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The overcorrection of cancel culture

By Ridge Coffey and Nam Nguyen Oct. 15, 2020

Aileen Xie Art

The age of the internet has brought a new sense of anonymity. In the modern age where almost anybody around the world is just a call or text away, publicly denouncing individuals has never been so impactful in such a short period of time. Consequently, cancel culture has evolved from demands for accountability to exposés of individuals that are blown out of proportion, often with little supporting evidence.


The internet has allowed for the permanence of whatever is “posted,” where it could be unearthed years later and ruin reputations. The COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened this phenomenon as people’s social lives have become even more dependent on online interactions, resulting in increased attention and scrutiny over what is found by clicking and scrolling. Today, cancellation can be defined as the social rejection of someone by a group of people based on an allegedly unacceptable action or an opinion, as explained by the New York Times.


Canceling has become an all-encompassing phrase for all types of scenarios, each with unique circumstances and details that warrant unpacking.

There are instances where an influencer does something that is simply inexcusable, and making cancel culture possibly necessary for accountability. For instance, men like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and Bill O’Reilly have been canceled as part of the #MeToo movement after numerous sexual assault and harassment allegations, some pending in court. However, outrage towards Robert Downey Jr. for his satirical usage of blackface in the 2008 movie Tropic Thunder, Ellen DeGeneres for her rude and cold off-camera personality or J.K Rowling for her transphobic remarks reveals how complicated and unclear it is to cancel someone. Canceling has become an all-encompassing phrase for all types of scenarios, each with unique circumstances and details that warrant unpacking. Clear examples of moral wrong, like Weinstein’s sexual abuse, are grouped together with nuanced situations.


“While it is true that those who have done something wrong, especially those who have big platforms, need to be held accountable, it is important to understand that people can change over time and that we do not always see the full picture in their lives. Holding people accountable for their actions does not condone the toxicity,’” Senior Jianna Wong said.


The widespread accessibility to others’ opinions...has given people the ability to demand accountability from public figures, but its excesses have fueled a toxic atmosphere where people choose to shame and blame out of cathartic anger rather than forgive.

Paradoxically, canceling someone can draw more public attention towards them, when the objective is to de-platform and criticize. Despite being canceled for his public support of President Donald Trump and controversial remarks about slavery, rapper Kanye West continues to produce chart-topping albums and is considered the highest paid musician, as Billboard notes. Trump himself has weaponized his contempt for cancel culture to rally his supporters, despite calling for the cancellation of others himself.


What is clear, however, is the environment cancel culture has created. The widespread accessibility to others’ opinions and thoughts online has given people the ability to demand accountability from public figures, but its excesses have fueled a toxic atmosphere where people choose to shame and blame out of cathartic anger rather than forgive.


“Cancel culture is extremely toxic in that the majority bandwagons to hate on someone that is being canceled without researching the issue for themselves. The irony with cancel culture is that people always say ‘educate, don’t cancel’ yet do not give people the chance to be educated,” Senior Yangyang Lai said.


Cancel culture’s flaws and inability to successfully hold significant figures accountable for their actions demonstrates the danger of misinformation and outrage in modern culture. A free society should offer a larger environment for debate and personal expression but cancel culture limits that. Instead, there needs to be open dialogue and a belief that people can change when seeking accountability.

 

About the Contributors

Ridge Coffey

Entertainment Editor















Nam Nguyen

Feature World Editor


Nam Nguyen is a senior and is the editor for Feature World. He is a fervent plant enthusiast and enjoys watching indie movies in his free time because he thinks he's too cool for blockbuster films.

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