Broken Logics of Cancel Culture

Broken Logics of Cancel Culture

I think a lot of people do not realize they are gaslighting people about cancel culture by denying it’s existence.

There’s a lot of factors that contribute to this, like the fact that there are several definitions of cancel culture floating around, including conservatives who are complaining about a cartoon character not being in a movie.

But I think also a lot of people subscribe to this idea that people only call “cancel culture” to evade legitimate consequences for their harmful actions, or because they are too sensitive to being critiqued.

They really believe that that is what this phenomenon is and why so many will retort with “it’s consequence culture, not cancel culture.”

I think in many of these cases people haven’t really engaged with the reality of cancel culture, they’re only working with what seems apparent on the surface, and there is a whole web of logics constructed that allows people to look at cancel culture uncritically.

Cancel culture takes things that are situationally appropriate and then makes an ideology out of it- like “believe survivors” for instance, which is something that we need to be able to intervene in crises of interpersonal violence, and has become over applied as an override for due process, which is dangerous and leads to increasing authoritarianism in our communities.

So when someone enmeshed in cancel culture looks at those of us trying to bring the true nature of cancel culture to light, they have this web of logics to turn to for answers to our critiques.

The problem is that they don’t stand up to scrutiny- they appear to be truisms but probe beneath them and many fall short. Like in the example above, I have rarely found someone in the pro-cancel culture camp have an answer for how to make sure that people being cancelled truly deserve that consequence. They often short circuit or become enraged at the mere suggestion of having a fair process to explore exposed dynamics of abuse and come to just conclusions about how to handle it, because it brings nuance and complexity to something that for them is black and white.

What’s more is that many simply refuse to connect to their empathy, and I think the vicarious traumatization of witnessing and participating in cancel spectacles is at the root of this. To admit that they feel disgusted by the behavior of people, even themselves, dogpiling onto someone they’ve decided needs to be cancelled, sending cruel messages, stalking, obsessing and dedicating their life to making sure the person being cancelled never lives it down and is barred from participating in society, would be to rip off a bandage that was covering a gaping wound.

Participation in cancel culture creates moral injuries that are being denied and covered up, much like a soldier being told that the people they dropped bombs on are evil and need to be eradicated for the safety of the world. When you reckon with the fact that you have participated in harassment campaigns, that you settled with not knowing all of the details, that you were manipulated into dehumanizing a person and you’re not even sure if the the light they were portrayed in is accurate, it is a deeply painful realization to come to. You have to recognize that your actions had consequences, that it was a human being on the other end of that cancellation campaign, that it’s common that subjects of cancel campaigns end up suicidal and feeling like they do not deserve to live on this planet, that rather than your stated goal of facilitating accountability you facilitated harm and may have actively thwarted accountability where it could have been possible.

In recognizing these things, that web of logic disintegrates. Cancel culture makes the world seem easy because it makes it appear simple to know who is bad and who is good. It tells us what the consequences are for being bad. It gives us something to do from the comfort of our homes to feel that we are a part of something. It makes us feel like a good person when we participate.

Giving cancel culture up means reckoning with the world as a complicated place, reckoning (for those of us who are abolitionists) with intervening on harm as a complicated process that requires of us to be in service to the humanity of all. That goal is something that cancel culture does not have adequate tools for.

Broken Logics of Cancel Culture

I think a lot of people do not realize they are gaslighting people about cancel culture by denying it’s existence.

There’s a lot of factors that contribute to this, like the fact that there are several definitions of cancel culture floating around, including conservatives who are complaining about a cartoon character not being in a movie.

But I think also a lot of people subscribe to this idea that people only call “cancel culture” to evade legitimate consequences for their harmful actions, or because they are too sensitive to being critiqued.

They really believe that that is what this phenomenon is and why so many will retort with “it’s consequence culture, not cancel culture.”

I think in many of these cases people haven’t really engaged with the reality of cancel culture, they’re only working with what seems apparent on the surface, and there is a whole web of logics constructed that allows people to look at cancel culture uncritically.

Cancel culture takes things that are situationally appropriate and then makes an ideology out of it- like “believe survivors” for instance, which is something that we need to be able to intervene in crises of interpersonal violence, and has become over applied as an override for due process, which is dangerous and leads to increasing authoritarianism in our communities.

So when someone enmeshed in cancel culture looks at those of us trying to bring the true nature of cancel culture to light, they have this web of logics to turn to for answers to our critiques.

The problem is that they don’t stand up to scrutiny- they appear to be truisms but probe beneath them and many fall short. Like in the example above, I have rarely found someone in the pro-cancel culture camp have an answer for how to make sure that people being cancelled truly deserve that consequence. They often short circuit or become enraged at the mere suggestion of having a fair process to explore exposed dynamics of abuse and come to just conclusions about how to handle it, because it brings nuance and complexity to something that for them is black and white.

What’s more is that many simply refuse to connect to their empathy, and I think the vicarious traumatization of witnessing and participating in cancel spectacles is at the root of this. To admit that they feel disgusted by the behavior of people, even themselves, dogpiling onto someone they’ve decided needs to be cancelled, sending cruel messages, stalking, obsessing and dedicating their life to making sure the person being cancelled never lives it down and is barred from participating in society, would be to rip off a bandage that was covering a gaping wound.

Participation in cancel culture creates moral injuries that are being denied and covered up, much like a soldier being told that the people they dropped bombs on are evil and need to be eradicated for the safety of the world. When you reckon with the fact that you have participated in harassment campaigns, that you settled with not knowing all of the details, that you were manipulated into dehumanizing a person and you’re not even sure if the the light they were portrayed in is accurate, it is a deeply painful realization to come to. You have to recognize that your actions had consequences, that it was a human being on the other end of that cancellation campaign, that it’s common that subjects of cancel campaigns end up suicidal and feeling like they do not deserve to live on this planet, that rather than your stated goal of facilitating accountability you facilitated harm and may have actively thwarted accountability where it could have been possible.

In recognizing these things, that web of logic disintegrates. Cancel culture makes the world seem easy because it makes it appear simple to know who is bad and who is good. It tells us what the consequences are for being bad. It gives us something to do from the comfort of our homes to feel that we are a part of something. It makes us feel like a good person when we participate.

Giving cancel culture up means reckoning with the world as a complicated place, reckoning (for those of us who are abolitionists) with intervening on harm as a complicated process that requires of us to be in service to the humanity of all. That goal is something that cancel culture does not have adequate tools for.

It is a choice to grapple with this reality over relying on logics that are shallow and circular, and that choice requires a great commitment and carries big consequences. The gaslighting of “cancel culture isn’t real” I think can most often be looked upon as someone who isn’t willing or prepared to make that commitment or face those consequences.

It is a choice to grapple with this reality over relying on logics that are shallow and circular, and that choice requires a great commitment and carries big consequences. The gaslighting of “cancel culture isn’t real” I think can most often be looked upon as someone who isn’t willing or prepared to make that commitment or face those consequences.

About the Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may also like these