‘Cancel culture’ is an imperfect step toward necessary change

Ben Wrixon

The time to hold people accountable is now.

Over the last few years, ‘cancel culture’ has become inescapable. A sudden rumble in our social landscape has since become a landslide of accusations from empowered victims. Many of the abusers now being held accountable for inappropriate behaviour are wealthy stars within the entertainment industry.

Even though most ‘cancellations’ serve as well-deserved consequences for genuinely hurting people, the incessant stream of online accusations can have problematic consequences—look no further than Johnny Depp, who, while no saint, was ousted from his latest role despite also being a victim.

Victims of abuse must be supported and never blamed. However, this sort of social environment contradicts the foundation of our legal system by forcing people to prove their innocence rather than let the law prove their guilt.  

The anonymity of the internet also isn’t helping. For many people, internet accusations seem less credible because they don’t happen in court. People get attached to their idols; it’s easier to de-legitimize these claims and blame the world for being overly sensitive than it is to accept those accused might be bad people.

Society isn’t getting more sensitive; people are just sick of living in the past.

Yesterday’s wrongs are more obvious to us today. It never should’ve been acceptable for powerful men to abuse women or to treat others poorly based on their ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender expression. By refusing this morally reprehensible behaviour in ‘cancelling’ those who support it, we are demanding a better future.

To some it may seem that our generation is entitled and opinionated, but in reality, we’re less ignorant and more compassionate than those before us. We know the social standards set by our parents’ generation are inadequate for today’s world.

While most support the ‘cancelling’ of proven abusers, many claim the current limits on acceptability for what can be done and said are too restrictive. There’s a constant push and pull between saying things and being told not to say them, particularly in certain corners of the entertainment industry such as the stand-up comedy scene.

But freedom of speech is not freedom from consequence. Like it or not, the personal freedom of having ideas and beliefs is not a promise of acceptance. Society is learning that ‘opinions’ of some people are rooted in hatred and bigotry—stripping them of their platform by ‘cancelling’ will ultimately make society safer for everyone.

Change is inevitable. Society will never grow into something better if we’re comfortable living in a time capsule. Today can never be yesterday; rather than beg for the past, we have a responsibility to shape the future with our voices.

Your words matter, so choose them wisely.

Ben is a third-year Psychology student and The Journal’s Opinions Editor.

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