Before we begin the cancel culture debate, let’s first define what cancel culture actually is.
Cancel culture nowadays applies to everyone whether you are an individual, business, or someone in the public eye. Being cancelled refers to being outcast or pushed out of social or professional circles due to your behaviour. There is a long list of offences that can result in ‘being cancelled’ most fall in to three main categories; sexism, homophobia and racism. Of course these are very serious issues and those who make these comments should have to take responsibility for their actions but is outcasting them a step too far? On the other hand, society is ‘cancelling’ people for minor issues like arguing with a person of influence or buying clothes form the wrong shop.
Let’s take a look at how cancel culture affects our lives.
For businesses cancel culture can have a major impact, household name Pepsi, was ‘cancelled’ for their advertising campaign with Kendall Kenner that was seen to be trivialising the Black Lives Matter movement. L’Oreal also fell victim to ‘cancel culture’ as it came to light that despite their statement in support of Black Lives Matter, they had previously fired Black transgender model Munroe Bergdorf over a social media post about white supremacy. Another household name HSBC was ‘cancelled’ to links to fossil fuels. These brands along with many others are all cancel culture casualties.
For communications and PR teams, cancel culture is the new crisis comms. Cancel culture is prevalent on social media, meaning it can happen on any day and at any time, it’s a PR nightmare! Cancel culture has forced communications teams to reevaluate brand reputation management strategies and to be more reactive to public opinion. Despite, being ‘cancelled’ the brands mentioned above are still household names and extremely profitable companies, so is cancel culture even worth it?
Maybe it is time to move towards ‘call out culture’ where brands and people are called out on their actions and given an opportunity to change. With the rise of ‘call out culture’ we are more likely to change our habits as consumers and company’s are more likely to change their behaviour. ‘Call out culture’ is likely to lead to long term change whilst cancel culture results in trolling, loss of income and short term problems. Cancel culture rarely resolves the bigger issues and a week later there is someone new being cancelled for exactly the same thing, as a society we seem to be stuck in an endless loop of cancelling and hatred with limited positive outcomes.
Another downside of cancel culture is that some people are trying to erase history, we should all learn about the past and use historic mistakes to change the future. As a result of cancel culture we are losing art, music, TV shows and so much more. It is great that we have come so far in recent years, but removing something from the past that pushes someone buttons is no reason to try and rewrite history. Do we really want to be living in a society that censors the past?
So is it time for us to cancel, cancel culture? To put it bluntly yes, we should! We should still call people out for their wrong doing and make them face up to their actions but this toxic culture of trying to delete history and people is unhealthy and really doesn’t achieve very much. As a society we should be helping each other to learn from mistakes and grow, not tearing people down at every given opportunity.