Decoding the Phenomenon of Cancel Culture

Deciphering the lines between personal boycotts and broader cancel movements.

August 12, 2023

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” ~ Declaration of Independence

At the core of Western values lies the principle of individualism, as championed by the foundational documents of the United States. This ethos emphasizes the importance of personal choice and freedom. Yet, in recent times, a new phenomenon has emerged, challenging these cherished ideals: Cancel Culture.

Definition of Cancel Culture: Cancel culture is the act of going beyond individual decisions, such as not purchasing a product or not watching a show, to actively deter others from supporting or patronizing an entity. It manifests when an individual or group believes that their personal decision to disengage isn't enough and seeks to influence the broader public's perception and actions against the entity.

Consider the recent Bud Light incident. After an association with Dylan Mulvaney, many opted not to purchase Bud Light products. This was a personal choice, an individual stance. It was a boycott in its truest sense, resonating with the principles of personal freedom and choice that the United States was built upon.

In Los Angeles, the Wi Spa became a focal point of controversy when a video went viral, alleging a transgender woman exposed herself in the women's section of the spa. This incident sparked widespread debate and reactions. Protesters actively tried to deter others from patronizing Wi Spa. It wasn't enough to express personal displeasure; the aim was to influence the broader public's perception and actions. This is cancel culture in action, a manifestation that seeks to impose a group's will on the larger community. The underlying sentiment? Fear. Fear of going against the collective, fear of repercussions, and fear of being the next target.

While boycotts align with the spirit of personal freedom and choice, cancel culture draws from a mix of philosophical underpinnings, from utilitarianism, collectivism, consequentialism, to deontological ethics. At its heart, it's a declaration of collectivism, a philosophy often at odds with the individualistic principles foundational to the United States.

Cancel culture, while not illegal, challenges the very fabric of a nation's values. It's not about laws but about the deeper ethos upon which a nation's societal norms are built. As we navigate these tumultuous times, it's crucial to recognize the difference between individual decisions and collective actions that aim to influence broader public behavior. By understanding this distinction, we can better safeguard the principles that have defined Western values for centuries.


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