Let me ask you this: How would you feel if the things you did as a pre-teen, things you said, were brought up against you 20 years into the future to ruin your career, or invalidate your opinion?
Well, that’s what I’m here to talk about.
The question provided is, of course, rhetorical, and I doubt you personally have done anything horrendous, but it relates a particular online phenomenon today, known as ‘cancel culture.’ Some of you may have heard the term in passing, but others might not have a clue. By the end of my speech, I hope to have provided some clarity toward the subject.
‘Cancel culture’, a concept which is rising within media platforms, such as twitter, Instagram, and reddit. It is a form of boycott, where normally false accusations can result in the social exile of all varieties of people; ranging from an up and coming popular user being slandered for a badly-phrased rant, or a celebrity being scorned for something they did as a teen. More often than not, it is the stars who are targeted, and dragged down from their pedestals at the behest of unverified claims.
An example of such an occurrence can be seen in the case of James Gunn, the director of the first two ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ movies, ‘Suicide Squad’, and other Disney-Marvel productions.
In July of 2018, he was fired. Statements he had made nearly 10 years prior were pulled from the grave, causing outcry and bringing the subject to the attention of his higher ups. Before he knew it, he had lost his job, due to some admittedly taboo jokes he made as a different man, during a period of dark humour and edgy comedy, where such subjects were viewed as easy laugh material, and accepted as simply edgy jokes. Fortunately, due to a contrasting outcry from the cast of his films and fans, he was re-hired, and is expected to help direct Guardians of the Galaxy volume 3.
Yet, the victims of those who jump onto this metaphorical bandwagon aren’t always so lucky.
Another case is that of “young” beauty youtuber James Charles, who earlier this year was involved in what can only be referred to as a scandal. The Internet personality, who gained fame through tutorial videos, attempts at singing and creating his own makeup brand, was accused of predatory tendencies and coercing a fan into sleeping with him. Not long after a cancellation spree, with millions of subscribers (and thus, income) lost, it was revealed that the accusations were false, started by an ex friend, another beauty youtuber named Tati Westbrook. James had supported a rival brand, and so she came out with blatant accusations and little proof. Even now, his reputation has been skewed, and his success slowed.
These are just a few examples of occasions where this ‘guilty until proven innocent’ mentality that inhabits the in internet and current culture has taken charge, and fortunately, no serious career based damage was caused in these cases. Still, it tarnishes a person's life, their persona, how they are viewed, and unfortunately, that form of damage is practically irreparable.
That isn’t to say that cancel culture is completely negative: in genuine cases of misconduct and activity that deserve cancellation, it can be a swift and effective way of getting justice, and drawing attention to a bad person. Cancelling them. Yet again, though, a genuinely “deserved” cancellation is rarely fair, as the process often means misinformation is spread, and the apparently ‘guilty’ party has hardly a chance to defend.
The negatives outweigh the positives in this case of internet culture.
“why is cancel culture an issue? Why does it exist to begin with?”
Simply put, with growing access to the largest database of information in history (that being the internet), it is easy for false information to spread. Accusations are shared as truths, while truths are deemed to be lies. Careers, lives even, can be ruined without any repercussions for those who accuse, and without a fair trial or even certification that the reason for an accusation is true.
I bring this up now, in this speech, as a warning of sorts. A record, an informational talk on a growing phenomenon that could easily occur to anyone in this room. It’s important to be wary of what is put online now, as who knows, maybe when you finally reach a stable career, someone will bring your blunders up and tear your hard work down.
So, be cautious of the new, harsh online world, and what you post. I hope you’ve learned something new through this speech.