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Cancel culture

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cancel culture or call-out culture is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – whether it be online, on social media, or in person. Those subject to this ostracism are said to have been "cancelled".[1][a] The expression "cancel culture" has mostly negative connotations and is commonly used in debates on free speech and censorship.[4]

The notion of cancel culture is a variant on the term call-out culture and constitutes a form of boycotting or shunning involving an individual (often a celebrity) who is deemed to have acted or spoken in a questionable or controversial manner.[2][5][6][7][8]

The concept of cancel culture has been criticized on the grounds that people claiming to have been "cancelled" often remain in power and continue their careers as before. The practice has also been defended as an exercise of free speech.[9][10][11]

Origins

The 1981 Chic album Take It Off includes the song "Your Love Is Canceled" which compares a breakup to the cancellation of TV shows. The song was written by Nile Rodgers following a bad date Rodgers had with a woman who expected him to misuse his celebrity status on her behalf. "Your Love Is Canceled" inspired screenwriter Barry Michael Cooper to include a reference to a woman being "canceled" in the 1991 film New Jack City.[12] This usage introduced the term to African-American Vernacular English, where it eventually become more common. By around 2015, the concept of canceling had become widespread on Black Twitter to refer to a personal decision, sometimes seriously and sometimes in jest, to stop supporting a person or work.[12][13][14] According to Jonah Engel Bromwich of The New York Times, this usage of cancellation indicates the "total disinvestment in something (anything)".[15][16]

"Call-out culture" has been in use since 2014 as part of the #MeToo movement.[17]

Description

Merriam-Webster states that to "cancel", in this context, means "to stop giving support to [a] person".[2] Dictionary.com, in its pop-culture dictionary, defines cancel culture as "withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive."[3] The phenomenon has occurred with both public figures and private citizens.[18] Ligaya Mishan wrote in The New York Times, "The term is shambolically applied to incidents both online and off that range from vigilante justice to hostile debate to stalking, intimidation and harassment....Those who embrace the idea (if not the precise language) of canceling seek more than pat apologies and retractions, although it’s not always clear whether the goal is to right a specific wrong and redress a larger imbalance of power."[4][18]

Academic analysis

According to the book The Coddling of the American Mind (2018) by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and free-speech activist Greg Lukianoff, call-out culture arises from what they call "safetyism" on college campuses.[19] Keith Hampton, professor of media studies at Michigan State University, contends that the practice contributes to the polarization of American society, but does not lead to changes in opinion.[20] Cancel culture has been described by media studies scholar Eve Ng as "a collective of typically marginalized voices 'calling out' and emphatically expressing their censure of a powerful figure."[21] Cultural studies scholar Frances Lee states that call-out culture leads to self-policing of "wrong, oppressive, or inappropriate" opinions.[22][23] According to Lisa Nakamura, University of Michigan professor of media studies, canceling someone is a form of "cultural boycott" and cancel culture is the "ultimate expression of agency" which is "born of a desire for control [as] people have limited power over what is presented to them on social media" and a need for "accountability which is not centralized".[8][24][25]

Some academics proposed alternatives and improvements to cancel culture. Critical multiculturalism[26] professor Anita Bright proposed "calling in" rather than "calling out" in order to bring forward the former's idea of accountability but in a more "humane, humble, and bridge-building" light.[27] Clinical counsellor Anna Richards, who specializes in conflict mediation, says that "learning to analyze our own motivations when offering criticism" helps call-out culture work productively.[28]

Professor Joshua Knobe, of the Philosophy Department at Yale, contends that public denunciation is not effective, and that society is too quick to pass judgement against those they view as public offenders or persona non-grata. Knobe asserts that these actions have the opposite effect on individuals and that it is best to bring attention to the positive actions in which most of society participates.[29]

Reactions

The expression "cancel culture" has mostly negative connotations and is commonly used in debates on free speech and censorship.[30][31]

Former US President Barack Obama warned against social media call-out culture, saying that "People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids and, you know, share certain things with you."[32] Former US President Donald Trump also criticized cancel culture in a speech in July 2020, comparing it to totalitarianism and claiming that it is a political weapon used to punish and shame dissenters by driving them from their jobs and demanding submission.[33]

Open letter

Dalvin Brown, writing in USA Today, has described an open letter signed by 153 public figures and published in Harper's Magazine as marking a "high point" in the debate on the topic.[30] The letter set out arguments against "an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty."[34][35][36]

A response letter organized by lecturer Arionne Nettles, "A More Specific Letter on Justice and Open Debate", was signed by over 160 people in academia and media and criticized the Harper's letter as a plea to end cancel culture by successful professionals with large platforms but to exclude others who have been "cancelled for generations".[37][38]

American public opinion

A poll of American registered voters conducted by Morning Consult in July 2020 showed that cancel culture, defined as "the practice of withdrawing support for (or canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive," was common: 40% of respondents said they had withdrawn support from public figures and companies, including on social media, because they had done or said something considered objectionable or offensive, with 8% having engaged in this often. Behavior differed according to age, with a majority (55%) of voters 18 to 34 years old saying they have taken part in cancel culture, while only about a third (32%) of voters over 65 said they had joined a social media pile-on.[39] Attitude towards the practice was mixed, with 44% of respondents saying they disapproved of cancel culture, 32% who approved, and 24% who did not know or had no opinion. Furthermore, 46% believed cancel culture had gone too far, with only 10% thinking it had not gone far enough. However, a majority (53%) believed that people should expect social consequences for expressing unpopular opinions in public, especially those that may be construed as deeply offensive to other people.[40]

A March 2021 poll by the Harvard Center for American Political Studies and The Harris Poll found that 64% of respondents viewed "a growing cancel culture" as a threat to their freedom, while the other 36% did not. 36% of respondents said that cancel culture is a big problem, 32% called it a moderate problem, 20% called it a small problem, and 13% said it is not a problem. 54% said they were concerned that if they expressed their opinions online, they would be banned or fired, while the other 46% said they were not concerned.[41]

Criticism of the concept

Some journalists question the validity of cancel culture as an actual phenomenon.[42][43][44][45]

Danielle Kurtzleben, a political reporter for NPR, wrote in 2021 that overuse of the phrase "cancel culture" in American politics (particularly by Republicans) has made it "arguably background noise". Per Kurtzleben and others, the term has undergone semantic bleaching to lose its original meaning.[46]

Connor Garel, writing for Vice, states that cancel culture "rarely has any tangible or meaningful effect on the lives and comfortability of the cancelled."[47]

Historian C. J. Coventry argues that the term has been incorrectly applied, and that it more accurately reflects the propensity of people to hide historical instances of injustice:

While I agree that the line between debate and suppression is one that occasionally gets crossed by the so-called left wing, it is almost invariably true that the real cancel culture is perpetrated by those who have embraced the term. If you look through Australian history, as well as European and American history, you will find countless examples of people speaking out against injustice and being persecuted in return. I can think of a number of people in our own time who are being persecuted by supposedly democratic governments for revealing uncomfortable information.[48]

Another historian, David Olusoga, similarly argued:

Unlike some on the left, I have never doubted that "cancel culture" exists ... The great myth about cancel culture, however, is that it exists only on the left. For the past 40 years, rightwing newspapers have ceaselessly fought to delegitimize and ultimately cancel our national broadcaster [the BBC], motivated by financial as well as political ambitions.[11]

Indigenous governance professor and activist Pamela Palmater writes in Maclean's magazine that cancel culture differs from accountability; her article covers the public backlash surrounding Canadian politicians who vacationed during COVID-19, despite pandemic restrictions forbidding such behavior.[10]

Former US Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia says that cancel culture is a form of free speech, and is therefore protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. According to Scalia, cancel culture can, however, interfere with the right to counsel, as some lawyers would not be willing to risk their personal and professional reputation on controversial topics.[49]

Sarah Manavis wrote for the New Statesman magazine that while free speech advocates are more likely to make accusations of "cancel culture", criticism is part of free speech and rarely results in consequences for those in power who are criticized. She argues that social media is an extension and reincarnation of a longer tradition of expression in a liberal society, "a new space for historical power structures to be solidified" and that online criticism by people who do not hold actual power in society tends to not affect existing power structures. She adds that most prominent people who criticized public opinion as canceling still have highly profitable businesses and concludes by saying, "So even if you fear the monster under the bed, it will never do you harm. It can’t, because it was never there in the first place. Repercussions rarely come for those in power. Why punch down, when you’ve already won?"[9]

Consequence culture

Some media commentators (including Sunny Hostin and Levar Burton) have stated that cancel culture should be renamed consequence culture.[50] The terms have different connotations: cancel culture focusing on the effect whereby discussion is limited by a desire to maintain one certain viewpoint, whereas consequence culture focuses on the idea that those that write or publish opinions or make statements should bear some responsibility for the effects of these on people.[51]

In popular culture

The American animated television series South Park mocked cancel culture with its own "#CancelSouthPark" campaign in promotion of the show's twenty-second season (2018).[52][53][54][55] In the season's third episode, "The Problem with a Poo", there are references to the 2017 documentary The Problem with Apu, the cancellation of Roseanne after a controversial tweet by the show's eponymous actress, and the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.[56][57] Both the Chicks, for their outspoken criticism of the Iraq War and President Bush,[58] and Bill Maher have said they are victims of cancel culture.[59]

In 2019, cancel culture was a primary theme in the stand-up comedy show Sticks & Stones by Dave Chappelle.[60]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Merriam-Webster notes that to "cancel", in this context, means "to stop giving support to that person".[2]
    Dictionary.com, in its pop-culture dictionary, defines cancel culture as "withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive."[3]

References

  1. ^ McDermott, John (November 2, 2019). "Those People We Tried to Cancel? They're All Hanging Out Together". The New York Times. Retrieved August 3, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c "What It Means to Get 'Canceled'". www.merriam-webster.com. Archived from the original on June 18, 2020. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "What Does Cancel Culture Mean?". dictionary.com. Retrieved August 19, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Mishan, Ligaya (December 3, 2020). "The Long and Tortured History of Cancel Culture". T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Archived from the original on December 4, 2020.
  5. ^ Sills, Sophie; Pickens, Chelsea; Beach, Karishma; Jones, Lloyd; Calder-Dawe, Octavia; Benton-Greig, Paulette; Gavey, Nicola (March 23, 2016). "Rape culture and social media: young critics and a feminist counterpublic". Feminist Media Studies. 16 (6): 935–951. doi:10.1080/14680777.2015.1137962. S2CID 147023782.
  6. ^ Munro, Ealasaid (August 23, 2013). "Feminism: A Fourth Wave?". Political Insight. 4 (2): 22–25. doi:10.1111/2041-9066.12021. S2CID 142990260. Archived from the original on December 10, 2019. Retrieved April 29, 2020.
  7. ^ Yar, Sanam; Bromwich, Jonah Engel (October 31, 2019). "Tales From the Teenage Cancel Culture". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on June 1, 2020. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Bromwich, Jonah Engel (June 28, 2018). "Everyone Is Canceled". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on August 13, 2019. Retrieved July 24, 2020.
  9. ^ a b Manavis, Sarah (July 16, 2020). ""Cancel culture" does not exist". NewStatesman.
  10. ^ a b "The entitlement of Canadian politicians - Macleans.ca". www.macleans.ca. Retrieved January 6, 2021.
  11. ^ a b "'Cancel culture' is not the preserve of the left. Just ask our historians | David Olusoga". The Guardian. January 3, 2021.
  12. ^ a b McGrady, Clyde (April 2, 2021). "The strange journey of 'cancel,' from a Black-culture punchline to a White-grievance watchword". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 10, 2021.
  13. ^ Mishan, Ligaya (December 3, 2020). "The Long and Tortured History of Cancel Culture". The New York Times. Retrieved April 10, 2021.
  14. ^ Romano, Aja (August 25, 2020). "Why we can't stop fighting about cancel culture". Vox. Retrieved April 10, 2021.
  15. ^ Bromwich, Jonah Engel (June 28, 2018). "Everyone Is Canceled". The New York Times. Retrieved April 10, 2021.
  16. ^ D. Clark, Meredith (2020). "DRAG THEM: A brief etymology of so-called "cancel culture"". Communication and the Public. 5 (3–4): 88–92. doi:10.1177/2057047320961562.
  17. ^ Mendes, Kaitlynn; Ringrose, Jessica; Keller, Jessalynn (May 1, 2018). "#MeToo and the promise and pitfalls of challenging rape culture through digital feminist activism". European Journal of Women's Studies. 25 (2): 236–246. doi:10.1177/1350506818765318. ISSN 1350-5068.
  18. ^ a b "Cancel culture: Have any two words become more weaponised?". BBC News. February 18, 2021. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  19. ^ Haidt, Jonathan; Lukianoff, Greg (2018). The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. New York City: Penguin Press. ISBN 978-0-73522489-6. OCLC 1007552624.; For safetyism, see Lukianoff, Greg; Haidt, Jonathan (September 4, 2018). The Coddling of the American Mind. pp. 30, 158, 235, 268, 329. ISBN 9780735224902.
  20. ^ Agence France Presse (July 22, 2020). "La "cancel culture", nouvelle arme des anonymes et facteur de polarisation". Le Journal de Montréal (in French). Archived from the original on July 27, 2020. Retrieved July 24, 2020.
  21. ^ Ng, Eve (July 26, 2020). "No Grand Pronouncements Here...: Reflections on Cancel Culture and Digital Media Participation". Television and New Media. 21 (16): 621–627. doi:10.1177/1527476420918828. S2CID 220853829. Retrieved February 12, 2021.
  22. ^ Lee, Frances (September 17, 2017). "'Excommunicate me from the church of social justice': an activist's plea for change". The Sunday Magazine. CBC Radio.
  23. ^ "Why I've Started to Fear My Fellow Social Justice Activists". Yes! Magazine. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
  24. ^ Velasco, Joseph (October 2020). You are Cancelled: Virtual Collective Consciousness and the Emergence of Cancel Culture as Ideological Purging. Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities 12(5). 12. Conference: 1st Rupkatha International Open Conference on Recent Advances in Interdisciplinary Humanities. doi:10.21659/rupkatha.v12n5.rioc1s21n2.
  25. ^ Wei, M. L.; Bunjun, Benita (October 21, 2020). "'We are not the shoes of white supremacists': a critical race perspective of consumer responses to brand attempts at countering racist associations". Journal of Marketing Management. 36 (13–14): 1252–1279. doi:10.1080/0267257X.2020.1806907. ISSN 0267-257X. S2CID 226315082.
  26. ^ "Anita Bright - Google Scholar". scholar.google.com. Retrieved August 28, 2020.
  27. ^ Bright, Anita; Gambrell, James (2017). "Calling In, Not Calling Out: A Critical Race Framework for Nurturing Cross-Cultural Alliances in Teacher Candidates". Handbook of Research on Promoting Cross-Cultural Competence and Social Justice in Teacher Education. Retrieved August 28, 2020.
  28. ^ Matei, Adrienne (November 1, 2019). "Call-out culture: how to get it right (and wrong)". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  29. ^ Stein, J. (August 13, 2015). "I'm making the case for public shaming-unless you publicly shame me for doing so". TIME Magazine. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  30. ^ a b Brown, Dalvin. "Twitter's cancel culture: A force for good or a digital witchhunt? The answer is complicated". USA TODAY. Archived from the original on July 24, 2020.
  31. ^ "Where Did Cancel Culture Come From?". Dictionary.com. Archived from the original on June 30, 2020.
  32. ^ "Obama laid into young people being 'politically woke' and 'as judgmental as possible' in a speech about call-out culture". Business Insider. October 30, 2019. Archived from the original on July 23, 2020. Retrieved July 23, 2020.
  33. ^ Daniel Dale. "A list of people and things Donald Trump tried to get canceled before he railed against 'cancel culture'". CNN. Archived from the original on July 28, 2020. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  34. ^ "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate". Harper's Magazine. July 7, 2020. Archived from the original on July 23, 2020.
  35. ^ "JK Rowling joins 150 public figures warning over free speech". July 8, 2020. Retrieved July 23, 2020.
  36. ^ Chiu, Allyson (July 8, 2020). "Letter signed by J.K. Rowling, Noam Chomsky warning of stifled free speech draws mixed reviews". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on July 24, 2020. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  37. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (July 10, 2020). "An Open Letter on Free Expression Draws a Counterblast". The New York Times. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  38. ^ Roberts, Mikenzie (July 13, 2020). "Harper's letter and response signed by Northwestern academics". The Daily Northwestern. Retrieved July 18, 2020.
  39. ^ Lizza, Ryan (July 22, 2020). "Americans tune in to 'cancel culture' — and don't like what they see". POLITICO. Archived from the original on July 23, 2020. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  40. ^ Morning Consult; Politico (July 2020). "National tracking poll, July 17-19, 2020". Politico.com. Archived from the original on July 22, 2020.
  41. ^ Manchester, Julia (March 29, 2021). "64 percent view 'cancel culture' as threat to freedom: poll". The Hill. Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  42. ^ "Letters to the Editor: It's not 'cancel culture.' It's finally holding privileged people accountable". LA Times. July 15, 2020.
  43. ^ "No, cancel culture isn't a threat to civilization". ThePrint. India. July 15, 2020.
  44. ^ Hagi, Sarah (November 21, 2019). "Cancel Culture Is Not Real—At Least Not in the Way People Think". Time. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  45. ^ Fine, Duncan (March 4, 2021). "Dr Seuss not cancelled. Old stereotypes are being made redundant". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  46. ^ "When Republicans Attack 'Cancel Culture,' What Does It Mean?". NPR.org. February 10, 2021. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  47. ^ "Logan Paul Is Proof That Problematic People Are Never Truly Cancelled". www.vice.com. Retrieved August 16, 2020.
  48. ^ C. J. Coventry, "A New Birth of Freedom: South Australia, slavery and exceptionalism," Speech to History Council of South Australia (HCSA) (2020), https://hcommons.org/deposits/item/hc:33351/
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  50. ^ Katherine Fung "LeVar Burton Defends Cancel Culture, Says It Should Be Called 'Consequence Culture'" Newsweek 4/26/21 https://www.newsweek.com/levar-burton-defends-cancel-culture-says-it-should-called-consequence-culture-1586506
  51. ^ Molly Schwartz "roxane-gay-says-cancel-culture-does-not-exist" Mother Jones March 5, 2021 https://www.motherjones.com/media/2021/03/roxane-gay-says-cancel-culture-does-not-exist/
  52. ^ Andrews, Travis M. (October 17, 2018). "How 'South Park' became the ultimate #bothsides show". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 31, 2018.
  53. ^ Edwards, Chris (November 20, 2018). "Post-outrage TV: how South Park is surviving the era of controversy". The Guardian. Retrieved December 31, 2018.
  54. ^ Mathews, Liam (October 11, 2018). "South Park Just Trolled The Simpsons Really Hard, but Why?". TV Guide. Retrieved December 31, 2018.
  55. ^ Joho, Jess (October 12, 2018). "Why the latest season of 'South Park' feels like a total game-changer". Mashable. Retrieved December 31, 2018.
  56. ^ Parker, Ryan (October 10, 2018). "'South Park' Goes After Roseanne Barr, 'Simpsons' Apu Character". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 11, 2018.
  57. ^ Barsanti, Sam (October 9, 2018). "South Park will somehow tackle both Brett Kavanaugh and The Problem With Apu simultaneously". The A.V. Club. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
  58. ^ "Dixie Chicks talk cancel culture 17 years after being blacklisted". Good Morning America (ABC). March 16, 2020.
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Further reading

This page was last edited on 21 June 2021, at 02:37
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