Welcome to 2020! Where social media has become the end all be all to all careers and livelihoods. Welcome…to cancel culture. Where you can destroy every accomplishment of any celebrity with a quick history search or a scroll into their twitter feed. Ah, yes freedom of speech at its finest. One person tells a blatant lie and the rest of the population repeats said lie until it is fact.
Cancel Culture is a form of boycott where someone with an unpopular opinion, or has had behavior that is perceived to be offensive, is called out on social media and is “canceled”, often leading to massive declines in their careers and fanbase.
This might be a bit of old news, but even if this topic is not as relevant as it was just a few months ago we, should take this time to reflect on its absurdity and aftermath. It has become so easy for the internet to stir up a conflict and mobilize the second it gets boring, that we rarely feel the consequences of our actions.
One person who I have seen this impact and has been hit more times than I can count is Pewdiepie or Felix Kjellburg. He’s been a Youtuber for about 13 years, and the controversies involving him have grown more and more in recent years. Such as when he decided to shout out some other channels he liked and one turned out to have some racist content which he was then called a racist supporting racism. It has come to the point where he refuses to apologize for what he has done because every little mistake he makes is shoved in his own face as some scraped together “proof” of his evil and malicious intent. I’m not trying to say that what he did was justifiable, he’s made some poor choices. But I promise that if someone was recording everything I did and said there would be plenty of bad decisions and mistakes to criticize. No matter how large the influence a person has you can’t remove human error.
There’s another type of cancellation we can see here. Shane Dawson or Shane Yaw has had his own fair share of recent backlash. Quotes from over 5 years ago from a much longer segment of a podcast have been pushed into the limelight and held over his head. These poor excuses of “evidence” have been used to support claims of pedophelia and even beastiality. No one that watched Shane’s original content, when it was first posted, felt like it was too inappropriate or that his career should be “cancelled” for it.
The same goes for all other Youtubers whose careers started in a different time in social media, like Jeffree Star. It’s easy to go back 10 years and point out something that someone did that’s unacceptable now. That’s because it wasn’t made for today’s audience. That’s why if you take a step back you can see an obvious progression of content shifts throughout the years. The reason they made edgy content was because people wanted it. If viewers didn’t like that kind of humor and those youtubers kept making it, those creators wouldn’t have such a large following. Like all people, celebrities and Youtubers grow up. They change with the times and it shows in the videos they make. Shane is making movie quality documentaries and Felix just hit 100 million subscribers playing Minecraft.
And just like every other trend in the media, someone’s going to find a way to exploit it. Such is the case of James Charles v. Tati Westbrook. If you aren’t up to speed on the ‘beauty world tea’, (tea- gossip/ dramatic events) I’ll fill you in. Here’s the short version. James had a problem with his Coachella tickets and sponsored a brand rivalling his friend Tati’s brand, so that he could get tickets. Tati saw this, got upset and decided to make a 40 minute video on how awful of a person James Charles is. Initially everyone was on Tatis side. She was able to exploit the wave of Cancel Culture for her own benefit. This drama exploded and made her channel do the same. James on the other hand lost millions of subscribers in just days. She called him out on a bunch of personal conflicts with relationships that gave the media just enough evidence to label James as a predator. And by evidence I mean her word. Because that’s all anyone needs now to destroy a reputation. James was able to put the whole scandal to rest with some message receipts. Then all the hate was on Tati and then all the hate was just… gone. But not vanished, just shifted into someone else’s business.
Now it all seems harmless, right? Yes, they are exploiting a trend, but trends get exploited all the time. But this is different. It’s different because the line between a malfunctioned moral compass and a serious crime has been blurred. Blurred to the point where people are reacting more to the petty back and forths and dug up tweets, than to the political leaders, celebrities and everyday victims who are abused for money, sex, and power. We see actual laws being broken in the same light as YouTube controversies. And that similar reaction gives those powerful people an out. They get to use the same excuse as those YouTubers. They get to push the whole mess under the rug by making it a “he said, she said” or making themselves “just another victim of cancel culture”. It is easy to play off of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, as a bunch of famous men from Hollywood who are accused of sexual assaults. It has gotten to the point where people turned it into a meme like “Jack Black was accused of being a really nice guy”. This just continues to water down real claims about real life events that destroy people’s ability to function and make them almost easy to dismiss as ‘virtual’ crimes.
But what are we to do? One person can’t reign in the unstable steed that is the internet. We need to stop following the loudest voice with no facts, no true information. We need to learn how to wait and process all points of view in order to form an opinion. But most importantly, we need to mind our own business. Every person with a twitter account is not a professional detective and should not have the power to dictate who keeps their job and who doesn’t. That’s what our legal system is for. It started with bringing awareness to corruption and violence but then it exploded and spread like a disease. The innocent got infected and the guilty could claim innocence and get away with it because no one could tell them apart. A group commits a crime and then a much larger group is blamed for the same crime. So now this guilty, much smaller group, can claim innocence because no one can tell the two groups apart because the claims against them real or fake, are identical.
What do you think? Do you believe cancel culture is normal, healthy and the best way to achieve transparent equity? Should all our histories be revealed for all to see? Has free speech gone too far? Are you aware that you will eventually be cancelled, too?
Conflicts disappeared only to reincarnate when we forget what happened this time? Or does it do more good than bad?
Let me know in the comments. Or send a response to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear your feedback and see your opinion in our next edition!
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