(Ben Green) #1
48 Time December 2–9, 2019

“Has cancel culTure gone Too far?” THe quesTion felT impos-
sible to ignore this year. Google it and you’ll see pages of op-eds, often
concluding, yes, it has gone too far, and the Internet mob is out of control.
Cancel culture became so central to the discourse in 2019 that even
President Obama weighed in. The idea is that if you do something that
others deem problematic, you automatically lose all your currency. Your
voice is silenced. You’re done. Those who condemn cancel culture usually
imply that it’s unfair and indiscriminate.
The problem with this perspective is cancel culture isn’t real, at least
not in the way people believe it is. Instead, it’s turned into a catch-all for
when people in power face consequences for their actions or receive any
type of criticism, something that they’re not used to.
I’m a black, Muslim woman, and because of social media, marginal-
ized people like myself can express ourselves in a way that was not pos-
sible before. That means racist, sexist, and bigoted behavior or remarks
don’t fly like they used to. This applies to not only wealthy people or in-
dustry leaders but anyone whose privilege has historically shielded them
from public scrutiny. Because they can’t handle this cultural shift, they
rely on phrases like “cancel culture” to delegitimize the criticism.
Since the #MeToo hashtag went viral in 2017, more women have spo-
ken out about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault.
While many people have applauded this movement, some men now say
they fear even casual interactions with women will get them canceled.
Only that’s not what’s happening. While some powerful men may not
have the status they once did, they have hardly been canceled. Louis CK
admitted to masturbating in front of female comedians. He was dropped
by his agency, and HBO and Netflix cut ties with him, but he recently sold
out five shows in my home city of Toronto. Harvey Weinstein—who has
been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 80 women (he has de-
nied the allegations) and charged with preda-
tory sexual assault, a criminal sexual act and
rape (he has pleaded not guilty)—lost his
job, but when he showed up at a young
artists’ event in October, a comedian who
called him out in her set was booed and
two women who confronted him were
asked to leave. When political journal-
ist Mark Halperin, who denied allegations of
unwanted sexual contact but acknowledged that his “behavior was inap-
propriate and caused others pain,” faced pushback over a new book, his
publisher spoke to the New York Post decrying “this guilty-until-proven-
innocent cancel culture where everyone is condemned to death or to a
lifetime of unemployment based on an accusation that’s 12 years old.”
That criticism is being compared to death tells you a lot about some of
the people arguing that cancel culture has run amok.
In September, comedian Shane Gillis was fired from Saturday Night
Live after videos of him making racist jokes surfaced. Comedian Bill Burr

condemned the firing saying, “You f-cking millen-
nials, you’re a bunch of rats, all of you,” and “None
of them care, all they want to do is get people in
trouble.” But having a job at SNL isn’t a human
right. And although Gillis’ defenders have fretted
about the sanctity of free speech in comedy, the au-
dience of a comedic TV show should
get to speak out about whether
they want to watch someone
who has espoused this type
of humor. That’s actually the
marketplace at work. Why
should Gillis be able to utter
racist things but those affected
by hate speech shut their mouths?
Gillis is still a touring comedian. He will be fine.

Although use of the term spiked this year,
the idea of cancel culture has been bubbling for a
while. In 2016, Kim Kardashian shared clips re-
vealing that despite Taylor Swift’s claim that Kanye
West didn’t warn her about a provocative lyric, he
actually did give her a heads-up and she thanked
him. Swift said she was “falsely painted as a liar.”


No one is saying people in power should be unfairly silenced. But they should be h










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