A discussion surrounding the phenomenon of “cancel culture” and it’s validity on the internet
Considering the conversations that have circulated the internet recently as a result of Jenna Marble’s exit from YouTube, Shane Dawson’s inexcusable past resurfacing, Jeffree Starr’s attempt at redemption, JK Rowling’s open transphobia masked as free speech and so much more, it’s time to have a proper discussion of the internet phenomenon known as “cancel culture” and whether it has any validity within social media.
What many would consider "cancel culture" is essentially the public’s quickness to “cancel” public figures and celebrities for making human errors and refusing to grant them forgiveness. I’m going to just say already, the premise of “cancel culture” already does not make much sense to me, as the public can support or not support anyone they want to. Though, I'm not excusing or justifying the mass hate celebrities receive; however, that sort of entitlement from the public to comment on or unfairly criticize celebrity life is not a new, toxic phenomenon specific to the evolution of social media throughout the years.
As mentioned in my post, “Is the internet sensitive or are you just an asshole” social media saw a culture shift around 2012/2013 due to the Black Lives Matter Movement. Before then, (unfortunately) racism, misogynoir, homophobia, transphobia and literally any other kind of prejudice was normal to see perpetuated on social media. Personally, I’m glad those times are behind us and social media instead has become an outlet of opportunity, advocacy and activism. There is definitely still work to do regarding the degree of toxicity on social media, but social media is light years better than it was a decade ago. Due to this change on the internet, many celebrities and public figures have had to apologize for their past behavior on social media platforms. Admittedly, some celebrity apologies are better received than others, but hardly anyone has lost a career or been truly "cancelled" by the public.
Black/trans women, specifically, have heavily contributed to the shift in internet politics because we were the ones receiving the worst aspects of “pre-political-social media.” Black women were influential in starting and uplifting the Black Lives Matter Movement in 2012, then creating the #sayhername movement in 2014, then creating the #oscarsowhite protest in 2015, then creating the #MeToo movement in 2017 and so on. These movements were made possible because of the shift in internet culture around 2012. Before then, due to the nature of social media around the 2009 era of the internet, these movements that have brought so much awareness to societal issues would have never been possible.
To me, weaponizing “cancel culture” to excuse past mistakes, mistakes of which that are often bigoted and offensive language, feels disingenuous. Many critics of “cancel culture” will argue the internet does not allow people to change or grow. In reality, anyone can do whatever they like. For example, if it was discovered a celebrity made a racist comment in 2012, but that celebrity feels like they’ve grown immensely since, then okay. Conversely, if a fan of said celebrity is uncomfortable their idol or “fav” was capable of causing a degree of harm to a community, especially if the fan is a part of the community the celebrity attacked, and the fan doesn’t want to support said celebrity anymore, then okay.
When people complain about “cancel culture” to me they are saying- “I want to say what I want, no matter who it hurts, on the internet with impunity and without fear of being “canceled” or held accountable.” The fact that someone like Shane Dawson was able to build a CAREER off humiliating black women, disabled people, the LGBT+ community, sexual assault survivors and more for years, eventually becoming the biggest and most successful content creators on YouTube, simply tells me “cancel culture” is just not real. Or, at least, it’s not real in the way most critics of the concept claim it to be.
In Amanabb's YouTube video titled, "Let's Talk About Cancel Culture" she states, “people hate being called racist more than they hate racism,” and I think that perfectly encapsulates the critique of cancel culture. She further states in the same video, the criticism behind cancel culture is often coded with racism in itself. Holding people accountable for their racism, predatory behavior, or harm they have caused to an already marginalized community is not “cancel culture," it’s simply adulthood. Welcome. Here, we hold ourselves accountable for the consequences of our actions and words. All this being said, next time the criticism of “cancel culture” comes up again, examine the context in which the critique was brought up. Most of the time, the critique is veiled as simply not wanting to take or hold a celebrity accountable for something objectively wrong they have done. Additionally, it may be used by people using hate speech or wishing to go back to a time when they could use hate speech with impunity.
So, in conclusion, I do not think “cancel culture” is a valid, problematic internet phenomenon. Personally, I’m still focused on the problematic opinions and toxic bigotry present on social media in 2020; therefor, not allowing social media to be the safe space it could and should be if everyone just, say it with me, held themselves a c c o u n t a b l e.