Thinkpieces

The thing about cancel culture

Contributed by Jonny Collins


The thing that upsets me about “Cancel Culture” as a phrase – is that people use it to mean anything from people not booking/platforming known sex offenders, to voicing your disagreement at a public figures views and public statements. Cancel culture is an entirely made up phenomenon based on (predominantly men) being afraid of being held accountable for their actions.

In most jobs – if you are found guilty of a crime, particularly one that took place in your place of work – you will lose your job.

If you are vocally bigoted to the point that you are making your representatives and company look bad – you will likely lose your job (or at least face a disciplinary action and a warning). But for some reason – it is creative artists ‘right’ to do and say these things, as it is part of freedom of speech. Nobody is stopping them from saying these things – but you cannot force an audience to continue to consume your content just because you think you’re entitled to say bullshit bigoted things. We constantly tell workers “Be careful what you put on social media – because a potential employer may research you and be put off by what they see” – how does that not apply to authors, writers, performers? Why is it because your job is in the creative arts – that those same cautions shouldn’t apply to you? Why is it suddenly a cultural problem when creatives get boycotted due to public statements on social media – yet if workers have an old tweet from 2012 dug up and lose a job ’cause of it the worker should’ve been more careful with what they posted?

Also, please name an example of a comedian or author getting ‘cancelled’ where they have actually been cancelled? In the true sense of the word – like not allowed to work in the industry anymore? CK? Still has an audience. Linehan? Admittedly not working in the industry anymore as far as I know – but he definitely has enough fans that he could work in some capacity and could make money. Maybe not as much as he used to – but he could make a living. Save for artists who are actually imprisoned for their actions (which I’d argue isn’t ‘cancel culture’ it’s breaking the law and being held accountable) most artists who people claim have been cancelled, are still able to work in their field – maybe with a reduced, but still prominent audience.

Cancel Culture isn’t real – and I’m not sure who this open letter to cancel culture is meant to be for? Cancel culture isn’t an organized and regulated system of boycotts – it’s predominantly ex-fans who cannot enjoy your content anymore because the content is attached to a person who vocalizes views so drastically contradictory to their own. Some people can separate art and artist – good on them. A lot of people can’t – and you cannot guilt trip them back into enjoying your work by writing a fucking letter. For me it’s weird – I have not been able to watch any Linehan content for years now (at least – not stuff he’s worked on solo – I give black books a pass as that’s predominantly Dylan Moran.) However I am able to enjoy Harry Potter still. maybe I won’t for much longer, i don’t know, but I certainly do not want to fund her if I can avoid it.

Boycotting is a part of consumer choice. And that’s all ‘cancel culture’ is. It is not “I made a mistake, and now no one will give me money” because in almost all of these instances the person in question does not apologise for their words. This is the free market at play, allowing consumers to refuse to purchase art from practitioners who have sincerely held beliefs that they are mortally opposed to. That’s all this is – you cannot abolish ‘cancel culture’ without going full on fascist dictator – and if that happens (which it’s looking increasingly worrying that it might) I have a hunch whether or not Gen-Z consume your work, isn’t going to be your number one concern.


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