Cancellation culture: what it is and how it affects freedom of expression

In recent times, a digital phenomenon has proliferated which can have very serious repercussions on people’s lives. It’s the culture of cancellation.

In the following paragraphs we will try to find out what exactly this mechanism is, what it is based on, what is the process that follows and most importantly, what are the consequences for those who suffer from it, going through some examples.

    What is the culture of cancellation?

    A famous actress is definitely fired from the fashion series, following statements of support for a controversial politician and her controversial views on the coronavirus pandemic situation. A prestigious writer takes a stand around a debate on sexuality and hordes of former fans get angry and demand that her books be burned.

    A manager of a large telecommunications company makes a nasty joke on Twitter that quickly goes viral and, as a result, is immediately fired. These are just a few (all real) examples of what the consequences of the culture of cancellation represent.

    The culture of cancellation is a relatively new concept. This phrase refers to the act of “canceling” a person, invalidating their opinions and virtually their existence in all areas of society, and all as a result of posting a comment or support. To take a specific position on a particular subject, usually via social networks.

    In other words. The culture of cancellation assumes that public exposure to certain ideas or making an inappropriate comment can trigger a number of reactions. in some people who will actively and deliberately make this publication visible, often including information about the privacy of these people.

    At the end, this process can lead to at least public mockery of the person, Who can see how his post went viral and reached unimaginable viewing heights. And, at most, with consequences on their personal life such as the loss of employment, because the persecuting group will have pressured the company to act and not have such a person in its role.

    How can a person lose their job as a result of a personal message on the Internet? Unfortunately, for economic reasons. A private company will seek, almost exclusively, its own interest. If he believes that his reputation is in danger, and in the face of threats of boycott from a group of potential consumers, he has not hesitated to fire someone so that they are not linked to his action.

    The culture of cancellation is ruthless in this regard, as it is difficult to justify actively fighting for a person to lose their livelihood and what is worse, that of their family, as a result of statements that can be more or less controversial.

      Famous and anonymous people

      When we talk about the process of undo cultivation, it is important to distinguish between two assumptions. And this is it the person who first exposes the comment that the wick will take, can be a more or less famous person or a completely anonymous citizen.

      In the first case, if the person is recognized in a particular field, either for being an artist or professional in a discipline, or for having a reasonably high number of followers on the social network in question, the subject will have, basically, a very large forum which will receive and analyze their comments.

      This fact can make it easier for that person to be more likely to experience a cancellation attempt, simply because of the number of people who will have access to the statements that led to it. On the other hand, it is possible that, given his position, he also has more resources so as not to be affected by the consequences, although this is not always the case and there is no sometimes an actor has been, for example, outside a professional project for such reasons.

      In the second case, an anonymous person who has a limited number of friends or subscribers to their social networks will be less likely to be devoured by this mechanismBut that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, much less. It only takes one person to view this content and share the message to denounce the message, inviting others to do the same, triggering a snowball effect.

      If the right conditions are right, a tweet, for example, can go viral in just a few hours, receiving hundreds or even thousands of views and outraged comments about it. This is where the cancellation culture process begins, where some people will decide to take it one step further (much further, in some cases) and start crawling all of that person’s public (and even private) profiles. . to collect information.

      If your research is successful, they will quickly find out what their work is and make it public, or even contact the same, Urge managers to fire the worker if they do not want them all to stop consuming their products or services, because if they do not take action, they will consider the employee’s opinion to be representative of the company, which is an obvious mistake.

      If, on the other hand, the person is famous or moderately known, it will obviously not be necessary to analyze his profile to know his identity and his profession because it will be public information. But this does not mean that they cannot be victims of the culture of cancellation, but simply that this step will not be necessary and that the “cancellers” will be able to demand directly from the company in service their dismissal and their censure. immediate.

      Alternatives to the culture of cancellation

      The culture of cancellation is a weapon often used with the excuse of silencing those who, by their speech, threaten various freedoms (again according to these people). But it is also, paradoxically, this action itself constitutes a threat to freedom of expression in the first place and for equally serious issues, such as the right to privacy.

      Obviously, there are statements, comments, and even jokes that can be unhappy, unpleasant, offensive, or even harmful. But in a civilized society, this should not be an excuse to encourage actions that result in the loss of a job or any other type of retaliation on a personal level, which can cause irreparable harm to that person.

      If a specific statement is a crime the law has to act, there isn’t much debate about it. But if the words offend a person or a group, being within the framework of the law, it must be answered with argumentation, objective data and constructive dialogue. There will even be people who go for the crass replica, which obviously doesn’t have a long way to go, but at least it won’t generate the ill effects of undo culture.

      One of the most popular and oldest sayings on the Internet, it reads, “Don’t feed the trolls.” This simple guideline is much more ethical (and probably more effective, because all visibility remains) than the mockery and digital turmoil aimed at destroying the privacy of the alleged transgressor who, with his statements, they outraged the crowd to the point of wanting to drag him through the mud at every level of his personal life.

      Finally, another reason for never resorting to the culture of cancellation, even if only for a selfish reason, is that, like many other phenomena in social psychology, it is generally out of control and the person who cancels today and promotes cancellation, runs the risk of being devoured by this same mechanism, experiencing in first person what it is to be canceled for all purposes of life.

      Anonymity in networks

      One issue directly related to the culture of cancellation is anonymity on the Internet and on social media in particular.. On social networks like Twitter, a user can choose to use their real name and even their photo, or use an avatar and pseudonym to hide their real identity. This dynamic is often criticized, users being accused of using their anonymity to make statements.

      But if we think about this question, we might ask ourselves which attitude is more reprehensible, whether it’s using a false name to speak freely, sometimes exposing controversial ideas or comments, or criticizing this behavior because it makes it difficult or impossible to carry out the culture of cancellation.

      Of course, the messages that users publish on social networks always have a meaning and therefore an effect on others, which can be more or less positive or negative. But unless posting is a crime, it should never be used to try to take that person out of their livelihood.

      Also, be clear that no opinion, comment, or political affiliation makes a person better or worse at their job, whether as an actor, writer, accountant, salesperson, or anyone else. They are and must always be independent facets of everyone’s life.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Bouvier, G. (2020). Racist calls and culture cancellation on Twitter: limitations on the platform’s ability to define social justice issues. Speech, context and media. Elsevier.
      • Ng, E. (2020). No big statements here …: Thoughts on the culture of cancellation and participation in digital media. Television and new media.
      • Nguyen, B. (2020). Cancel the culture on Twitter: the effects of the source of information and messaging on message sharing and perceptions of eco-washing in the workplace. Wharton researchers.

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