The Toxicity Of Cancel Culture

Gelila Negesse, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Logan Paul, Kanye West, James Charles and an endless list of acclaimed celebrities have all been canceled. Over the years, as politics, and more specifically political correctness, have worked their way into pop culture, multiple celebrities, for various reasons, have been canceled. 

The new social media phenomenon revolves around boycotting, shaming and/or shunning celebrities for their recent or previous actions that are deemed “problematic” by social media users. These can range from a resurfaced tweet from past years to accusations of sexual assault. The surge of celebrities being canceled for questionable behavior dubbed this social media trend “cancel culture”, creating a widespread movement that often leads to a decline in these celebrities’ careers, fanbases, et worth. While we need to hold those in power and influence accountable for their actions or comments, cancel culture does more harm than good when trying to create a more progressive society. 

The purpose behind cancel culture is, overall, well-intentioned. Our society is influenced and shaped by those who make up popular media thus their behavior, whether good or bad, affects how we, the general public, interact with each other. Due to their influence, those who hold any position of power should be held accountable for their actions and, depending on the severity of the case, should face criticism or legal consequences. The overall goal of cancel culture is to create a more respectful and understanding community while ridding society of harmful ideologies. 

Take for example Robert Kelly, an RnB singer famously known as R.Kelly, who, throughout his successful career, sexually assaulted multiple teenage girls. As allegations rose, R.Kelly still worked with major singers, like Lady Gaga and Celine Dion, while also producing and performing music at major events like the Grammys and the 2002 Winter Olympics. Later on in his career, social media took the initiative to popularize the hashtag #MuteRKelly, which brought more attention to the previous accusations and ultimately led to his demise. Examples like Kelly show how cancel culture can bring positive change to communities. 

However, cancel culture creates a toxic idea behind reacting to those with problematic views because they forget to differentiate between people who say offensive things and the actual destructive ideologies they voice. These destructive ideologies that surround topics like the LGBT+ community, race, gender, and mental health should be abandoned by a majority and the people who voice these opinions should be educated on how what they say can be harmful to others. This is where the precise issue with cancel culture begins. Once someone has been canceled they may still have a successful career. However, the reason they were canceled can follow them forever. 

To effectively create an educated and socially aware society we have to allow those with differing views the space for self-growth and redemption after being ‘canceled’. It is only after one has shown time and time again that they refuse to show respect to others should we move towards shunning them. 

Take, for example, famous YouTuber Logan Paul. In 2017, while on a trip to Japan, Paul posted a video on his channel in which he filmed and made fun of a dead body while inside a sacred forest was known as one of the world’s most prevalent places of suicide. After the video was posted, Twitter erupted in a #LoganPaulIsOverParty where many users celebrated him being canceled. Now what Paul did was beyond bad. It was horrific. However, later, he posted an apology video and a statement and deleted footage. Even after this incident, Paul still posts videos and still makes millions of dollars off of them from fans’ support. However, there is a party of users who still mention this incident and don’t allow him to grow from it.

Cases like Paul’s happen all too often and often strip away what could have been a productive learning experience. Cancel culture sometimes lacks the power to influence significant change. Instead, it leaves one side of loyal fans defending their offensive behavior and one side never allowing for redemption. 

Although cancel culture has created an environment of not allowing self-growth, another main flaw is the inconsistency and longevity of these ‘cancellations’. 

Consider  Kanye West. After making the controversial statement that slavery was a choice and supporting President Donald Trump, many people moved to cancel the acclaimed artist. However, even after these statements, Wests’ album went to number one on music charts, and his concert packed venues. Cancel culture lacks consistency because it completely cancels some celebrities while still allowing some celebrities a pass.

Cancel culture creates an environment of people afraid to express their perspective with the fear of backlash, which leads to a society having inauthentic conversations about serious issues. As a young journalist who promotes honest exchanges to ideas, I see cancel culture hindering the chances of understanding society. 

Whenever we face those with conflicting views, we should meet them with the intention of educating or sharing our perspective in order to understand the other side. Some offensive comments are made out of ignorance rather than ill-intention, so allowing this dialogue opens up a learning opportunity and chance for self-growth, leading to a progressive society.