The Harms of Cancel Culture
Social media has given people a more popular way to air out their opinions, influence others, make a stand about an issue publicly, and quickly mobilize people. There are many instances wherein a public figure issues a statement, makes a stand, or posts something, and then ends up being disapproved and disliked by people. As a result, they are being called out by people. Worst case scenario, people may round up through comments and spread out hate posts, resulting in withdrawing their support for a public figure. Such is an example of “cancel culture.”
Cancel culture is a kind of group shaming done on social media, where people influence one another to boycott or stop supporting the person, product, organization, etc., because of an issue the community considers offensive, objectionable, and unacceptable. Cancel culture and calling out have been evident in the political and social spectrum.
The famous children’s book author Theodore Geisel (better known as “Dr. Seuss”) wrote over 60 books that sold 700 million copies worldwide. The collection of these books is a must-have for schools. However, on Dr. Seuss’ birthday, March 2, 2021, Dr. Seuss’s birthday, the publisher Dr. Seuss Enterprises, announced that they would stop publishing his work. This is because the six books were reviewed to have racial images that can hurt others.
It did not end there. It reached Fox News and then up to the U.S. Congress. Senator Ted Cruz also tweeted that the canceling of Dr. Seuss was President Biden’s fault. Republican Kevin McCarthy read on video Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham to send the message that the Democrats are taking away traditions and sacred images to cancel America. As a result, Dr. Seuss’ books are still being read more than ever.
Cancel Culture: The Good, Bad and Ugly
Cancel culture has allowed marginalized groups and individuals to silence those who are potentially harmful. This warns influential people or groups who will avoid responsibility for their destructive behavior. They will be exposed and will face the consequences.
Cancel culture becomes bad when simple issues become sensationalized and toxic, and snap judgments can lead to overly harmful consequences in less offensive situations.
Some people also consider calling out high-profile people on social media as a valuable tool to advocate change. However, not much evidence has been established to support this claim.
Former President Obama urged the public to take caution when using social media to call out offenders. Cancel culture sends a wrong message that a person is no better than their choice. This means it is not realistic to demand purity nor not tolerate ambiguity. He said, “The world is messy. People who do excellent stuff have flaws.”
When Michael Jackson during his time was accused of being a pedophile, there were movements to cancel Michael Jackson by boycotting his music. Another fact is that many of the U.S. Founding Fathers were enslavers way back. Does that invalidate the Declaration of Independence? However, social media concerning canceling someone has no room for flaws or messiness. Therefore, canceling prevents any exchange of opinions or investigation regardless of whether they are necessary.
Cancel culture can also be a toxic way of tackling issues, especially when there are criminal threats, privacy issues, and pushing the person to commit suicide. Such does not solve problems at all.
Internet platforms also take advantage of the high emotion clickability because more clicks are monetized. Hence, nasty comments, Schadenfreude, and dismissive posts that reflect opposing points are being favored rather than having dialogues. In this case, canceling and calling out do fit the bill. Comments are instantly gratifying primarily when they target the “trolls” or “deplorable.” Commenters feel empowered and morally and intellectually superior.
A Shift in Attitudes and Behaviors: Key to Move Forward
Democracy gives us the right to express our opinions and collectively make a stand to impact the change we want in our society. However, we need to be more responsible in airing our views and passing judgment on people. We need to go back to what democracy really is, and that is to protect human rights. We all have rights— even the ones we intend to cancel or call out.
Remember, we all have these rights—young and old, regardless of color, race, and beliefs.
- Freedom to have our set of beliefs and thoughts and speak responsibly from our own experience
- A safe place to live and do work
- Have our basic needs: Enough food, access to education and health care, and money
- Freedom to worship (or not)
- To cast their vote and be counted.
Canceling others because we disagree with their belief is not constructive at all. Respect should still abound regardless of our differences in opinions, and hate should not be the basis of our expressions. Instead, to influence truth and reality while operating in a place of tolerance. This is the way to attain a change in society for the better.
Let us be more attuned to the expressions to cancel America to make our nation thrive and enrich our culture further. Authoritarian dictatorship should not be allowed. Let us be united for the common goal, honor the constitution, and the rule of law, relate with respect and tolerance, and we can make a new and better nation.