Photo by Huck Mag.

For Your Edification* is a weekly Slice of Culture series where staff writer Ed Daniel take topics — Hudson County or national news related — and provide social commentary. 

If you are an individual who engages in social media, or watches political talk shows, or just listen to the news then you have probably heard an overused term — “Cancel Culture.”

The phrase has now been embedded into the political cultural zeitgeist especially after the results of the U.S. president 2020 elections.

Its use has just been designated for right wing political pundits on Fox News, but the phrase has now been a calling card for anyone who does cultural commentary from radio hosts and podcasters to news anchors.

It’s a phenomenon that implies that those whose political views are left wing are socially, politically and professionally exiling those who do share those views or those who have made controversial statements in their past.

This is supposedly significant because it silences those who have alternative views and it casts out those who have made past mistakes from rectifying them in the future.

If this explanation concerns you then that’s understandable.

The logical thought process would lead to the obvious question of “What happens to me when I say or do something that the overall cultural does not agree with?”

I am here to tell you don’t worry about it because most likely nothing will happen.

I say nothing will happen because Cancel Culture doesn’t exist. No individual has actually been “cancelled” and there is no group or ”culture government” that enforces it. 

Despite this mass hysteria that podcasters like Joe Rogan and political commentators such as Tucker Carlson would like you to believe, there is no group of people who are going to “cancel them.”

Let’s examine this fear that has been socialized into the consciousness of popular culture. What does it actually mean to be “ canceled”?

According to Merriam webster the definition is: 

“To cancel someone (usually a celebrity or other well-known figure) means to stop giving support to that person.The act of canceling could entail boycotting an actor’s movies or no longer reading or promoting a writer’s works.” 

Given that definition lets try to figure out who has been the victim of cancellation and why people believe it warrants such fear and vigilance.

Kanye West.

Kanye West has been a “controversial” celebrity for years now. (CNBC photo)

West has been guilty of making controversial statements, but there’s nothing more controversial than when he went on TMZ live on May 1, 2018 and exclaimed that slavery was a choice.

This is not only a contentious statement, but a downright stupid and dangerous one, especially coming from a figure as popular as him. He received criticism from every corner of the internet and had a verbal confrontation from then TMZ staffer and now Ringer podcaster Van Lathan in June of the year he dropped his album “YE,” which went gold in the United States.

In 2019 he then dropped his latest album “Jesus is King,” which debuted at No. 1 in the U.S. Billboard Charts. According to Forbes magazine, as of August 2020, Kanye West is a billionaire.

It seems that he is facing the fallout of Cancel Culture. 

Let’s talk about Justine Sacco an communications executive who was very publicly fired from InterActive Corp back in 2014 for an inappropriate tweet saying:

“Going to Africa Hope I don’t get Aids. Just kidding Im white!”

(Screenshot / LA Times)

Given that she was fired that would be an example of Cancel culture right?

Not quite.

In 2018 she was hired to run all corporate communications for Match Group, the online dating company that IAC spun off in 2015. It still owns close to 80 percent of the new entity. She will oversee corporate comms for Match, which includes the business’s online dating properties like Tinder, Match.com and OkCupid.

Sacco said that her comment was more in the spirit of satirically criticizing how Americans live in their own bubble. Suffice to say she did a poor job of showing that and Twitter itself is not the best medium for revealing subtext.

The irony is you would think that an executive of communications would be able to understand the communication constraints of certain platforms, but I guess not.

It doesn’t seem to matter though her punishment was short lived and now she has obtained a high position in corporate America. 

There are many more examples of this pattern where a celebrity or a person in power says something controversial, people on social media platforms decry them and then we go back to regular scheduled programming.

This idea that there’s some sort of social annexation that occurs is just not true.

Mainly because the entity that is supposed to carry out the punishment are social media platforms.

These people do not face any real consequences other than public shame on twitter for a few days or a couple of blogs written about you. Then another story happens and people move on.

This fear that there is something substantial going to happen to one’s career is just not backed up by facts.

People in power could ignore the conversation about them for a few days and their lives would not change because this fear of cultural annexation is a toothless threat.

People are just not invested enough or have the attention span to hold most of these people truly accountable for their actions or words.

So if public shame and embarrassment is the ultimate penalty recognizable people face, then why is there a foreboding tone that this culture is going to threaten our way of life and silence free speech? 

What we seem to have is not Cancel Culture but a grievance culture especially of older white males.

The right wing has weaponized the term and used it.

Right wing politicians warn about the “woke mob” and how they harm the Discourse in this country. It’s a winning play for the politicians — creating a culture in where you are the victim and the potential infringement on your rights can rally up a base and create voter turnout, especially if they are uneducated, angry and are looking for someone to blame.

The problem is that this mob they speak of are not an organized group of zealots or political party. It’s just random people expressing their opinions on social media.

You can always claim Cancel Culture because people on the internet are going to disagree with you and express that emphatically.

Any person now with a cell phone can tell you what they think and how they feel about a certain subject. In the past If you were someone of prominence you only got an idea of what people thought of you through the tabloids, opinion polls, and or fan letters. Now, some individual you never met can directly message you or a group of people can start a hashtag in your name. Also, everything you wrote or recorded in the past is now documented.

Celebrities and politicians have more access to hate and criticism than ever before through the use of social media, and they don’t know how to handle it.

The healthy perspective would be that with billions of users on the web, you cannot please everyone and people are going to disagree with you sometimes.

That’s a fact of life for everyone.

If you live your life and ignore the chatter then the consequences are mild — if there are any at all.

So to all the podcasters, comedians, and late night hosts, it’s not good content to hear you continuously complain about having the inability to say what you want because some random user on Twitter disagreed with your joke. 

If you want Ed to tackle a specific topic please email hello@sliceofculture and edaniel@sliceofculture.com.

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