Topic 15: Is cancel culture #cancelled?

Cancel culture involves calling out the offensive behaviour of public figures and “cancelling” or revoking support for the offending person, brand or organisation. While some argue this allows marginalised voices to hold influential people to account, it has also led to public backlash so severe that it has cost people their jobs or even their entire livelihoods.

“Cancelling” has been an effective form of social retribution when the justice system fails us (or at best moves too slowly). However, this form of swift justice is seemingly indiscriminate, taking down everyone from sex offenders to peace activists[1], to the host of a lifestyle show who failed to cook in the “right” way[2] (more on these at our discussion).

We have now come full circle. In December 2019, “cancel culture” was so ingrained in popular culture that it became the Macquarie dictionary word of the year. Just last month, it was hotly debated when artists, activists and academics signed[3] an open letter criticising this practice for creating “a vogue for public shaming and ostracism”. As Aja Romano asks, “is cancel culture a mob mentality, or a long overdue way of speaking truth to power?”[4]  If it has become both of these things simultaneously, then how and where do we draw the line? Have you ever intentionally “cancelled” someone? What does the “un-cancelling” process look like to you?

Further reading:

1. Yassmin Abdel-Magied cancelled for ANZAC day post

2. Hersha Pattel trolled for “food appropriation”

3. JK Rowling joins 150 public figures warning over free speech

4. A brief history of cancel culture

Image credit: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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