Does Cancel culture actually work? The short answer: No. The long answer: Noooooooooooo. According to dictionary.com, “Cancel culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.” However, it is increasingly obvious that Cancel culture is simply not working.
The world is constantly changing and socially acceptable practices change along with it. One of the most famous cases of a celebrity being canceled is that of The Chicks, formerly known as The Dixie Chicks. The Chicks were canceled and subsequently blacklisted for over a decade after comments made in 2003 about then-President George W. Bush and the Iraq war. During former President Donald Trump’s tenure, all sorts of comments were made about him and his administration whereas no cancellations resulted from this. Comedian Kathy Griffin was called out for a joke that went too far which showed her posing with a bloodied severed head of President Trump, but that’s about as far as it went.
A recent trend in Cancel culture is pulling up old tweets/comments made by famous people in order to vilify them. Often these are tweets/comments going back nearly a decade if not more. There’s also a pattern in how these cancellations play out: old comments are brought to light, there is outrage all over social media, the celebrity in question releases a PR apology then goes low key online only to resurface in a few months when most people have moved on to the next scandal. The question to be asked is: What is the point of this?
Focusing on the old actions and words of famous people does not allow for growth as a society. The world is constantly evolving and socially acceptable practices are constantly changing. Through Cancel culture, we are not allowing people to realize, accept, and learn from their errors. This is not to say actions should not include consequences, but immediate shame is not the answer.
The fear of being canceled has led to an overwhelming amount of forced ‘wokeness’ in the media that simply comes off as tacky and insincere. When people become afraid to share their genuine thoughts, ideas and opinions for fear of internet crucifixion, creativity is severely limited. The simple fact is fan bases do not have the power to actually cancel anyone. The internet can raise all of the fire that it wants to, but at the end of the day only those with power and influence can lead to the genuine cancellation of another person with power and influence. There will be backlash and outrage, but never anything substantial.
The intentions rarely line up with the outcome of these cancellations. According to Vox.com, “Over the past few years, many right-wing conservatives, as well as liberals who object to more strident progressive rhetoric, have developed the view that Cancel culture is a form of harassment intended to silence anyone who sets a foot out of line under the nebulous tenets of ‘woke’ politics.” Cancel culture evolved from a practice designed to make people accountable to one used to force political correctness, limit free speech, and creative freedom.
Cancel culture was a system designed to force accountability and consequences for actions but has now become a means of bullying and forcing an agenda. It might be time to dismiss the notion that is cancelling.