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How do we think about cancel culture?
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Cancel culture may not be widespread.

How widespread is cancel culture? What is its impact? How often are people cancelled? It is possible the cancel culture debate is more hysteria than reality. Without data, it is hard to know. The validity of arguments for and against cancel culture are hard to assess with understanding how real cancel culture is.

The Argument

Cancel culture refers to the idea of 'cancelling' prominent brands, figures, and celebrities for their actions or remarks that offend. A pivotal belief underpinning this idea is that those in the public eye should be held accountable for their opinions and ultimately what they share in the public sphere. 'Cancellation' can be understood as Nakamura describes it - a 'cultural boycott' - which refers to the hypothetical way in which people, refrain from interacting with the brand or figure in question as a result of their actions.[1] Manavis argues that while the terms 'cancel culture' and 'cancelled' are recent phenomena that are a product of social media usage, the principal idea behind 'cancelling' people is one with which we are familiar. It is essentially a form of democratic organisation which has been given a new name and can be likened to boycotts of companies and politically-driven protests. That said, Manavis believes that the effects of 'cancelling' people are not longstanding, and figures such as JK Rowling who was cancelled for making transphobic comments, can continue their commercial success without much, if any, disruption.[2] So, given that the effects of cancel culture are not explicitly noticeable, we can doubt whether cancel culture has a real impact and thus, real consequences. If the act of cancelling does not manifest in actuality, that is if no boycott occurs, then we have reason to believe cancel culture is a myth. Although the term is widely used, the intended outcome is rarely ever achieved.

Counter arguments

Singer Taylor Swift discussed the negative impact that cancel culture can have with Vogue US and said that “A mass public shaming, with millions of people saying you are quote-unquote cancelled, is a very isolating experience. ”[3] This suggests that the impact of cancel culture is noticeable and that the very act of many social media users expressing disagreeing and publicly shaming prominent figures is sufficient to show that the culture is widespread



Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Monday, 7 Sep 2020 at 18:49 UTC

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