By Elena del Campo

After a long day at school, you turn on your phone and open the twitter app. You click on the trending tab and come across another #[person]isoverparty. “Cancelling” creators has become a daily thing now, but since you’ve got nothing better to do, you still dive into the hellhole of twitter threads detailing how a random creator is problematic. You read about old tweets or controversial comments that result in brand deals being lost or losing a bunch of followers. But is cancelling moral? And why is there such a negative connotation to that word? 


Let’s start by explaining what cancel culture or cancelling someone is exactly. Cancelling entails stripping someone off their platform by criticising them publicly en masse. This is usually after a comment or video (re)surfaces that is deemed offensive or “problematic” by the general public. The most recent example is rapper and brand owner Kanye West. After a series of heavily anti-semetic tweets and the backlash that ensued, not only was he let go by several brands like Adidas, but his documentary was also shelved.


Whether you agree that cancelling Shane Dawson for an old tweet or Dave Chapelle for a risky joke is correct, the reaction to this phenomenon is surely interesting. Looking at these statistics (see under this paragraph), it is obvious mainly right-leaning people seem to be against calling out creators online. 26% of conservative Republicans see cancelling as a form of censorship and are also more likely to define it as a way for people to cancel anyone they disagree with (15%) or as an attack on traditional American society (13%).


The first explanation for this trend in conservatism relating to a negative opinion of cancelling celebrities is linked to the reason people get cancelled in the first place. People with right-leaning opinions disagree with calling out creators who exhibit racist, homophobic or otherwise bigoted views because they feel personally attacked. Seeing someone get massively criticised for something you unconsciously or consciously agree with often brings out a very reactionary response. They would rather see an angry mob thirsty for punishment, than reflect on why the people getting cancelled seem to share their opinions and why people disagree with their actions. 


The second explanation is more applicable to the U.S., but has recently also become a talking point in a lot of European countries. The illusion of total free speech that is a big topic within rightist spaces seems to be under threat. Here is where the fear mongering from leading figures within those communities ties in.


The last explanation for this hate from conservatives towards cancel culture relates to the method of “getting rid” of behaviour that is socially regarded as bad. While traditionally ostracising people for behaving outside of the norm came from the upper layers of society in the forms of laws, banishments, executions, ect.,  the online cancelling variation takes a bottom-up approach. Cancelling can be equated to the online version of boycotting. Through public backlash creators are blocked from having a public platform due to losing engagement or due to pressure to take measures from an employer or a brand. 


This means that cancelling is a very powerful tool to achieve social justice and combat people with more power through collective action. Right leaning political parties aim to protect the ones in power. Meanwhile cancelling gives power to the individually powerless. Because even though one tweet doesn’t have any real impact, a horde of them does. Cancelling proves that collective action can take down public figures. And while rightist politicians do not necessarily care about J.K. Rowling or Kanye West being “dethroned”, they do care about the growing influence of the crowd against the elite. 


That is why even if you don’t agree with the reason people are cancelled, it is important to acknowledge that cancelling as a phenomenon is quite extraordinary. It is a way for ordinary people to let their voices be heard through collective action. Instead of letting people higher up decide what is correct, through cancelling the people can take matters into their own hands and take away the power they gave celebrities in the first place. 


It should serve as an example that the power of all powerful people is given by the masses and could just as easily be taken away. Politicians get their power through getting voted for, company owners through the workers and celebrities through their audiences. Even if you don’t agree with every individual case of cancelling, the concept should still be seen as something positive, as something that shows the power of marginalised masses. 

The power of cancelling doesn’t come from the individual deplatforming of people, but from the sentiment that individuals can say “‘I may have no power, but the power I have is to ignore you.’” That's why I believe cancelling is a good thing that should be expanded into other facets of public life. Instead of stopping at not watching someone’s videos because they said something you deem inappropriate, you should also stop consuming meat if you disagree with the slaughtering processes or stop using amazon if you think the working conditions are inhumane. 


In conclusion, looking at cancelling in the grander scheme of things, it is unsurprising that mainly conservatives view it so negatively. Going against the current hierarchies is dangerous for the status quo that they are trying to protect. Therefore we should support cancelling as a method to hold the powerful and influential accountable and adapt this collective action into other forms of unionising.