Image by Małgorzata Tomczak
Someone online has massively fucked up and the collective homogeneous entity known as The Internet is now braying for their blood.
What did they do? Did they make a tweet back in 2009 that was vaguely problematic? An interview from 1979 with racist/sexist/homophobic undertones? A line taken out of context? A line with context? Maybe they’ve been accused of “dogwhistling”—a made-up term used by the far-Left to pretend anyone who’s not them is the Literal Enemy—for the alt-Right.
Guess what? It doesn’t matter what they did! Because who cares about facts and context and nuance when there’s a good old fashioned witch burning!? Nuance is for bigots and Nazis anyway! And ’cause it’s the twenty-first century, the online mob doesn’t care whether you’re a man or a woman—they just want you destroyed (Not that only women were killed during the Salem witch hunts, as many conveniently forget). Limb by limb. Until you’re begging and sobbing and screaming and thrusting out your apology to all those who you’ve harmed so very badly.
Except your apology isn’t good enough.
You don’t really mean it. Try harder!
Of course they don’t truly mean it. You can’t foist an apology upon someone, and then expect it to be one hundred percent from the heart honest.
Why are you making it about yourself, you problematic shitlord?
Of course they’re making it about themselves, because you—the theoretical hate mob—made it about them.
I’m never going to watch/read/listen to you ever again! This is it. Go rot in a hole somewhere.
Whew, death threats are so progressive! This sort of hate mobber has never actually watched/read/listened to the person they’re canceling. In a few weeks, maybe less, they’ll have forgotten the Canceled Person even exists.
Who even is this bigoted loser? PopDopPlop? Shawn Dyson? Loouam Noussan? Never heard of them. Glad I don’t read/watch/listen to them!
Dollars to donuts this hate mobber has heard of the celebrity. Looks like a convenient case of “OrWhateverIt’sCalled-itis.”
Look, he’s crying. That must be a sign of guilt! or She said this one off-comment line in her apology. Looks like a faker!
Those involved in Cancel Culture don’t care about your apology. They don’t care whether you are innocent or guilty. Nuance means nothing, because you have already been found guilty by the Court of Public Opinion. They loathe the term “cancel culture” and “hate mobs”, believing themselves to be heroic dolers of justice; righting the hateful, bigoted wrongs of the world, one unpersoning at a time. Anyone who does not agree with “canceling” the chosen person of the moment must be just as guilty.
If you are found guilty by the Court of Public Opinion, it is not merely enough to say you are wrong, and promise to do better. Under the black-and-white thinking held by Cancel Culturists, you are such a vile person that you don’t deserve to exist. “He/she doesn’t deserve a platform.” Because, even if you apologize, the apology is just proof of your ill-will and evilness, and you must be stopped…permanently.
Those black-and-white thinkers, the Cancel Culturists, believe there is a difference between valid criticism and cancel culture. Don’t be fooled. “Valid criticism” is only allowed when you are on the exact same side of the political spectrum, and have the exact same beliefs, as the Cancel Culturists. Say, for example, the Cancel Culturists are members of the far-Left. They will willingly destroy any person who is not far-Left, even if it’s only a minor infraction. However, one of their friends does something wrong, and they brush over it, using terms like “problematic fave” and pushing victim status onto the Chosen Ones. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is only true of one side of the political spectrum. It doesn’t even have to involve politics at all.
Anita Sarkeesian/Laura Kate Dale
Laura Kate Dale is a journalist for Kotaku, an alleged gaming website. Recently, she was under some fire from the Right, and seemingly only the Right, for finding fault in a video game’s DLC where there was none. Dale’s clickbait piece attempted to stoke the fires of outrage, giving the braying mob some new blood. Turns out, there was no fault. Kotaku realized the mistake, and berated Dale before issuing a retraction. Where was the responses from those on Dale’s side? Shouldn’t Dale herself have been canceled? Where was the frantic unpersoning? Practically none. A valid example of Ethics in Games Journalism, not just the he-said-she-said that was Gamergate, and we hear silence. Those in Dale’s circles were all praise and sunshine, criticizing the “dogpilers” instead for expecting her to be a “machine.”
Roll back to August of 2017 and we have Laura Kate Dale in the news again, this time for, in the words of Anita Sarkeesian, “post[ing] this puff-piece on a Gamergater on the hate movement’s anniversary.” In 2017, alleged Gamergate victim Sarkeesian had her fair share of influence, easily able to sic her followers onto both innocent and guilty parties. This time, though? No dice. Despite a few furious responses, neither were not canceled. What’s the difference here? Both were labeled victims, and the controversy forgotten.
Sargon of Akkad
An example of the negative effects of Cancel Culture. Carl Benjamin is no stranger to controversy. He has said he “wouldn’t even rape” Jess Phillips, a UK Labour MP. He said the age of consent “depends on the child”. He’s also condemned fellow streamers for “acting like white n*****s, exactly how you say n*****s act”.
Much like Donald Trump, the Boy Who Called Wolf has worked wonders on Benjamin. Detractors of Benjamin have complained so much about petty inconveniences, that now he can say these awful things…and his fans will still support him. Great work! Benjamin knows how to work these outrage warriors, refusing to apologize, making mocking apologies, and even leaping in to save (read: manipulate) others harmed by the overzealous Cancel Culturists. Which leads us to…
Isaac Butterfield is an Australian comedian whose dark humor was recently taken out of context by an audience member of his Melbourne International Comedy Festival performance. Butterfield was immediately labeled a racist and anti-Semite, and he canceled his comedy special on a popular streaming service.
Unlike most affected by cancel culture, Butterfield refused to apologize. He released a clickbait-titled video, I’m Sorry…, and doubled down, refusing to apologize and adamantly denying being a racist and anti-Semite. The only concern lies in his pinned comment: it’s Sargon of Akkad, notable for manipulating unaware souls into his inner circle (read: The Quartering, Laci Green, etc).
If you want to see someone more hated by black-and-white thinkers, then meet Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie. PewDiePie is no stranger to controversy. As stated in The PewDiePipeline is Real, But Not In The Way You Think It Is:
His [YouTube] channel is allegedly seen by far too many as a recruitment tool for the alt-right, and Felix Kjellberg himself is allegedly all-too-willing to enable it. Entire subreddits and YouTube videos have been dedicated to questioning whether PewDiePie is enabling the alt-right, especially in light of recent events.
After being reference by the Christchurch terrorist and the Californian synagogue shooter, PewDiePie released both a statement of sorrow on Twitter, a YouTube video condemning white supremacists, and a YouTube apology.
You’re probably not surprised to learn that these apologies were not accepted by the Cancel Culturists:
There’s even some hints of self-awareness:
Exhibiting this amount of rage and pettiness over someone you do not know is not healthy. PewDiePie has called for an end to a meme mentioned by a mass shooter. He has denounced white supremacists. He has called for his fans to not be racist. He has unfollowed the problematic people on Twitter—even though a person’s Twitter follows shouldn’t be one hundred percent indicative of their own beliefs.
His apology is not good enough for the Cancel Culturists’ pure, blithering anger. It does not matter what he says, because the Perpetually Angry on the Internet have not watched him. They have stuck to their echo chambers, only reading and consuming content that agrees with their preconceived notions: That PewDiePie is wrong. To admit there are shades of gray; that PewDiePie may not be all bad, is inconceivable to them.
Black and white thinking is not healthy.
There are rarely ever all good and all evil people. Even the most evil human beings of all time—Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot—were not just raging cartoon cliches of evil. In the words of David Brooks:
The problem with the pseudo-realism of the call-out culture is that it is so naïve. Once you adopt binary thinking in which people are categorized as good or evil, once you give random people the power to destroy lives without any process, you have taken a step toward the Rwandan genocide.
Even the quest for justice can turn into barbarism if it is not infused with a quality of mercy, an awareness of human frailty and a path to redemption. The crust of civilization is thinner than you think.
It is easy to understand where black and white thinking stems from. Unable to conceive of a spectrum, it is easier to conjure two opposites in our mind. Republican and Democrat. Nazi and Communist. Victim and abuser. Right and wrong. Good and bad. If we have low self-esteem or problems with our sense of self, identities become something to latch onto.
In psychology, black and white thinking, also called “splitting”, is common among those with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and depression. That doesn’t mean all black and white thinkers on the internet have one of these mental illnesses, nor does it mean we should stigmatize these very real problems any more than they are already are. What it means is that black and white thinking is a coping mechanism utilized by people who feel so hurt, they wish to make others feel their very real pain. Social media, by its very nature, enables narcissistic patterns. We want more likes and comments and followers. We want to be heard over the glut of millions of others trying to do the very same thing. When someone goes viral, they’ve made it. Virality is the appealing solution to our crippling desire to be wanted. Brooks elaborates on this:
[Cancel culture] gave him a rush of pleasure, like an orgasm. He was asked if he cared about the pain Emily endured. “No, I don’t care,” he replied. “I don’t care because it’s obviously something you deserve, and it’s something that’s been coming. … I literally do not care about what happens to you after the situation. I don’t care if she’s dead, alive, whatever.”
When the interviewer…showed skepticism, he revealed that he, too, was a victim. His father beat him throughout his childhood.
This does not mean we should excuse black and white thinking.
Black and white thinking has very real, very dangerous consequences. Jon Ronson, known for his book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, knows all about this phenomenon. In his 2015 TED Talk, Ronson speaks about Justine Sacco, a woman who made a seemingly innocuous tweet before heading off on a plane trip. Little did Sacco know her life would change forever. Deemed a racist and an irredeemable bigot by the Cancel Culturists, Sacco received death threats, lost her job, and the mob seemingly wanted nothing more than to wipe her from the face of the earth. Sacco was “torn to shreds because of a misconstrued liberal joke”. Was she intentionally evil? Was she akin to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin? Was she anywhere near the same level as even Richard Spencer or David Duke or conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones? Does destroying Justine Sacco change the world? Even a little?
Not at all.
Even more notable people need to be considered before being #Canceled. Think of Johnny Depp. Amber Heard, his ex-wife, came out with salacious details of Depp abusing her. The Cancel Culturists immediately leaped onto Depp and anyone close to him. J.K Rowling, basically the richest woman in the United Kingdom, wasn’t even safe. After casting Depp in the Fantastic Beasts movies, Cancel Culturists denounced Rowling for supporting a horrific abuser. Only, it turns out: the case isn’t so black and white. Depp came out with evidence allegedly showing Heard as an abuser. Was this mutual abuse between Heard and Depp? Who was correct? Something more nuanced than what the Cancel Culturists had been screeching? Too late. Depp was already a pariah.
Cancel Culture started out with noble intentions. Calling out bad people for bad actions; urging them to do better. But then they do better. And that’s not enough. We want more. And more. And more. Until the accused is standing on one leg, juggling all the demands and accusations and struggling to keep up the act, lest they collapse and are beaten to metaphorical death by the infuriated mob.
We want an apology.
A real apology.
That’s not a real apology. You said the wrong words.
Only one apology. Why not more?
Two apologies? What are you; guilty or something?
You can’t keep up with the constantly shifting goalposts. Don’t bother. You’ll never be good enough.
But that means nothing to the person being vilified; bashed and stoned with rocks like they’re responsible for the Fourth Reich.
Is this what we really want? For a few selected souls on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Reddit to be able to decide who gets to exist and who doesn’t?
For all the talk of “It’s current year” and “we should be doing better”, we really are doing no better than we were two thousand years ago.
Don’t give in to the mob.
Even if it hurts. Especially if it hurts.
They thrive on your pain.
If you don’t cave in to #CancelCulture, you give the pain and the anger right back to the Cancel Culturists.
Only then can we start searching for solutions to all this pent-up anger.