Cancel Culture: Cancel Actions, Not People

We need to stop “cancelling” people and start learning from them

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

“[A] way for marginalized communities to publicly assert their value systems through pop culture”

My first experience with Cancel Culture was with none other than Jeffree Star himself, a member of the beauty community and multi-million dollar brand owner of Jeffree Star Cosmetics, after videos with racist content surfaced. The videos, which can be interpreted as a roleplaying bit where Star allegedly threatens to throw battery acid on a Woman of Colour to lighten her skin, sparked vast outrage among the community. Additionally, other videos and racial slurs previously recorded on the internet’s searing record of permanence were located and hashed out in the process. Star came out and apologized for his remarks in this video, however many people have not accepted his plea for forgiveness and explanation despite such efforts.

Groupthink: From Fiction to Psychology

Photo by Mario Purisic on Unsplash

“When groups feel threatened — either physically or through threats to their identity — they may foster a strong ‘us versus them’ mentality. This can prompt members to accept group perspectives, even when these perspectives don’t necessarily align with their personal views.” [Source]

All human beings are allowed to succumb to their passion to fight injustice, however, Cancel Culture is not the way to change things permanently. By censoring any discussion about these issues and only focusing on the views of your echo-chamber, you are limiting yourself and not allowing the opportunity for complete understanding. By deeming all constructive conversation and discussion that falls beyond the realms of the beliefs surrounding specific positions, we are limiting our understanding of each other.

It is possible to disagree with someone or something and still constructively discuss it in order to learn from it.

Often times, with psychological, biological and epidemiological study of human interaction we can understand why such opposing positions are upheld instead of simply dismissing them entirely.

A Band-Aid on a gunshot wound

We must not confuse the desire to discuss and openly critique certain views with unwavering support. There is a significant difference between those who discuss opposing views openly and academically and those who act out and uphold those views with their actions and their votes. By closing ourselves off from this opportunity, we are socially suffocating progress.

“When all think alike, then no-one is thinking” Walter Lippman

Dr. Steven Pinker, Canadian-born Harvard professor and Cognitive Psychologist tweeted an article from Psychology Today, written by Dr. Pamela Paresky. In this article, Dr. Paresky attributes the movement to politics by noting:

Fear of being outcast from the group is an incredible tool to influence behaviour, however Cancel Culture is using this very powerful tool incorrectly.

By creating the toxic environment of cancel culture in non-crime related circumstances we are creating a curated echo-chamber of fear amongst the online community. By merging the permanence of online history with the ever growing imperfect and emotional nature of human beings, we are fuelling this stunningly intense fire. It is a Band-Aid solution for a systemic problem, and simply outcasting everyone who does not fit a specific ideological social mold will only temporarily “fix” the deep set issues in our society. Although there are edge cases that merit the removal of their platform for the safety of the lives of others, we still need to be discussing and working together in those circumstances instead of blindly RSVP-ing to the weekly witch-hunt without any indication or forethought. I


Although I cannot propose an indefinite solution, it’s worth thinking about when you begin to feel the pressure to cancel someone in the next big social media scandal. Throughout history as human beings, we have used social isolation to our advantage to promote a society with less racism and more acceptance, but in order to do that we need to discuss the philosophical and psychological meanings more deeply. We need to discuss why these topics merit such social punishment, and we need to continue to dissect the nature of human beings in order to progress forward. If we are living in a world of “one strike you’re out”, how can we progress and be better than we were in the past?

Bachelor of Design Student, Freelance Digital Designer, Musician. I write about design and life. Twitter: @sarahsaccomanno

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