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'Cancel Culture' Lives On


That was two years ago and the topic was a bit tired even then (and anyway people were already bored of it and had started to move on to calling it 'woke'. Predictions on what it will be called next are welcome). So explain to me why people are getting paid to write stuff this, even in publications that should know better: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2024/apr/01/michael-jackson-david-bowie-uncancellable-cancel-culture-mj-sexual-allegations-musical.



Here's a letter I wrote to The Guardian on 3rd April 2024 in response that was not published:


In Monday’s article on the topic of ‘cancellation’, Mr Jonze begins to explain his difficulty in defining the word. He cites two authors, neither of who’s attempts at explanation turn out to be satisfactory. He concedes that ‘nobody has fixed views on what cancellation involves, or even what it is’. Finally, he says that ‘there are no set rules, because we each make our own rules’.

 

One asks, then—why the insentience on using the term? We feel that ‘cancel culture’ must mean something, but does it? I suggest that if you take any example and look into it, you’ll find that it falls into one of three categories: either it has been mis- or insufficiently reported and didn’t really happen that way; it is more simply consequences for somebody’s actions; or, as is overwhelmingly likely to be the case, it is simply Twitter. I defy anybody to produce a case of ‘cancel culture’ that doesn’t meet one of these three criteria.

 

We know by now that social media platforms like X are consciously designed by people, for people, to benefit from outrage and anger—one variety of what is called ‘engagement’—in pursuit of profits, so why do we continue to allow blame to be put on to individuals and more specifically young people who tend to bear the brunt of it? It is simply the newest iteration of phrases used lament the work of so-called ‘do-gooders’, taking the torch from ‘political correctness gone mad’ before it. It’s obsolete anyway, having been replaced by ‘wokeism’ for some time now.

 

I'm disappointed that The Guardian are continuing to give oxygen to this useless and harmful term. Let’s drop it once and for all start treating supposed cases of ‘cancellation’ with the intelligence and critical eye they deserve.



And here's the full version before I had to cut it down to 300 words:


In Monday’s article on the topic of ‘cancellation’, Mr Jonze begins to explain his difficulty in defining the word. In the next paragraph, his ‘list of factors had spiralled into a tangle of nuances and contradictions’. He cites two authors, neither of which’s attempts at explanation turn out to be satisfactory. In paragraph 10, he concedes that ‘nobody has fixed views on what cancellation involves, or even what it is’ and that it is often confused with simple criticism. Finally he says ‘There are no set rules, because we each make our own rules’, which seems to negate the idea of cancellation being a ‘culture’ at all.

 

One asks, given all this—why the insentience on using the term? Is it that it is helpful to describe a phenomenon that there isn’t already a term for, or are we taking it on assumption that it exists, otherwise why would so many people be using it?

 

My own research suggests the latter. The recent Who Trolled Amber? podcast revealed how vast swathes of people found themselves possessed of a hatred for Amber Herd without really understanding why, and the persuasive effects of social media misinformation are by now well understood. Widespread usage and/or consensus is not a valid basis on which to assume something’s validity.

 

We feel that ‘cancel culture’ must mean something since we can observe the things it claims to describe. But does it? I suggest that if you take any example of ‘cancel culture’ and look into it, you’ll find that it falls into one of three categories: either it has been mis- or insufficiently reported and didn’t really happen the way it is being described; it is more simply consequences for somebody’s actions or a shift in public opinion; or, as is overwhelmingly likely to be the case, it is a Twitter issue. I defy anybody to produce a case of ‘cancel culture’ that doesn’t meet one of these three criteria.

 

We know by now that social media platforms like X are consciously designed by people, for people, to benefit from outrage and anger—one variety of what is called ‘engagement’—in pursuit of profits, so why do we continue to allow blame to be put on to individuals and more specifically young people who tend to bear the brunt of it? ‘Cancel culture’ has been used to infantilise protest movements, to excuse people found guilty of wrongdoing of blame, and to maintain status quo in defiance of the inevitable shifting of public thought and morals. In that respect it was simply the newest iteration of phrases used lament the work of so-called ‘do-gooders’, taking the torch from ‘political correctness gone mad’ that preceded it. Anyway, if you're really into your dubious cultural buzzwords, you need to get with the times—‘cancel culture’ is already obsolete, having been replaced by ‘wokeism’ for some time now.

 

I'm disappointed that The Guardian are continuing to give oxygen to this useless and harmful term. Let’s drop it once and for all start treating supposed cases of ‘cancellation’ with the rigour, intelligence, and critical eye they deserve.

 

 

Luke Madams



 


You can make the world a better place by refusing to use thought-terminating clichés.

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