Digital Culture

Calling for Accountability or a Witch-Hunt Without Mercy?

Image Credit: Unsplash 

By Leah Golder

The whole aim of ‘cancel culture’, otherwise known as call-out culture, is to make celebrities and anyone with an influential status take accountability for their actions. Often occurring on social media, the practice of cancelling or mass-shaming has become the newest way to keep celebrities in check, and rightly so. But the mob-like mentality of cancel culture has transformed into an onslaught of online bullying, an unforgiving trend.

No one is safe from the clutches of cancelling. Your favourite celebrity is a mere tweet away from having their whole career questioned. So why do people become ‘keyboard warriors’ and begin a tirade of abuse? Surely these attacks make the persecutor just as bad as the defendant, and maybe even worse in some cases? 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I totally agree that any figure of influence or status does need to be reminded that they aren’t untouchable and have to own their mistakes. But if our aim is to educate and initiate change, then cancel culture may not be the way forward. Fighting fire with fire only ignites the flames further. 

Merriam-Webster provides a very modest definition of cancel culture as a ‘mass withdrawal of support from public figures or celebrities who have done things that aren’t socially accepted today’. This definition presents a somewhat blurred vision of cancel culture and fails to acknowledge its damaging effects if taken too far. Too many times have celebrities uploaded ‘candid’ videos of them crying due to the onslaught of hate and death threats they have received. This never should be the aim. We need to consider how much is too much. 

People can’t grab their pitchforks and engage in a witch hunt every time an influencer’s racist, fatphobic, or homophobic tweets have resurfaced. Call them out in a healthy and non-maddening way, unfollow, don’t interact with their content, boycott, yes. But bombarding anyone with nasty comments and violent threats isn’t going to make them want to change. They will merely retreat into their mansion and hide until the dust settles on their scandal. We’ve seen this many times through the likes of Jeffree Star, James Charles, Ellen DeGeneres. Once the outbreak is over, they simply continue to live in their untouchable bliss of status

But if we could call out these people of celebrity status and force them (nicely) to actually reflect and change for the better, then society and social media will become a better place as a result. Despite our inability to actually force change in people, we all need to do better to hold people accountable for their mistakes. We need to inspire each other to be better humans. 

So, next time you see a celebrity, influencer, Youtuber, actor, or author act insensitively or do something completely unacceptable, put down the pitchfork and create an environment for change. Stress the importance of accountability, but also learn that growth and reflection takes time. Nobody is perfect and we all, as human beings, have a duty to care for one another.