Business & Finance

My Take On ‘Cancel Culture’


Sometimes a phrase does not do justice to the complexity of the issues that it covers and in my opinion one such phrase is ‘cancel culture’.

On the surface it means people blocking the words, thoughts, images of those whose opinions they object to. It leads to MP’s like Amber Rudd having speeches cancelled or students walking out on them and ‘no-platform’ resolutions in student unions.

It means blocking people on social media. Many of those who advocate freedom of speech impose no limits, responsibilities or restrictions but the counter to this is that we all have a choice of what we expose ourselves to. Great thinkers like Voltaire defended free speech but would they say exactly the same in the era of social media when voices are amplified and some of those voices are filled with hatred? I suspect, but of course cannot prove, that what Voltaire and others supported/support in freedom of speech was/is reasoned discussion but not the ‘weaponised’ and amplified use of hate-filled rhetoric.  Germany after the Second World War made a choice not to glorify the Nazis and makes promotion of them and their views illegal.

Humans are complex and even saintly people can say or do ‘devilish’ things. There has never existed or will exist a human being without fault or flaw and we have to decide what we find acceptable and unacceptable. Gandhi can be accused of unacceptable behaviour as can Mother Theresa. Savagery and extremes of discrimination have been done in the name of the three major monotheistic religions. Those in the public eye are in a unique position compared to your racist, sexist, homophobic uncle because they have a platform that amplifies their views to many. Those who hate often know what they are doing and chose to provoke those who do not hate.

In my opinion it is reasonable to turn off hate and switch on love. Protecting one’s mental health and peace of mind is a sensible life course strategy and if someone offends us by their actions and their thoughts it is sensible to avoid them. If they have produced enjoyable works of art that are not affected by their reprehensible views then these can still be enjoyed but I also understand why some can only see their work overshadowed by darkness. The artist Eric Gill did amazing religious work but his daughter revealed that he abused her and was into bestiality. Discredited historian David Irving lost his court case in 1996 for denying the Holocaust in which 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis, despite that fact it is only in 2020 that Facebook stopped allowing Holocaust deniers a presence on their platform. Up to now Facebook and many other social media outlets have denied that they are news channels because news channels get regulated.

Most of us are careful of who we let into our physical space and so it makes sense to limit who we let into our headspace. There are people whose thoughts and actions revolt us. We avoid bad smells, unpleasant tastes and hot surfaces, we can choose to close or avert our eyes and ears.

You have a right to limit who affects your peace of mind and you have a right to signal your disapproval of someone’s views and if you switch someone off like you switch off the TV, I do not think that this is a problem of national concern as long as healthy modulated debate is available to you as and when you wish to engage in that.  

Dec 24, 2020
Business & Finance

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