Harmful language, like slurs and stereotypes, are unacceptable. Those who acknowledge this have the responsibility to demand future change and set an example for what is socially appropriate.
The trend of posting videos online to reveal people who use disgusting language like racial slurs or sexist terms is an example of holding others accountable. Social media users on platforms like TikTok or YouTube have begun publicly exposing individuals online. But is this the best course of action to achieve one’s aims of stopping slurs and stereotypes?
When someone says something harmful, they deserve to face consequences. I think public punishment highlights the modern idea of taking justice into one’s own hands and allowing the internet to act as judge and jury. But is it a good idea to make the internet – famed for continuous bullying and harassment – the executioner?
Generally, the desired outcome of posting online is to have the public justify your opinion. It can also present an example to prevent people from acting in a socially unacceptable way, especially when those who do are celebrities or influencers with a large following. Publicly exposing someone is, in essence, a way to broadcast the wrongful actions of one individual to dissuade a majority from acting similarly.
However, rather than educating a larger majority on what is right or wrong, exposing people online for their previous uses of hateful slurs and stereotypes create a distinctively negative environment. There is no doubt that people should be held accountable for their actions and face consequences, but instead they face ‘cancel culture’. Cancel culture began by calling-out celebrities and influencers who acted in a socially unacceptable manner by, for example, using hate speech, black face, or sexist comments.
Cancel culture, to me, has always come across more as a form of righteous bullying. I certainly understand the need to educate and display someone’s actions as being inappropriate and wrong, especially when younger generations view them as role models. But I also believe that resorting to aggressive behaviour online is not the solution. Equally, the attractiveness of broad-reaching platforms on the internet masks the ease for cancel culture to spiral out of control and become a dangerous vessel of malintent.
It is my opinion that, unless the wrongdoing was performed on a public stage, the consequences and retribution must take place privately. You are more likely to change minds without this public display of shame and with an explanation of wrongdoing. Misguided words and actions seem to predominantly come from a lack of education rather than a place of genuine hate or desire to do harm. Of course, their ignorance is no one’s fault but their own and therefore they are entirely in the wrong, but to retaliate with the same hate does more harm than good. In a world with frequent displays of uneducated and harmful behaviour, we will not change people’s understanding of what is socially acceptable with further hatred.
I think that the intentions of those engaged in cancel culture are good, but when combined with the aggressive online behaviour and persistent internet trolls, it can turn an already sour topic even more toxic.