No, You Don’t Need to Worry About Cancel Culture

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Oscar Karlen, Staff Reporter

For the past several years, the concept of cancel culture has been the cause of intense, polarizing debate between left, right, and center that brings nothing but more anger and division.

Newspapers run panicked headlines like “2020: The Year Universities Surrendered Completely To Cancel Culture” and “DEMOCRATS put congress in the grip of cancel culture.” Comedians, actors, and writers insist it’s a danger to their freedom of speech, and that people just need thicker skin. Others screech about the existential threat it poses to all we hold dear. Those supposedly doing the canceling say that the only thing that’s changed is that marginalized people feel like they can speak out against their oppressors and that there’s nothing to worry about. 

The prevailing narrative is that cancel culture is a life ruiner. If you do or say anything seen as problematic, for any reason, you will be silenced. You lose all cultural currency and your voice no longer matters.

It doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, however.

Comedian Louis C.K. may have been kicked out of his agency after admitting to sexual assault of dozens of women, but he was only out of work for 10 months. The same goes for other men accused of sexual harassment during the #MeToo movement. Few, if any, faced any real long-term consequences.

For example, you may be more familiar with J. K. Rowling who came under fire in June for the latest in a long line of transphobic and trans-exclusionary statements. Yet, Harry Potter has still been a bestseller during quarantine, another Fantastic Beasts film is coming out next year, and Universal’s Harry Potter World is yet to be demolished. For people like Rowling, being canceled might be unpleasant, and their finances might take a slight impact, but their appeal to most of the public will not change at all. If anything, it makes them even more popular with moderates and conservatives.

Speaking of conservatives, they’re the other group talking about cancel culture. The conservative opposition to cancel culture is not that it’s gone too far, but that it exists at all. To them, it’s either a tool used by the far-left to eliminate dissent and ram their agenda forward or an existential threat to Western civilization in itself. 

There’s a big problem with this position though — that it’s being made in bad faith. It is just a cover for their real concern, which is that it’s no longer socially acceptable to bully or threaten those they see as lesser. This doesn’t stop the far right from doing it, but mainstream conservatives generally have an image to maintain, and so political correctness and cancel culture serve as a palatable coating for their less popular ideas.

In conclusion, cancel culture is not a threat to you, your loved ones, or anyone else. The scare over it is almost exclusively generated by public figures, conservative think tanks, and a few blatant neo-Nazis. And while we don’t need to worry about cancel culture, we should definitely be concerned about them.