We need to talk about “Cancel Culture”

It’s time we cancel this toxic movement

Defined by The Telegraph as ‘Most simply, to cancel someone is to reject them, to ignore, to publicly oppose their views or actions and to deprive them of time and attention – and, sometimes, their ability to make a living’, “cancel culture” has become one of the most pressing and controversial topics of 2020, with a number of high-profile celebrities such as J.K. Rowling and Johnny Depp being victimised by the wave of “cancel culture”.

Most simply, to cancel someone is to reject them, to ignore, to publicly oppose their views or actions and to deprive them of time and attention – and, sometimes, their ability to make a living

The Telegraph, July 2020

As is symptomatic of opinions in the internet age, “cancel culture” has arisen as a result of the divisions found everywhere in the twentieth-century. No longer contented with compromise or peaceable disagreements, we live in a time of absolutes, a depressing, erroneous moment when those who are seen as immoral or who do not live up to standards of other “woke” individuals are cancelled, many times for simply voicing their own opinions.

Take J.K. Rowling, for instance, a world-renowned author and mother of the most influential children’s novels in recent memory. After controversial comments regarding transgender identity made on Twitter saw the Harry Potter author lambasted and “cancelled” merely for attempting to create a dialogue around what the word woman means in 2020 and how it is still – despite what many would say – closely linked to our biology rather than personal preference according to Rowling, saw some lose their minds.

Outrage ensued and as is to be expected on the internet, calls were made to demonise the author, depriving her of her voice, her income and way of life. Herein lies the toxicity of “cancel culture”; with what begins as an honest attempt to hold both the powerful and powerless alike to account for their words and actions has evolved into an insidious, unrelenting movement with the intention of tearing down any who worldview differ from their own.

As I watch these scandals unfold, all I find myself asking is, what has happened to forgiveness? What has happened to second chances? Or reformation for that fact? Of course, with cases such as Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby that brought about the #MeeToo movement and the need to demonise and decry such individuals is clear. Those who abuse and divide on an industrial scale are worthy of being cancelled. By all means, they and their kind should never have the limelight again and never have access to a platform that allows them to justify their actions or repeat them.

Yet we cannot seem to differentiate between the most severe offenders and those who are more deserving of our time, patience and forgiveness. “Cancel culture” in and of itself, is not an entirely redundant tool for marginalizing those who show blatant disregard for the norms and values we hold dear. Weinstein should be cancelled, so should Cosby, but Rowling? Johnny Depp? Those whose mistakes are either not mistakes merely their own opinions or those whose crimes and guilt remain ambiguous? Those individuals should be treated with more care, not merely deleted, ignored and alienated by keyboard warriors Hell-bent on turning the internet into their personal woke Utopian vision.

Why should we, celebrities and the public alike, be forced to live in a conformist nightmare where any wrong word can destabilise our entire lives. Careers ruined in the space of a Tweet, lives ended with one misinterpreted sentence, this madness has to end. At the end of everything, I think we have all forgotten one of life’s most important and valuable skills, forgiveness. So the next time you see something online that you might disagree with, or think is offensive, remember, it isn’t going to kill you. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words are never worth cancelling something over.

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