR managers, attorneys, and other resources. Herewith, disadvantaged, offended, and ordinary people could not affect scandalous situations by no means to achieve a fair verdict or punish insulters.
With the skyrocketing influence of social media, marginalized groups have finally received the instrument to voice their opinions to the general public and protest against insulting actions. By making particular actions or utterances spotlighted, they can impact the court decisions or at least compel offenders to apologize publicly. White notes, “Social media is the fuel of canceling, which first garnered attention years ago as a term and hashtag used on Twitter by African Americans.” Thus, due to social platforms, the cancel culture has promptly grown into the power considered to be able to increase social justice by making individuals, especially influential ones, bear accountability for their actions or words.
Many proponents of cancel culture argue that canceling allows marginalized individuals to seek liability, primarily in cases where the legal system fails. However, calling-out culture is an overly risky activity to defend social justice and replace the traditional justice system. This is because although this practice contains the word “culture,” in reality, it is typically not subject to or governed by any rules, social norms, morals, or ethics. Since the crowd tends to be exceedingly reactive to different news, sentences and targets are frequently made hastily, chaotically, and most importantly, irresponsibly and without considering consequences that can be far-reaching and catastrophic for canceled personalities.
In particular, many people were or are at significant risk of being called out unfairly or disproportionately punished for their minor sins. For instance, Sam Biddle regretted retweeting Justine Sacco’s joke about AIDS, entailing her firing, stating that “it’s easy and thrilling to hate a stranger online” (Is Cancel Culture). Jenna Marbles, a blogger and actor, faced a similar tragedy when her viewers on YouTube condemned her several early presumably misogynistic statements and mocks about Asians (White). Even after Marbles apologized, she seems to remain canceled and ostracized. Herewith, it is worth noting that adverse consequences that can be caused by canceling, including the loss of a job, mental experiences, and public pressure, are usually not compensated by anybody. This indicates the enormous distance calling out culture from genuine culture and justice, where all decisions should be regulated by a particular reasonable and elaborated system with its well-defined rules and benchmarks.
The second argument is that the callout culture can lead to public disagreements and tension, which mostly undermines the foundations of democratic societies. Although many people consider that canceling is a contemporary form of boycott or demonstration, it can also provoke widespread fear and intolerance between parties on critical issues needing a rational and holistic approach. Ex-President Trump claimed that the cancel culture is “the very definition of totalitarianism, and it is completely alien to our culture and our values” (Is Cancel Culture). Indeed, people should be allowed to express their opinions overtly without dread, shyness, or danger of being ostracized or blamed. This is in no way consistent with the notions of justice.
The final argument is that canceling culture as a new form of activism results in no or insignificant social changes. Generally, organizational activity goes far beyond the simple online sphere and reviling particular persons. Barack Obama said, “That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far. That’s easy to do” (Is Cancel Culture). Definitely, activism often involves risk, considerable and zealous efforts, self-sacrifice, commitment intended at uniting people, elaborating a clear strategy, building a perspective campaign, and encouraging society.
In summary, the paper has examined the increased popularity of cancel culture and described its inefficiency to bring a benefit to social justice. The main argument is that callout culture is frequently conjugated with significant risks for targeted individuals who can face substantial and long-term problems in their private life. This practice is not controlled and limited by any rules and norms, unlike the traditional justice system. Besides, cancel culture can induce widespread fright in many people to manifest their view on the state of affairs, which contradicts the main provisions of democracy. Finally, canceling cannot be considered to be true activism since it does not require real, active efforts, and thus, it cannot produce fruitful results.
“Is Cancel Culture (or “Callout Culture”) Good for Society?” ProCon.org., 2020, Web.
White, C.R. “The Ins and Outs of Cancer Culture.” The Purist, Web.