Current Events

Let’s Cancel the Ill-Conceived Concept of “Cancel Culture”

There is no such thing as “cancel culture.”

Oh, sure, the phrase exists. And the alliteration makes it memorable. But I’m putting it in quotes because it describes a fictitious concept that is intellectually dishonest.

“Cancel culture” is deceiving because it attempts to recast the villain in a situation as a victim. The people who claim to be “canceled” are not victims. They are paying the price for reprehensible actions.

I agree with the alternative term that many people smarter than I have proposed: consequence culture. It is appropriate, important, necessary — in fact, morally imperative — to hold people accountable for what they have done.

The term “cancel culture” comes up a lot these days because some people1 are being taken to task for their participation in the violent Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021.

If you rose up to overturn democracy, you should not get off scot-free. You are not immune from the consequences. You are responsible for what you say and do. 

The type and severity of offense may mitigate accountability, but it doesn’t eliminate it. Someone who plagiarizes a paragraph in a book shouldn’t face the same consequences as someone who plagiarizes an entire book. Even though the first infraction is smaller, it doesn’t let the perpetrator off the hook.2

No one who stormed the Capitol last month can be excused for their actions, even if they were a bit player in the act of sedition and domestic terrorism.3

Allegations of “cancel culture” extend way beyond the Capitol attack. I’m not even going to list all the recent examples; there are just too many. In all these instances, the story is the same: People claim they’re victims when they’re not.

I can’t help but notice that the people claiming “cancel culture” today were quiet when cultural elites (i.e., Harvey Weinstein) and liberal politicians (i.e., Al Franken) were held accountable for their abusive behavior against women.4

Let’s eliminate the phrase “cancel culture” from the national discourse. It’s a false narrative that shifts blame away from those who should be ostracized and onto those who are rightfully holding them accountable for what they’ve done.  

1 In my opinion, not nearly enough people yet.
2 A bloodier example: Someone who stabs another person shouldn’t be excused because they didn’t actually kill the person. The punishment might be less, but punishment is still deserved.
3 A separate, but related issue, is the consequences people should face if they continue to believe in the flat-out lie that the election was stolen. They shouldn’t be penalized for being conservative, but I have no problem with society recognizing that they are incapable of making fact-based decisions and treating them accordingly.
4 One might argue that Franken’s ogling photo was much less egregious than Weinstein’s long history of sexual abuse, but both men still faced harsh consequences, including the loss of their jobs and the destruction of their reputations.