It seems like every week, someone new gets "cancelled" online:
TV host Ellen DeGeneres for being a nightmare boss
Author J.K. Rowling for posting transphobic tweets
Tiktok stars Charli and Dixie D'Amelio for being rude to their chef
Cancel culture is a divisive topic!
Is it a way to hold people accountable for causing harm to others? Or has it gone too far?
If so, what's the alternative?
What Is Cancel Culture?
Cancel culture happens when a group of people ostracize someone for doing or saying offensive things.
It usually follows a pattern:
A well-known person gets called out on social media for their harmful acts or words.
People debate whether this person should have a place in the community anymore.
The "cancelled" person might face consequences for their actions.
What Happens When Someone Gets Cancelled?
Video blogger Myka Stauffer gave a teary apology on her Youtube channel for giving up her adopted son to another family after he was diagnosed with autism
Losing Your Job
Justine Sacco was fired from her PR job after a racist Tweet she posted while on holiday went viral
Losing Your Platform
Donald Trump was permanently banned from several social media sites after the Capitol Hill riots
Amy Cooper was arrested and charged after she was caught on video falsely accusing a black man of threatening her in Central Park
How Do People Feel About It?
How you feel about it depends on your point of view.
For some, it means an attack on free speech:
It's an attempt to silence controversial or "politically incorrect" opinions.
It makes people afraid to express their views without being shamed.
Others see it instead as consequence culture:
It helps marginalized communities hold people accountable for causing harm.
It teaches people to be more careful with their words and actions.
Why Is It Tricky?
In some cases, like sexual assault, workplace harassment, or racism, it's clear cut: someone crosses a line and people say, "Enough is enough!"
But in other cases, the backlash against the person far outweighs any damage they did to the community.
For Justine Sacco, one offensive tweet changed her life. She didn't just lose her job: she received death threats and suffered from PTSD for a year.
What About Power Imbalances?
It's one thing when a celebrity gets cancelled.
Famous people like Ellen DeGeneres have the resources to limit the damage to their reputations. They can hire public relations firms and call on powerful friends to defend their image.
But what about ordinary people? What if you're a teen, or a person from a marginalized community? You might not have the same resources to defend yourself.
What's The Alternative?
Some people feel that cancel culture is too focused on punishment and doesn't address the deeper issues that lead to harmful behavior.
Some communities prefer to use principles of restorative justice instead of resorting to cancellation.
They say it's better to call someone in:
show them how they've hurt others
give them a chance to reflect on their behavior
The person can then:
apologize to the people they harmed
take steps to make things right with the community
The next time you hear about someone getting cancelled, ask yourself: