When Nile Rodgers wrote the lyrics to “Your love is cancelled” in YEAR, the guitarist of American band Chic was referring to the behaviour of the date he went out with. In recent years, the song has resurfaced, and the title has become a metaphor used to describe the idea of ‘cancelling’ someone because of their unacceptable behaviour - celebrity or not.
While those who do not act in what society has deemed as appropriate ways, even if they are not criminals, have always been shunned by society, the ‘cancel culture’ phenomenon is a rather recent manifestation of a long-standing human habit that has become more visible as a result of technological advancements.
Now that social internet has permitted ubiquitous speech surveillance, those who express politically incorrect thoughts will be publicly chastised. Individuals’ varied opinions on whether people calling out others on social media are rushing to judgment or instead attempting to be helpful are the most prevalent source of conflicting arguments.
The frightening thing about ‘cancel culture’ is that it is brutal, seldom attached to any solid evidence, and swift - striking at random. In this internet version of the Salem Witch Trials, where people follow cancellations blindly, there is little to no investigation into why a person has been cancelled. It is deeply unfair to dig up dirt from as far back as ten years ago just to cancel someone when there is a chance they might have matured and developed as a person.
Is ‘cancel culture’ a valuable instrument for social justice or a new type of ruthless mob control? Is there truly a ‘cancel culture’ if cancelling someone rarely has a quantifiable effect?
Is it “holding a person accountable for their actions” or a “you offended me now, you’ll never make money again, and be prepared to lose your livelihood”?