In June 2020, cancel culture claimed its latest victim: the popular children's television show Paw Patrol. It was claimed that its protagonists - animated dogs who operate as police in a fictional universe - were being derided. These pieces said critics saw its positive portrayal of law enforcement strengthened a culture of deference to the police. Headlines around the world stated cancel culture had gone mad. But none of this was true. What began as a joke about cancel culture had grown into a conspiracy tearing across the internet. This crisis underpinned the bigger picture: anyone can be cancelled, and it has gone so far it can reach the international news without questioning. In recent years, the practice of withdrawing support for public figures who hold controversial views has exploded. And not just amongst the cartoons. Michael Jackson, JK Rowling, Louis CK, Woody Allen: the list of its celebrity victims is growing. The boom has divided opinion. Some believe it is a form of online activism that helps the marginalised hold the powerful to account. Their opponents see it as a devastating attack on civil liberties. So, who are these groups, what do they stand for, and why?
"Cancel culture is critical for democracy!"Show moreShow less
This approach argues that cancel culture empowers marginalised groups. It understands that society is built in institutionalised hierarchies that cut across social identities. The de-platforming of offensive views is therefore an important type of activism. Cancel culture has become an important tool to redress these inequalities.
Cancel culture is simply the latest iteration of petitions and picket lines. In this, social media has become an important tool for activism that strengthens democracy. It has opened new opportunities to exercise free speech and opinion. Its value is the challenge it offers up to outdated ideas, and how it propels society towards a kinder and more contemporary set of values on which to build. Proponents include journalist and influencer Ernest Owens.