I got to watch the way cancel culture works this week and I’ve got to say… I’m disappointed. I’ve never been a fan of the phenomena. Maybe that’s because I have a degree in criminal justice and the Dean of my department (one of the most amazing people to walk the planet) drilled into his students that we are all innocent until proven guilty. Maybe it’s because, with few exceptions, there are redeeming qualities in all of us. Maybe it’s because hiding behind a computer allows us to be meaner and less objective than when we have to actually face the person we’re trying to cancel.
A friend of mine tweeted something that was very true. But it was also something most of us don’t want to hear. The people who responded flayed my friend alive. The tweet quickly went viral, with articles written and the topic making the news in other countries. Because the topic was one that people disagreed with, the comments/actions taken were aggressively mean. In one day, my friend became an internet pariah. No matter how accurate the statement was (in my opinion, of course).
This is the same thing I’ve seen with the Johnny Depp case. There are actual photographs, showing that he was, indeed, abused. But the online commentary from media sources, no matter how many fans are sticking up for him, is decidedly skewed to showcase him as the abuser instead of the abused. None of us will ever know what went on in their house, nor should we save for what is presented in court and, therefore, made public. But he’s lost his jobs on the assumptions made by those who get to make assumptions. Before the evidence was heard, before his side got to be shared. Like my friend above, that seems wrong to me.
There are so many more examples. From those I’ve watched in my own world to those that take place on the public stage. What happened to the benefit of the doubt or the presumption of innocence? When did we become a culture that cancels people instead of asking for clarification or evidence? Just because one person says something happened, that doesn’t make it true. I do realize that we need balance. We have also been a culture that doesn’t listen to the abused and neglected. We have been a culture that shoves off allegations because they’re uncomfortable, because we “wouldn’t want to ruin someone’s life”. I feel like we are now both, the dichotomy of the two extremes thriving in one society.
I don’t have all the answers, obviously. I’m doing what everyone else is; sitting behind my computer, forming opinions without all the evidence. However, having watched the debacle of the events of this past week, I truly feel it’s important not to lash out at the people around us. It’s important to remember that we’re all human. If the allegations are egregious, take a step back, but don’t cancel someone until the allegations are proven. If someone tweets something to which you disagree, is it really necessary to seek retribution? (Yes, I watched the retribution, unrelated to the tweet in question, occur… and it broke my heart because these people were lashing out at a truly good person who posted their own opinion online.)
Isn’t it our job, each of us, to perpetuate the kind of humanity we’d want shown to us?