EDITORIAL BOARD: Cancel Cancel Culture
As the world seems to spiral out of control, flocks of young audiences have moved to institutionalize "cancel culture". A plethora of well known celebrities and athletes have witnessed their careers get obliterated into irrelevance because of an insignificant comment of theirs that caused no harm from 10 years ago. As more than 44 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits, hordes of faux-outraged activists continue to wreak havoc on societal boundaries to push for a different, illegitimate agenda.
The civil misunderstandings between what is and isn't the "new normal" is bridging the current social divide in America. A prime example of this nonsensical absurdity has to do with pizza giant Domino's. President Trump's press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, tweeted in 2012 to Domino's Twitter account, in which she received a response from their handle:
Soon after, #BoycottDominos began to trend over Twitter as the internet erupted about the bizarre appeal. Yet, what is the appeal? Matt Whitlock summarizes the insanity:
Cancel culture enthusiasts can have a field day about being successful in their unrealistic fantasies, but has it already backfired on them? Opportunists have been relentless on Twitter, and have aimed to entrench their presence online. Yet, reigniting the pasts of who are now too-big-to-fail names have created a massive unity movement against a horrendous call to action.
Despite their wealth and popularity, celebrities are not immune to this cult-like backlash. New Orleans Saints star quarterback Drew Brees apologized for comments that "lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy" after speaking out against kneeling during the national anthem. "Dance Moms" co-star Abby Lee Miller released a public apology statement after she was accused of making racist remarks to a former cast member, and her new dance show was canceled as well. Recently, Spike Lee walked back his comments defending renowned movie director Woody Allen and rebuking cancel culture.
Similarly, Oklahoma State Head Coach Mike Gundy posted a picture of him fishing with his sons wearing a One America News t-shirt; five days later, Chuba Hubbard announced he would not play for Oklahoma State next year, until he sees "change". Gundy has apologized since then via video.
James Gunn, the director of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and 2, was fired from his role as director in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 once past tweets of insensitive and dark jokes resurfaced. He was rehired eight months later after pushes from the cast and Disney Chairman Alan Horn haven been convinced by Gunn's handling of the situation his public apology:
My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative. I have regretted them for many years since — not just because they were stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive, and certainly not provocative like I had hoped, but also because they don’t reflect the person I am today or have been for some time. Regardless of how much time has passed, I understand and accept the business decisions taken today. Even these many years later, I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then. All I can do now, beyond offering my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be: accepting, understanding, committed to equality, and far more thoughtful about my public statements and my obligations to our public discourse. To everyone inside my industry and beyond, I again offer my deepest apologies. Love to all.
Of course, cancel culture is far from a solely left-wing phenomenon. Entities on the right can often be just as guilty of promoting the boycott of an individual or organization over a relatively-small transgression.
When a franchisee of the fast food chain Wendy’s contributed over $400,000 to the Trump 2020 reelection campaign, there was an expected outcry against the entire company as a result of this single franchisee’s action.
However, when Wendy’s Corporate pledged to donate $500,000 to social justice-related causes and charities in response to the backlash, many right-wing critics responded with accusations of “pandering to liberals" and calls of their own to boycott the brand.
Similar reactions have been aimed at Shake Shack, after employees at a New York were investigated and cleared of any wrongdoing in the potential poisoning of three NYPD officers with bleach, an accusation made by the New York Police Benevolent Association, which is now coming under scrutiny.
Even after Shake Shack’s corporate leadership has publicly denounced any attacks against police officers and fully cooperated with NYPD investigation, they were still not immune to antagonism on social media.
And most notoriously, Colin Kaepernick famously took a knee in 2016 to protest police brutality and racism, a move for which he was heavily criticized, and ultimately resulted in him losing his role as the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. This move effectively ended Kaepernick's career and he has not played in the league since.
However, with the recent murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police, Kaepernick is poised to make a comeback to the NFL which gives hope to others who have been wrongly canceled.
One thing is clear: Cancel culture is becoming a common enemy for people of all walks of life and convictions. This mob-like mentality targets and censors anyone and anything other than itself.
Like most movements of public personal expression, it evokes the First Amendment as a grounds for its very existence, yet simultaneously has been utilized to infringe upon the very same First Amendment rights of groups and individuals deemed “problematic.”
That is NOT to say that there are not problematic ideologies in modern society. The extreme fringes of the political compass bring us a great deal of hostile and abhorrent philosophies, from unbridled anarchy to despotic authoritarianism, and from divide-and-conquer ethno-fascism to command-and-control Maoism. These are indeed disastrous narratives that deserve universal condemnation in any stable democratic system.
However, when we begin to launch coordinated campaigns against businesses and individuals for the most trivial of associations, we create an environment where socio-political discourse is virtually infeasible. In the time where Americans are struggling amidst a depreciated, yet recovering economy, this is prime time for not only a party's time to shine, but where politicians can reach a bipartisan consensus in the name of controlling the American narrative.