Social Justice Usage
How else do we, the public, [who are] largely powerless in the everyday execution of systems of value, moderate society without something like cancel culture? Where we can point out in real time the attitudes that perpetuate violence and call them out? That said, does cancel culture work? I don’t know, but it’s what we have. I think it helps mobilize people and direct intentions toward better legislative possibilities.
New Discourses Commentary
“Cancellation” or “cancel culture” is largely understood as an aspect and, indeed, an escalation of “call-out culture,” in which a public figure is found to have said or done something problematic and is then called out for it, most commonly on social media. This leads to mass outrage and demands for a boycott of the individual’s work, their firing from their job or work opportunities, or the retraction of invitations to events (or an outright cancellation of their event). One would be immediately forgiven for identifying it with what it is: a modern, social-media-driven instantiation of Maoist-style struggle sessions in which problematic individuals are subjected to mass public shame, forced to apologize, and then shamed further.
Because of the cultural power held by Social Justice ideas and activists and the fears of organizations that they will be deemed racist, sexist, or transphobic, etc., these attempts at cancellation are often successful (see also, hegemony). Various factors, including the popularity of the individual (thus their potential influence on the discourses), the seriousness of the problematic speech or behavior, and the “wokeness” of the individual’s audience or that of the organization for which they work, decide whether that individual is ever able to redeem themselves or will be forever “untouchable.” The goal of a cancellation is usually to remove the targeted individual from status-bearing jobs, particularly ones that have the capacity to create or influence the discourses of society.
Generally, the more woke a person or their audience is (these will usually be highly correlated as well), the more susceptible to cancellation they are, not less. The simplest explanation for this is that the woke pay far more attention to other woke people than to others, and they are borderline obsessive about examining the discourses of all public figures (see also, discourse analysis). A somewhat deeper explanation is that the woke, who have a critical consciousness, are expected to be more aware of systemic power dynamics and positionality, not to mention an underexamined heart of the problem (see also, allyship and good white), while everyone else is considered rather unwashed or potentially irredeemable and undesirable (see also, conservative).
One will recognize that one of the justifications for this behavior is to “point out in real time the attitudes that perpetuate violence.” Social Justice has a complicated relationship with the term violence (best explained in its own entry), but for the time being, suffice it to say that “violence” can include words, speech, ideas, symbols, images, and potentially even thoughts that the Social Justice activist considers dangerous in their contribution to producing or sustaining dominant discourses. By branding these phenomena “violent,” it is far easier to justify significant and censorious activism against them.
Ally/Allyship; Call out; Conservative; Critical consciousness; Discourses; Dominance; Good white; Hegemony; Position; Problematic; Racism (systemic); Sexism (systemic); Social Justice; Systemic power; Transphobic; Violence; Woke/Wokeness
Revision date: 7/8/20