Does Cancel Culture Produce Meaningful Change? 16 People Weigh In.

If you’ve been paying attention to the world lately, you know it can be hard to know where to look. There’s so much going on all of the time that we get fatigued, and I think it seems easier to just write people off entirely than to deal with a continuing conversation.

This Redditor thinks that cancel culture – where we throw whole people out with the trash instead of engaging in discussion and allowing growth and change – is actually counterproductive to growing a healthier society.

Let’s see if anyone on Reddit can change his mind.

CMV: Cancel Culture is counterproductive to meaningful change

Cancel Culture is counterproductive to having open discussions, whereby people feel safe enough to learn, change opinions and grow. The immediate action taken towards people for clumsiness, misinformation and mistakes should not be so penalizing, and it actively prevents people from changing, it is a sub-genre of fear culture which is inherently silencing.

It also results in people having outwardly performative ‘correct’ opinions, when their reality may be very different- because they don’t feel comfortable enough to genuinely debate tsuch topics without fear of being hung, drawn and quartered.


16. Think about boycotts.

“Cancel culture” is the same thing as calling for boycotts. People just started calling it a different thing. If you replace the two in your mind whenever you see one, you’ll notice they are the same.

And I’m sure you don’t think boycotting is counterproductive to meaningful change.

15. It’s nothing new.

There has never in the history of human civilization, existed any movement that claimed that all existing opinions and behaviors are equally respectable, and that there is no such thing as inappropriate behavior that should be opposed and marginalized.

“Cancel culture” has always been a self-evidently central part of human value systems. It is the most natural impulse, that we wouldn’t want to see people that we consider immoral, to be held up to a pedestal, or given special favors.

Taken at a face value, it is nonsense to wish for a world where NO ONE is ever cancelled, that flies in the face of the very concept of people having values and using those values to shape the world around themselves.

Or looking at it more cynically, the way it is used today cancel culture is synonymous with “political correctness” and “virtue signaling”, as a conservative dogwhistle that is priming people to be very concerned about the cases where people are seen as immoral by progressives in particular.

It is pure partisan hackery, that’s underlying message is really just that conservative values in particular should be more respected in contrast with progressive ones.

No one was complaining about “cancel culture” 40-50 years ago, when just coming out as gay, meant that you would likely get fired from most workplaces, and kicked out of most homes. Any TV show that tried to present the main character as gay would have been under immense pressure from powerful lobbies to be literally cancelled off the air, not that any even tried.

But we are suddenly all supposed to be very worried about how unprecedentedly intolerant times we live in, because after saying something overtly homophobic, Kevin Hart is no longer welcome in quite as many venues as he could possibly be.

14. We’re refusing to put up with it.

Why is it the role of the disadvantaged to provide a safe space for the privileged to discuss things? “Cancelling” someone rarely happens when the one being cancelled approaches the sensitive topic in a respectful manner to begin with.

Instead someone privileged says something racist, sexist, transphobic first, and then other people refuse to put up with their bullshit.

13. We reserve the right.

Let’s put it this way:

There was no such thing as “cancel culture” way back when when conservatives were forming groups like “Moms Against Whatever” and trying trying to get The Simpsons taken off the air, stopping convenience stores for selling Playboy, or going after Disney for giving benefits to the partners of gay employees.

It wasn’t even “cancel culture” earlier this year when a conservative group got an ad taken off air for showing a lesbian wedding.

No, it was just “We reserve the right to decide who we give our business to!”

Suddenly though it IS cancel culture for voicing disapproval of racism, homophobia and other bigotry – as though they are desirable traits in a decent society and people are somehow wrong to want to call such things out. Suddenly we need to be caring and understanding in case people are driven to have to pretend not to be racist in public just to get along!

12. It’s always relative.

Privilege and disadvantage goes beyond socioeconomic class, and it’s always relative. I haven’t seen any cases where someone says something negative or prejudiced about a disadvantaged group, whereas they themselves belong to a relatively privileged group.

I also haven’t seen any cases as the ones you’ve described, and I’m not sure that I would consider them to fall under cancel culture. They’re not being “cancelled” by anyone, their employer is firing them for being a potential legal risk and potential loss of income.

If you want to blame anyone for that, blame capitalism.

In either case, I struggle to see why it isn’t reasonable when A is being awful for B to say: “I’m not hanging out with you as long as you’re awful”.

11. It’s all just YouTube content.

The right is actually a big part of the cancel culture beyond just Colin Kaepernick. If you look at Ghostbusters, Star Wars The Last Jedi, Captain Marvel, The Last of Us part II, they were very widely attacked by right inclined commentators. There are youtubers that have made of career of this type of content.

10. No one is entitled.

Even putting extreme cases aside, what specific role we talk about that the person holds, and what transgression, matters a great deal.

Practically no one thinks that everyone should be fired from every job for every mistake, but also no one thinks that no one should be fired ffrom any position, for any transgressions sort of outright criminal behavior.

Celebrity artists, politicians, opinion leaders, are the ones who are most likely to face a public outcry for their behavior, because they have the privilege to hold positions of high authority of prestige, where we expect them to behave exceptionally.

Also, in those positions it was always a given that their continued career is always dependent on their popularity.

What’s the difference between a stand-up comedian losing performance options because he started to get boring, or losing performance options because nowadays he pisses off more people than whom he makes laugh?

In either case, no one is entitled to remain a beloved public figure if the public doesn’t love them.

9. We have to use the term correctly.

Their comment ignores stuff like this.

This Mexican American guy was fired for cracking his knuckles and being claimed as a white supremacist. The person who reported it even walked it back. THIS is the problematic cancel culture.

This is what people who are against “cancel culture” are talking about. This idea that’s it’s just right wing people getting mad they are finally being called out is a half truth and ignores the bigger issue in some people’s eyes.

Regular folks who are just living their lives are being indicted by the mob for very poor reasons.

Justifiably calling out problematic behavior should NOT be considered cancel culture. We have bigger issues with a term or word meaning waaay too many different things to different people.

8. The issue is overblown.

Don’t pick a hypothetical. If “cancel culture” being used as a political weapon

not as the freedom of the people to support what they want or not what they want, but as a political weapon

is so widespread and egregious as you claim

you should have absolutely no problem presenting real, concrete, publicly notable situations where this happens.

So far I’ve seen you avoid the question, then give two examples that seem to be very private and thin.

No one’s saying there’s never been a case where someone was fired unfairly. But your view is that this is a major cultural movement.

It sounds like you’re struggling to come up with genuine, culture-wide examples of this happening.

Are you willing to consider that maybe this issue is overblown, that maybe the times when it happens are either more nuanced than they appear, or are unfortunate yet outlying situations not reflective of any particular culture at all?

7. It’s just an excuse.

So what you have a problem with is “canceling” things that shouldn’t be canceled. Not cancel culture in general.

It seems everyone agrees that we should not support or allow harmful behavior.

What OP is pointing out is that it’s simple used a scapegoat for people not to speak up about causes and behaviors they don’t care about or are problematic.

Case in point Trump and conservatives rail against “cancel culture”. But there was no end to calls for boycotts of the NFL or NBA when they stood for things they didn’t like.

Pointing out the reality that it’s simply an excuse used to try to stop social change they don’t want.

6. Are all discussions worth our time?

So there are two very real problems with what you’re discussing.

First off we need to ask if all discussions are worth having? Do we, as a culture, need to discuss the cost/benefit split on nazis? Or can we just say outright that nazis are bad and we don’t really need to give them space to shout pro-nazi things? (And in this discussion I mean very literal nazis)

Secondly, Am I under any obligation to financially support art that I don’t personally support?

5. It’s only bad when the liberals do it.

The way I’ve always seen it used, cancel culture was used only in the context of seemingly progressive leaning folks silencing seemingly conservative opinions (which u/Genoscythe_ also pointed out. )

I think the main reason cancel culture is being brought forth today as a negative thing (by many progressive people as well) is because the progressives seem to be doing it.

Let me put it this way, the progressives, the people who actively advocate for live and let live are now calling out for cancellation. This is slightly weird especially in cases where the jury is still out on the Truth (i.e. not in cases like Weinstein.) It seems like in the US, the progressive left are shifting towards the authoritarian left which is atleast slightly concerning.

I could be completely wrong about this as I’m not in the US and only know of the circumstances there from articles

4. It’s complicated.

It’s only hard if you think it’s once sided. It’s complicated if you think people have a right to demand an audience.

So I think the Harry Potter books were on, and my partner loved them.

We both, however, find JKR deeply problematic and do not want to support her because we feel the way she is using her platform is dangerous.

Am I under any obligation to buy Harry Potter things for my partner when we both know that means paying someone we don’t want to pay?

3. Opinions are important.

“Cancel culture” has always been an inalienable part of human culture. It is the most natural impulse, that we wouldn’t want to see people that we consider immoral, to be held up to a pedestal, or given special favors.
Just because something has been a norm doesn’t mean it should continue to do so. Consider slavery. A norm up until just recently in the developed world. A norm still in many places. It’s wrong – obviously. And should be opposed.

Cancel culture may also be normal. But we should, just as we want humans to be free from slavery, want humans to express a wide diversity of opinions that we can then chose among. Cancel culture stifles that.

I’d like to live in a world in which humans are exposed to the greatest possible range of ideas and then we trust them to choose the best among them. Call me crazy.

2. People should be allowed to change.

I’m pretty new to the idea of “cancel culture” but how I’ve come to understand it is that it’s when people go out of their way to “ruin” someone’s life for something.

Like if/when someone says something racist or homophoic on their personal social media, then the internet swarms to dox that person, find out where they work, and harass their bosses to fire them for it.

It’s especially egregious (imo) when it was something the person said or did a long time ago, but was just brought up now for whatever reason, so getting the person fired for something they said 10 years ago or whatever.

1. Liberty for all.

It’s your free speech vs mine.

You’re free to say what you like. I’m free to tell your boss you said it. Your boss is free to decide what to do/what not to do about that.

There’s nothing nefarious or untoward about any of that. All of it is somebody being free to say what they like, and being free to exercise one’s own rights. When you start making laws about it, that’s when someone’s freedom is threatened.

It’s not counterproductive either. I hold the Amish people as an example. When an Amish person says or does something that the community is not ok with, that person is ostracised. They are ‘cancelled’. In terms of the community, it’s a massive disincentive to behave that way or say those things. Knowing you’re going to have no friends or family afterwards is a hell of a lot worse than expecting to go to jail. Is that ‘right’? Sometimes, sometimes not. However, in the context of that community, it’s the definition of ‘right’, thus meaning the only way it’s going to change is if the community as a whole progresses. The pope can’t change Catholicism. The church can’t change Catholicism. But if Catholics change, the entire thing changes, because ‘the power’ isn’t about who makes the rules or wears the stupid hat. Their power rests in ruling over people, and if there’s no people willing to accept it, they’re powerless. The real power lies with the community.

So… how do you change a community? Same way you change a person. If you were homophobic as hell, no amount of gay people is going to convince you to like gay people. But you know, maybe your child comes out to you one day. That’s a bit different, isn’t it? It’s a personal connection. Is it easier to hate your own kid (who you raised, by the way. Right there is the product you made) than it is to take a minute to deconstruct your worldview? For a few, yes, but it still creates an opportunity to pause and reflect. Communities are the same process, but much, much harder (multiply by the amount of people in it).

So ultimately, you’re not really going to change the community. At least, not without re-wiring enough people’s sensibilities to create that tipping point of mass support. ‘Sensibilities’ being the key word, here. This isn’t stuff you get taught, learn or unlearn. It’s fundamentally baked into development, as part of the environment, the backdrop within which you learn.

As I pointed out somewhere else on this thread, the internet is some weird blend of anarchism and capitalism. Private property is ubiquitous, and there’s not a single unified system of control anywhere to be found. A free market of ideas and opinions, basically. It still has a community, though, and the community still holds entrenched mainstream moral values. If you find yourself on the receiving end of those, think back to the Amish and their practice of ostracism. Think about how people get ostracised not because of some objective ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but because the community agrees on its own ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, which is, importantly, the very definition of those terms in the context of that community. If you’re different, perhaps the people kicking you out of the community are doing you a favour.

By giving everyone liberty, the privileged lose. When the wider group kicks out the masters who set them free, that’s not ungratefulness, that’s treasuring and embracing the ‘gift’ they never should have been denied in the first place.

This is such an interesting discussion and I really appreciate it.

Let’s keep it going below – we’d love your thoughts on the topic, too.