Creating A Culture of Accountability
by Tommy Delp | published Sep. 9th, 2021
Personally, I have not been "canceled" and have not "canceled" anybody. That being said, I have made mistakes that have resulted in ruined friendships, and I’ve also grown apart from friends that have made mistakes of their own.
The term "cancel culture" is often used poorly, by both sides of the American political spectrum. What more mature people may refer to as accountability or personal growth, is often referred to as "cancel culture" by the shouting masses on leftist Twitter and at places such as the Conservative Political Action Conference.
This idea of "cancel culture" as somewhat of a political boogeyman permeates modern society. The term certainly elicits fear from many, but we often forget that that’s all it is: a term.
If we strip away the term and really think about what the proponents of "cancel culture" are aiming to do, is their goal really all that bad?
If we strip away the term and really think about what the proponents of "cancel culture" are aiming for, is their goal really all that bad?
The ability to hold those in positions of power, authority and notability responsible is an important one in any community that wishes to thrive.
Not Correct, Polite
People often see "cancel culture" as political correctness taken to extremes. While that second term is also loaded in of itself, I disagree with the claim anyway. For me, "cancel culture" is not about being correct; it's about being polite.
"Cancel culture" forces people to recognize that their words and actions have consequences. There are no laws against you openly speaking your mind, but there are also no laws protecting you from being held personally accountable for the views you express.
The court of public opinions, no matter how unruly it is, is one guided by societal standards and best practices, the biggest of which is common courtesy.
Seth Rogen, unlike many of his fellow entertainers, seems to follow this mindset.
“Saying terrible things is bad, so if you’ve said something terrible, then it’s something you should confront in some way, shape or form,” he said, in a recent interview that touched on "cancel culture."
Remaining Civil, Virtually
The term "cancel culture" rose to prominence through the internet. This virtual space has overwhelmingly changed how we interact with the world and others.
While we have quickly adapted to the many pleasures of online life, it seems like our morals have yet to catch up. The toxic stew created by many online communities needs to be addressed.
The various screens of modern day life act as a barrier from repercussions for many. If we are to regain our sense of humanity and community from a piece of technology that shields us from it, a system such as "cancel culture" needs to be put into place.
The internet is akin to a public square, and when you shout your every little thought into the public square, there are bound to be consequences.
In his opinion for Packingham v. North Carolina, former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy echoed a similar statement when he compared the internet to a place such as a public park or utility. He stated, "These places are ... essential venues for public gatherings to celebrate some views, to protest others, or simply to learn and inquire."
While it may sound a bit harsh, "cancel culture" is a tool for teaching people this lesson in this new environment.
"Cancel Culture" 2.0
I strongly believe in the goals of "cancel culture." At the same time though, there are numerous flaws in how and why we currently use it. Just like any new tool, everyone needs to work together to wield it more responsibly.
For one, intent needs to play a more important role. Every situation has context, and canceling people without having it leads to misunderstandings, along with various other detrimental effects.
Did the person purposefully commit the act you consider harmful? Is this act part of a pattern? Do they have a history of doing such things?
Dan Kovalik, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law stated, “What has to be distinguished is the difference between the person who is well intentioned but makes a mistake, and really ill-intentioned people ... They shouldn’t be treated the same. And yet they are, quite often.”
Secondly, people need to recognize that the instant gratification jumping to conclusions provides doesn't help anyone. If you’re "canceling" someone for fun, maybe find something more productive to do.
If you're looking to create real change, patience is required. Discourse should be a constant cycle of discovering and informing, and applying that same mindset to "cancel culture" would lead to better outcomes.
We need to replace the current environment surrounding "cancel culture," one of controversy and scaremongering, to one of learning and sharing. Instead of allowing the loudest voices to control the conversation, the focus should be on distinct discussion and communication between as many informed people as possible.
If you're looking for an example of "cancel culture" done almost entirely right, look no further than disgraced Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein.
The long list of women, across time, location and career field, to have accused him of sexual harassment and assault prove everything we look for in a case of "cancel culture."
From the first accuser to the handing down of his 23-year sentence, over three years passed. Justice may have not been swift by internet standards, but by allowing time for greater discussion and consensus, the punishment was much more than anything Twitter could have possibly mustered.
Society’s way of debating and having discourse will continue to change and evolve. "Cancel culture" is also still a relatively new phenomenon. Holding people accountable for their beliefs and actions is an important part of any community, even if this new way of doing so has its flaws.
Holding people accountable for their beliefs and actions is an important part of any community, even if this new way of doing so has its flaws.
"Cancel culture" is not something to fear, hate or loathe. Just like fire, it’s a tool that we simply need to learn to use.