Cancel Culture: Accountability or Social Bullying?

By- Riya

Since the globe was put under lockdown, the amount of time spent on social media by individuals has rapidly expanded. There is no estimating the current influence of the internet on people’s lives. Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and many other social movements gained traction as more individuals were given the platform to speak. Among these, “cancel culture” has risen to the forefront and has been a part of various debates.

Cancel culture, also known as callout culture, is the act of withdrawing support and shunning someone or their work because of an action or an opinion that is regarded as offensive and unacceptable. Campaigns to abandon plans usually target famous people and influential social and political figures. Salman Khan, an actor, received criticism and boycott requests in 2019 when he made debatable remarks about the terrorist assault in India’s Pulwama. After Sushant Singh Rajput’s passing, Karan Johar received criticism. Laal Singh Chaddha, starring Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan, was derided online and so was ‘Rakshabandhan’ by Akshay Kumar. Brands like Netflix, L’Oréal, and McAfee faced the wrath of netizens due to their actions.

But why are people cancelled?

For alleged actions against the group to which they belong, individuals are often ousted. The bitter perception of the cancel culture is a result of the reality that individuals who cancel do so out of rage and betrayal. In their minds, they are saying, “I considered you were a part of us, but you stepped out to be the enemy.” They feel personally wounded by it, notwithstanding the fact that they have never met or interacted in any way with the cancelled individual or entity. In-group dynamics and parasocial form the foundation of cancel culture.

Some people believe that Cancel Culture is a vital tool for achieving social justice. Where the justice system fails, cancel culture enables oppressed people to demand accountability. People that are disadvantaged or weaker gain a voice owing to cancel culture. While not everyone has access to lawmakers or other influential individuals, anyone may open a social media account to take the justice system into their hands. The most successful way to draw attention to a problem has been through a public, collaborative exhibition.

Contrarily, it brings up several legal issues. The idea of public shame dates back to public square trials, in which a person was punished without having their guilt established.

Accountability seekers harass and abuse individuals in the guise of seeking accountability. Many celebrities have deactivated their social media accounts as a result of the constant online bullying, while others are cautious when posting for fear of retaliation. When it gets into the wrong hands, what starts as something as basic as “please use courteous and respectful language towards everyone” rapidly becomes “dispel any notion I find detrimental to society immediately.”

The judges on the other side of the screen make a special effort to unearth past behaviours and beliefs for consideration when there isn’t an unpleasant personality present. You were a stupid adolescent. You spoke a terrible joke and donned a ridiculous costume, or perhaps you posted bad jokes on social media. Ten years ago, you were a different individual with different beliefs. So are you now a horrible person? Do you deserve to be fired, compelled to apologise, and forced to beg for forgiveness in front of the people analysing your life? When does it become too extreme? Do individuals who are part of the “movement” have the wisdom and maturity necessary to restrain their emotions? Do they pause to consider the effects of their choices?

Finding old tweets to attack someone who has subsequently changed is pretty insensitive and has nothing to do with being progressive. Simply put, it’s the majority rule. And there is pressure on people to join this irrational crowd. So they apologise and make sob-filled apologies, committing to improve and educate themselves to be exonerated of the dreadful sin of frequently unintended political incorrectness. Any reasonable and healthy society needs to recognize that cancel culture is neither necessary nor something to be welcomed or praised. Giving bullies with inflated egos a stage to bully others online while power-tripping behind their little screens, as if they were the unquestioned, unappointed gatekeepers of morality, is all it does.

But what does it mean for businesses? Should they be worried?

Brands have never intervened in politics or expressed opinions on the state of politics. However, not choosing a side is even more problematic since it may be interpreted as connivance. Collaborations with individuals that are viewed as troublesome are likewise strongly discouraged. Ye, previously Kanye West, and Adidas recently ended their relationship after the musician made a number of harsh and disrespectful comments. However, many customers believe that businesses are now exploiting social concerns for commercial purposes. Brands are becoming more responsive in the drive to mirror cultural ideals, but doing so risks blowback from consumers unless the emotion is supported by real action. The “Real Beauty” campaign by Dove, which portrays real women in a positive manner, is particularly well recognized for encouraging good body image. Since the empowering campaign has been so effective, it has been in effect for 15 years. However, seven limited edition bottles made out of abstract forms meant to imitate various female body types were produced by Dove in May 2017, however, the marketing effort was a complete failure. The packaging gave off the incorrect impression, which led to increasing self-consciousness rather than supporting a positive body image.

But in the age of cancel culture, businesses may keep a few things in mind to avoid backlash. Given that everything from the CEO’s conduct to an angry tweet from an ex-employee might result in cancellation, businesses and organisations should maintain a pleasant workplace, educate staff members about social media representation, and be excellent employers. Take sides, make commitments, and keep your word. A brand that supports a customer’s beliefs is demonstrated to be more popular with consumers. However, hollow rhetoric is more harmful than beneficial. Always follow through on your commitments, since customers are aware of their rights and may verify the facts. Make a decision to make an impact and take a stance for what is right.

Cancel culture started from being a way to ask for accountability and has taken the form of social bullying. Rage and resentment have silenced many opinions because of the fear of being ousted. Asking for justice and bullying someone into being a criminal are two different aspects that have been mixed up. The voice and power given to people should be used to speak for the truth but this power should not be misused. Though it started with a good motive of speaking up against the people who have the power to save themselves, the culture has grown to be a way for people to target groups and blindly bully them, turning an invisible eye to the truth.


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