While hosting the 2022 Billboard awards, music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs made a statement about the “Cancel Culture” trend. He said, “I’m uncancelling the cancelled. It’s time to forgive, to have Morgan and Travis be able to come back and touch the stage again with the mindset of getting a second chance at life. You know, because we are back outside with no masks on, we need love; I’m excited about celebrating that.” Now, let’s take a look at the events that led to Morgan Wallen and Travis Scott being cancelled. In Morgan Wallen’s case, he was cancelled because of a leaked video showing him using the N-word. As a result of the video, he was dropped by his record label, he wasn’t allowed to perform at shows, and his music was pulled from radio stations. Travis is in the same predicament due to the tragedy at his Astroworld concert, where ten people died, and many were left injured. Both of these artists and other celebrities, including regular people, have been cancelled and have lost quite a lot due to these cancellations. Diddy is trying to do a noble thing by preaching forgiveness and unity. He said, “Man, I got some power to do something about that because we can’t start that in the music industry or even in life period, so I’m here to forgive, to unity, to celebrate, and to have everybody be free. That’s my job.” But, Diddy’s mission begs the question, “Can cancel culture be cancelled?” just because Diddy said so or does cancel culture need to be eliminated? To answer these questions, we must first understand what cancel culture is?
According to Wikipedia, cancel culture or call-out culture is a contemporary phrase used to refer to a form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – whether it be online, on social media, or in person. Those subject to this ostracism are said to have been cancelled. The term “Cancel”, referring to ending a relationship with someone, was used in a 1980s song before it was referenced in movies and talk shows and then transcended to social media, where it blew up. Cancel culture entered the mainstream media with hashtags like the #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo that were instrumental in bringing about the prosecutions of Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby. It also made victims of abuse speak up without fear. To many people, cancel culture means making people accountable for their actions and demanding more accountability from politicians, celebrities, and people who have a certain amount of influence over others. Hence, the cancel culture originated with a good intention; to demand accountability, but nowadays, it has become something else. It is now a form of silencing people who do not agree with popular opinions or silencing people who are not “Woke” enough.
Cancel culture has now become modernised witch-hunting. Tweets made a decade ago are dug up, and the internet drags the person who made the tweet and asks for their immediate cancelling regardless of if the person is now in a better place or made that tweet out of anger. The repercussions of being cancelled include losing endorsements deals in a case that involves a celebrity; it destroys careers, loss of jobs, the toll it takes on one’s mental health, suicide, criminal threats and lots more. Cancel culture takes the past too seriously; even when the person being cancelled has realised their mistakes and moved on, the cancellation still focuses on the past without ever considering the future and forgiveness, which Diddy is trying to preach. However, cancel culture has its uses.
Firstly, it allows people with less power to seek accountability. For example, the #MeToo hashtag allowed a lot of victims of sexual assault to call out their abusers, and many of these abusers were prosecuted. The cancel culture became a haven for victims to point out their abusers without fear. Also, cancel culture has been effective at fighting against sexism and racism. Cancel culture demands social change and makes its mission not to allow the oppressed to remain oppressed, as seen in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Cancel culture has given marginalised people the opportunity to speak out and own their power with every tweet and hashtag.
In my opinion, cancel culture has its benefits and horror, but most times, the bad outweighs the good. We have to allow people to learn from their mistakes; we must learn forgiveness. What cancel culture does most times is discourage people from airing their opinions, which disallows room for critical thinking. Once a person is cancelled, no one analyses the situation that makes the person cancellable; everyone lashes out without proper investigation. It’s important we fully understand when someone is throwing a tantrum over something irrelevant. Don’t just jump to conclusions; think critically, and analyse the situation before effectively cancelling someone.
With the popularity of cancel culture worldwide, I think it is impossible to cancel it for the following reasons. It has become part of society, it’s a part of people’s lives, and you want to take that away? Talking about the wrong side of cancel culture isn’t just going to end it. Once you begin to elevate the consequences, cancel culture activists will also talk about the good it has done and how it has given people the power to hold prominent people accountable. You can talk about forgiveness all day, but what people see is a platform to be heard. It is quite true that people change and regret their actions, but once you lose people’s trust, it is hard to gain it back, and they might never be able to see the new you.
Also, any organisation or person that calls for the cancellation of cancel culture automatically gets put up for cancellation. For example, Diddy has been called out for allegedly maltreating artists under his record label after calling for the cancellation of cancel culture. Former US President Donald Trump also had the same motive but was called a hypocrite and was accused of cancelling people in the past. Try to take away people’s voices and watch how they would try to take away yours.
Cancel culture, in a way, plays its role as a justice system in a society that doesn’t have a well-functioning justice system. For instance, Harvey Weinstein evaded prosecution for sexual assault allegations for 25 years, but his case was looked into critically as a result of the #MeToo hashtag. So, can cancel culture be cancelled? In my opinion, cancel culture cannot be cancelled because it has eaten so much into the society that cancelling it seems inevitable. Maybe, it can fade away in the future, but right now, that future looks bleak as more people continue to embrace cancel culture. It is safe to say that cancel culture is here to stay.