I’ve been hearing more about ‘Cancel Culture’ and recently found this article by Meghan Murphy giving her ideas on what Cancel Culture is and how it is affecting the popular discourse.

It would seem that the built in distance within Social Media has given rise to some deleterious effects that are working their way through the larger culture outside of social media.  The willingness to engage with others that do hold your opinions is diminishing and while the tendency to punitively ostracize others is on the rise.  The overall effect is to coarsen discourse and make communicating ideas much more difficult.

 

“Cancel culture” is a sort of addiction: the addict — outraged members of the public demanding someone’s humiliation and “cancellation” — gets a high, but only temporarily, and the desire creeps back once again and must be fed.

Yet this type of public ostracism is not exactly like other addictions — food, drugs, pornography, shopping or gambling – which involve private behaviours, albeit connected to social problems. Most addictions are about an individual escaping from some kind of pain or trying to fill an endless hole inside of them. Cancel culture is very much about public behaviour — a display of anger, power and virtue — as well as the self-loathing and emptiness in all addictions.

No healthy, secure person invests that much time and energy into destroying other people’s lives. No happy, fulfilled human enjoys seeing others – strangers – ruined, ostracised and vilified. Unless we are purely targeting violent, evil or dangerous individuals… but, of course, this is almost never the case. We target comedians, politicians, writers, friends, fellow activists, co-workers and former comrades. In a terrified frenzy, we look for any excuse — a verbal blunder, a politically incorrect opinion, a tacky 20-year-old Aladdin costume…

While Justin Trudeau — the wokest of leaders — may well be many things, I don’t believe he is a racist. No one does. While black or brownface is indeed racist, Trudeau’s poor costume choices two decades ago do not reflect who he is today: a boring, phony, political coward.

Plenty of things that seemed acceptable or funny 20 years ago are not today. And people change. I mean, 20 years ago, I was wearing a white pleather mini skirt and a mesh animal print tank top, reciting every lyric to “I’m a player”. And I just cannot wait for someone to dredge up all of our old Halloween costumes. (I must have co-opted dominatrix culture at least three years in a row. All you Pocahontases better have your CVs ready.

The worst thing about cancel culture is not even its attacks on others – it’s that the whole thing is a lie. I don’t believe that anyone thought, deep down, that they were better than Justine Sacco who infamously lost her job for a tweet. They just didn’t make the mistake of trying to be funny on Twitter, in a culture that would prefer not to take a joke.

I don’t believe that anyone thinks Kevin Hart is a homophobe, or that Al Franken is a dangerous predator. And I definitely don’t believe they think Sarah Silverman is a racist.

Cancel culture doesn’t actually want accountability. It doesn’t want an apology. It doesn’t want a conversation. It doesn’t even want the world to be safe from truly dangerous people or ideas. What it wants is to feel that boot on someone else’s neck – perhaps in order to avoid the boot itself.

What is the purpose, after all, of demanding an apology, only to say the apology isn’t good enough? (And the apology is never good enough.) What is the point of saying you want accountability, when no redemption is available? Do we want change or do we want flagellation?

The truth is that many people get off on sadistic, herd-like practices that thrive on platforms like Twitter. Who can be the angriest, the most righteous, and the most devout in their hatred of the Wrong? Who would Never Do Such A Thing, never mind think it?

I don’t think racist or homophobic comments are harmless, but I do think that we prefer punishment over change. And if we truly wanted people to understand other’s hurt and to change their behaviour, we wouldn’t write them off for life.”