Is “canceling” an appropriate social response to bad behavior?

The Dixie Chicks were “canceled” by the country music world after they spoke out against President George Bush and the War in Iraq.

They were left off country music charts and radio playlists. Sponsorships were cut. Death threats made. All because fans disapproved of their opinion on the War and, collectively, shut them down.

Should a person be canceled, professionally or personally? Should a public backlash to an offensive remark be used to end a career?

interestingly, today the Dixie Chicks might not be “canceled” due to their view on the Iraq War

In 2003, when the Dixie Chicks took their anti-war stance, 72% of Americans favored the war in Iraq.

As of March 2018, only 43% of Americans said the War was the right decision.

Canceling empowers.

Tim

Sometimes it feels like, as an individual, our voice doesn’t really change things, especially when you’re talking about bad behavior from someone who has a lot of power.

I remember when President Trump was at a rally, and he made fun of a reporter.

Jumping in with some background here:

Years ago, New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski wrote an article about the claim that Muslims cheered as the towers collapsed following the 9/11 attacks. More recently, President Trump referenced the event saying, “I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.”

Kovaleski said that Trump’s version did not match his memory of the event. At a rally, Trump mocked the reporter, using spastic motions with his arms. Watch it here.

Why did Trump use strange spastic motions while mocking the reporter? The reporter has arthrogryposis, which affects the functioning of his joints.

Back to Tim…..

President Trump making fun of a guy’s disability bothered me so much. Not only would I never have done that; I don’t know anyone who would do something like that.

A lot of people were upset by what President Trump did–it was all over social media–but nothing ever came of it. President Trump never apologized. I think he even denied doing it, which seems worse because the videos are everywhere.

Anyway, when power protects a person from admitting wrongdoing or suffering consequences, at least I have the ability to take a stand, join a movement, whatever, and make it clear how I feel.

Canceling is like a correction to a social screw-up that’s always available to me.

Laura

You’ve described canceling someone as a thoughtful response to bad behavior. I feel like it’s not always thoughtful, though. People can pile on to an opinion, joining the mob because it feels good to be part of the group.

Since you’re talking about our President….

“Lock her up!” is chanted at rallies despite exhaustive investigations that turned up no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton.

“Send her back!” was chanted at rallies following President Trump’s condemnation of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar, telling them  to “go back” to the “crime infested places from which they came” even though all four women are American citizens, and only one was born overseas, arriving in the US at age 10.

Associating with a group–which is part of a social media trend to cancel someone–doesn’t always provoke a thoughtful response.

Canceling “outs” horrible behavior.

Tim

Horrible people rely on the group to be silent. Getting called out on social media could mean ending that protective silence.

Look at Jerry Sandusky: A university supported him yet for 15 years he molested children. How about Larry Nusser? A university supported him yet he sexually molested hundreds of athletes.

If we are weighing what-good-a-voice-can-do (expose evil) versus what-bad-a-voice-can-do (say ignorant things), maybe it makes sense to err on the side of outing evil.

Canceling often means disagreeing with an opinion.

Laura

If canceling were used mostly as a check on bad behavior then what you’re saying might make sense: take a risk and say something because REALLY bad behavior needs to be stopped. But, I feel like canceling is mostly used to discredit or silence people who simply have different opinions.

Having a contrasting opinion is not a reason to be silenced.

As a society we need to be more tolerant of differences in race, religion, sexuality, all that, but we also need to be more tolerant of  differences of opinions.

Listening to and learning from an unfamiliar or diverging opinion is the way we grow and become better people. The last thing we should do is to cancel opinions that make us uncomfortable.

Tim

Gotta agree with that one.

Laura

Wait.

You agree with me?

And, ideally, different opinions should be valued and talked about.

Tim

A little.

When you’re in school, walking down the hallway, and you see someone that’s been dropped from a group, I don’t think you should join in and ignore that person because the group decides the person is no longer cool. Like, yesterday this guy was okay, and today he’s not–that doesn’t make sense. That’s canceling based on mob mentality–like chanting at a rally without knowing facts. That’s just stupid.

But you’re online and someone–like Kanye—says something stupid about slavery, I think it’s okay to push back.

Pushing back should also mean that when I’m with people–friends, family, whatever–I should talk about the push back, try to find out how and why people support Kanye’s statement on slavery, for example, or how and why they don’t support it.

So, pushing back by canceling should also mean trying to talk about that push-back.

Laura

Doesn’t canceling mean “done with you” not “I want to talk about your stance on that idea?”

Tim

It’s canceling with benefits. Canceling with terms. Something like that.

Okay, okay.

Talking to people who have different opinions probably isn’t the same thing as canceling.

Because, we don’t talk when we cancel; we just declare that something’s wrong. So maybe we should be really careful about who or why we cancel, and only keep it for the big stuff that’s undeniable.

Laura

I like it. Good compromise.

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