ostracize, boycott & shun

Every now and then I read an editorial that soundly fits in that “Things That Make You Go Hmmmm” category. Last week, author Ernest Owens contributed one to Rolling Stone magazine. It’s an excerpt from his upcoming book. The title of the editorial? “Why Cancel Culture Is Good For Democracy.”

To be ensure we are all on the same page in regard to what cancel culture actually is, allow us to briefly identify cancel culture as “a phenomenon in which those who are deemed to have acted or spoken in an unacceptable manner are ostracized, boycotted or shunned.”

No doubt a key action word in the definition is to “deem,” which would mean to “regard or consider in a specified way.” That equates to a subjective analysis — thereby, not fact.

Owens premise is fairly simple, no less. He feels that cancel culture has gotten a bad rap. He acknowledges that our behavior and/or expressions may be met by “an angry mob instantly judging us,” but he suggests that the idea has been “misconstrued.” Rather than an act worthy of contempt, Owens argues that such is a necessary tool to curb unchecked free speech. 

He contends that cancel culture provides the accountability — specifically, the kind of accountability “bigots” desire to avoid. In fact, he insists those who are anti-this “democratic tool” are actually not attempting to ensure there is no suppression of speech, but rather, they are fearful of said accountability. Free speech absent attempts to cancel insulates the bigot, allowing him/her “to fuel disgusting rhetoric without state-sanctioned consequence.”

It’s an interesting thought. He feels someone must shut others down.

I do appreciate how Owens’ stated motive seems to be to look out for the “little guy,” so-to-speak. I thought that when initially reading through — that is, until he utilized Meghan Markle as his chosen example of someone whose vocal critics were justified in being shut down. With all due respect to the Duchess, my semi-keen sense is she isn’t exactly known for being the most exemplary example these days.

But Owens continues. He argues critics of the approach are wrong…

“… Despite how critics have tried to represent it, cancel culture is not cyberbullying or doxing. Cancel culture gives us the chance to engage in new and exciting ways—civically, culturally, and politically”… that is, even though cyberbullying and doxing are utilized devices.

Ok, I admit — I’m back to the things that make me go hmmmm. This so-called “tool” utilizes the following:

to ostracize – meaning “to exclude, by general consent, from society, friendship, conversation, privileges, etc.; to banish (a person).”

to boycott – meaning “to combine in abstaining from, or preventing dealings with, as a means of intimidation or coercion.”

to shun – meaning “to keep away from (a place, person, object, etc.), from motives of dislike, caution, etc.; take pains to avoid.”

In other words, let’s acknowledge what cancel culture does not utilize…

It does not utilize respect.

It does not embrace loving your neighbor as yourself.

And it certainly does not know or acknowledge the incredibly powerful, personal process of apology, forgiveness and repentance.

It, therefore, sadly, does not model what is good.

I indeed appreciate the stated desire that bigotry would cease. I also, though, will never believe that two wrongs will someday make things right.

So when Owens wonders aloud, “What could we change in the world if we used cancel culture as the tool that it is,” my thoughts go elsewhere. It makes me cringe, wondering in response what more damage will we justify? 

We can’t omit respect, loving our neighbor (no matter who they are), nor circumvent the repentance process. Any attempt to do so will indeed make far more than me go “hmmmm.”