Erased - Is the Cancel Culture Coming for You?

By Samir Shukla

Why worry about a wily virus or economic downturns? Your co-workers, social media trolls or that kid from third grade you laughed at, even someone you consider a friend, may be coming after your reputation.

Out of the need for racial justice, sexual and gender equality, diversity expansion and other long-needed niceties, the knives are now being sharpened for even the most mundane of grievances, where purity tests seem ready for every word you utter, every mannerism you display, every bad joke you crack, every drunken silly thing you did in college.

These purity tests are effectively doing reputational destruction instead of moving society forward. There is no such thing as perfectly pure anything. Unfortunately, we will likely never completely get rid of sexism, racism, and many other isms, we can only work to minimize them.

Out of the honorable need for justice, the cancer culture, oops, sorry, I meant cancel culture, is getting a little, shall we say, out of hand. The floodgates of correctness are fully open and I fear we won't be able to control them.

A New York Times opinion section editor was fired because he dared to publish an unpopular view from a politician and this happened not from outside pressure, but due to a revolt inside the world's most famous newspaper. Streaming service HBO Max deciding to delay showing Gone with the Wind because of its, um, sensitive subject matter. Forget that the film has been shown umpteen times already on TV, and never mind it takes place before, during and after the Civil War and the subject matter is completely in context for those times. There are numerous other examples. Editors and journalists, CEOs and high school principals, celebrities, and, fill in the blank, are being purged for the slightest scary opinion or perceived microaggression.

I understand the need to remove Confederate statues and memorials still hanging around. Brands are changing names (Aunt Jemima), country bands are changing names (Lady Antebellum). Hell, NASCAR has now banned Confederate flags. All are part of a greater worthy effort of reconciliation.

This digging for righteousness, though, can overreach and start scraping for wet pebbles on the bottom of a grievance well that has already been cancelled dry. It is happening.

Uncomfortable conversations, dissenting opinions, and yes, bad jokes, are part of democracy. It's called free speech, not squeaky clean speech. Someone's writing, utterances or behavior shows who they are, and one can become informed about them. That's a healthy thing for an open society.

There are varying levels of punishment for criminals. You don't lock up a first-time shoplifter for 10 years. Even criminals get a second chance, opportunities for rehabilitation and return to society. The same should be availed for those that offend correctness. Yes, there are also varying levels of offense when it comes to MeToo movement. Forget careers, lives are destroyed over pinprick objections and microaggressions. Something someone did stupidly 10, 20, 30 years ago is the totality of that person's reputation? Their heads have to roll even if they apologize? You can't undo the past; you can barter the present and set foundations for the future.

Look into the mirror all ye purists. Have you not had impure thoughts? There is nothing you have done, even in jest that you feel a bit embarrassed about? Of course you have. Now, don't go out and cancel yourselves.

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Samir Shukla is the editor of Saathee magazine. Contact - Samir@saathee.com