Cancel Culture has been a hot topic over the last few days after the organization that owns the rights to the Dr. Seuss catalog of books made the decision that they were going to stop publishing 6 books due to what they considered to be the racist imagery found in them.
"They canceled Dr. Seuss!" they shouted as they thumped their chest thumpers and tossed their red meaters.
As with most things, Cancel Culture is relative. There is a spectrum, and the egregiousness of the "violation" and your pre-existing view on the subject matter determine what you consider a bad use of "cancel culture."
To illustrate I'll start with something we can all agree on. This is purposefully an extreme example, an over-the-top egregious violation that puts everyone reading this on the same side for a moment.
Let's say a restaurant opens in the year 2021. They are a 1950s themed joint, everything decked out in a "sock hop" aesthetic. Pretty cool place.
However, the owner takes it a really big step too far. He decides that he's not going to allow Black people to eat at his 1950s themed restaurant, they wouldn't have been allowed to in the 1950s, and he's really leaning into it.
It's pretty obvious to everyone that he's just a terrible bigot, but he hides behind the 1950s theme excuse well enough that for whatever reason he's allowed to do it by law. You now have a restaurant in your town that is segregated.
You and I would boycott that establishment (I guess I'd have no choice but still). They would not get our business. Some reading this may even take it a step further and protest in front of the restaurant. They would do everything in their power to hurt the income of that business.
Now, in this example the premise is that this is not a violation of the law. In reality it is, but stay with me for the purpose of the analogy.
The restaurant fails as a direct result of the outrage expressed by the local community. This restaurant was destroyed by what could be described as "Cancel Culture"...good.
I would define "Cancel Culture" as a group of people who disagree with an act or belief (that's not prohibited by law) having the collective power to effect the income of the offending party to such an extent it alters their actions, willingly or unwillingly.
Let's look at two examples that people will disagree on...
Gina Carano is an actress. Until recently she played a popular character on a very popular Disney+ show called "The Mandalorian."
Gina Carano is not like other Hollywood actors, she comes from a completely different culture, the world of mixed martial arts. Gina Carano spent her formative years breaking people's faces.
Because she came from a different culture most of her views were not shared by the people she was now surrounded by on a daily basis in the film industry.
She started getting in trouble within this new culture when, among other things, she used her platform as a famous person to express her views publically on Transgender issues related to the world of sports and not identifying her gender pronouns on social media accounts.
What ended up getting Gina Carano fired is when she used the experience of Jewish people in Nazi Germany as an analogy to her experience as a conservative surrounded by liberals in her daily life.
People pointed to this example as her minimizing the experience of Jewish people in Nazi Germany by equating it to her experience in the liberal film industry.
Disney fired her from the show shortly thereafter.
A group of people who disagreed with a belief that Gina Carano held had the collective power to effect Disney's income to such an extent it altered their actions, and they fired Gina Carano. By extension they effected the income and, since she isn't acting on that show anymore, the actions of Gina Carano herself.
Colin Kaepernick was an NFL Quarterback who led his team to a Superbowl in 2012, losing by only 3 points to the Baltimore Ravens 31-34. At that time NFL analysts like Ron Jaworski dubbed Kaepernick as, "having the potential to be one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history in the NFL."
Colin Kaepernick is not like NFL ownership or the majority of the NFL fandom, he comes from a completely different culture, he is a member of a minority community. Colin Kaepernick spent his formative years as a racial minority in America.
He started getting in trouble within this new culture when he used his platform to express opposing views on Law Enforcement practices and the Criminal Justice System in America.
What ended up getting Colin Kaepernick fired is that he expressed these views publically by kneeling in non-violent protest during the playing of the National Anthem before games.
People pointed to this as evidence that Colin Kaepernick hated Military Veterans.
The NFL fired Colin Kaepernick shortly thereafter.
A group of people who disagreed with a belief that Colin Kaepernick held had the collective power to effect the NFL's income to such an extent it altered their actions, and they fired Colin Kaepernick. By extension they effected the income and, since he isn't playing anymore, the actions of Colin Kaepernick himself.
TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN
I purposefully wrote these two examples to mirror each other. There will be those that read the Carano entry and want to add 10 additional pages of context explaining why it's different from the Kaepernick entry, and vice versa.
I understand they aren't identical examples, I understand that there were other things going on in both these instances, but I do believe the essence of why both are perceived differently by different people is the same.
Those on the side of Carano will see a mob with an opposing opinion getting her fired simply for disagreeing with them in a public manner. Those on the side of Kaepernick will see a mob with an opposing opinion getting him fired simply for disagreeing with them in a public manner.
Side note, the list of "Cancel Culture" examples is bottomless, and although the liberal side of the equation has gained the most attention lately with things like this Dr. Seuss controversy, the conservative side has historically been pretty good at this as well.
"The Jeffersons" introduced the first interracial married couple on TV to intense conservative backlash. The Dixie Chicks made a statement against George W. Bush and the Iraq War and conservatives literally burned their albums in the streets. Anything in media depicting same-sex couples through the 90s was almost immediately met with a boycott by a significant number of conservative groups. The list goes on and on.
SO WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT?
That "Cancel Culture" exists is not actually a bad thing. There is stuff that happens in this world that should be shunned culturally and punished financially without having to draw up laws for every single thing.
The frustration we feel when we see a "Cancel Culture" event we don't agree with is simply the tip of a much larger and more detrimental iceberg.
The true problem sitting under the surface, like almost any other problem in our current political and cultural landscape, is Tribalism.
What caused you outrage today is easily written off as not a big deal tomorrow because the team changed. Yesterday it was someone on the other team doing the thing, today it's somebody on your team, so you feel totally different about the two instances.
Again, I hear you, there are 100 reasons why they're different... most of the time they're not... most of the time you simply perceive them differently.
The real damage here is that when you add Tribalism to the mix, because there is always one side defending the offending party and one side trying to destroy them, you're going to A) have people who actually did a terrible thing get away with it and B) have people who aren't really hurting anyone get absolutely destroyed for no good reason.
The only way to combat Tribalism is to change how we view and interact with our opposition. It is fair to question someone's methods, having different opinions on how to accomplish something is healthy, but we have to stop questioning each other's motives.
Gina Carano doesn't hate Transgender people, she does think that the way culture is shifting around gender issues is to the detriment of the broader society, and she's expressed that in an inarticulate manner. She could be wrong, but it needs to be ok to be a certain amount of wrong, people aren't perfect.
Colin Kaepernick doesn't hate all police officers, he does think that the way policing and criminal justice is handled in America is to the detriment of the broader society, and he's expressed that in an inarticulate manner (see: pig socks). He could be wrong, but it needs to be ok to be a certain amount of wrong, people aren't perfect.
In both examples the right answer isn't to destroy the careers of either one of these people.
Side note, because I just can't help myself, those that think Kaepernick is out of the NFL for any other reason than his kneeling protest, either due to his quality of play or salary demands, you're not paying attention to the play and pay of existing QBs employed over the last 5 seasons. The NFL has featured some truly garbage and overpaid quarterbacking recently. Your objective judgement is clouded.
You may vehemently disagree with either Gina or Colin, but neither are the 1950s style restaurant owner, they're just people with an opposing opinion that aren't experts at delivering their message in a flawless manner.
You want to end the negative use of "Cancel Culture," stop believing that just because someone disagrees with you their reasoning is based in the most evil rationale possible!
To button up I'll come back to the starting point of this piece. My personal opinion on the 6 Dr. Seuss books that are ending their publishing run is that it's simply a reflection of culture moving forward.
There is a fine line between erasing history and setting aside outdated symbolism, but there is a difference.
We no longer have TV advertisements featuring the quintessential "good wife" washing dishes in the kitchen after bringing her husband his evening drink. Historically that's how the ideal American family was depicted back in the day, but that doesn't mean we have to cling to that time and continue to push out content depicting that outdated imagery. That's not erasing history, it's just moving on.
We're not making these 6 Dr. Seuss books illegal to own (if we do I'll write a different piece about it, but don't @ me with a slippery slope fallacy here), they're simply not printing them anymore. That's ok.
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