OPINION: Cancel culture provides an opportunity for everyone to be better

According to Aysha Taryam, “In our earthly world we debate the idea of prison reform and rehabilitation, yet the cyber world’s ‘cancel-culture’ leaves no room for such hopes.” Taryam is the first Middle Eastern female Editor-in-Chief of an English language newspaper ‘The Gulf Today.’ Photo courtesy of Kevin Leconte & Wikimedia Commons.

Cancel culture: a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles either online on social media, in the real world, or both. 

When used appropriately, cancel culture can actually be an effective tool to hold celebrities and other influencers accountable for their actions. Cancelling people for saying racial slurs, derogatory remarks, or offensive jokes is a more than sufficient reason to take away someone’s platform. 

Consider the recent incidents involving two popular country singers, Morgan Wallen and Luke Combs. For Wallen, video surfaced online of him saying the n word during a drunken haze and Combs was called out for branding a Confederate flag sticker on his guitar. 

Both men were quickly singled out for their offensive actions and are now facing the consequences. Wallen has been dropped by the radio and suspended by his record label and Combs has since removed the Confederate sticker. 

It’s in instances like these that cancel culture is necessary. These are people with a large audience and an even larger influence on the music industry. If celebrities like Wallen and Combs go unpunished, it justifies to their younger audiences that it’s okay to be culturally insensitive.

Examples like those are pretty cut and dry in regards to the reasons for these artists to have been cancelled however the same cannot be said for cancel culture itself. 

As the two worlds of politics and social media have inevitably collided in the more recent years and political tensions have been at an all time high, it comes as no surprise that social media users are abusing the tool of cancel culture. 

For instance, cancelling a person for their political preferences is not an acceptable reason to de-platform someone. 

It’s quite disappointing that it even needs to be said, but that’s the reality of our digitalized world.

When social media started to heat up during the 2020 election and the political slander was at an all time high, many popular creators chimed in on the conversation, often revealing their own political views. 

In the case of the election, creators on Tik Tok especially found their comment sections filled with hate speech and threats simply because of their political preferences. 

Verified Tik Tok creator Amandalee Fago, also known as “Auntie Amanda”, was cancelled in early November as she was seen in a live streaming video at a Trump endorsement party. Her fans were disappointed because they had assumed she would vote blue during the election simply because she had an LGBTQ+ flag listed in her bio.

A similar instance occurred with verified Tik Tok creator and former Dance Moms star Kendall Vertes after some of her followers found an image of an Easter egg she had labeled “Trump 2020.” 

After some researching, her fans also found that she followed Trump on Twitter and cancelled her for being a Trump supporter, or as many Gen Z Tik Tok users like to call it, a “Trumpie.”

Shortly after the news of their cancellation circulated to all popular social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, both Fago and Vertes temporarily turned off their comment sections to avoid receiving political hate. 

Looking at these two isolated incidents, neither Fago or Vertes had created any political content themselves that could have provoked their fans into a cancelling frenzy. However, because of the overwhelmingly negative response from supporters, these popular creators were forced to temporarily step away from social media.

This is where we need to set our boundaries within cancel culture. 

In these scenarios, the concept of cancel culture was horribly misused and skewed. To put it simply, these two creators were cancelled for supporting a Presidential candidate who aligned with their personal morals and nothing more. 

With no evidence of either person making an offensive or derogatory comment, it’s difficult to understand the basis of the argument supporters had made to justify cancelling Fago and Vertes.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a multi-million musician or a member of the working class, at the end of the day, everyone is entitled to their own political opinion even if it’s not something you may agree with. 

From a young age, society preaches to us the importance of respecting everyone’s ideas and having an open mind because it’ll allow us to educate ourselves and grow as people. When it comes to cancel culture, however, we don’t even give people that opportunity they rightfully deserve.

The hypocrisy of it all is alarming. We want everyone to listen to us and what we have to say but we never step back to allow others the chance to speak. 

Ultimately, cancel culture based on political preferences should have never been normalized by society and for the political health of our country. We need to recognize the true vileness it inspires and collectively find a solution. 

The toxicity associated with cancel culture has harbored so much hate and division that even former President Obama had something to say about it in a 2019 interview at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago.

“That’s not activism,” Obama said in a report published by the New York Times in October of 2019. “That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far. That’s easy to do.” 

Reflecting on Obama’s opinion, it’s critical to emphasize that at the end of the day, cancel culture is ineffective and accomplishes nothing. There’s no power won or triumphant victory earned in cancelling someone. 

From a young age, society preaches to us the importance of respecting everyone’s ideas and having an open mind because it’ll allow us to educate ourselves and grow as people. When it comes to cancel culture, however, we don’t even give people that opportunity they rightfully deserve.

In order to move forward and create a more harmonious space on social media, we have to address the root of the problem. Statistically speaking, 55% of young voters from ages 18-34 admitted to participating in cancel culture.

The solution to this issue?

Avoid becoming a part of that 55%. Check yourself the next time you go to hop on a cancelling bandwagon and do your research. Understand what that person has done and reflect on if it’s truly worth de-platforming someone for. Tread lightly and carefully analyze all perspectives of the situation before making your decision. 

Embracing our differences in opinions and understanding how they positively diversify the nation is key to setting those boundaries and moving away from our virulent methods.

Our nation is in a highly fragile state right now. Don’t let cancel culture created from social constructs divide the nation more than it already is. 

We can be the change whenever we’re ready to see that a change needs to be made. 

Let’s do better and let’s be better. 

Samantha Anderson is a columnist for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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