You may not have heard the term “Cancel Culture” before. It came into light during the fallout from the #Polarization Debate in Australia. There was much debate and controversy about the comments of one climate change skeptic that seemed to imply that all scientists were racist. This was followed by an equally racist and bigoted statement about how “humanity” would be better off without all the scientists. In fact the debate actually wound down after people became so disgusted they voted to remove the debate from the Internet.
While it’s true that some of the best minds on the planet are hard to find, there is still something to be said for the power of social justice and the resistance to censorship in free societies. By removing the chance for dialogue we are reducing the chances for meaningful discussion and learning. What is cancelled culture? It is the ideology that are destroying the open exchange of ideas and leaving those who support it behind closed doors, unable to participate in reasoned debate.
The basic premise of cancel culture is that the only way to advance left-leaning causes and progressive ideas in society is to silence those who hold views that go against the grain. In other words, we must be a pack of obedient sheep waiting for the government or other progressive movements to protect us from our own free will. We must not challenge the status quo or those who wish to maintain it. Instead, we must allow those who wish to maintain their power to do so. Those who oppose them are told to just give up, get over it, or get along with the system.
There are two major forms of cultural criticism that go hand in hand with this agenda to remove public figures from their offices. The first is called the cry for calm or for a “balanced” discussion. This is most often issued by minority groups who feel that the target of the attack is not being met with enough public force and violence. For example, the demands that Oprah Winfrey makes for white Americans to tone down their racial comments are expressions of this call-out culture. However, these calls for calm are routinely issued by the majority in response to a certain situation where a public figure has made statements that some find offensive or inflammatory.
The second form of cultural criticism is to claim that a public figure oversteps the mark or has gone too far in offending certain sensibilities. This is the basis of the “balanced” idea. Some people believe that canceling someone is the same thing as censoring free speech. Indeed, this argument seems to gain some validity. After all, the First Amendment protects free speech. But it also protects people from being fired from their jobs or from publicly representing themselves in certain ways.
Some social media users have taken to calling those who wish to cancel culture shock and those who call for a cancel culture. It is hard to see how anyone can be forced to speak out against something they don’t believe in. In fact, many cancellation proponents seem to want to get people to think that they are somehow being forced into a position of having to speak out against their own beliefs, especially if it involves using social media. There is a vast difference between wanting to protect someone’s free speech rights and wanting to prevent another person from engaging in free speech.
As far as the bullying goes, some who have been called out for their stances on certain issues to think that their employers are simply trying to shame them into reconsidering their stance. Others say that it is no different than social engineering. Those who call-out those who wish to cancel culture see themselves as playing the role of a cultural arbiter, telling others what to think. They are trying to shape the way they act, rather than allowing others to decide for them what they should do or not do. The call-out culture has created an echo chamber where those with the power to do so feel threatened by others who are merely seeking clarification on certain social issues.
Whether or not these social media users realize that they are doing anything wrong is not relevant. They were given the microphone to express themselves and the free speech rights of expression are still available. Those who wish to cancel culture did so because they felt their perspectives were no longer valid. They then found that other social media users saw them as bullies and began to behave the same way. This is not a sign of strength of character or of a healthy free speech culture; it’s a sign of weakness and fragility, which highlights why cancelling the culture can be such a threat.