Cancel Culture—Social media’s biggest mistake.
Cancel culture, possibly one of if not the biggest miss use of social media. Where people lives can be terminated in a matter of minutes. With the rise of social media, the world is more connected than ever, people from all over capable of communicating as if the other person were simply across the table from them. Along with this kind of tech comes a new profound power. The ability to cancel (a form of shaming) anyone for saying/doing something the public doesn’t agree with. With this kind of power the people could use it for good in order to help bring change. But instead we use it to burn normal people’s lives for nothing more than some clicks or views online. Instead of bringing change like we could, we’d rather destroy the lives of relatively innocent people for what, social justice? Please tell me what does the destruction of people’s lives do that help make that person better?
The short answer, it doesn’t, and there isn’t an exact group that is targeted either. People don’t only go after the Klansman, or neo Nazis. They’ll target anyone for any reason. You can easily go from the canceler to the canceled with the snap of your fingers. A perfect example of this was from a NPR podcast called “The callout.” The podcast talked about a punk Rockstar named Emily who was a member of a hardcore punk band in Richmond, Va. One day while on tour she received news that her best friend was accused of sending unwelcomed sexual pictures to a woman. Her friend of course denied these allegations, however Emily didn’t buy it and in an act of social justice took to face book to publicly denounce her ,now ex bestfriend, as an abuser. “I disown everything he has done. I do not think it’s O.K…I believe women.” Through her “righteous” acts her former friend basically lost everything, he was kicked from his band, forced to leave the punk scene, Emily even heard rumors that he was fired, evicted, and forced to move to a new city. With one post she destroyed everything that man had for not even commiting the act but rather the allegation of it. Just think about that, a life destroyed over the accusation of a photo, and as her former friend suffered she prospered fronting her own band. But as fate would have it her actions of canceling would come back to haunt her. A few years later she would get exposed for posting an emoji in a group chat as a response for a indecent picture of a former high school classmate that was sent nearly a decade prior. Just as she denounced her friend a few years before people came after her. She was kicked from the punk scene, her friends left her, and she was forced into hiding for months. As for her canceler? He was a man named Herbert who when interviewed described calling her out ”… a rush of pleasure, like an orgasm.” Then when asked if he cared about what Emily went through after he cold heartily responded ”..I literally do not care about what happens to (her) after the situation. I don’t care if she’s dead, alive, whatever.”
While true that these canceled people have said or done some really regrettable things that are clearly not acceptable in today’s world, there is really one difference between us and them. They were caught doing their act. Anyone that says they have never said or done something deemed socially unacceptable is quite frankly lying. We as people are prone to make undesirable mistakes, that’s what comes with developing as a person. But for a majority of us these incidents aren’t put online, they aren’t exposed to the web for all to see and judge, also its important to note that even though these people messed up, they are still people, with thoughts and dreams, and feelings. For when we ignore these facts we can truly become inhumane in our actions.
Cancel culture itself stems from public shaming. They are one in the same with the only difference is that cancel culture is directly rooted on the internet while public shaming can occur just about anywhere. As described in D, Trottier’s ”Coming to terms with shame” Shaming itself is “…necessarily assembled, as it depends on a loosely and often spontaneously arranged network of actors to convey denunciation.” Meaning that it can only occur when people deem it fit to be. Further going on stating ”Digitals tools further the expansion of such networks, a development that is of particular concern for surveillance scholars.” Due to current technology anything that is caught on camera can instantly be posted and forwarded online leading from one person having their hands on the video/photo to millions in under an hour. Because of this extreme growth its incredibly easy for people watching these recent videos to reach conclusion’s before hearing out the full story, leading to a extremely fast and usually brutal cancellation.
The creation of social media only flames cancel cultures growth. Look no further than the story previously mentioned that involved Emily. Both her cancellation and her former friends reached the level of severity it did because of social media’s reach. You would never see a story about posting a emoji in a group chat to make fun of someone ever reach the news. However it’s not hard at all to see it get posted on Twitter or Facebook and watch it spread like wildfire. That’s because social media grants cancellers something that the news never could for public shaming. It sheaths the cancellers behind a profile, able to remain completely anonymous(if he/she wanted) , and rarely forces them to face the consequences for their cancelations.
It’s really weird how some members of society believe that in order to make the world a better place all we need to do is cancel those that say or do racist things. That by destroying their lives in regards to their job, friends, and family, we somehow benefit. Unfortunately though it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Through these actions we only deepen the thoughts these people have to their racist prejudice by giving them a scape goat as to why they are in that situation. Especially since after these people are publicly shamed they are left behind, barred from any kind of redemption for their actions. Instead its like they are locked into this scenario that they are dehumanized pieces of garbage that no one cares about. What do you expect to happen to these people when they are stripped of everything except their remarks with no real chance to right their wrong? Simple, they embrace the only thing they are known for and use it in an attempt to lash out. A current public example of this scenario is a man named Paul Miller, also know by the online alias of Gypsy Crusader. Before this example is continued it is important to clarify that what happened to him that lead him to this path is disheartening, but in no way justifies his later actions or development. It just shows how cancel culture can affect the average joe.
Paul Miller was a private investigative journalist originally living in New Jersey. Back in 2018 he went to a Gavin Mcinnes event in New York (the Proud boy founder)with a friend in order to cover a story there, while there Antifa was protesting the event from outside. During it, Paul had an heated exchange with one of the protestors that led to a small scuffle which was quickly stopped by cops. Towards the end of the event as Paul was starting to head home with his friend, they were surrounded by Antifa members who attacked them. Paul fought them off giving his friend a chance to run. Paul, along side two people that saw he was in trouble, were able to fight off the Antifa members long enough for his friend to come back with police. Following the altercation, Paul was actually interviewed on the news show “One America News Network.” After this interview, Paul started getting cancelled through getting doxed, receiving death threats, got him fired from his job after multiple people called his boss telling him/her that he was racist, and overall tormenting him. His breaking point was during the BLM protests in early 2020 where he made a statement online in regards to the protests. Following this BLM members arrived to his mothers house and proceeded to openly threaten his mom with violence unless she said that “Black lives matter” This sent Paul over the edge. After everything he moved to Florida and adopted the online persona Gypsy Crusader. Feeling powerless in his loss of about almost everything he had. He did the only thing he felt he could do, radicalize. He began publicly streaming online on websites like Omegle (a website were you would facetime strangers) where he would dress up as the Joker and spew incredibly racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic things at strangers as a way to make an income. Everyone that happened to pop into a call with him would be subjected to horrible slurs/ treatment from him. He contains no filter on himself as he attacks minorities calling them every slur in the book for his own self satisfaction. During one of his live streams, he gave the origin of his “creation” before telling his watchers “I did not tell anybody that story for sympathy, I do not want sympathy at all, zero, zero. … I’m just telling you that because it could happen to you. Everything that happened to me could happen to you.”
Paul through the actions of cancel culture became a racist monster to society. The very thing Cancel culture is trying to stop. Paul became the embodiment of hate, not because that was what he wanted to do with his life. It was the only thing he felt that he had a control in becoming, stepping into the darkness and embracing it rather than running from it like the rest of us would.
While not usually as socially prominent as this people who are cancelled have been pulled down this rabbit hole, where they feel powerless in their current situation so they become the thing they were cancelled for in order to take some of that power back.
Others who observe the wrath of cancel culture take a different route in an attempt to avoid such a negative fate. When on Social media they only observe online activity and never openly participate in the creation of original content. As discussed in “Call-out culture: How online shaming affects social media participation in young adults” This action, often called lurking is comprised of “90 % of social media users” who” do not actively contribute to the networks in which they belong.” In fact it was determined that only 9 % of social media users are regularly contributing input and only 1% create original content(streamers, youtubers, bloggers). Now looking at these numbers raises a very big question. Why do so many people lurk, why not engage with the masses in online discussions or posts? Well based off the study it is hypothesized that so many social media users don’t engage since they fear what they posted online will” … cascade out of control leading to adverse personal consequences, namely a public shaming. ”
These people likely saw others, whether it was family, content creators, or figures in general get cancelled and lose everything. So they decided the best course of action to avoid that same terrible fate was simply no action. To remain completely neutral on everything occurring online. After all, you can’t get cancelled if you don’t do anything that’s considered cancellable.
While cancel culture’s reach is immense in its pursuit of “social justice,” certain people have been able to avoid it, mainly celebrities. Recently, makeup youtuber James Charles(who was previously accused of grooming underage boys) was recently accused of exchanging inappropriate messages with two minors. After the allegations started gaining immense momentum on Twitter and Tik Tok, he posted a video accepting “responsibility” for ”…my actions and how they were wrong,” However he also claimed that he was told by the kids that they were 18 (apparently both kids were around 16). Despite these and several other disturbing accusations James hasn’t been cancelled yet for his actions. While he was replaced as host for a show he co-created called ” Instant Influencer,” he hasn’t nearly faced the full backlash of cancel culture as many others have . He faces zero legal action and hasn’t even lost his sponsors. Currently he’s still making videos as if nothing even happened.
Another prime example of someone escaping Cancel culture is actor Jussie Smollett, “Empire” actor who claimed he was attacked by two white racists in Chicago in early 2019. His assailants, who he described to be wearing “MAGA” hats and allegedly beat him, called him slurs, poured bleach on him and even placed a noose around his neck. His story picked up national attention as people called to “Stop Racism!” He received support from thousands of people calling for justice. As time passed, his story unraveled. Chicago police were led to the Osundairo brothers, former extras on “Empire” who claimed that Jussie paid them to beat him up in an attempt to earn more fame. Smollett would be arrested on “16 felony counts of ‘false report of offense.” But on March 26,2019 the Chicago/Cook County District attorney’s office dismissed Smollett on all charges. Something that would normally receive insane backlash. But instead the whole entire incident was sweeped under the rug. Instead of tearing Jussie to pieces for is unbelievable hate crime hoax, the media would proceed to bury it with the reason that” “hate crime hoaxes are vanishingly rare.” With the website “Quartz” going so far to proclaim, ”The Jussie Smollett Case Shows Exactly Why We Need to Take Hate Crimes More Seriously.”
How are some people able to avoid the wrath of Cancel culture? Their isn’t a solid answer for it, but allow me to speculate. Certain people escape Cancel culture through political affiliation. Both examples along with several unnamed ones are all openly Democratic. People who tend to affiliate themselves with LGBT, POC, women, or other minority demographics rarely face cancel culture. It’s also possible that their followers turn a blind eye on their actions since it could damage their movements more than help them. Think back to Jussie’s or James allegation’s. If their actions were put on the front burner of the news and Social media, it would likely damage the groups they are representing(LGBT, POC). Can you imagine the potential setbacks the LGBT community would face if James Charles(a LGBT celebrity) grooming minors got on either Fox or CNN news? Or the how fast the the “Stop Racism!” calls would fizzle if Jussie’s hoax got the same national attention as his “attack” did? People “turn the other cheek” on theses awful actions in order to prevent their groups from receiving a damaged reputation.
Of course it could also be that they got lucky.
While certain people may avoid the wrath of Cancel culture. The rest of us aren’t as lucky. The idea behind it is to cancel the offender in order to fix the problem. But rather than fix it. Cancel culture makes it much worse. A example as to why can be seen in smokers. In a study conducted by researcher at UCLA two groups of smokers were brought in and given several tasks to do. Both groups were given several cigarettes of their favorite brand. The goal of the research was to see how long the groups could do their tasks before they need to smoke. The only difference between the groups is that group 1 was given a neutral message about their participation in the experiment while group 2 was randomly exposed to negative stereotypes about smokers culled from former antismoking campaigns. Through the experiment it was discovered that ”Participants exposed to the stigmatizing messages lighted up(smoked) sooner, on average, than participants in the control group. ” In fact after 40 minutes almost all of group 2 had started to smoke, while only 20% of group one did. One of the underlying reasons this happened is a psychological phenomenon known as stereotype threat were”…people are so anxious about being identified in a negative way that they end end confirming the behaviors they are trying so hard to disprove.” It’s basically like a self fulling prophecy, you end up becoming the thing your trying to avoid. Unfortunately this kind of behavior isn’t solely restricted to smoking either.
This kind of behavior can be seen by the targets of Human rights groups who are shamed as a tactic. In an article published by Cambridge university about rights groups shaming people it was stated that “Shame is indeed a potent motivator, but its effects are often counterproductive.” The article continues on by saying that “..shaming is likely to produce anger, resistance, backlash, and deviance from outgroup norms, or denial and evasion.” Meaning that through the efforts of shaming people the human rights groups are getting farther from their goals rather than closer to it. Resulting in the creation of more adversaries to their movement, causing the cycle to repeat. Cancel’s cultures attempts to snub out racism in people instead adds fuel to the fire. Pushing people away from their movements.
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Snyder, J. (2020). Backlash against human rights shaming: Emotions in groups. International Theory, 12(1), 109-132. doi:10.1017/S1752971919000216
Vujić, K. (2021, April 05). A guide to the many, many scandals of James Charles. Retrieved April 12, 2021, from https://www.thecut.com/article/james-charles-allegations-and-accusations-explained.html
Holding myself accountable. (2021, April 01). Retrieved April 12, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsjwRp8_lWA
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Brooks, David . 2019. “The Cruelty of Call-Out Culture.” New York Times, January 14. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/14/opinion/call-out-social-justice.html.
Trottier, D. (2018). Coming to terms with shame: Exploring mediated visibility against transgressions. Surveillance & Society, 16(2), 170-182. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.rowan.edu/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.proquest.com%2Fscholarly-journals%2Fcoming-terms-with-shame-exploring-mediated%2Fdocview%2F2138979618%2Fse-2%3Faccountid%3D13605
The callout. (2018, April 13). Retrieved March 08, 2021, from https://www.npr.org/2018/04/13/601971617/the-callout