“Cancel Culture” Fails to Accomplish its Goals


Image by Ben Schlotman.

Ben Schlotman, Reporter

“Cancel culture” has become something of a buzzword in the last year or so. To be canceled essentially means to be deemed guilty of a punishable offense in the court of public opinion. However, it remains to be seen how many will actually face lasting consequences after supposedly being “canceled.”

The term gained popularity on Twitter, the social media app most associated with cancel culture. It is undeniable that many groups of people on Twitter will rush to attack someone because the accounts they follow are doing this. While some blame the app itself, Twitter is not the genesis of this behavior. Humans have always formed mobs and flocked to attack those they disagree with. They used to do far worse things to the offending parties. 

Not that cancel culture really has much in common with an actual lynch mob. The consequences that people suffer after being canceled are usually not that severe. Sometimes a person is only canceled in the eyes of a certain group. However, even when a majority of the public dislikes a noteworthy person or a public figure, their defenders often still consist of a vocal group. 

Not only is cancel culture different from a real-life mob, it’s different from offending parties facing legal consequences. Figures like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby who were “canceled”–albeit before the term was commonplace–were also prosecuted for their crimes and went to prison. This is, again, drastically different from being prosecuted by the public. Public figures who have been canceled can simply continue living their lives outside the public eye. 

Many people, mostly conservative, have decried cancel culture and often claim it poses some serious threat to our democracy. In reality, while cancel culture can be negative, it is not a serious problem in the grand scheme of things. Mostly, it’s just ineffective. 

Sophomore Coco Spargur weighed in. 

“It doesn’t accomplish its goals 99% of the time and rewards pushing aside the problem instead of actually promoting personal change,” she noted. 

It’s true that cancel culture does not often achieve its goals, but that’s just another reason it’s nothing to fear. Some public figures who probably do not deserve to keep their careers have continued to work despite falling out of favor with the public. Take, for example, filmmaker Woody Allen. He has been publicly accused of molesting his step-daughter, and also married his ex Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn. Even after these allegations came to light years ago, he has continued to direct movies, including the recently-released Rifkin’s Festival, which premiered at a film festival in Spain. Allen has an estimated net worth of $140 million. Cancel culture strikes again!

Sophomore Elijah Chandlee spoke on his opinion of comedian Louis CK, whose sexual assault scandal was among the most notable of the “Me Too” movement. 

“I thought his special was really funny, but when I heard about ‘Me Too’ I just couldn’t get over what he did,” said Chandlee. 

Some public figures with less established careers are hurt by similar accusations. Comedian Chris D’Elia was dropped by his talent agency and even had his existing specials and TV episodes taken down from various streaming services following sexual abuse allegations from numerous women. It’s hard to blame cancel culture for this, although it’s generally not profitable for companies to work with greatly disliked figures. It’s not a recent phenomenon for viewers to avoid content from artists with credible abuse allegations against them. 

This is not cancel culture. It’s just consequences.