“Cancel Culture” is a brand for oppressors

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Cancel Culture
Cancel Culture

Those in power use “cancel culture” and its deflection tactics to skirt public responsibility. For instance, George Santos won New York‘s 3rd District for the House of Representatives in Queens and Long Island by lying.

This gay man lied about his identity and his work history. The New York Times investigated Santos’ statements during the campaign, to which he responded by blaming leftists and scapegoating The New York Times.

Santos said he was a Baruch College graduate with a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance, a former Citigroup and Goldman Sachs financier, half-”Jew-ish,” a half-Christian family member of a Holocaust survivor, and ran a campaign on championing the “American Dream.”

While his lies were unknown at the time of his campaign, he won public office. Santos responded to the media’s investigation with self-indulgent arrogance. He uses “cancel culture” tactics to deflect his own deceit, and yet he’ll still serve the people of Queens and Long Island in Washington.

His response is the epitome of crying “cancel culture.” Defined as withdrawing support from someone that’s in a position of power, such as a celebrity, politician, or an institution of power in the name of social accountability by The Merriam-Webster dictionary, “cancel culture” is a manufactured phrase. The phrase can be a device of a patriarchal manipulative tantrum against the people, predominantly Black Americans, women, ethnic and religious diversity, and LGBTQ communities, holding public personalities, people in power, and corporations accountable.

People in power claim they’re “defamed” and “slandered” when others hold them accountable. However, the truth and lying about the truth aren’t equal to defamation or slander. A public figure bears the burden of truth, to begin with, and the truth means that people must take responsibility for how their actions affect others.

“Canceling” is not always about holding people accountable. It can include corporations. Corporations are the most trusted institution in the United States, according to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer. The study found that 61% of people agreed that “business is the most trusted institution,” and 70% trusted “my employer.”

People believe corporations are taking responsibility for their pitfalls when they say they are. For instance, Meta Platforms makes a profit off of ensuring hate, conflict, and harm keep a global viewership on their platforms’ (i.e., Facebook and Instagram) advertisements. Facebook’s policy says something else. “We’re committed to making Facebook a safe place. We remove content that could contribute to a risk of harm to the physical security of persons. Content that threatens people has the potential to intimidate, exclude, or silence others and isn’t allowed,” reads the policy.

Facebook currently has a lawsuit in Kenyan High Court for doing the opposite. Abrahm Meareg Amare, son of Tigrayan academic Meareg Amare Abrha, alleges his father was killed due to Facebook’s negligence. The posts referred to him using ethnic slurs in October 2021, according to Al Jazeera. The posts, too, revealed his address and called for his death. Someone shot Abrha dead in November.

In 2021, Frances Haugen, a data engineer, disclosed tens of thousands of Facebook’s internal documents to The Wall Street Journal. These documents outlined that Facebook removes 3-5% of online hate speech and 0.16% of incitement and violence, according to 60 Minutes. While the media and public have their focus on Elon Musk’s Twitter, the attention on Facebook’s increased violence has gone unnoticed.

Crying “cancel culture” has consequences on our own communities and permits corporations and people to do harm. Facebook has failed to take down 98% of its anti-LGBTQ language regarding the inflammatory “groomer” slurs, according to HRC’s 2022 Digital Hate report. The slur surged on Twitter by almost 2,500% after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis promoted the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill into law, with up to 72 million views. These digital harms manifested in more than 141 protests and attacks against Drag Queen Story Hour, according to a GLAAD report. The report shows that about seven states have introduced drag bans in 2022.

In May 2022, NPR called Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News the most racist show in history. Carlson takes no responsibility. Fox News has spent more time producing moral panic against trans and LGBT people than covering the Jan. 6 insurrection hearings, according to Media Matters for America.

Harm happens when diverse communities fall for “cancel culture” traps that are used by anti-equality haters. The fight is not to end a fake culture of canceling. The fight is to rise, and speak up, against rich, famous, politically powerful oppressors and their associates who subscribe to “cancel culture” to continue oppression.

Lana Leonard
Lana Leonard (they/them) is a graduate from The College of New Jersey with a degree in journalism and professional writing. They work at the GLAAD Media institute and freelance for publications like LGBTQ Nation while working on their journalistic theory of change project: Late Nights with Lana, a talk show based out of 10PRL film studios in Long Branch, NJ. Lana's mission, in all their work, is to focus on people, their collective truths and how those truths form a community of knowledge towards change.