Don’t let ‘cancel culture’ be the monster under your bed

By Emma Weidmann | Staff Writer

It’s the boogeyman that haunts us each time we post on social media. It visits headlines and lingers in Twitter hashtags. It’s a baby boomer’s worst nightmare and a Gen Zer’s best friend.

“Cancel culture” has come to mean a lot of things — and, simultaneously, just about nothing. Sometimes it means getting fired from a television franchise, but more often than not, the term is thrown around loosely as a way to describe celebrities being criticized on social media. It’s hardly ever career-ending, and it can be the agent of a lot of good.

Cancel culture has its upsides, but it has some pretty serious pitfalls. Its well-meaning push for inclusion and correctness also encourages a sort of puritanical way of thinking. There’s the accepted set of beliefs and a correct way to talk about them — from what words you use to who you can even talk about them with.

Believing that cancel culture is stuffy and ill-conceived is not to say there is any excuse for racism and other kinds of discrimination. However, the notion that there is a correct and an incorrect way of thinking — and forcing others to fall in line with your own sense of morality — is exactly the kind of backward system that creates beliefs like those.

Cancel culture says we shouldn’t say things that are controversial, things that stoke flames. That’s absurd.

For one, you’ll never be able to please everyone. Take, for example, the casting of a Black actress as Ariel in the live-action “The Little Mermaid.” There are those who were overjoyed at the casting of Halle Bailey, and there are those who derided the decision, calling it “forced diversity.” In the quest for diversity and inclusivity, Disney pleased some and angered others … almost exactly what would have happened had they cast a white actress.

On that note, there is a 100% chance that you will have an opinion one day that will upset, offend and otherwise provoke your peers. So what?

“Censorship” is another one of those words that is beginning to lose its meaning — the way a word starts to sound less like a word and more like a noise the more you say it. Honestly, I’m tired of the never-ending discussion of Twitter censorship. It seems you either dislike someone and want them to be censored because you don’t want to hear from them, or you support them and therefore call them being banned from social media “Orwellian” in nature.

As a society, we’ve used censorship as a tool to shut certain people and things down like a group of high school mean girls. It’s no longer a question of censorship being good or bad; it’s about who should be censored, and it’s getting old.

So, the problem begins when we censor others. But what happens when we start censoring ourselves?

We all have opinions. We all should have space to be bold and sometimes controversial. I don’t want to create a world where we’re all so afraid of what other people may think of our opinions that we just keep them all to ourselves. It would be good to stop living in fear of a debate or an argument for the sake of trying to please people.

When I was a kid, I read a book about the boogeyman. It was a thing with claws and red nails that lived under a poor little boy’s bed. It terrorized him at night.

But a boogeyman is only make-believe — a myth created to scare children into good behavior. In the children’s books, a boogeyman is banished by turning on the lights, throwing open the closet door and realizing there’s nothing to be afraid of.

I encourage you to turn on the lights and speak your mind.