Our Chance to Change the Future: Cancel Culture


Twitter Screenshot by Yohangil Nolasco

Yohangil Nolasco, Editor In-Chief

Let’s step back and think of a far away future, where you can envision your grandchildren in a similar social position as you. Imagine they do not have the possibility of speaking freely or comfortably expressing their experiences. Imagine your grandchildren being afraid to speak out because of the possibility of being “canceled”. This is all because of a culture that our generation had the opportunity to stop. 

Cancel culture is a movement that encourages the practices of public shaming against those who engage or have been accused of being part of a behavior and/or movement seen as unfavorable. I am frustrated that my generation claims to be “social justice warriors,” yet I witness unfavorable behavior being combated with ostracism, the kind that refuses to understand the other in an attempt to maintain uniformity. What infuriates me the most is the constant hypocrisy. A society and generation that insists on the avoidance of engendering harm is the first to throw a punch. The issue is that people are refusing to accept, acknowledge, and in extreme cases, listen to the opposing point of view, self assured that their way is “the correct” way to think, act, and behave. This leads me to wonder, who decides what is right or wrong? Will we honestly allow it to be social media trolls?

Cancel culture can be defined, according to environmental activist Jen Panaro, as thepractice of group shaming a person or entity as a result of a particular behavior in which they were engaged (or accused of being engaged) when that behavior is deemed to be bad or unfavorable by the accusers.” Oftentimes, young people in our technological era tend to deflect on the question of who or what imposes these ideologies and standards of behavior. I think there is a dual partnership when it comes to who possesses power. On one hand, without our engagement, trends die out but also, corporations use icons within the fashion, music and political industry to propagate their brands, which in turn has resulted in the authority of local communities being obliterated

Large corporations and institutions give us ideological standards to follow and instead of questioning we simply go with the flow and follow the current. Within human nature, I have noticed that people tend to avoid pain at all cost; an individual will conform to social norms regardless of their own beliefs to prevent exclusion. As a result, cancel culture further imposes the reality where people are afraid of the repercussions of voicing their opinions. Though I am aware that terminating cancel culture as a whole will be a battle, I believe that our generation has the means and influence to replace it with a more empathetic and sensible approach. I simply propose that those seeking to hold others accountable listen and allow the other to grow from their wrongdoings. By doing so, the toxicity that cancel culture has implemented within society will be reduced and possibly ended. Individuals should seek solidarity and use role models like Dorothy Day and Cornel West as examples to promote a more empathic culture.  

True to my own proposal, I must first understand the opposing point of view in order to seek change. According to Donna Celentano of The Science Survey, “Cancel culture allows for people to stay accountable because of all the people on the internet that are quick to cancel. These people are mainly there to hold people responsible for their hurtful actions. Canceling almost always takes place after someone has said or done something hurtful or harmful, and these people are looking out to make sure the person and others know what they have done and that it is wrong. After these people are called out, they are hopefully given an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and to grow from them.” 

Celentano’s statement claiming that the canceled “are hopefully given an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and to grow from them,” challenged my opposition to cancel culture with the reassurance that those “canceled” should have the opportunity to grow from being canceled. Although this has not been the case for many, the canceled continue to be judged long after accepting their faults. I agree that individuals should be held accountable for their actions, however, I also believe that people should receive a just repercussion for their actions. Continuing to experience judgment for something you acknowledged and corrected is unjust. 

I understand why cancel culture has become so popular: it is because of the individual’s need for a sense of control. Since the person doing the canceling does not have a say on the issue itself, they decide to “cancel,” as a way of being heard, in an attempt to gain control. Though I completely understand the need to be heard, canceling encourages a hierarchy of who is in the right determined by public opinion. 

Ross Douthat, a New York Times opinion columnist, wrote “under its own self-understanding, liberalism is supposed to clear a wider space for debate than other political systems and allow a wider range of personal expression. So you would expect a liberal society to be slower to cancel, more inclined to separate the personal and the professional (or the ideological and the artistic), and quicker to offer opportunities to regain one’s reputation and start one’s professional life anew.” Cancel culture is a threat to this “liberal society, progressives and freedom of speech.” 

Though I agree with some of the claims in favor of cancel culture, in my understanding it does more harm than good in an attempt to promote inclusive sensitivity. The root cause of cancel culture’s prominence is the excessive amount of sensitivity. If individuals were less hyper-focused on seeking accountability through public shaming and more inclined to seeking common understanding and then accountability for actions, our society would be at a different point.  

After understanding both points of view, I can conclude that in order to truly avoid all types of harm from any side, one must implement pluralism by listening to the other in order to find common ground. I will continue to advocate for the accused individuals to be heard, and for the individuals seeking accountability to provide the accused with the opportunity to grow from their wrongdoings.

If it were you being canceled, you would want the same thing.