Cancel Culture: Where’s the Line?

by Elvis Young

In the years leading up to 2020, America has seen a dramatic increase in the popularity of “cancel culture.” Cancel Culture is defined in the Webster Dictionary as “the removal of support for public figures in response to their objectionable behavior or opinions.”

The advantage of cancel culture is relatively basic: if someone is bigoted and attempting to spread misinformation or hate, that person loses their public platform. 

Which raises a few questions: How far is too far? Can different people go further than others? Who decides how far is too far?

Unfortunately, these questions have very complicated answers, and most people loud enough to hear are extremely galvanized for either side whether they think we should cancel people for slight mistakes or whether we should let anyone say anything to anyone listening.

Cancelling people for being bigoted at any time makes sense, as it would allow the public forum to expand by creating a nicer environment, allowing more people to join the conversation.

But cancelling everyone who says something “wrong” or bigoted could limit the American freedom of speech. If we normalize the idea that anyone can be cancelled, people who don’t deserve it will get cancelled because of a mistake they made, not for their controversial opinion.

Controversial opinions shouldn’t be ignored either, and this is the basis of the other side: if cancel culture is allowed, it could spiral out of control and limit freedom of speech by giving people the power to shut down ideas they don’t agree with.

But their solution makes just as much sense: if we don’t cancel people, we will encourage a wider public forum by giving anyone a platform to say what they believe.

Letting anyone say anything, though? What if someone starts slandering someone else? What if they use their free speech and bigger platform to shut down someone else? Creating a system based on the idea that people will respect each other’s political ideas has, sadly, never worked.

So to cancel or not to cancel? The answer is pretty simple: Ask yourself.

The truth is, some people do deserve to get cancelled. Determining who should and shouldn’t is simple.

When you see something that you disagree with, you have a few options in this day and age: Agree: drop a like, leave a friendly comment, make an appreciation post on your own social media. Disagree: leave a comment, make a post addressing that person and their thoughts.

As adults, we need to remain respectful of each other even when we disagree. As easy as it is to disagree with someone by saying something rude, one might consider having a conversation about it with the other party involved.

If that person conducted themself respectfully, arguing with facts and logic as opposed to fear mongering and insults, they deserve a platform.

Harper’s Letter on Justice and Open Debate suggests “The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away.” If one thinks of political discourse as science, it becomes a bit simpler. In science, students are taught to “question everything,” and the same should go for politics. When you read or hear something, whether or not you agree with it,  you should always research the topic and keep debate civil as best you can.

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