By Boone Olson
Cancel culture mainly affects the careers of public figures who have be accused of inappropriate conduct.
Cancel culture and its effects
The online phenomenon commonly known as cancel culture has been used against many public figures, sometimes to the point where others question if cancel culture is toxic. To put it simply, cancel culture is when a public figure has done or said something in the past or present which has been deemed inappropriate or dehumanizing, leading other users of the same or different online platform to culturally block the public figure from having a prominent public platform or career.
According to Merriam-Webster.com, cancel culture first emerged from Twitter’s black user base sometime around 2016 due to celebrities with large fan bases doing questionable things. As troubling information regarding public figures comes to light, so come calls to cancel said figures.
The remaining question is if cancel culture is either a mob mentality where people are influenced by others on a largely emotional basis, or a long overdue way of speaking truth to power.
Cancel culture doesn’t just happen because of words said by a public figure. In 2017, when the #MeToo hashtag went viral, more and more women have spoken out about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault. While many have applauded this movement, some men now claim to fear even casual interactions with women for fear of being canceled. According to Time’s Sarah Hagi, cancel culture exists, just not how people seem to think it does. This example used by many isn’t even close to what is happening to the men who have been canceled due to sexual harassment and assault allegations.
Hagi elaborates that while some powerful men no longer hold their original status, they have hardly been canceled. She backs up this claim by giving many examples of male public figures who have been canceled due to sexual complications, yet are still thriving.
For example, Louis CK admitted to masturbating in front of female comedians. Although he was dropped by his agency and HBO and Netflix cut ties with him, he had sold out five shows in Toronto.
Another example is Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein was accused of sexual misconduct by over 80 women. He was charged with predatory sexual assault, a criminal sexual act and rape. Weinstein lost his job, but was met with no animosity at a young artist’s event held in October of 2019. In fact, the women who called out Weinstein were booed, and even asked to leave the event.
Lastly, Mark Halperin’s publisher spoke to the New York Post after Halperin faced pushback after denying allegations of unwanted sexual contact. Political journalist Halperin did however acknowledge that his behavior was inappropriate and caused others pain. Halperin’s publisher publicly denounced “this guilty until proven innocent cancel culture where everyone is condemned to death or to a lifetime of unemployment based on an accusation that’s 12 years old.”
Hagi states that criticism being compared to death tells you a lot of negative things about some of the people arguing that cancel culture has run amok.
One thing is for sure; throwing around the term cancel culture instead of reckoning with the reasons a person might think a public figure should be canceled won’t help. In a way it is silencing the person who believes the figure should be punished. Cancel culture gives a voice to those who otherwise may not be heard.
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