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Cancel Culture: What's Wrong With It?

Remember how in the epic Ramayana, Sugriv cancelled his brother Bali by commissioning Rama and his team to do so? His reasons and the entire story would be contentious but is cancelling people okay?

(Source: W+G Creative)

Cancel culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. Cancel culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming.

Dr. Tina Sikka said, “It is an act of public shaming that’s based on either something that is perceived or substantiated a social transgression of some kind that hasn’t been adequately addressed through traditional channels so things like racism, misogyny, ableism, transophobia – there’s no way to get any kind of justice for comments that you might find offensive.”

Before internet or overabundance of a social platform that in many ways, exploits ‘free speech’, our traditional media practised “media trials”. The excessive coverage (read, dismantlement) of a person’s reputation by entirely ignoring “innocent till proven guilty” and conducting extensive provocative atmosphere that impacts the public. For example, media’s reaction to the demise of Sushant Singh Rajput. Many media houses took charge but ABP won the race by staging a “mock postmortem”.

Cancel Culture in its truest form, is an impulsive, unwitted extension of media trials. When the ascendant (media) decides to take things in their hand, which predominantly expresses strong opinions that may ruin the figure’s career or life (or both), its descendant (Cancel culture) makes sure that happens. For example, cancelling Rhea Chakarborty and boycotting her movies.

Another recent example becomes of the New York Times editor who quit her job with a public resignation letter stating the she faced harassment and hostile work environment by her colleagues who disagreed with her. Massive public back-lashed after NYT published a controversial op-ed.

However, the original idea of cancel culture is to manifest the growth of changing social norms that institutions and groups of people might not have caught up with. Since the inception of cancelling, it served as a support system for people to share their stories. All the women who opened up with their #metoo stories received the due support they much needed. Racists, sexists or homophobes cannot get away without dealing with the repercussions for their controversial statements. So can’t people like Harvey Weinstein.

To cancel or not to cancel, that’s the question when the nature of their transgression is under the scope of redemption. One of the most repeated argument against cancel culture asks if doing one bad thing makes you a bad person. Is cancel culture organised enough to strike out those who did not redeemed/changed and save those who did by not ruining the life they built? But more importantly, can cancel culture accept "redemption" and forgive? With questions like these, Cancel Culture becomes as contentious as the subject of capital punishment.

Psychologist Pamela Paresky, PhD, wrote in an essay for Psychology Today, “It is an apocalyptic view, not a liberal one, that rejects redemption and forgiveness in favour of condemnation and excommunication. [It] sees the world as needing to be destroyed and replaced rather than improved and perfected.”

Change is constant. We learn new concepts every day. People change their political ideologies, become more accepting or less accepting for things. Nevertheless, it is important to understand the complexities of Cancel Culture, including the consequences and the reasons to begin with in the first place and make judgments accordingly.


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