Cancel culture means withdrawing support for celebrities/public figures and organizations after they have said something offensive or have an objectionable opinion. The phrase, cancel culture, was popularized in the late 2010s and early 2020s via social media.
Cancel Culture uses alarmism and relies on social media to push its agendas. Cancel culture started in the United States but is becoming adopted in more and more regions.
Cancel culture initially started as a mode for minorities to advocate for their beliefs, fight for their rights, and condemn discriminatory and derogatory actions by people/organizations in power. As cancel culture uses social media platforms as its tool to push agendas, it is hard to control when it turns toxic. Cancel culture, like viral social media trends chances limiting freedom of speech.
As a result, cancel culture not only has positive but negative outcomes as well. The masses need to understand the negatives in or to minimize or stop harmful effects.
The Positive Effects of Cancel Culture
The practice has helped in battling sexual harassment, especially in Hollywood. Notable cases include Chris Noth, an actor best known for Sex and the City, who lost his ad campaign deal with exercise equipment company Peloton. Noth had been accused of sexual assault by three women.
Studies show that sexual assault and harassment cases are prevalent in Hollywood. Cancel culture could help curb it. It could prove effective as perpetrators, who in most cases are influential men, may fear losing everything. An example is Harvey Weinstein, now convicted of sexual harassment, who, because of public outcry on social media, ended up convicted and famous actors vowing not to work with him again.
Cancel culture has also brought the downfall of figures guilty of offensive racial slurs. Examples include wrestler Hulk Hogan and TV host, Paula Deen. The former lost his WWE honors while Paula Deen had her show and publishing deals cancelled by the Food Network.
Other cases of cancel culture include Kevin Hart losing his chance to host the 2020 Oscars. It was after a snippet of one of his specials in the early 2010s went viral. In the clip, Kevin Hart said he would chastise his son if he acted gay. There was an uproar by the LGBT community for Kevin to step down from hosting the Academy Awards.
Effects of Cancel Culture on Freedom of Speech
The main con of cancel culture is that the practice constantly risks denying people their right to freedom of speech. Comedian Dave Chappelle has come under constant criticism for his Netflix comedy specials. In the specials, Chappelle often voices his opinions on the LGBTQ community. He has said although he does not hate the trans community, he does not understand them but would like to get to understand them. In 2022 after the release of the Chappelle’s comedy special, The Closer, the trans community protested for his cancellation by Netflix.
Such a case brings division as concerns to cancel culture as it is a battle of opinion. In an interview, Jordan B Peterson, a renowned Canadian psychologist, argued that by exercising the right to freedom of speech,h an individual risks offending people with a contrary opinion. He added there was nothing wrong with that. He also says disagreeing on controversial topics does not warrant cancelling a person.
J K Rowling, the best-selling author of the Harry Potter series of books, was under the fire of cancel culture for her remarks that gender is a fact. Members of the trans community felt offended and called for the boycott of her works.
Despite instances of Cancel culture shedding light on the awful acts done by some prominent people and organizations, it can also be easily manipulated to silence people just trying to voice their opinion.
Why Cancel Culture Needs More Scrutiny
Like most trends, cancel culture can be effectively used to stop vile acts committed by people in positions of power, organizations and companies that exploit employees and clients. As cancel culture works through spreading information and instant calling for immediate action, it could punish offenders faster than the law.
However, as the law states innocent until proven guilty, cancel culture risks unfairly condemning people without hearing their version. An example is Johnny Depp. Mr Depp lost acclaimed acting deals, among them, his Jack Sparrow part in Pirates of The Caribbean. He ended up winning in court against Amber Heard, who had sued him for domestic violence.
Cancel culture may silence people with genuine opinions, who may be afraid to be offensive to particular communities. Such might hinder cohesion as harmony often comes from understanding each other through objective dialogue.
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