Just to clarify before I begin, I disagree with the idea of promoting a “cancel culture” — in concept at least. However, since the label is so often misused, I want to paint a portrait of the alternative world where we can’t “cancel” people, and why it’s actually important that we can. The word has now been severely misapplied by people who have used it as a crutch for self-victimizing when they encounter criticism of their views. In that sense, my problem with claiming cancellation is one of proper definition, not necessarily the idea itself. Everyone’s crying wolf, and that doesn’t mean wolves aren’t a problem, but…most of the time they aren’t.
In order to figure out who the actual wolves are, we have to ask ourselves three questions: What happens if we CAN’T cancel people for their political opinions? How are we actually defining “political”? And what actually constitutes being “cancelled”?
Imagine you’re the head of a private company and one of your employees suddenly comes out and says something (very publicly) that undermines your core values as a company. If you’re not allowed to ask that person to retract it and then fire that person if they don’t, the unavoidable alternative is that companies will be forced to have people representing their company who hold ideologies that undermine their whole mission. Is that really what the Right wants? No, but that’s the under-examined truth of what happens when you can’t “cancel” someone. Also, it’s pretty disingenuous for the Right to decry cancel culture when they kinda have their own love affair with it.
Also, are we not allowed to label an ideology as harmful or bad? Is every disproven-by-history concept or prejudice back up for debate? I ask because a significant portion of cancel culture faux-martyrdom usually arrives on the heels of someone getting called out for their political views…but what do they mean by “political” exactly?
I’m firmly against cancelling someone for their political views, but only if we’re truly defining “political” as something specific, and not a catch-all for every opinion under the sun. If we don’t have a clear, explicit, sensible definition of what exactly constitutes “political” views, cancel culture has to exist to protect people from using the veneer of the political to cover deeply inhumane or ignorant views that have no place hiding under the umbrella of “politics”. You can’t just label something political to get around valid criticism. The more the Right tries to funnel fringe opinions into the definition of their politics in order to bait out Leftwing cancellation, the more people will — rightfully — start to associate those opinions with Rightwing politics.
So, define “political views” and then we can have a conversation about how it’s harmful to cancel someone for having them, because right now all I see — in the case of Gina Carano for example — is someone who honestly had a really bad take on the Holocaust that undermines how awful it was for various oppressed people groups by putting it on the same level as a political group facing (mostly) warranted criticism. She also had a history of saying things that undermined the company’s values, so it isn’t like it was an isolated incident either. That’s not getting canceled, that’s a private company exercising their rights to not be affiliated with those flawed views. Simple as that.
Also, she hasn’t apologized. If someone comes out and shows remorse, yeah they shouldn’t be fired, but if you’re gonna stick to your guns (in true Cara Dune fashion) you should be fired, sorry. While she tried to frame it as them “forcing” her to apologize, it’s more like they just wanted her to apologize so they didn’t have to fire someone for being unrepentant about their objectionable views. They gave her a chance. They wanted to work with her on it. Companies are allowed to have deal breakers, aren’t they? Are we really arguing that they can’t? Because that’s the inevitable result of hating on “cancel culture”: A world where no one is allowed to distance themselves from views that they find objectionable. I don’t think that the Right really understands this result, since they spend so much time trying to distance themselves from things they find objectionable.
Speaking of Gina Carano, that leads me to my last point. In no way, shape, or form has she been cancelled. She’s been able to be vocal about her experience on social media and was almost immediately picked up by a rival media company who is going to pay for a pet project of hers. Do we really believe that constitutes cancellation? Or are we just cleverly redefining cancellation to include anything short of complete approval by every political faction?
As with the word “political”, clearly define “cancelled” and we can have a conversation about not completely destroying someone’s life for having a bad take. Until then, all I see is someone who wouldn’t back down from an objectively ignorant comparison, got offered the opportunity to apologize, got fired when she didn’t, then got a new (arguably better) job all while having complete freedom to speak her mind about it all on social media.
I don’t like cancel culture if we’re talking about ruining someone’s reputation and life over a debatable political opinion, but until people can define “cancellation” and “politics” in such a way that it is not just a disingenuous way to plea victimhood for having crappy and ignorant opinions, cancel culture, as the Right is defining it, is actually a necessary precaution. Without it, companies can do nothing but watch as their employees tie them to harmful ideologies masquerading as political talking points.
So, don’t quote Orwell just because someone called you out for having an offensive take on the Holocaust and you refused to retract it after being given the chance. When you’re fired for believing in universal basic income or wanting to shrink the Federal budget, come find me, ‘cuz those are actually political opinions, and that’s the type of political discrimination the Right keeps crying wolf about. I’ll fight that type of cancel culture all day, but…this ain’t that, Marshal Dune.