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A digital gavel in our back pocket

Wednesday, 13 October 2021
This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.

Spare all passing glances the need to really get to know us, for the mark we have been given is sufficient proof of our ignoble intentions.

Today’s cancel culture constitutes a powerful social phenomenon or attitude whereby people not only choose not to participate in the patronage of a particular individual or group, but find themselves morally obligated to protect not only themselves from what they consider to be “wrong”, but to protect the entirety of the mainstream establishment from this existential threat.

Like a ragtag league of superheroes, thousands upon thousands of people deem themselves capable of policing the lives – language, thought and action – of all who dare to set foot in the public sphere, and, when necessary, swoop in to purge our civil society of the weeds that litter our gleaming streets.

In a broader sense, the ubiquitous emergence of platforms through which the masses may express direct criticism can naturally seem quite a useful and effective tool for the mobilization of our profound impulse to act upon our perceived good. However, the allegedly virtuous exercise of freedom of speech on the part of those who demand cancellation, and the democratic semblance that masks such a fallacious ideology, provides agents of the cancel culture with the means for recreational bullying, in broad daylight, without repercussions.

As the word cancel culture suggests, there is no room for an educational opportunity, nor any formal interaction that highlights the legitimacy of both parties as human beings possessing rights and liberties – due process protection. We are actively being reduced to the way in which we are perceived by others, since the magnification and objectification of a fragment of our past seems to recategorize the whole of our system of beliefs and ideas – thus authorizing a very limited abstraction of reality.

Although the richness of human nature blooms in the fertility of our dynamic existence; upbringing, schooling, training, rehabilitation, etc., cancel culture traps us all in a static realm. Here, the very mistakes that make us human – equally imperfect – stigmatize our mind and body with signs of inherent wickedness, splattering the core of our identity and reputation. Not to mention the fact that there is no intelligible and transparent way of obtaining social restitution.

The authoritarian discourse bleeds over from the public into the private sphere, thereby facilitating a sociocultural shift that brings about a glorification of public beliefs, postmodernism, social goods and political correctness. In this particular case, the division of people by their group affiliations – groups of “us” and “them” –, or perhaps the sub-political fragmentation of an integrated system predicted on the collective disregard concerning the great value of the sovereignty of the individual, fundamentally feeds into cynicism, self-deception, false consensus and ideological thought, for its purpose is no longer to foster an awareness of the ideal, but of the evil present.

Creating a black and white world – Good and Evil – denies the existence of conscientious dissenters or moral ambivalence within certain contexts. When this happens, one must be absolutely sure to live in an extraordinary sane and prudent society in order not consider him- or herself, as well as the larger community, to benefit from living in a free one. By cutting short any fruitful friction and dialogue, we desperately cling to the validity of our personal convictions, losing sight of the collective horizon as well as individual humility.

Drenched in fatal conceit, or anger, one compels obedience by undermining people’s livelihoods, and spreading fear of social ostracism. To yield to such a sociopolitical animus is to force self-censorship on a large number of people in virtually all spheres of life, both private and public.

Naturally, no one disputes the fact that people who have done wrong ought to be held accountable for their actions. Having said that, it should not be overlooked that Western legal philosophy relies heavily on the principle of proportional justice to ensure a fair and equitable justice system. On many occasions, however, the defamation committed by the cancel culture does not meet the standards of the rule of law or any other fundamental right that serves to protect the integrity of the individual.

Presently, there is no distinction between nonsensical jokes and genuine statements, the search for truth and the observance of political correctness, nor between understanding and being forced to understand. One shouldn’t blame this philosophical blind spot on opportunistic public figures of the political spectrum, but more generally on those who maintain a pagan worship of the moral clairvoyance of the masses – those who are unaware of the constraints of thought.

To suggest that the cancel culture is effective with respect to the ends it seeks to attain is a gross understatement. The ramifications of the mechanism reach far beyond its legitimate boundaries, and the change that stems from this expression of power identity is not, and cannot be, contained well enough within a proper social contract. This social weapon encroaches on the domain of rights with disproportionate punishments that go far beyond what is appropriate. Therefore efficiency cannot be accepted by sensible beings as an argument to legitimize this way of carrying out binding moral convictions.

It goes without saying that the discussion is not finished here. This is merely a warning, a way to caution you to reconsider your “moral superiority”, and a call to relocate the discourse to a more suitable place of understanding. Somewhere we can discuss in a more civilized and virtuous manner the nature of punishments for ethical violations, prejudice, hate speech, as well as any sentimental issue that prompts us to turn against one another.