Bad behavior. Controversy. Public call outs. It’s all a part of the nuanced cycle of cancel culture. The tireless loop of short-lived fame, discovery, reporting and cancellation has taken the internet by storm, affecting any and all sub-groups and celebrities from Reddit to Tik Tok. There is not a single platform on the web that doesn’t hold people accountable for their actions, or their words, no matter the platform the creator or artist may have. How does this affect all of us? Is this a good thing? I say, no. But of course, like many things on the internet, the truth is far from what it seems.
In the gilded age of the internet that we live in, the rotten inside covered by filtered pictures and catchy tunes is a beautiful thing to observe. Something of an enigma, many influencers and celebrities can encapsulate their audiences in an endless cycle of parasocial relations and brand deals, all helping enable a system of overconsumption, both digital and material. The internet has created a forum that is available to all and accessible for children, teens and adults globally, informing many of individuals they would not know otherwise. The latest celebrity drama is a forefront on my own social media accounts and the current trends flood my news feeds just the same, creating an atmosphere of overwhelming marketing and social strategies.
Through this, we see an overarching superficial feel which leads to a surface level knowledge of those we support. In comes the discovery. Many celebrities were found out, especially in the 90’s for less than commendable actions such as Mark Wahlberg committing a hate crime and the infamous Kate Moss cocaine scandals. These findings however, swept into a familiar whirlwind of paparazzi harassment and social reactions ranging from idolization to hatred. However, in the contemporary timeline, we see a very different reaction to celebrity scandals and wrongdoings.
The current cycle of cancellation begins with individuals finding said wrongdoing, usually conspiracy theorists and the like, digging through their old archives to find an offensive tweet or insensitive remark. Then, a group of publisher-like social media users will post the evidence and create drama throughout. People pick up on said behavior and comment negative remarks back on the celebrities or influencer’s social media. This leads to some media coverage and a subsequent half-baked apology video or comment, typically written by a PR team or agent. This new wave of attention ends up helping the celebrity and typically helps them in future endeavors when they attempt social rehabilitation.
Unfortunately, due to the bounce back that celebrities can have post-scandal, we see that cancel culture is ultimately ineffective. Though it calls to attention unacceptable behavior that others may have not known is negative prior, and I myself have learned a thing or two from prior influencer clashes, they bring more attention to the individual rather than the problem at hand. This leads to a cycle of minimization of the issues, which typically involve racist comments, antisemitism, sexism and even sexual assault or predatory behavior, as was seen with Youtuber James Charles and Cheer(Netflix) star Jerry Harris.
Uniquely, we see that with people such as Jerry Harris, the behavior was not only called out but taken to court by the two teen accusers and then dealt out, leading to a prosecution of Harris in the court of public opinion. This isolated incident, explored by the investigative journalists previously on the Larry Nassar/USA Gymnastics case, was a success. However, such a level of prosecution and actual consequence is rare for the formerly canceled celebrity.
In relation to politics and what we do at JSA, there is a negative correlation between this hostile atmosphere created by cancel culture and civil discourse. Of course, the internet, especially social media doesn’t necessarily encourage eloquent expression. However, cancel culture takes it further by promoting hate speech, threats and poor argumentation by limiting characters and building strong alliances against people. Even if justified, this tends to slow the number of progressive discussions we have on topics and ultimately leads to more teens and young adults participating in this regressive form of communication every day. As well as fewer solutions coming to light for the issues at hand, such as growing racism, prejudice and potential criminal activity. This hostile communication can limit us from growth and education, when all we are concerned with is the outcome of the momentary drama.
In conclusion, although some positives come from the public and digital recognition of bad behavior, it generally leads to evidence and immoral thinking being swept under the rug and subsequently, ignored in society as a whole. Its subsequent effects on civil political discourse are also rash and create a poor effect on our younger generations. Therefore, we should focus on alternative activism (such as marches, education of the criticized celebrities, and increased awareness), thorough criminal investigations, and police focus on hate crimes and hate speech in society overall.