Cancel Culture and the death of debate
Recently I was listening to a discussion on whether Cancel Culture had killed comedy. Of course there were two sides to the argument, for that is what good debate is all about.
One comedian emphatically said – No. Comedy was still relevant – actually even thriving – and added that the plethora of issues that have been raised were necessary, extremely valid, and it was about time they were brought to the fore. In effect they finished with something along the lines of; Cancel Culture was helping us achieve great things.
I could not agree more. The great majority of the issues that have been raised are beyond necessary, beyond valid and it is beyond time that they were brought to the fore. There is no place in an intelligent, humane society for some of the barbarities that are still being imposed upon people - in the past, and still now.
However, I most emphatically DO NOT agree with the fact that Cancel Culture has done any good, at all.
The pure fact that it was a debate on the point, supports my point exactly.
The operative word being: Debate.
Cancel Culture is bullying - pure and simple. It is tearing someone down. It is basically strong-arming someone - standing over them and threatening them to back the F down, for an opposing viewpoint. It is not per se about the viewpoint - but has come to encompass a screaming hysteria where if you oppose (and let's be very clear, that is what reasoned debate is: opposing) – the sentiment then you are evil, ridiculous, ill-informed, uneducated (add in any derogatory term you wish here), and deserve to have your privacy, work and family life exposed to the masses, destroyed and pulled to shreds. With no hope for the future. Cancelled.
There is no thought - or care - to what this will do to the person whom the insane vitriol is aimed at.
To me, it is beyond evil. But the very fact that it not only exists, but is now condoned and even applauded in many sectors, countries, cultures and age groups, makes me fear for us all.
I am not sure how Cancel Culture came into existence, but I do not worship at its altar - let's be clear. It is no way to argue a point, to get others to see a differing perspective, to educate, to inform - in fact its the polar opposite of what I have been taught is the basis of a great democracy.
"I disapprove with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Voltaire
Ok, the defend to death is perhaps arguable (see, I am even defending a quote from history that I chose to illustrate a point!) for fear of being cancelled or labelled.
And there you have it. Cancel Culture is the true measure of ignorance - and it should be addressed as such, not applauded as the great way forward.
No sane person can say that the issues underlying this extreme new societal perspective are not necessary. The world needs to be incredibly aware of the injustices of the past, it needs to address them, it needs to redress them, it needs to change and we need to move forward by thinking differently - with diversity and inclusion front and center.
But to be done by destroying all who oppose you (or that you determine are in opposition because they may call for a more measured response), now that is something beyond insane.
Yet, here we are having reasoned debates on the very thing that is meant to stop us debating at all.
I have become so aware of the gravity of the circumstance - as a researcher it is my job to understand the human psyche and changing behavior - that I even stopped writing for a while.
I did it by choice, well not really choice - it was actually self-censorship. But I did it because I considered that some of the topics that I wished to discuss would lead me to be trolled, misunderstood and that I perhaps would fall victim to Cancel Culture - something many of us can ill afford, especially as paid writers.
I wanted to discuss a range of topics such as faux fur being predominantly plastic - and query where that would sit with environmental concerns? – but I feared somehow my message would go astray and that I would be slammed for daring to question which path would be more environmentally sound?
A serious topic, and one that as a researcher and writer I would appreciate input and feedback on. But I was slightly apprehensive, with very good reason, that my intention would be misconstrued, my meaning twisted and a barrage of hate and wrath come down on me.
All of this bearing in mind that I have been a vegetarian of over 30 years (and an even more stringent researcher on sustainability measures in my role as a futures forecaster). A proper vegetarian, when most who still eat seafood feel incredibly comfortable labelling themselves vegetarian. And no, I do not go tearing them down. I might politely point out that the term for them is actually pescatarian, but I would never front up brandishing an impaled fish, screaming murderer, as I stand there smeared in fish guts trying to close down their business, while someone videos to post online in a concerted effort to further name and shame them.
I would like to think I am more elegant than that. Actually, I know I am.
But therein lies the essence of my point. It is crazy, no? When simple questions, or actual facts cannot be raised for fear of mind-blowing, disproportionate reprisal.
I find it exceedingly hard not to have a voice. To be stifled out of the fear of having my words - or thoughts - misrepresented.
No, actually that is an extreme understatnemt. I find it incredibly soul-destroying and sad that life has boiled down to an agree at all costs.
Where is the philosophy, the debate, the intelligence in that?
It is with great pride that I have seen hard won battles start - however slightly - to improve things for many minorities, and many causes. I applaud the positive changes, and am desperate for them to continue. Changes for the greater good that make our society an inherently better, safer and more humane place to occupy. I also know, we are nowhere near finished, and there is still so much more to be done.
I don't think you could argue that.
But, then again, that's the whole point - that we are not even close to rectifying so many wrongs, but somehow I don't understand how the fight to improve, to grow and learn, to become better educated on topics that we may not understand can ever be achieved by not discussing the topics in the first place.
How can we educate fully, roundly and intellectually without discussion? Without knowledge, without proper (considered from all angles) input?
I don't wish to live in a democracy that has turned into a dictatorship. History has shown the horrors of that. But by quelling voices – it is one of life's great ironies that Cancel Culture is supposedly in support of voices that have not been heard - by not educating, by ruling with fear and loathing, we are subjecting ourselves to a sufferance which is too large to bear, and one that will never - ever- rectify the past.
I also know I will press post on this with a feeling of foreboding - the fight to death bit might just have me ensnared!
But I also know, if I don't, I join the masses in the persecution of measured reason everywhere.