I swear, whenever I log on to Twitter, someone is crucified in the digital public square. Cancel culture has never made any sense to me. What’s the point? It usually only looks like a mob trying to shame a celebrity for wrongdoing which is entirely different than holding people accountable for their mistakes. It’s a weird self-righteous mob mentality that never achieves its end goal. You’d think for how many times a week people get canceled that it works, but I can’t think of an instance where it really worked in the long run. So why are we so ready to participate in cancel culture?
What Is Cancel Culture?
Cancel culture is when someone, usually a celebrity of some kind, says or does something really fricking stupid and then gets a bunch of hate on the internet until someone new comes along with the next mistake. In one of his most used quotes ever, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said best, “Darkness cannot drive out Darkness; only light can do that. Likewise, hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” The big difference, at least for me, is that cancel culture isn’t about accountability but more about being politically correct.
Should J.K. Rowling go around spewing hate for the Trans community? Absolutely not, but the answer isn’t to yell at her on Twitter and then go buy the 20th-anniversary edition of Harry Potter. I’m not here to tell you what the right answer is because the internet is a lawless place. We grew up in the early Call of Duty lobbies, so you know how weird and vile people can get with a little anonymity.
Canceling vs. Accountability
Right now, the famous person who seems to be the hot topic is Kanye West. If I had a dollar for every TikTok that jokes about wanting more time to change their Spotify Wrapped so that Ye wasn’t their top artist, I could maybe enjoy my FYP for once. Kanye has been saying a lot of anti-semetic rhetoric, even going as far as to say he likes Hitler as a person. (Wild.) You know it’s bad when Kanye makes Alex Jones look good on Infowars.
So what’s the right thing to do? Can you separate art from the artist? We do it all the time with literature. We still teach Hemingway in schools. Going on Twitter and “canceling” Kanye will accomplish nothing. Tweeting about how mad you are about what Kanye said does about as much good as all of the “thoughts and prayers” posts that get put up after a tragedy. It’s a nice sentiment but doesn’t do anything.
But you can still hold brands accountable. If you haven’t read about Balenciaga’s recent ad campaign controversy, then here you go. The outburst on Twitter and the news was not as big initially as you might expect, but as people learned about it, it became more of a story. The point I’m trying to make is how as consumers, it’s on us to hold this awful behavior accountable to those companies. It’s because we can hold them accountable as we did with Nike when they penalized pregnant athletes and didn’t pay them during their pregnancies. Things do change unless you speak your voice. Don’t say awful, hurtful sh** that has no point.
Protest With Your Dollar
I have a hard time giving money to people that did some egregious things. I get uncomfortable when Kanye comes up in one of my playlists on Spotify. When the whole Blizzard sexual harrasment case came out, my friends and I stopped playing Overwatch. We didn’t want to give our money to such a gross company. These are small acts that don’t amount to any sort of grand goal, but I can at least go to bed knowing that I’m not giving them my money. My convictions are not your obligations, which is one way of saying that just because I want to champion a cause doesn’t mean you have to or are obligated to do the same as me. We all have our lines in the sand. You wouldn’t let a friend cross boundaries and still support them, so why would you support a celebrity or company that does?
Do What You Think Is Right
At the end of the day, you can only do what you think is right. Support who you want to support, and don’t support who you don’t want to. It’s your choice. Maybe you’re comfortable with separating art from the artist and listening to Chris Brown, Kanye, or R. Kelly. I can’t tell you what to do. All I can do is challenge you to stick with your boundaries. It’s as simple as saying no. Don’t let companies and celebrities get away with things that you would let those around you do. It can be hard not to support a favorite author turned villain or a company brand you really love, but sometimes peace of mind is worth its weight in gold.