Oops, looks like I am going to get canceled for what I am about to say. I am not sorry, though. I know many of us think it, but few are brave enough to say it: Cancel culture has done more harm to our society than good. Sure, it has been a good short-term means to hold people accountable, but the long-term generational effects that it has caused are almost irreversible.
“Noooo, cancel culture holds people accountable,” you are probably thinking. Yes, I would be ignorant to say that cancel culture has failed in holding people accountable, in silencing them, and in “giving them what they deserve.” But, the means in which it holds people accountable are wrong. The way that we approach the end goal is wrong. Now, I can get into a whole philosophical debate about how the end justifies the means, but, in this case, the tremendous effect that the means have had on our generation and will have on future generations makes cancel culture detrimental.
Cancel culture has hurt our curiosity, our willingness to question, and the opportunity to be educated by creating an environment in which asking a “stupid” or “problematic” question is grounds to be canceled. Never mind that we are actually doing this at the cost of further educating ourselves. If I had nickel for every single time I refrained from asking a question in class in order to avoid being canceled, I would qualify for the “tax the rich” dress that AOC paraded the Met Gala wearing. Oh, did I offend you? What I’m saying is I would be a prominent member of the upper class if I had a nickel for every time I silenced myself out of fear of being shunned.
At first, it was not obvious that cancel culture had infiltrated our everyday lives. I believed—as I’m sure many of you did—that cancel culture only existed in the worlds of pop culture, social media, Hollywood, and among A-list celebrities. The truth is that the scope of cancel culture has seeped much further into our lives and education. Cancel culture does not just apply to Jeffree Star and the Kardashians. It plagues our campuses and our classrooms, and as much as it helps hold people accountable in the short-term, it is really terrifying.
A number of fundamental questions remain: where do we draw the line? When is it appropriate to “cancel” someone rather than educate them? How can we identify when someone genuinely wants to be educated and does not know about a certain subject, or when they might just be another person who is unwilling to open themselves up to learn?
Cancel culture is tricky. It can be difficult to walk the fine line between actually canceling someone or recognizing that they need to be taught to do better. I’ll be honest, it is really hard to tell sometimes, especially when you feel like you have to walk around eggshells circling sensitive topics, instead of having open conversations. What I do know for sure is that cancel culture is not the way to go. “Canceling” everyone who asks a question or expresses a difference of opinion without giving them a chance to learn—especially in the academic world—is unproductive and does not resolve anything long term. I will end with one nuance to my argument, one cancelation I deem valid: cancel cancel culture.
Featured Graphic by Olivia Charbonneau/ Heights Editor