The problem with ‘cancel’ culture and why it needs to stop

Cancel culture is a problem that needs to stop.
Image: Cody DeBos / The Burn-In

Anyone that’s ventured onto Twitter within the last few months has probably seen at least one instance of someone, or something, being “canceled” in their trending section. Somehow, an exceedingly loud yet very fluid subset of the population has taken it upon themselves to call out every wrong committed by everyone from politicians to musicians and comedians to restaurant chains.

With people quick to jump to conclusions and even quicker to air their grievances on social media, the idea of “cancel culture” has quickly blown out of proportion. Now, it’s time to put a stop to it.

Breeding Ground for Toxicity

Admittedly, there are plenty of reasons that a celebrity or influential individual needs to be looked down on. There is simply no excuse for racial, homophobic, sexist, or discriminatory talk and actions. Those instances should warrant a badge of shame. Unfortunately, the cancel culture we are experiencing today isn’t like that.

Instead of a majority agreement that something is inherently wrong, the more vocal group is the one dictating what is right and what is wrong.

What happens when a decade-old racist tweet is uncovered from someone that has turned their life around and not made the same mistake since? Does that person deserve to be put to shame for the actions of their past when there is nothing that can be done about it?

What about a restaurant chain that closes one day a week because of its religious views? Does the chain deserve the scorn of the public because its owners take a stand for something they believe in?

At its core, cancel culture is nothing more than a breeding ground for toxicity that hides behind a façade of moral righteousness. It is far too easy to hide behind a screen and put someone down with a series of hashtags. Ultimately, this leads to a mob mentality of shouting activists that somehow seem to lose a rational voice for their arguments. Perhaps that’s why the problem of #canceling someone has gotten out of hand so quickly.

Obama Wants Cancel Culture to Stop

If there was ever any doubt that cancel culture is a problem, former President Barack Obama put that to rest in late October. Considering that many “cancel” events are driven by racism, it is interesting to hear that Obama himself wants the trend to die out.

In a speech in Chicago he said, “This idea of purity, and you’re never compromised, and you’re politically woke, and all that stuff—you should get over that quickly… The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws.”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that 44 perfectly summed up the heart of the issue. Cancel culture ignores the fact that no one is perfect. Yet, it expects everyone to act as if they are.

Even if someone apologizes for the wrongs of their past in the midst of being canceled, that typically isn’t good enough. People will continue to shout even louder.

Treat the Disease

Without naming some of the more notable #cancel events, the trend itself isn’t actually very effective. Some have likened it to an unsuccessful game of whack-a-mole that isn’t really achieving any results.

As put by Jenna Wortham of the New York Times, “You’re dealing with the symptoms of a sick society rather than treating the disease.”

At its root, that is the problem with cancel culture. Shouting about someone’s since-buried past on Twitter while attempting to fire them from a new role isn’t accomplishing anything. Rather than ganging up on the people who act poorly, perhaps we should gang up on the hatred spewing through society. Maybe it would be more effective to seek ways to help people grow than tear them down.

There’s only one way to stop cancel culture—and it’s going to take all of us. The next time someone is being canceled for something they’ve done, look not at the person but at the problem in society that drove them to act in such a way. Then, find a way in your own life to address that issue and counteract it. No matter how small the change is, if everyone does their part, there won’t be a need for social media cancellations.

It’s time to end cancel culture and start canceling the culture of toxicity that we live in today.