Are We Losing Our Humanity?
Intolerance in society is being fueled by the cancel culture. The cancel culture is mainly an Internet phenomenon where those offended by the comments of another party become denounced online by those who object to the behavior. It’s one form of a cultural boycott that seeks to isolate the offending party by a group with counter views. As a manifestation of groupthink, the cancel culture is often motivated by political correctness. Taken to an extreme, it can lead to bullying behavior.
Canceling someone on Twitter or elsewhere sends a message that you, or a group of like-minded individuals, disagree vehemently with the target’s espoused positions or actions. It’s a way to get one’s views circulated among mass society instantaneously.
Open communication is essential to a free society. Unfortunately, the cancel culture is turning people away from voicing their opinions on social media. They are trying to take away the platform the target has to express views that may be offensive to others.
We need to become a more tolerant society not only in matters of differences in sex, sexual preference, race, religion, and nationality but also in showing the willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with and not seek to harm the offender. It may be a fine line that we walk between a legitimate cancel and ill-advised one, but it’s a line that must be drawn to bring civility back to society.
Former President Obama called out the cancel culture when he challenged young activists about being too judgmental. He pointed out that tweeting about how someone didn’t do something right or used the wrong word verb and feeling good about oneself for doing so is not activism nor productive to bring about change.
I worry about cancelling becoming the cultural norm of the day. I admit there are those who deserve to be cancelled. Harvey Weinstein comes to mind as does Bill Cosby and Jeffrey Epstein. I’m okay with canceling them although I recognize it can be an ethical slippery slope.
One way to examine the ethics of the cancel culture is to evaluate the pros and cons of the behavior. Why do some people say it’s a good practice?
- Expressing oneself by taking others to task is part of the democratic process and free speech.
- Canceling others is a manifestation of holding others accountable for their behaviors.
- Calling-out is one way to challenge provocateurs, who deliberately hurt others, or powerful people beyond our reach.
- Canceling someone is an attempt to stifle their free speech rights.
- Tweeting against others in anger begets more anger and can lead to a more serious practices such as bullying.
- Canceling is an ethical slippery slope; should we cancel everyone with whom we disagree? Where should the line be drawn or is it even possible to do so?
The practice of a cancel culture has further divided our country into warring camps. It’s spilled over to all aspects of our lives including politics. We need to start a national dialogue about it and how it affects civility in society. How will we ever learn to disagree with each other without being disagreeable in a cancel culture?
Those who engage in the cancel culture seek to criticize without listening or understanding why someone said something, and then trying to change the minds of those with whom they disagree. An unintended consequence may be that some members of the canceling group join in for fear of being canceled themselves. People should be able to speak out or remain silent on the issues without fear of retribution.
Moral values are essential to a free society and that includes civil discourse. But how will we ever have civil discourse if we shut each other out whenever we don’t agree with a different, albeit offensive, point of view? My concern is that free speech will be stifled throughout society and the cancel culture is creating a “thought police” that may be unforgiving.
We all make mistakes. We all say and do things that years later, upon reflection, we regret. Kindness and forgiveness are two moral values. Empathy is another and when we fail to live our lives according to such ideals, we lose a sense of our humanity as a caring, understanding, and forgiving society.
Posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on February 16, 2021. You can sign up for his newsletter and learn more about his activities at: https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/. Follow him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/StevenMintzEthics and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ethicssage.