I’ve been having a lot of thoughts about the rants against “cancel culture” I’m seeing and they don’t really fit cohesively into any critical format so I’m just popping down a bunch of paragraphs that were too long to turn into tweets.
If something happening in “cancel culture” has gotten you upset…ask yourself it this is one of your Blind Spot Indicators. Brené Brown asks us to get to know the things we say to ourselves when we might be feeling shame about something and spend some time really looking at those. She calls them Blind Spot Indicators. One of hers (AND MINE) is when our brains say, “Now that is just too far.” If you are seeing someone face backlash for something they said/did and you find yourself thinking “Now this has gone too far,” spend some time with that and see if it’s one of your blind spot indicators.
For me? The first time JKRowling’s transphobia was in the news it was when she liked a tweet from a so-called “TERF” and she got called out for it. She finally blamed it on a “senior moment.” I found myself thinking, “Ugg…that’s too far. So she accidentally liked a kinda benign tweet…who cares.” I actually just didn’t even worry about it at the time because even though a lot of people attacked her on social media about it, nothing really happened other than having to issue that excuse. But you know what? After the next time she was in the news for transphobia, I spent some time with the first incident I learned there was nothing benign about the tweet she liked and I have since disconnected all ties with her as her transphobia has gotten more outright and damaging. It turns out when my brain said, “That’s too far…” What was really happening is I was starting to feel a little bit of shame for liking someone who might be a transphobe. It was stuck in my blindspot and that was my indicator.
None of what is happening to people being “canceled” is actual censorship. Nor is it attacking anyone’s freedom of speech. It’s just consequences, maybe too severe, maybe not. But in reality? For most of those people who are currently upset about “cancel culture?” They still wield tons of power and so it’s hard to hear them worry about “being silenced.” And it really does discount all of the wonderful examples I’ve seen of people being called out, reflecting, learning, and changing course. THAT IS WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF YOU TAKE TIME TO LOOK AT YOUR BLIND SPOTS. Look at Halle Berry as a great example. She got a lot of backlash for accepting a role playing a Trans person (if you don’t understand why this is harmful to the Trans community, watching the Disclosure Documentary on Netflix) and has withdrawn.
Most of the “cancelling” that has been happening around “cancel culture” is part of movements giving voices to people who have not been listened to before. The “Me Too” movement gave voices and power to women who had been abused/assaulted and they were finally able to use the power of the movement to see the men that hurt them see punishment, even if it just in the form of getting kicked of shows or banned from entertaining. Right now we’re seeing a lot of businesses and management practices put in the spotlight by Black Americans across the country and so people are finally seeing consequences of racist practices inside boardrooms and hiring committees. To complain about “cancel culture” is to also complain about these moments of power from movements given to people without power before.
People complaining about “cancel culture” usually fall into two groups. First – people who saw someone they like get targeted. If this is you…ask yourself – did they get fired/shunned/removed or were people just mean to them? If they didn’t lose power or influence in any way and people were just “mean” to them? Then don’t waste time feeling bad for them, that comes with having power and influence. Even me with my small audience has seen that. If they did get fired/shunned/removed then consider that maybe it’s either just a sucky example of life not always being what you consider fair/just (For me that was Senator Franken) or maybe your vision is distorted over your affection for the person.
The second group complaining are people who feel like their voice has been dampened or someone is being mean to them and I look at the Harper’s Magazine Letter on Justice and Open Debate from yesterday as a perfect example. Here’s the thing…If I’m hearing you complain about cancel culture? You have not actually been canceled. Maybe you’re misconstruing people not liking your perspective/actions/deeds with “being canceled.” And if you’ve actually been “cancelled” in some way and you consider it unjust? Let me just remind you that Louis CK feels the same way. Maybe you got shit on unfairly, I got fired once for not being “enthusiastic enough” about my job. It sucks, trust me. Maybe people were mean to you for something you didn’t actually do/say…and that sucks too. BUT, those risks come with power/influence and as long as Donald Trump still won the election after the recording of him saying to “grab women by the p*ssy” – then “cancel culture” has not come for everyone whose guilty yet.
Complaining about cancel culture does not actually stop any consequences that you seem unjust from happening. If you are upset with unfair dismissals from jobs, then use your voice to push workplace protections. If you think someone has been unfairly pushed of a platform, then organize like-minded people to push for changes on that platform. If you notice a lack of crowd support to do those things then consider the fact that maybe this is just a situation where LIFE SUCKS AND IS NOT ALWAYS FAIR. People get fired for shitty reasons all the time. People with big audiences get ganged up on all the time. People get looped in with masses all the time. You are basically just saying “Life is not always fair” but saying that the entire action of people feeling consequences for their words/action needs to stop is a little dismissive of a movement that has done a lot of good. Sometimes life is not fair and it sucks but we can’t stop holding people accountable as a whole just because a few people get unfairly swept away in the flood water.