(Ben Green) #1


But soon #TaylorSwiftIsCanceled was trending.
“When you say someone is canceled, it’s not
a TV show. It’s a human being,” Swift told Vogue
this summer. “You’re sending mass amounts
of messaging to this person to either shut up,
disappear, or it could also be perceived as, kill
yourself.” There aren’t many people who can
understand what Swift went through. To have
so many people turn on you is surely upsetting.
But how exactly was she canceled? Though
many people believed that this white woman had
disingenuously portrayed herself as a victim of a
black bully and made clear that they didn’t find
that acceptable, Swift has remained one of the
highest-paid celebrities in the world.
The conversation reached a new level in Oc-
tober when Obama expressed concern about the
way people are called out on social media. “This
idea of purity and you’re never compromised and
you’re always politically woke and all that stuff,
you should get over that quickly,” he said at a
summit. He didn’t use the term, but the assump-
tion was he was condemning cancel culture.
Now I am certain Obama wasn’t talking about Louis CK in his call for
us to be less judgmental. He was pointing out that people are compli-
cated and make mistakes, though I’m not convinced they are being writ-
ten off in the way he thinks. It should also go without saying that Swift’s
perceived offense should not be lumped in with Weinstein’s alleged
crimes. But that’s another problem with the conversation about cancel
culture. It oversimplifies. The term is used in so many contexts that it’s
rendered meaningless and precludes a nuanced discussion of the spe-
cific harm done and how those who did it should be held accountable.
Rather than panicking that someone might be asked to take a seat,
we would all do well to consider the people who are actually sidelined:
those who lose professional opportunities because of toxic workplaces,
who spend years dealing with trauma caused by others’ actions, who are
made to feel unsafe.
I write frequently about racism and Islamophobia and have received
more death threats, calls for my firing and racist insults than I can keep
track of. But when people who believe cancel culture is a problem speak
out about its supposed silencing effect, I know they’re not talking about
those attacks. When they throw around terms like “cancel culture” to
silence me instead of reckoning with the reasons I might find certain ac-
tions or jokes dehumanizing, I’m led to one conclusion: they’d prefer
I was powerless against my own oppression.

Hagi is a writer based in Toronto

It was nearly
impossible to check
social media over the
summer and miss the
Area 51 fervor. Yes,
that old conspiracy
theory. While
folklore surrounding
the Nevada Air
Force base has
permeated pop
culture for decades,
a new Instagram-
fueled trend of
exploring forbidden
Chernobyl had quite
a few visitors this
the conspiracy that
the U.S. government
has proof of
at the remote
military site.
In June, when
college student Matty
Roberts suggested
online that revelers
band together to
“storm” Area 51,
it went viral instantly.
Roberts even added
that raiders should
“Naruto run” through
the gates: an homage
to another of 2019’s
biggest memes, of
anime character

Naruto. Roberts
soon said that he
was joking, but tens
of thousands still
wanted to gather
near the (admittedly
unlikely) aliens.
In came Alienstock,
an eclectic music
festival held
in ill-equipped
Rachel, Nev., the
town nearest to the
site, which boasts
one business and
fewer than 100
Amazingly, 3,000
attendees came in
peace to the festival
on Sept. 19, and
Alienstock turned out
to be much more a
camplike retreat than
a raucous search
for extra terrestrials,
much to the relief of
military officials and
Rachel’s residents.
In fact, it proved a
welcome bit of levity.
Even Area 51’s
guards were caught
laughing as tinfoil-
clad, alien-costumed
attendees ran like
Naruto through
the desert. —Rachel
E. Greenspan



How the Area 51 conspiracy
was reignited in 2019


be held accountable By Sarah Hagi













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