Why We Should “Cancel” Cancel Culture

Kate Ridgeway, Managing Editor

Cancel culture is rampant in society. With an election looming and political activism at a high with increasingly more time spent online during quarantine, people are being called out left and right. But is cancel culture effective at promoting long-lasting societal change, or does it instead promote further division?

Cancel culture seeks to make someone’s wrongful actions widely known and hope that the person is held accountable for the said actions. Britannica identifies that it “allows marginalized people to seek accountability where the justice system fails.” It gives a voice to people whose voices are often silenced, and in this digital age, it has become a “new form of boycott”. But while cancel culture’s goal is to create a more “woke,” cohesive society, it often has the complete opposite effect, Jessica McDowall ’23 commented, “it’s too toxic now.”

The atmosphere created by cancel culture hinders its very goals. People who are “cancelled” often feel much less motivated to make a change in their lives since they are essentially “dropped” by their community and led to believe that their actions and words are unimportant. With their work discredited, opinions invalidated, and image broken, they wonder if it’s even worth trying to recover from the “cancel” if nobody will give them a second chance to do better. According to a poll on the Prep Instagram, 88% of Prep students say they don’t support cancel culture due to this hypocrisy. Sophie Docktor ’22 said, “Not allowing people to move on from their past and grow and change doesn’t benefit anyone. People can learn from their mistakes!”

In addition to the toxic climate cancel culture creates, it also promotes uniformity, which should be discouraged in a democracy like that of the United States. Britannica says it “leads to intolerance in democratic societies as people systematically exclude anyone who disagrees with their views.”

University of Virginia professor Meredith Clark told CBS in an interview: “Too often, I do think that cancel culture gets into its own obsession with the purity of someone or an idea, that if an idea or a person doesn’t completely align with a set of values, then they are essentially disposable.”

Cancel culture pressures people into feeling like they need to filter out their true selves and only project what they perceive their peers will accept. It increases fear of vulnerability and makes people feel misunderstood and overwhelmed with anxiety that they will be cancelled if they hold an unpopular belief. This leads to uniformity and false expression, which should be discouraged in a democratic society.

Eliminating cancel culture does not mean “forgiving and forgetting”. It means holding people accountable for their wrongful actions, but instead of doing so by outcasting them from society, it means believing in the human drive towards growth and pushing people towards that growth.

This past summer, several Seattle-area high schoolers were cancelled because of racist, anti-LGBTQ+, and/or misogynistic comments they made. The actions were deeply offensive and wrong, and the students were cancelled due to how appalling their statements were. This prompted most of the perpetrating students to “go silent” by deleting their social media and socially withdrawing. Many assumed that the students were trying to avoid facing their wrongdoings, which could have been the case, or possibly, they didn’t see a way forward since one of their main support systems, their peers, had cancelled them. Given the impressionability of teenagers, perhaps it would have been more effective to encourage these students to evaluate their wrongdoings and learn how to be respectful, caring individuals.

At Prep, the “Grad at Grad” calls us to work for more meaningful change than what is brought about by cancel culture. It calls Prep graduates to be open to growth, intellectually competent, spiritually alive, loving, and committed to justice. How can we be open to growth, specifically the growth of others, and loving, if we cancel people without giving them a chance to grow and change into a better person? Senior Lewis Schrock added that cancel culture “creates an atmosphere driven by fear that does not lead to change and does not endorse Catholic values of forgiveness or love”.

“Cancelling” cancel culture and creating space for people to be able to make a mistake and learn from it will lead to a more accepting, growth-oriented society, accomplishing much more in the long term.