I first wanted to do this piece because I had only read about one side of the media phenomenon known as “cancel culture.: But just like all things, cancel culture is not just one thing. It has two sides, just like a coin.
The cancel culture most of us know is when someone does something that we may disagree with and then post terrible things about said person, hoping that everyone starts to hate them the way you do.
This cancel culture can be a form of bullying, especially if it is over something small that can be considered “high school drama.”
Cancel culture or call out culture is defined by Wikipedia.org as, “a form of boycott in which someone, usually a celebrity, who has shared a questionable or unpopular opinion, or has had behavior that is perceived to be either offensive or problematic called out on social media is “canceled;” they are completely boycotted by many of their followers or supporters, often leading to massive declines in celebrities’, almost always social media personalities, careers and fanbase.”
One example of this side of cancel culture is one episode of the children’s show, “Arthur.” In one episode, Arthur’s teacher, Mr. Ratburn, is revealed to be gay. Alabama, a nationally-known conservative state, refused to air the tv show.
Conservatives that live in the state went to Twitter defend their beliefs. Some parents argued that their children should not witness two fictional gay characters get married because that is forcing homosexuality on them at a young age.
There are way more examples, but I’ll spare you some of the tweets that I saw while researching the ban.
What Alabama did was wrong. The state took away the citizens’ right to free speech by using their political beliefs to block the episode, not the beliefs of the people. The government forced a belief onto the citizens while claiming to block a belief onto children. How is that okay?
Disagreeing with someone’s behavior and then bullying other people into siding with us is extremely toxic. We cannot change another person’s mind through intimidation. This is the behavior that one side of cancel culture can create.
There is another side of cancel culture. It still leans on the political side, but this one is more on the positive side.
This side of cancel culture is a way to take away someone’s power and call out the individual for being problematic in a situation. I see it as having a sense of being observant and aware of what’s going on around me and what I see online.
Kaitlin Bennett, a white, conservative social media influencer, dressed as a Native American woman on Halloween and tweeted, “Happy Halloween, my fellow indigenous people.” She also dressed as a Native American on Columbus Day and tweeted, “Very thankful for Christopher Columbus and the first European settlers who discovered America and introduced the Western hemisphere to a civilized way of life.”
I shouldn’t have to explain how what she did was wrong and racist on so many levels, but people on Twitter defended Native Americans and attempted to make her aware of what history is. Naturally, people tweeted on how she is “cancelled” and why.
This is positive cancel culture because people cancelled her not just because they disagreed with her, but they called her out on her racism and stood up for the defenseless.
Now, why they did it is positive, but how people handled it on Twitter is still bullying.
R Kelly is another example of a person that should be cancelled for their behavior. He ruined numerous young girls’ lives. His horrible past caught up to him, and he does not deserve any kind of positive promotion. He got called out, he was exposed and now he has to face the consequences of his actions.
Just because this is a positive side of cancel culture doesn’t mean that it’s all good. There is still a fine line between correcting someone with respect and then bluntly attacking a person.
Former president Barack Obama recently spoke about this example of cancel culture.
“The way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people, and that’s enough” Obama said. “Like, if I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself, cause, ‘Man, you see how woke I was, I called you out.’”
Obama is right. Cancel culture could be twisted into a positive way of fighting but really is a negative one. We can pretend that we are fighting for a cause that we agree or don’t agree with, but really, we are using cancel culture as just another excuse to attack and bully others.
We need to respect all people, not just the people that agree with us.
We need to see the difference between individuals who say arguable opinions and the individuals that strip people of their humanity.