What started off as a funny trend on social media meant to poke fun at big-name celebrities or pop culture, has turned into a complete societal movement and epidemic. It is a result of a society that prides itself on political correctness, trigger warnings, and extreme partisanship. It is cancel culture: the idea that one must be “canceled” and essentially stripped of all accolades, fandom, and respect because of a single comment they made, or an action they once carried out.
We’ve seen it happen countless times just in the past year. Last winter, Kevin Hart was selected to host the Oscars. For some reason, this bothered some people so exceedingly that they had to sift through Hart’s tweets until they found evidence of Hart’s past transgressions. Tweets from 2010/11 that were deemed homophobic quickly resurfaced the web, and you know the rest of the story (Kevin Hart did not, in fact, host the Oscars). But his comedic career also suffered in the following months, as people nationwide decided he should be “canceled.” Were the tweets inappropriate? Sure. Are most jokes made by comedians inappropriate? Yes. If Kevin Hart can’t host the Oscars because of jokes he made nearly a decade ago, what comedian can?
After holding up a sign at a September college football game – displaying his Venmo username, asking for money for Busch Light beer – 24 year old Carson King received nearly $2,000 in donations to his fund. He announced via Twitter that all the money he had raised would be donated to his local Children’s Hospital in Iowa. Anheuser-Busch pledged $35,000 to the hospital too, as well as a year’s supply of free beer for Carson. It was a happy story. But happy stories can’t just be left alone. Within days, a journalist for The Register unveiled nine-year-old tweets from Carson’s Twitter that were racially insensitive. Anheuser-Busch cut ties with Carson, and before long, he was giving a press conference, apologizing for his words.
No one is safe from cancel culture – not a big-name celebrity, and certainly not a young guy trying to help out some kids with cancer – because no one is immune to error. The most substantial issue with cancel culture is the message it sends: people are not allowed to be human and are incapable of change. Holding someone accountable for their actions is all well and good, but why must we go so far as to completely scrap them?
You might think that cancel culture would never come for you, because you would never be foolish enough to tweet something racist or homophobic. Probably true. But have you ever said anything offensive at any time via any platform? Parkland shooting survivor Kyle Kashuv was a top student in high school, so much so that he was accepted to Harvard University. Last spring when his former classmates revealed a two-year-old group Google doc in which Kyle used the N-word, Harvard subsequently rescinded his admission. Apparently, Harvard saw no room for growth within Kyle. I am in no way condoning the usage of the N-word, but I do not believe that what someone says at age sixteen should follow them through life. What outlandish comments did you make at sixteen?
Two things can be true at once; someone can have flaws while simultaneously having a skill set at which they excel. Kevin Hart made some offensive comments, but he is still a talented and experienced comedian who would have made a great Oscars host. Carson King acted selflessly in raising money for that hospital, and Kyle Kashuv would have been an exceptional student at Harvard, in all likelihood. Mental filtering is a form of cognitive distortion in which someone chooses to dwell only on the negative aspects of any given situation, filtering out all positivity. This is increasingly happening on a national scale. It is the root of cancel culture.
We are each better than the worst thing we have ever done. Allow people to be human, apologize, and move on. Imagine if it were you whose life was publicly falling apart because of some imbecilic statement you made ten years ago. It’s time to “cancel” cancel culture, for the benefit of us all.