The present Digital Age is heralded as a hotbed of technology development and social progression. However, whenever the titular topics are brought up on social media they can cause a polite individual/community to become very divided. ‘How much free speech is allowed?’ ‘Should we cancel people at all?’ Questions like this have reached their apex in light of continuous callout posts on the YouTube scene, which has subsequently spread to other areas in the public eye. Here at NetworthPick, we hope to unlock the reality behind free speech and cancel culture.
In case this whole debacle has passed you by, ‘cancel culture’ refers to the social practice of trying to cancel people based on words and/or actions they have said, condoned or otherwise supported. In concept it makes sense; a way of removing those who are oppressors and bullies to others from a public vector is something very few people would disagree with. But when the argument of ‘free speech’ enters the ring, suddenly the lines as to what is acceptable or not become blurry.
Historically, the very freedom of ‘free speech’ has been contested by various oppressive regimes around the world. The basic human right to have the right to speak freely and articulate your thoughts without censorship or control is a right protected by article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This maintains that free speech is a human right, but with the continued convenience of social media and the internet we face a climate where it has never been easier to get your words out to a public space. Therefore, when someone with a large online presence does something considered controversial, the cries for cancellation can be seen. Why is this so divisive, and what can be done to make the internet a more harmonious place without taking away our human rights?
First of all, a threat to freedom of speech as a human right does exist in places like North Korea where censorship is prevalent due to a totalitarian dictatorship.
In most of the Western world, the government takes a more democratic role and approach to expressing an individual’s opinions. However, even with this freedom there can be a LOT of contention, even on a higher political level. We do our best at NetworthPick to not focus on policies and politics, so this will take a backseat. Our point is directed to anyone and everyone who is debating cancel culture, particularly on social media.
Cancel culture is not life ending, it’s a consequence for an action. So for the sake of this debate, we’re here to set the scene on what cancel culture has looked like in recent history. One famous example (of many) is KSI, the most influential British YouTuber on the YouTube scene. While he’s been no stranger to controversy, he came under fire during 2020 for accidentally using a transphobic slur during a reaction video. He later became aware of this and said publicly that he didn’t know the term was offensive. After publicly apologising for this action, he also said he would never use that word again, and still hasn’t to this day.
Because cancel culture has been booming for the past few years, both fans and non-fans were still outraged and tried to ‘cancel’ his presence with defamatory tweets and the like. The timespan between his apology and present day is enough evidence to prove that KSI has not gone back on his word, which maintains his apology as a genuine one. In this case, cancel culture had no real effect.
Compare this to Logan Paul, whose infamous apology after a controversial video seemingly meant nothing a month later when he was actively making harmful reactionary content. While some would say he has become a better individual since then, at the time his apology was rendered meaningless due to his lack of change. This resulted in the best efforts of non-fans to get him cancelled ultimately going nowhere, right or wrong. If the power to cancel people was really as momentous as people say it is, then some semblance of justice would have been carried out.
A further example consists of the once-great YouTuber and entrepreneur called Tobuscus (Toby Turner), who garnered fame during the mid 2010’s for his humorous parodies and gaming videos. Despite international acclaim, he was accused by an ex-partner to be a drug addict and had sexually assaulted her. At the time there was no real evidence for or against this serious claim. Toby said in a follow-up response that he didn’t do anything without her consent. However, because it was his word against someone else’s, Tobuscus was still cancelled and fell out of favour in the public YouTube scene. After two years he gradually came back to YouTube but his name has been irrevocably tainted.
Therefore, with this and other examples, cancel culture is an ongoing process without any real rules or guidelines to appropriate justice. In theory, the threat of being cancelled can actually help keep people in check if they misstep either purposefully or accidentally, similar to a teacher checking your results over the course of a year to see improvement. However, this ties into the imperfectly balanced scales of free speech versus consequences.
Using the above accounts as factual examples of cancel culture having a serious yet uncontrolled effect, we can clearly see the divide between free speech and cancelling someone because of it. All of these people have the right to do or say whatever they want, but it doesn’t protect them from the consequences. To put this another way, hiring a hitman to kill someone else is illegal, but why? You aren’t doing the bad deed yourself, you are paying for it as a legal transaction and nothing you say in context can rightfully be censored. Maybe it is because you aren’t free from the consequences of what you say when words actively cause harm to someone else.
This is the more prominent and damaging side of cancel culture. Based on no evidence at all, people were ready to kick someone off of a public platform. The severity of these accusations isn’t something to be overlooked; the emphasis is on the lack of evidence or information that was sourced after the allegations. If a full enquiry had been launched, with both sides presenting all of the facts, then we could have more easily determined what really went on and how to go about dealing with it. The influence of cancel culture superseded that, to the point where we still don’t have the full story.
This goes both ways. Someone in any part of society can hold onto a certain belief or personal opinion as a right to free thought and free speech. However, just as YouTubers have come under fire from cancellation, so too can the same individuals doing the cancelling. One common response from oppressive fans (known as ‘stans’, named after Eminem’s rap about a fan who becomes obsessed with his music) is that the older “uncensored” versions of their favourite celebrities were better. This is often because their undeveloped personas were younger and less aware of the impact their words and actions would have. Therefore, by saying this they are unwittingly telling others they prefer more hateful, sexist, racist, homophobic etc. dialogue being used, often as a point of comedy. If a celebrity can grow as a person, apologise for their past actions and never slip back into that old way of life, then so can their fans.
The impact of individual choice regularly goes unnoticed by many. Just like how the snowflake never blames itself for the avalanche, an individual may think it appropriate to not blame themselves for adding fuel to the ‘cancel culture’ fire. It’s up to all of us to make sure we hold each other accountable for our actions. This INCLUDES ourselves. If someone makes an innocent mistake that affects other people, they have a right to be educated and informed of their error. But overriding their freedom of speech and taking away any chances they have to learn is too far of an action, especially when these same people are guilty of hypocrisy.
So what is the alternative? How can we go ahead and make the world a more free and harmonious place without cancel culture rearing its ugly head? Like the above examples show, making a call out post or similar message serves an educational purpose.
Sometimes people NEED time and space to learn the truth for themselves without other people ceaselessly complaining and/or telling them what to think. Therefore, regardless if you are a die-hard fan or self-titled ‘keyboard warrior’, give yourself time to get all the facts. Do your own research on the matter from reputable first-hand sources rather than listening to gossip rags and rumours. If possible, keep yourself out of any cancelling debate no matter how much it is trending on social media. Positive emotions are more powerful than hate and negative emotions, so question the validity of someone’s statement. Would they have a reason to lie about what they’re saying? How much can you trust this person? Keep that in mind next time you wish to attack someone on social media for their beliefs/actions.
At NetworthPick, we focus on the wealth of diversity and searching for the truth. Ultimately, we may never know the absolute facts about someone’s private life, which makes it even harder to tell what is real and what is just sensationalised for the sake of headlines. Cancel culture is just another revised aspect of social media, which some people sadly revolve their whole lives around. There’s more to Twitter than trying to call for ‘justice’ against people you dislike, or protect genuine criminals because you like their content. Take a step back and try to realise the impact words and actions can have. We likely will never be able to ‘cancel’ cancel culture, but we can individually decide how much of it we include in our lives.