The intention is understandable but the practice is flawed.
We are knee-deep in cancel culture. It’s permeated our culture so strenuously that it’s not uncommon to hear of several different public shamings, calls to action, or boycotts every day. It’s become expected. Who did what now? What video can we see? What or who do we have to stop liking?
Not all cancel culture is created equal, though. There are different levels to cancel culture and how far people will go to find justice for those they feel deserve it. With that comes different levels of innocents that end up going down with the ship.
The price for the individual
At the base level, there’s your individual who acts a fool and pays the individual price for that foolishness. These are the people who get blasted on social media for raging in a grocery store for having to wear a mask. They behave poorly and they pay the price. It is their cross to bear and, most times, they carry it alone.
The ripple effect here is small. Sure, the damage to the person may ripple, causing job loss, marital issues, or family problems. But, once we get the initial gratification of justice being served, we forget. The world moves on. They pick up the pieces.
Many of us, if we’re good people, hope the experience is a catalyst for them to get the help they need to make necessary changes in their life for them to become better human beings. But, really, that lasts about two days. We spin it until it feels good.
The price of the corporation
With a massive amount of data found in simple internet searches, it’s easy to discover what is being done with the money we give to companies that turn into profits and what those companies do with those profits.
This turns into public information that becomes common knowledge. We all know that Chik-fil-A has provided donations and funding for groups that are anti-LGBTQ. Likewise, we all know that Ben and Jerry’s has donated to Planned Parenthood.
Armed with this information, people can choose which company they want to buy chicken sandwiches or ice cream from based on their own personal beliefs. They can also choose not to care at all and buy whatever they like.
Any fallout that happens to companies like Chik-fil-A or Ben and Jerry’s as a result of a decision to support a controversial organization is due to those decisions being made as part of a company-wide belief and core value system.
To some extent, people can also choose not to work for a company whose core values don’t align with theirs. They may be unintended victims of cancel culture if they choose otherwise but for the most part there was a certain level of risk they accepted when they signed up.
The price of the position
At the very end of the spectrum are large corporations where one person, speaking or acting on their own accord, ends up causing massive damage to the company and taking down countless people in their wake.
Think about the most canceling of Goya Foods over the CEO's support of President Trump. Goya Foods has an annual revenue of $1.5 billion. They employ 4,000 people.
A mass boycott of Goya Foods could have plummeted their revenue by 25% and no company can sustain a 25% loss in revenue without there being collateral damage of laid-off employees. On top of that, Goya Foods has a charitable arm called Goya Gives. A decrease in revenue decreases their ability to fund services and outreach through this organization. We now have two groups of unintended victims of cancel culture.
Those unintended victims suffer so that we can make an ethical choice about companies we use, a decision made solely on a person speaking on behalf of themself and not speaking on behalf of the company.
The far extreme of this end of the spectrum are the heads of companies whose actions damage people who work for them in two different ways: through their direct actions and then the residual fallout. Harvey Weinstein is a prime example.
I’m not talking about people that are complicit in what he may have done. I’m talking about people who suffer by nothing other than association with the name of a person who has done something egregious.
What he did to his victims was so vile, disgusting, and horrific that he deserves every bit of punishment and ruin that befalls him. What is not deserved is the effect his cancellation had on unintended victims, which include his actual victims.
When news broke of Weinstein’s crimes, we went on a cancel spree. Never again were people going to give one dime to Weinstein by watching his movies. Mashable even published an article on exactly how to do just that.
Here’s the fallacy:
The movie Frida is a Miramax movie. Because of how Weinstein sold the company in 2005, three years after the movie was released, he still makes income when someone watches it. If no one ever watches it again, he makes no money from it.
Neither does Salma Hayek, who told in excruciating detail in the New York Times what a monster Weinstein was to her during the making of the film. If we boycott all Weinstein films, we punish his victims in doing so.
Hayek, and everyone else who worked on Frida, deserves to be paid handsomely for doing so regardless of the actions of the head of the studio.
There’s nothing wrong with holding strong convictions and making decisions in our lives based on what fits within those convictions. It’s the noble pursuit of living an ethical life we can stand behind.
What we need to make sure is that how we take that stand doesn’t do more harm than good.
Thought needs to be given before we jump at the chance to cancel something in a knee jerk reaction. How far are we willing to go to make ourselves feel better and yet hurt those we can’t see?
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