Editorial: Where cancel culture falls short of change

Cancel culture, the catch-all term attributed to the calling out of those accused of wrongdoing on social media, is growing increasingly prevalent, concurrent with the rise of fake news and political strife. We, at the Hoofprint, believe cancel culture, though it bears its merits, needs to transform into a culture that keeps people accountable for their actions while also allowing for a nuanced discussion that permits growth. 

Where cancel culture succeeds in its intent, it fails in its distinction between mistakes and repeated patterns of severe wrongdoing such as sexual harassment, abuse of power and racism. Often accompanied by trending hashtags “___ is over party” on Twitter, cancel culture is loosely used to encompass all offensive behavior. For instance, last Friday, Katy Perry made a joke about fans of the popular K-Pop group, BTS, staying up past their bedtimes, resulting in “#katyperryisoverparty” trending highest that night. In September, Saturday Night Live fired a cast member after footage of him making racist comments toward Asians was found trending on Twitter. These two extremities — one a minor comment, the other a glaring act of racism — were grouped together under the umbrella of cancel culture, worsening the mistakes of some while lessening the severity of more serious offenses.

Cancel culture is overtly toxic with its treatment of wrongdoers, and its execution diametrically opposes its intent: to elicit progress and improve society. Most notably, YouTube makeup artist Tati Westbrook filmed a video in which she alleged that James Charles abused his fame and displayed predatory behavior. Countless memes and outraged reactions followed. Over the span of one week, Charles lost three million subscribers while Westbrook gained four million. The allegations were eventually disproved, but the situation reveals the toxic nature of cancel culture. 

In addition, the current culture is too focused on immediacy that it is often reduced to a trend that mobs of people follow, only to forget about over time. This past October, only a year after being charged with rape, Harvey Weinstein was invited to a private artist’s show. Weinstein is guilty of a felony and has ruined the lives of several people. Despite this, he is gradually afforded opportunities back into an industry that was right to condemn him. Although not everyone who has made a mistake deserves to be ostracized from society, those who have committed repugnant and unforgivable offenses deserve to be boycotted.

Many people believe those who have been called out for their actions should not be judged on their past, but rather who they are now. As the predominant enforcers and witnesses of cancel culture, it is our responsibility to reshape the attitude surrounding it, as well as the consequences. Cancel culture must be executed in a progressive manner that prompts growth. We encourage students to recognize that past actions may not define who a person is now and to defend your opinions surrounding controversial behavior after fact-checking and considering the rightful context. That is a step toward cultivating an improved culture that fosters lasting change and promotes sensitivity.

By the Head Editorial Board