This is going to seem like it should be filed under “rants”. After all, I’m taking a contrary position to some thing that’s been popularized and that is, by nature, a diatribe. But I think this is more of an argument. Not a “stand on a soapbox and scream into the void” kind of argument, but the original definition of an argument:
- an exchange of diverging or opposite views, typically a heated or angry one.
- a reason or set of reasons given with the aim of persuading others that an action or idea is right or wrong. - Oxford Languages
Well, okay, the second one.
I don’t like “cancel culture”. Not the act, the phrase. I dislike the way it’s used because it sounds like a we’re trying to get rid of a Columbia House membership.
The basic idea, if you’ve somehow managed to avoid this, is there’s a cultural facet of our society that is actively tossing things away without fully understanding and comprehending the potential value a given person or theme might provide. Like, say, how statues of American Civil War “heroes” of the Confederate states need to remain standing because they’re a part of history.
That doesn’t mean they’re valuable. And, more importantly, there’s a lot of it.
Our modern society (and by “modern”, I mean within the last decade, though this has been going on for a bit longer) drowns in information, most of which comes unfiltered and uncontextualized, dumped on our front lawns with the flourish of a compost delivery, and we’re expected to treat it with the same reverence as a 30-year study on the human genome. Google alone processes at least 200 petabytes of data per day (roughly a fifth of the largest library on Earth). We have become aware of trivial things that our parents would never have known (chemical composition of Martian rocks, koalas have human-like fingerprints, how many people visited the Vatican in 2017), because they weren’t valuable to the society.
Part of that has been digesting perspectives around the world. (Well, in as much as some choose to try, anyway. There are, of course, millions who care not to look past their own navels.) Some of those perspectives – how one culture differs from another, or trying to understand the root of conflict – are important, things we’ve been (somewhat) actively trying to obtain so that we can collectively change for the better. It can be argued that we’ve effectively evolved over the last 20 years to (try to) more fully, though far from completely, view and understand other people’s perspectives, rights, and requirements.
And that’s been one of the fundamental points behind “cancel culture”: all perspectives are valid and that we should listen to learn. That means we should listen to values we don’t inherently agree with to more completely understand. In principle, at a high level, that’s a good behaviour. But when we focus on the details, it becomes clear fairly quickly that while all perspectives might be valid, they are certainly not all valuable.
There’s a whole lot of stupid out there. At the top of our pile are the uneducated and otherwise uninformed masses, the ones who simply don’t know and tend to parrot what they hear. If not influenced by the wisened, the uneducated hear from the next level down: the wilfully ignorant, who refuse to listen to any form of reason (such as those who thought vaccines cause autism) because it would affect their worldview; for them, ignorance is easier, even if it stokes fear and anger. Quite often, these people are influenced by the hateful and distrustful, bigots who keep old feuds and pains alive long beyond when they should be resolved.
But at the bottom, festering away, we have those who prey on the levels above, who in turn provide protection in the form of fame and bestowed power. Feeding away on the uninformed masses like leeches, are corrupt politicians and talking heads of media, filled with ego and a need to control that fills their bank accounts, behaviour which creates much of the malice and hatred in our world. You think the Devil walks the Earth? Nah, he’s just the anchor of Fox News.
While they might not wield absolute power, it’s absolutely corrupting, and something we’ve seen countless times in recorded history. Unrecorded history is no doubt littered with instances that we will never know, horrors that we can only cringe at. Now think of all the horrors of our modern society that have circulated through the news … that is but a fraction of the volume, the only things deemed “worthy” of reporting. We have such extensive details and records and occurances that most are lost in the noise, conveniently missed and forgotten.
These are the perspectives we are encouraged (usually by those at the fetid centre of hatred) to embrace, because how dare we be so hypocritical as to encourage equality while passing off other’s beliefs?
Our society requires stability: no wild shifts because those cause strife, which leads to conflict, which inevitably leads to death. We must bring justice and equality to our table, where we treat each and ever single person with the same level of respectful humanity regardless of race, sexual orientation, or belief. We can no longer invest the time in trying to justify defective reason and misinformation (aka “lies”). We are frequently on precipices, the sins of others threatening to pull us over the edge. So we must cast them off to save the rest. These people do not meet our unspoken ideals of respectfulness, honestly, integrity, and a general need to be kind.
You’ve done something we consider awful? You’ve been tried and convicted in our modern courts? You’re no longer worthy to be a factor in our society. That’s not “cancelling”, that’s a consequence. You’ve being made an example, regardless of how bright your star might have been, a message to the other scum who believe they’re above laws or societal norms, free to do as they choose.
Wait, isn’t that a contradiction? We say we want equality, while simultaneously saying some should not be listened to? That’s the problem with ideals: they’re only held by those who want to better. They’re targets to aim for, encompassing everyone, equally. But not everyone wants to be a part of those ideals, because they don’t agree with them. Equality, for them, puts them on the same footing as those they’ve come to despise, removes the wealth and power they thrive upon. So they fight it, wanting to preserve – if not expand – their control over society.
We cannot tolerate misinformation, mistruth (hey, let’s just call it lying, okay?), and misdirection. We give far too much of our limited free mental capacity to Right Wing Nut Jobs (which includes a disturbing number of American Republican politicans these days), racists (especially American white supremicists), Flat-earthers, conspiracy theorists (and I lump anti-vaxxers in this group), and historical revisionists (history might have been written by the victors, but we have a plethora of educated analysts who can see through the gaps and rewrites). They have all had far too much time in spotlights, bringing valueless messages to the populous. And the media, in the desire to earning a few more dollars, have given them prominence for profit.
We used to call these sorts of people “crackpots”: ones who sat alone in corners, muttering to themselves, the butts of jokes, generally avoided by everyone else, and generally harmless. Our “need” for equal perspective has given the inane altogether too much fame and power, and now we’re all at risk.
The viewpoints of crackpots do not provide stability. Their intent, active or unintentionally, alters society to benefit themselves. And crackpots are, by all accounting, in the minority.
Imagine, for a moment, that we had a reversal: those affected by “cancel culture” were elevated to those in control, able to make all the decisions. That, ladies and gentlemen, is called a “dystopia”, a common theme in literature: “society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian” (also from Oxford Languages). We’ve seen elements of that over my lifetime in various places around the world; we’re definitely seeing it in the “free west”. History is replete with these situations as well, and they never end well for those who saw themselves in charge.
I still say “cancel culture” is a poor name for the reality of a society attempting to correct itself, disposing of the poisonous elements that threaten stability, while we’re still trying to address the multitude of sins of our history.
Don’t “cancel” anyone because they’re not subscriptions – they’re just crackpots, fools, and the corrupt. These are people to be ignored. Don’t engage them, don’t give them any prominence, they absolutely do not deserve airtime or column inches. If we deny them the attention they crave, eventually they’ll sink back into the forgotten corners where they belong.