We’ve all said or done something stupid in our lives. It’s likely you’ve made a joke, posted a tweet or made light of something that unintentionally offended others.
In the 90’s and 2000’s I remember the words ‘gay’ and ‘retard’ were part of the everyday school yard vernacular. Young students would walk around the classroom using the phrases to wind each other up, or describe something they didn’t want to do. We didn’t know better then, but we definitely do now.
The 90’s and the 2000’s was also a time when if you made a mistake it wasn’t immortalised on social media - in fact, social media didn’t even exist. It was also a time when you were unlikely to lose your job, your friends, and your family over a slip … unless you did something REALLY bad.
It’s a phenomenon most know now as cancel culture, and like a boycott, it usually plays out the same way.
A company or person - famous or not, says or does something considered controversial or offensive, and the social media backlash swiftly follows.
It mostly comes with calls to fire, stand down, resign or stop production … usually among a tsunami of stinging hashtags. Critics of cancel culture say the process stifles free expression, keeps people in their comfort zones. Others however, have argued that it allows people to challenge the status quo, and gives power to minorities to demand accountability from those in positions of wealth or status.
Whatever camp you’re in, “cancel culture” has become deeply ingrained in our online existence.
It’s not known exactly when we started using the term, but sometime in the early 2010s, fans of various celebrities and groups began posting on social media to “call them out”. The movement really took off in 2020 when the pandemic hit. Then began the long list of casualties targeted by the PC police. From movies and TV series, to actors, presenters, politicians and even the average ‘Joe’ or ‘Jane’.
While many would argue the cancellations were justified, others would say in some cases that freedom of speech and opinion was penalised.
The issue of whether a public punishment fits the crime is also up for debate … and if trial by social media is fair.
So is it fair to criticise something today that was born in another time?
In the age of outrage are we too easily outraged, and is it much easier to BE outraged?
In this week’s episode of The Core we speak to people who have been cancelled, those who have done the cancelling and what you should do if you find yourself caught up in the #cancelculture movement.
You can also listen on demand as a Today FM podcast - subscribe here.
New episode out every Monday.