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Cancel culture: do people deserve a past or is cancel culture justified?

Who can be cancelled?

Perhaps a better question is who can’t be cancelled...

Ever vented about a frustrating teacher at school, via a group chat? Oh, you have? Well, that language isn’t very polite, rude in fact. Those comments about his appearance, were they necessary? Aren’t you essentially body shaming, because you didn’t get your way. Hm, we’re going to have to re-evaluate how we feel about you, now all of this has come out, one second…

So you were cancelled. Why? Because most people are at risk of being put up for public scrutiny because of something they perhaps have said or done in their past. When you’re cancelled your platform is pulled from under you. No backtracking. No second chances. You. Are. Cancelled.

With its prominence garnering ever greater public attention (I salute you if you sat through YouTuber Tati Westbrook’s one million hour James Charles expose—and if you sat through his reply), ‘cancel culture’ from a personal perspective initially seemed appealing.

Take people in the public eye who continue to have careers despite committing gross acts of misconduct towards others (I’m talking about you Chris Brown and Mark Wahlberg). Why should we continue to place them upon a pedestal, in which they can gain both financial reward and food for their egos? Cancelling them and instead promoting those who are role models, with views and actions that espouse tolerance and progress, sounds much more appealing.

However, through an extension of this logic, we create what is almost a primary school binary—‘Goodies’ vs ‘Baddies’ (not the Instagram kind), leaving little room for a middle ground.

Are we preventing people from ‘learning from their mistakes’ and instead of expecting moral perfection, something I doubt few of us can claim to possess ourselves?

I challenge anyone who claims they’ve never had a bitch about someone because of your own insecurities—or made a joke that teeters on the fine line of good taste (we’re British, cynicism comes all too naturally).

Today social media is rife with celebrities with seemingly ‘tolerant’ personas being called out for evidence from their past.

Whether it 's a more than dodgy tweet or magazine column, stars like Jameela Jamil, Zoella, and even Amy from the Big Bang Theory (Dr Mayim Bialik), have all come under fire, from not being completely tolerant all of their lives—which is a big feat to ask anyone, surely? Whilst it is right to call out people who express racist, misogynistic and general intolerance, surely those who publicly apologise should be given the benefit of the doubt, a second chance before a final judgement can be made.

Perhaps in regards to influencers like James Charles, this has actually been carried out—the ‘vitamin’ scandal and allegations of sexual harassment, occurred after his racially insensitive tweet in 2017 regarding Ebola and he was given a second chance—as was Jeffrey Starr. Therefore society hasn’t nosedived into the insanity some media outlets (probably Piers Morgan lets be honest) have suggested. But we can raise the question, how many mistakes can someone make until their apologies lose any sense of credibility? Surely in the case of YouTubers like Sam Pepper, we can find people who fill their roles—without the scandal or the intolerance.

In certain cases exposing such actions as the group chat of Warwick university students in which several male students made jokes and potential threats of sexual violence against women were necessary. Opponents who argue this is a violation of one’s personal space, forget the potential risk not tackling this behaviour could have lead to. Perhaps it may have been nothing, but allowing a culture of any form of prejudice to grow is dangerous. Cancelling this behaviour establishes a precedent that this type of speech isn’t tolerated in our conventional society.

When weighing up cancel culture, we should either accept people are often flawed beings, who have the ability to develop their own personal worldview and in turn become more tolerant.

Or, do we cancel anyone who disagrees with a flimsy constructed, unclear doctrine of acceptable perspectives and beliefs? Whilst some actions aren’t worthy of an apology, allowing people to learn from their mistakes could perhaps foster a culture where people are more likely to act upon the criticism they’ve received—reducing the risk of extremist positions from developing further in spaces ‘cancelled’ and therefore unchecked.

What do you think about cancel culture? Do you think it’s too extreme or can it be justified? Let us know in the comments below.
Featured image: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com