There’s no such thing as cancel culture. A controversial claim? You’d be forgiven for thinking so. After a quick Google search, you’ll find an endless plethora of what many perceive cancel culture to be. But it’s time to finally debunk this ever-growing myth once and for all.
Let’s look at the term literally. Can a person truly be ‘cancelled’? Like a holiday, or a train, or a subscription. Of course not. Can a person be called out and vilified for spouting hate, pedalling harmful agendas, bigotry or – for want of a better phrase – just being a dickhead? Absolutely. Rightly so, too. Wouldn’t you agree?
You only have to look at some of the public figures that have been ‘cancelled’ to get a clearer picture of the real pattern on display.
For the benefit of a balanced overview – it’s important to point out that both sides of the cancel culture coin are misusing the phrase. The ‘cancellers’ themselves are haphazardly calling for people to be removed from society, something which is both unrealistic and reductive as far as I’m concerned.
Then there’s those that are being ‘cancelled’ – the ones who perpetuate a thinly-veiled attempt at playing the victim, but often the same ones who forget they have the privilege of doing so in front of a fanbase that’s still largely intact. Hardly the position of some that’s been eradicated from society, is it?
When Kanye West said slavery was a choice and went about sporting that ridiculous MAGA cap, he was slandered endlessly on social media. He couldn’t escape the criticism – but he didn’t really have to. Nothing else really happened to him. Even when the rapper – who now goes by Yé – lost a reported $2 billion in a single day after being dropped from Adidas for a string of anti-semetic comments, he was still left with a measly $400 million his name and the majority of his devoted fanbase.
Right cause, wrong target
So what’s the point in all of this? I suffer this inner turmoil almost every time I go to tweet or share an instagram post in rage – usually at the Tories. Or racists. Or misogynists. Homophobes, too. I, like most, talk a good game. But how much am I actually doing in the fight against inequality. In the grand scheme of things, not very much at all.
I’m all for the vitriol harmful figures like Kanye, Andrew Tate, Jeremy Clarkson face. Really, I am. We need to apply an element of realism to it though, and completely removing people from the face of the earth doesn’t quite fall under that.
Then there’s JK Rowling. The Harry Potter creator has come under warranted flack for years now for the anti-trans rhetoric she has repeatedly doubled down on. Now fans have taken their critique a step further, with calls for the new Hogwarts Legacy game to be boycotted, despite having no involvement with the creation of the game itself.
Some of the Hogwarts Legacy’s fiercest naysayers, including trans activist Eva Echo have claimed that boycotting the game “sends a clear message and stops JK Rowling from having an even bigger platform.” Agree? Disagree? It almost doesn’t matter too much. The game which was only officially released today is on course to smash both streaming and revenue records having shifted hundreds of thousands of units
So I guess my point is – we’ve seen time and time again that famous figures can be guilty of some of the most abhorrent and harmful hate speech without ever really being removed from the public domain. Does that mean we just stop calling out bullshit altogether? Not a chance. There does need to be a change in where we put our energy though.
The other side
For every misplaced call for someone to be cancelled – there’s a bigot out there claiming ‘cancel culture’ is the reason why they’ve been called out for their bullshit. Leading to the notion that free speech is a dying art at the hands of the ‘woke brigade’.
This is a lie.
Most of us are fortunate enough to live in a space where free speech has never been more prevalent. That’s not to say it doesn’t come without any repercussions.
Was Jeremy Clarkson universally criticised – even from his own daughter – because his free speech was infringed upon. No, he was publicly dragged for abusing his free speech to promote misogyny and violence against Meghan Markle. There’s a clear distinction, we’ve just allowed a group of pricks to twist the argument to suit their own agenda.
Have calls to ‘cancel’ people gone too far? Yes. Have those in danger of being cancelled twisted the argument in order to wrong-foot us into blaming ‘cancel culture’ for their misdemeanour. Yes. The two can co-exist and neither are that helpful in the grand scheme of things.
While cancel culture is undoubtedly a myth, that’s certainly not to say we should stop calling out harmful behaviour. But it needs to be more deliberate, more dedicated and preferably not so focussed around that little app with the bird.