Cancel culture has become a hot button issue in the past few years. It is something that is an intrinsic part of our culture and society but leaves many people feeling torn and scrutinized.

People who argue against cancel culture say there is no way to avoid it when every action is ridiculed and every apology is too late, leading to a society where you are required to walk on eggshells anytime you speak. People who see little wrong with cancel culture say to just not do anything that would lead you to be cancelled in the process. Cancelling someone is an act that should not be employed frivolously. Rather, it should be used in a way that holds people accountable for their actions when they have demonstrated that they have no desire for positive growth. It should be about purging insensitive behavior and making necessary amends, not ruining people’s lives.

Cancel culture is nothing new. Socially demoting or banishing other people when they have done something upsetting has been a societal trend for centuries. Cancel culture is defined as “a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles,” an action that is found in textbooks throughout history. What people who want to 'cancel cancel culture' don't realize is that cancel culture has and always will be a part of human societies.

Though cancel culture has always existed, the internet has allowed it to reach new heights. Anyone and everyone is in the public eye at all times. The internet is relatively new, and the psychological effects of having unlimited access are still being studied. Whether we realize it or not, this is an insane amount of pressure to be under. This pressure leads to a lack of comfort in making mistakes. Humans are meant to make mistakes, it’s is how we grow as people. The pressure and expectation of personal perfection leads to inevitable failure and an unsafe space to have real personal and societal growth. Everybody makes mistakes and deserves the right to learn from them without immediately having those mistakes derail their entire lives.

By observing the current political climate, we can see it has split into two primary opposing views. With democrats, it appears to be a contest of who can be the most “woke” or the least “problematic” instead of advocating for actionable change. With republicans, it seems to have swung in the opposite direction, partially due to the transition of the party by extremist representatives such as Trump, Cruz and Desantis. Within conservatism, many forms of “political correctness” are written off as people being too sensitive, disregarding the possibility of harm taking place.

The polarization ingrained within politics and cancel culture’s instigation makes it difficult to find a solid middle ground. There is change to be found in disagreement, and even argument, but disagreement for disagreements sake just leads to stagnation. In order to find and retain a healthy middle ground, a level of trust and respect has to be established. This is hugely lacking in modern politics. This trust and respect in politics can be achieved when politicians are doing their jobs and working for all of their constituents rather than corporations and PACs. Having a level of genuineness brings in a different level of interpersonal confidence which leads to more productivity.

There is a point where cancel culture seems necessary, and even justified, although it is often misguided. We are participating in a culture that has difficulty operating in nuance and grey areas. Interacting with this “all or nothing'' mentality leads to people and things getting “canceled” in potentially unjust ways because there was a lack of context or education.

Uneducated mistakes are not necessarily an excuse for continued negative impact, but they are often made without malicious intent. Again this is not to excuse the generic apology format that has swept over the notes app, Instagram and YouTube, but many of these generic apologies do hold meaningful context. Context has been another buzzer word associated with cancel culture. It’s also another one of those grey areas as it can sometimes change the entire story or be used as an excuse to enable malignant behavior.

Accountability is a necessary part of a properly functioning society. It allows for more inclusivity and a safer environment to participate in. Accountability does not always mean ending someone’s career or swarming them with online negativity. In fact, it usually means having a conversation and taking action in reparations to those who were harmed. This is not to say that there aren’t certain issues in which there is a clear right and wrong. Issues such as sexual assault leave the public with a clear action to take in favor of the victim.

Cancel culture is toxic because it often dehumanizes the person of interest, taking their worst moment and using it as a way to scapegoat them. It should not be treated as an act of revenge, but as an example and opportunity for change.

Lily Marcum is a sophomore at UT this year studying journalism, political science and philosophy. She can be reached at lmarcum1@vols.utk.edu.

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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