Cancel Culture: How Much Blood is on Your Digital Pitchfork?

If you introduced yourself as someone who spends their spare time baying for the blood of strangers on the internet, chances are, you wouldn’t make many friends.

Yet, that’s just what happens when swathes of social media users log on to their respective platforms; they get a sniff of which scandal is trending and jump on it – even if they have absolutely no idea who that person is. Why waste an opportunity to flex your morality? Or perhaps, more importantly, why waste an opportunity to create a viral tweet off of the whipped backs of today’s trending target?

With the myriads of tweets all competing for woke-ness points and righteous valor, it’s easy to forget that there’s a person at the epicenter of the shit storm.

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Whoever you are, I can guarantee that at some point of your life you picked up on some form of a complex from a barbed throwaway comment. Some people never get over the complexes they picked up from school, yet, they’ll happily tell strangers on the internet to go and kill themselves.

The average person will never have to deal with the barrages of caustic torment which people in the spotlight face. Chances are that the average person will never even be able to wrap their minds around what those people deal with to stay in the spotlight. Perhaps it is just a matter of believing that wealth and fame are significant enough to cushion people from the hard digital blows.

It doesn’t take much for people to lock onto a new target. The perfect example is how Taylor Swift became one. With hashtags such as #TaylorSwiftIsCancelled trending on Twitter after a spat with Kim Kardashian, Swift pointed out that the hashtag felt like a request to kill herself. It’s hard to see how it could mean anything else.

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I may not be Taylor Swift’s biggest fan, but after watching her recent Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, and seeing how she was mindlessly targeted by Kanye West allowed me to see the extent of the societal problem. It’s one thing to want to ‘cancel’ rapists or racists. It’s quite another for celebrity beef to lead to someone being mercilessly and mindlessly attacked.

It almost as though people believe that blood can’t be spilled by the force of digital pitchforks. They may not lacerate in the same way, but there have been plenty of casualties all the same.

Before I paint myself as a hypocrite, I’ll point out that I’ve shared my fair share of visceral hate online – we all live and learn. It’s almost a knee-jerk reaction to seeing something, feel the blood pressure rise and compel you to key out your disgust at people whose actions abrasively rub against your morals. 

Even after entertaining the prospect of radical compassion, I was left conflicted on where to stand on people like Morrissey. He’s an artist whose music had got me through my teenage years, but now he spits the same narrowminded diatribe which you’d expect to overhear at a UKIP rally.

It’s been a while since I last wrote a spiky Morrissey-centric post condemning his latest racist tropes. But it’s incredibly freeing to untether yourself from the belief that you need to affirm your standpoint on everyone and everything. 

I’ve mostly been silent on the death of Caroline Flack, the early release of Sophie Lancaster’s murderer, and the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard news stories. I don’t allow myself to believe that headlines can capture the complexity of human nature. People aren’t two-dimensional characters who are shoddily scripted into stereotypical roles of good and evil. I’ve also realised that it’s in the best interest of the media to sensationalise the story as much as possible to boost sales and make their clickbait titles extra juicy.

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Just remember that the press was probably all too excited to announce the early release of Sophie Lancaster’s murderer and enrage alternative communities. Our outrage = their £££.

I don’t hold the belief that anyone is inherently good or inherently innocent, I certainly don’t believe the press’s depictions of people’s character. For years, it led us to believe that Johnny Depp was an abuser, only for it to be revealed that the roles were very much reversed. Naturally, people are now taking their keyboards to cancel her.

In a society which is supposedly woke when it comes to mental health, we spend an awful lot of time hounding strangers who wouldn’t even exist in our orbit if they weren’t famous. Discussing how famous people live may grant us escapism, but if a significant amount of your time gets devoured by the latest scandal, it’s probably time to realise that you need a more productive hobby.

Despite how evil, immoral, or odious a person’s actions are, could you really feel good about yourself if your comments are a drop in the ocean of hatred that drives people to suicide?

Every thought, action, Tweet sent and belief feeds into the fabric of our society, it’s probably time that people started to see the damage they cause through the need to stay relevant, stay loud, stay seen.

As the old saying goes, you do you.


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