Rowland: ‘Cancel culture’ doesn’t deserve the criticism it receives

Ellen+and+Michelle+Obama+dance+on+the+set+of+her+show.+Recently%2C+people+have+tried+to+%22cancel%22+her+over+the+treatment+of+her+employees+and+toxic+work+environment.+

Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy / Public domain

Ellen and Michelle Obama dance on the set of her show. Recently, people have tried to "cancel" her over the treatment of her employees and toxic work environment.

Gracie Rowland, Managing Editor

Should people have to lose support for their past actions if they claim to have changed? Should public figures be held to higher standards of growth, or do their positions of influence negate any room for past bigotry? What differentiates performative apologies from “canceled” figures and authentic ones, and should their apologies garner forgiveness? Questions like these are surfacing rapidly as many notable figures come under fire for past and or present offensive and hateful actions as cancel culture takes the world by storm, and its criticism is entirely undeserving. 

The act of publicly shaming and withdrawing support for a mainstream person, company or organization through the internet is commonly referred to as “cancel culture” or the act of “canceling” someone. The most common creators to receive backlash are middle-aged white men, typically for saying the n-word or other heavily racist remarks. Other instances of common bigotry include saying the f-slur, using misogynistic vernacular or participating in blackface. 

Despite the good intentions of cancel culture, it has received significant criticism from celebrities, journalists and social media influencers for its often intense and extreme actions. This criticism is warranted in some regard, as death threats and other violent comments are unacceptable no matter what a person has done, but offering the idea that cancel culture itself is to blame for the actions of violent individuals is both erroneous and dangerous.

Cancel culture exists as a relatively new idea, as the internet has opened up a broader and more accessible collection of knowledge and documentation. Before this, all news was centralized and mainstream, and people of influence and power did not have to be held accountable for their actions, for they could simply erase the proof. However, the internet changed that. Now, almost all information is decentralized and available to the public, and erasing something from the internet is nearly impossible.

The reason that many people view cancel culture as too extreme is that they are simply not used to the constant accountability that accompanies it. Cancel culture is not extreme; it is simply revealing the truth, and that truth is often uncomfortable. Forgiveness should not be required, as bigoted actions often continue to harm already marginalized and disadvantaged groups. 

While some people take “canceling” someone too far by threatening violence or saying unnecessary rude remarks, cancel culture itself is not to blame. Removing a platform from those who committed insensitive or bigoted actions in the past is necessary. People of influence should not have a history of prejudice, as they are role models to the world. 

Many “canceled” celebrities do indeed feel remorse for their past actions and publicly apologize, but that should not warrant complete forgiveness. While I respect the process of growth, I do not believe that people who once held ignorant or hateful beliefs deserve a platform. They may continue on their path of growth privately, but they do not need to be in the public eye. 

Cancel culture doesn’t deserve the criticism it receives, and it certainly doesn’t need to go away. People of influence need to be held accountable for their actions, and whether or not that idea sits well with some is entirely irrelevant.