A Call for Word Police Resignations
With a 2018 MIT study discovering that rumors spread quicker than factual news on Twitter due to being 70% more likely to be retweeted than true information, there is rampant concern about America’s cancel culture among influencers, which occurs when a public figure does or says something offensive, igniting the collective boycott of the person, leading to terminating careers and/or social influence. Michiko Kakutani would claim that cancel culture is negative in the name of political correctness as people’s well-intended “vision of harmony” would clash with the “ideals of diversity and inclusion that the multicultural movement holds dear,” and 67% of U.S. adults agree. In order to avoid the “rigid orthodoxy” that is resultant of cancel culture, while progressing towards a society free from racism, sexism, and bigotry, we should explore potential methods of “canceling” social media cancel culture by discussing what our nation refuses to tolerate rather than attacking a single individual for their actions.
Cancel culture empowers people to make an informed decision regarding the continuation of their support for an influencer based on their actions, but cancelling public figures can pose negative mental health consequences including self-harm, depression, and suicide. While cancel culture enables women and minorities to speak up on social justice issues and prevent influencers who have repeatedly committed illegal acts from having a platform and career, like when Robert Sylvester Kelly was canceled and arrested for federal sex crimes, it is unjust when one’s name or career is maliciously slandered over a belief, or when individuals are accused without context.
The “increasingly noisy debate over language” present within cancel culture can be collectively eliminated through small acts of kindness like posting a positive comment or reporting a bullying situation. Public figures can learn and expand their thinking through comprehending both sides of an issue before taking a position, rather than adhering to cancel culture’s cultivation of one-sided opinions.
Addressing harmful behavior is important, but so is understanding that everyone is on a different step of their journey, so we all make mistakes. And we all have different strengths — so if someone is lacking in one area, like knowing vocabulary words, we can help them grow in that area, and hope others would help us in the areas we need to grow, too.
Cancel culture unjustly punishes individuals without fair trial, and violates the right to free speech without fearing retribution, and discounts influencers’ ability to learn, change, and grow. Although there is concern regarding limited freedom of speech by flagging hateful posts, hate speech is protected by the First Amendment, but not if it incites violence, therefore it is not subverting for social media platforms to enforce rules for perilous content, like when Twitter suspended President Donald Trump for spreading misinformation about the 2020 election, leading to the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021.
If public figures continue to act discriminatory they should face repercussions, but cancellation is also counterproductive as it inhibits real shame since celebrities often never concede in order to maintain high-level status. Cancel culture also unjustly treats all celebrities the same, regardless of action taken to remedy the situation, like a heartfelt apology or withdrawal from the public eye to reflect and learn. Instead of dwelling on past mistakes, influencers’ past mistakes should be forgiven and forgotten, and punishments equated with the severity of the action.