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News-Miner opinion:

You're canceled: The social media phenomenon is tearing us apart

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Cancel culture

News-Miner opinion: You’re canceled.

Don’t worry if you haven’t been. You could be, any day now. Tweet the wrong tweet, share the wrong meme, hit the “laugh” react on a Facebook post — all may get you canceled. 

It’s the hot thing these days: An army of angry keyboard warriors enacting social media justice based on the severity of your thought crimes.

What initially started as a hashtag on Twitter to hurl ire at celebrities has devolved into a woke crisis teeming with real world implications. It’s a public shaming dogpile with advocates acting as judge, jury and executioner, simply because you shared the “wrong” opinion. That is, of course, an opinion with which the self-appointed arbitrators of social media do not agree.

A little more than one year ago, in a Facebook group that supports the Fairbanks LGBTQ community, several members tried to cancel the president of the local PFLAG chapter. PFLAG is a national organization that advocates for the LGBTQ community. The local chapter president’s crimes? He voted for Donald Trump, therefore he was a racist and couldn’t possibly lead the local PFLAG group. The attempt to publicly admonish the chapter president for his electoral preference did not come to fruition despite the efforts of those who were convinced he was a threat because he voted for Trump. Woke cyberbullying at its best.

Similarly, an Anchorage alt weekly publication is printing screenshots of social media users who hit the “laugh” react on serious posts, a virtual “How dare you laugh react to this thing that I deem important.” It’s an online witch hunt and you are guilty, no questions asked.

Supporters of cancel culture say it’s not canceling at all, that it’s holding people accountable. How does cutting Pepé Le Pew from the “Space Jam” sequel hold anyone accountable? How does taking a screenshot of people who laugh react make one accountable? It doesn’t. It creates division.

Gina Carano, formerly of Disney’s “The Mandalorian,” lost her job because she tweeted conservative opinions with which young social media users and the socially conscience took offense. Pop singer Camila Cabello faced online backlash for racist Tumbler posts she made in 2012 — when she was 14 years old. Actor Chris Pratt drew the scorn of the internet righteous because he attends a church that takes a strong anti-LGBTQ stance in its doctrine. Pratt responded on Instagram, writing, “Jesus said, I give you a new command, love one another. This is what guides me in my life. He is a God of Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness. Hate has no place in my or this world.” Pratt’s personal stance did not matter, however, as social media users had already cast the actor in the role of bigot.

Even former President Barack Obama weighed in, saying in 2019, “This idea of purity, and you’re never compromised, and you’re politically woke, and all that stuff — you should get over that quickly. ... The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws.”

In 2020, the Cato Institute found that 62% of Americans were scared to share their political opinions for fear of backlash. Interestingly enough, individuals who identified as “strong liberals” felt the most comfortable sharing opinions, 58%. Another data point of note was 52% of liberals, 64% of moderates and 77% of conservatives said they feel the need to self-censor, lest their online activity spawn a hashtag calling for their ouster.

The same time the Cato poll came out, Harper’s Magazine published a letter signed by 153 authors, writers and artists expressing concern of the movement’s chilling effect on public thought and debate. “But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought,” the letter states.

This idea — that you must be punished digitally for not sharing the same opinion or sharing the wrong opinion — shows no signs of slowing. In this attempt to create a digital utopia, the only thing we’re canceling is our unity. And that’s the ugly reality of cancel culture.

The Daily News-Miner encourages residents to make themselves heard through the Opinion pages. Readers' letters and columns also appear online at newsminer.com. Contact the editor with questions at letters@newsminer.com or call 459-7574.

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