I’m actively bored of the discussion around cancel culture. I’m actively bored of the thing that I’m meant to be writing about.
I’m bored of cancel culture because we’ve been banging on about it since about 2017 – and since then, I’ve been convinced that it doesn’t exist AT ALL. It’s a mythic creature, like a unicorn or a competent member of parliament.
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Let me start by defining my terms as I realise that cancel culture isn’t something everyone’s aware of – in fact, a recent YouGov poll found that two-thirds of Britons hadn’t even really heard of it. In a spirit of rigorous journalistic vigour, I put this to the test and conducted my own extensive research (asked my dad what he thought it was). Tony Petts is somewhere in his 50s and doesn’t use social media. He thinks cancel culture is when you book a table at a restaurant but then get Covid and don’t cancel your booking so the restaurant loses out on money. It’s not the right answer, but it’s pure of heart.
No, dad, cancel culture is when mass support is withdrawn from a celebrity or public figure because they’ve said or done something ranging between problematic and criminal. It’s basically an extension of the “you can’t say anything these days” argument that the older generation might find more of a recognisable concept.
News flash: you can say anything these days. You just might be held accountable for your words and actions… or you may not. If you’re rich, you’ll probably get away with it anyway.
Let me give you an example. Ricky Gervais recently released a Netflix special in which he made some pretty lazy and derogatory jokes about trans people, a group who suffer disproportionate societal persecution and oppression just for being them. His supporters are upset that he attracted widespread criticism, suggesting Gervais is the latest victim of cancel culture. Gervais knew exactly what he was doing – saying the offensive, edgelord thing de rigueur, knowing that the left and the right would go to battle over it, earning him massive amounts of publicity and driving traffic to the Netflix special. He is very much the opposite of cancelled; his voice has been amplified to the masses.