Op-ed

Canceling culture

Image: “Canceled.” by Scott Hill is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

We are currently living in a culture of canceling but if you don’t frequent social media websites, you might not know what I mean by that.

In a nutshell, “canceling” is often used in terms of a prominent media personas. It essentially means to shut down their career or content. When someone decides that a famous person is “canceled,” whether it be for reasons such as said famous person’s illegal activities, alleged assaults or even just for an offensive social media post, that someone is saying they refuse to consume or support the famous person’s content. In most cases, claiming that someone is canceled is also a call for others to cancel that public figure as well.

…any good thing in excess ceases to be a good thing – and I believe we’ve gone too far.

In some cases, such as Bill Cosby (who was convicted on three counts of sexual assault), canceling is an appropriate action and I think it should be celebrated. It shows abusers, pedophiles and other unsavory people that we as a society will not tolerate their behavior and that we will rescind support. But, any good thing in excess ceases to be a good thing – and I believe we’ve gone too far.

Is it fair to condemn a person for a series of posts from years ago?

If you’re unaware of the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard case, I’ll break it down in terms as simple as possible: three years ago, Heard (Depp’s wife at the time) accused Depp of domestic violence, citing examples such as Depp flinging a wine glass during an argument. Many immediately rallied behind Heard and decided to pull their support from Depp. The situation seemed to end there, with many expecting Depp to be found guilty, but this year, Depp filed a defamation case against Heard and revealed evidence that he in fact was the victim of abuse in the relationship.

As of right now, there has been no conclusion in the case, and many are on the fence now on their position. For me, I believe we need to take a step back. There is no proof that Depp or Heard are either innocent or guilty, and shouldn’t we leave it there? Shouldn’t we avoid making broad assumptions and let the case play out before making our final judgement? There is a difference between hearing out a story and believing the victim, and immediately canceling a person and spreading around a false conclusion to a case that is unresolved.

There is a difference between hearing out a story and believing the victim, and immediately canceling a person and spreading around a false conclusion to a case that is unresolved.

Don’t get me wrong; as a woman and member of the queer community, I tend to side with someone who claims to be a victim. And for the most part, victims do not lie about their abuse or assaults. But we’re barreling at high speeds down a dangerous path. If we immediately condemn a person without allowing deliberations, we’re no better than a country of witch hunters. And that should bother you.

I suppose, then, that I’m calling for caution in our canceling culture.

It’s happening on smaller scales, too. YouTuber and beauty guru James Charles has been under fire for some time for a number of offensive tweets he wrote in 2013 (mind you, he was about 13/14 at the time). For instance, one tweet reads, “I can’t believe we’re going to Africa today omg what if we get Ebola.” I don’t pretend to defend any of these remarks; they’re offensive and racist. But does that mean we should call for him to lose his current job, years later? Is it fair to condemn a person for a series of posts from years ago?

Now, bear in mind that I do not think that we should let these actions go. I think it is important to hold people accountable for actions and words said in the past. But why should we attempt to ruin their livelihoods? If continued actions and words prove that someone holds the same problematic ideals, then that’s a different conversation.

I suppose, then, that I’m calling for caution in our canceling culture. We should not sweep anything under the rug; but, before deciding that we should cancel a person, I think we should really think about the evidence presented before us and critically think about the appropriate action to take.

Ashley Martindale is a third-year psychology major with a Spanish minor. AM872892@wcupa.edu

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