Is “cancel culture” real or is it just accountability?


Ezra Riemermann

While sometimes helpful to the ones who deserve to be deplatformed, the reality is a lot more toxic to say the least in the space of cancel culture.

“Cancel culture” has been the big subject which nobody seems to be able to silence themselves about for quite a few consecutive months (years?) now. 

Whether it’s discussion of the term’s prevalence or implications, its effects on the thinking populace or how it impacts people under specific demographics, “cancel culture” has been weighing heavily on people’s minds for a while now, which begs a single question – what is it and why is it still hanging around the discourse?

Simply put, “cancel culture” is a term for the modern-day political process in which people often face large-scale feedback over decisions they make, often ones which are found in distaste by progressivist people. It is a relatively modern term for a way in which accountability takes place in the modern world.

Anti-“cancel culture,” on the other hand, refers to the cultural concept that people are being held accountable for actions in a fashion that is either not proportionate to their wrongdoings or which is indicative of ancient and/or insignificant wrongdoings. The sentiment, which is often ironically diluted or ignored by those who perpetuate it, is transparently driven by a wish to reduce accountability in the world. This, ultimately, belittles the wrongdoings of immoral individuals, blows out of proportion the actions and beliefs of their detractors, and generally creates a social environment which enables disrespectful and unkind behavior by the public, and thus also enables unkind and insensitive actions toward others. But what are the greater goals and implications of the anti-“cancel culture” movement? 

“‘Cancel Culture’ is a term often used by the political right to describe the left’s tendancy to try and silence the voices of those they disagree with,” resident centrist Kirk Hill (12) said.

To go more in-depth, the primary pursuit is by Republicans and other right-leaning people, and, really, anyone who aims to generally impede the pursuit of equality. It’s essentially a gateway to ideological fascism, leading to mean-spirited, unkind or otherwise disproportionate forms of accountability in response to people’s actions, which are otherwise perceptively minor infractions of unspoken social rules. People are of the belief that big, strong large-scale harassment is taking place over people who have made minor mistakes in the past.

Take the “cancelation” of “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, for example. She was openly mocked & defamed all over the internet by what many considered to be relatively insensitive views on trans people. Among the anti-”cancel culture” crowd, this is a completely disproportionate response.

One of the primary causes of the anti-“cancel culture” movement is that people are being punished in a fashion that is not fair in comparison to their wrongdoings. Take the preceding example — the subject was implied in a rather insignificant respect to be transphobic. This is often viewed by people who oppose “cancel culture” as a disproportionate response to Rowling’s wrongdoings. Some people are of the belief that Rowling shouldn’t be punished with such ferocity for mistakes of the relative past. Others believe the impact is lessened because it was a refutable case. And finally, there are some believe that the fact that Rowling’s actions were not significant enough to warrant the amount of backlash which she has been bombarded with.

This sentiment misrepresents the intentions of the fight against “cancel culture” in a truly insidious fashion; whilst the fight against cancel culture may be purehearted for many, a lot of people are mistakenly supporting a rather explicitly politicized endeavor whilst mistaken about what it means, or what they’re doing. I don’t aim to paint Republicans and anti-progressivists as a whole as some variety of a cult with hateful and childish individuals who band together against kindness and empathy — but I do aim to state that I’m quite doubtful the vast majority of Republicans have taken much issue with the mistaken endorsement of the underlying anti-progressivism of the fight against “cancel culture” by Democrats, lending more awareness to the objection to a movement, when the goals & implications are far more politicized than most socially left endorsers would believe.

Additionally, the stance that these spoken or unspoken social rules being enforced in a fashion that is inconvenient to the general public — namely, in the form of rigid & unspoken rules regarding insensitive public commentary with clear and grave consequences to their breaking — is quite the unempathetic stance on social rules, yes?  

The “us first” mentality of anti-progressivism is the primary part that strikes me as lacking empathy, and as a self-centered approach to the pursuit of kindness; whilst I can understand how some radical pursuits of kindness could come off as unkind or draconian toward the average individual, it’s an extraordinarily reductive & regressive worldview to view every single pursuit of kindness & empathy from the perspective of how it affects those being asked to be kind, which has consistently proven to manifest in the form of a general opposition to all pursuits of kindness. The political stance seems to only be passable when viewed from the perspective of how kindness toward others effects oneself, with little or no consideration for other people’s perspectives or lives.

This is indicative of a trend with anti-progressivism in which kindness is gambled for selfish reasons, opting instead to behave predominantly within self-interest in just about every single situation, mortgaging kindness and empathy for the sake of self-centered behavior which hinges exclusively on what is momentarily convenient, ignoring the underlying implications and intentions of the pursuit of kindness, opting for selfishness and momentary altruism over interaction of substance.

In the end, the fight against “cancel culture” is a disingenuous and hateful pursuit, which misrepresents its intentions as well as its goals, risking our empathy and our children’s empathy for the temporary convenience of the presence. It crushes the struggling and divergent youth and the fixed-mindset elderly alike beneath the heavy weight of cultural consciousness and bias. An impressionable society is in grave need of education about the world around us, and it so often misinforms people about the nature of empathy and general pursuit of making the world a better place. This fake exchange of blows muddies the waters of what it means to make the world a better place, and it cheapens the message by diluting it with misinformation about what it means to hold someone accountable for their transgressions; the notion of being anti-“cancel culture” is a disingenuous and downright hateful growth upon civilized & kind society, and it should be called out as such.