“Cancel Culture” Has Good Intentions, But Needs To Change
By: James F. Cronin
It’s 2019. Amid all the tensions and the seemingly ever maddening nature of the world, there are indeed aspects that are improving, as crazy as that may sound. We as a country have made leaps and bounds towards securing a future that’s more inclusive, equal, and safe for all peoples. America is still far from perfect, but people are primed to be vocal when they see behavior that they think is wrong, and this is a good thing. This fearlessness to call out the transgressions or inappropriate actions of others is at the heart of what is known as “Cancel Culture” – a form of boycott that calls for the expulsion of the offending party from professional and social circles. While I think it’s great that we, as a people, demand a certain degree of civility and decency from those in the spotlight, I worry that “Cancel Culture” as a whole represents the dangerous baby steps of a society that’s just recently discovered social media’s capability to enact change but hasn’t fully figured out the right way to do it.
While it may seem airtight on paper, “Cancel Culture” can be damaging to good people as well as to our systems of argumentation. One only needs to look at Aziz Ansari who was almost “cancelled” earlier this year for sexual misconduct allegations that proved to be misrepresented, if not entirely unwarranted. His entire life was almost ruined by a digital tidal wave of internet warriors who jumped to conclusions and gave into the all too easy allure of mob mentality. While they may have had good intentions and wanted to see a sexual harasser repossessed of his platform, people are too quick to throw stones without thinking about why, and this gets us nowhere.
There are many deplorable actions that we should absolutely hold celebrities and politicians accountable for, but “Cancel Culture” can also sometimes aim its sights on those who simply have dissenting opinions, and that’s truly dangerous to the values of free speech that Americans hold dear to them. When Kanye West came out as a Trump supporter, there were cries from the people to cancel him, but why? He’s entitled to his political views, even if others don’t agree with them (I certainly don’t).
Admittedly, there are certain dangers to consider when people with a lot of influence espouse ideology others may find damaging, but “canceling” is not always the solution. Instead, I believe the solution lies in reviving the nearly extinct art of debate. People nowadays don’t understand how to handle those who have different opinions than their own – they see words and ideas that don’t align with their own preconceptions of the world as acts violence, and they react as such. We need to learn how to be patient, assess the facts, empathize, try to understand one another, and then and only then render judgment before the noble intentions of “Cancel Culture” devolve and the movement becomes little more than an aimless witch hunt.