June 6th, 2021

buffy 1

A Couple Opinion Pieces on Cancel Culture

Two very different New York Times opinion pieces on cancel culture:

A Different Way of Thinking About Cancel Culture
"People should be shamed when they say something awful. Social sanctions are an important mechanism for social change, and they should be used. The problem is when that one awful thing someone said comes to define their online identity, and then it defines their future economic and political and personal opportunities. I don’t like the line that no one deserves to be defined by the worst thing they’ve ever done — tell me the body count first — but let’s agree that most of us don’t deserve to be defined by the dumbest thing we’ve ever said, forever, just because Google’s algorithm noticed that that moment got more links than the rest of our life combined."

Cancel Culture Works. We Wouldn’t Have Marriage Equality Without It.
"The movement to legalize same-sex marriage is often understood as one of civil rights test cases. And indeed, savvy legislative lobbying, fortuitous demographic change and pop-culture influence all played their part, too. But a largely forgotten story is the way a group of political entrepreneurs changed the economic terrain on which cultural conflict was waged. They demonstrated that shaming and shunning could amount to more than an online pile-on and serve as a potent tactic for political change."

What strikes me is that those two opinion pieces are talking about different phenomena. The first one is about individuals who lose their livelihood after saying something stupid in public. (Or even something that was not stupid but that a vocal group of people don't like.) The second piece is about a political strategy that deliberately publicly embarrassed individuals, but seems to have mostly focused on boycotting corporations. These are not the same things.