Cancel Culture: Our Double-Edged Sword
By IRENE YU
September 1, 2016. A San Diego crowd of NFL fans stand for the anthem. TV cameras pan to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as he takes a knee. President Donald Trump lashes out onto Twitter, “YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
These sequences had a nation's virtual audience, unravelling a flame of tenacious media controversy leading to the eventual annihilation of Kaepernick’s NFL career. Five years later, this reenactment yields the same, cancel culture weighing ever so prominent on top of our abstract online identities.
Canterbury social sciences teacher Estelle Mallet-Jones first heard the term on Twitter following the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements.
“It was incredible to see how social media quickly became a tool for increasingly intense political protests,” she remarks in an interview.
Canterbury student Aidan Hostetter says cancelling people is not new. "People get cancelled socially all the time for a variety of things, disabilities, physical appearance, their beliefs, their actions," they said. “Generally speaking people tend to consume without thinking, which is dangerous for everybody. We are very quick to judge people, especially those we don’t know."
Student Brianna Killaby ponders the effectiveness of cancel culture."It's the culture of keeping a person in a time capsule for the rest of their lives. Besides, who has never bounced back from controversy?"
Ella Ward Crawford, a member of Canterbury’s student activism club Let’s Start Change expresses how she feels the act of cancel culture opens an impactful doorway to social injustices -- if rendered correctly.
"Sometimes people coming together on the internet can start up debates or discussions on these important issues," Ella said.
Although forms of ostracism has been alive and well since the Athenian democracy, many harbour feelings of doubt towards its modern counterpart.
“I feel like it has negatively affected Gen Z in a way because it almost trivializes actual issues by saying: 'Oh, they did something horrible -- let’s cancel them!’ instead of searching for growth,” remarks student Olivia Ersil. They add to the idea that the mere focus of simply a "right or wrong" is ingrained into many classroom environments with an emphasis on being correct all the time. “It’s like if you get this wrong, you get everything wrong,” they say.
Kerri-Lee Hewlett addresses cancel culture as “yet another social construct.” Being a history teacher herself, she worries about the shaping of our social environment; in many cases "cancelling" someone only grants them an even larger platform than previously enjoyed. An example being that of numerous men accused during the 2017 #MeToo Twitter uprise.
“We are living history," says Ms. Hewlett, "it is imperative to talk about all this stuff…..the good…..the bad…..the ugly. This is human history. Let’s get all the issues on the table and deal not shield and make this world a better place.”
The big question to cancel culture is essentially where to draw the line, and although society has yet provide an answer, the act of “call-outs” have now been popularized as a potential alternative.
“Instead of shaming people by cancelling them, ‘call outs’ would provide an opportunity for education, self-awareness, and a way to move forward. That gives me hope for a brighter future,” says Mme Mallet.
“We are living history, it is imperative to talk about all this stuff…..the good…..the bad…..the ugly. This is human history, let’s get all the issues on the table and deal not shield and make this world a better place.” -- Kerri Lee Hewlett