Donald Trump wants to change the narrative. He knows he’s losing on his handling of the pandemic, he’s losing on his response to the protests, and he can no longer rely on his custodianship of the economy. Instead, Trump hopes he can win re-election on the issue of “cancel culture”.
In an Independence Day speech delivered at the foot of Mount Rushmore, President Trump told supporters: “cancel culture [is] the very definition of totalitarianism”. He likened cancel culture to “far-left fascism”, arguing it is “driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees”.
To hear Trump tell it, cancel culture is a bigger threat than COVID-19. That would be politically convenient for him were it true, of course, seeing as over 70% of Americans disapprove of the way he has handled the coronavirus pandemic. Electorally, it makes complete sense to try and distract voters by waging a culture war.
So, has cancel culture really gone too far? More than 100 famous writers, including JK Rowling and Salman Rushdie, have signed an open letter decrying the “intolerance of opposing views”, the “vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty” which they feel cancel culture represents.
On the other hand, some doubt whether cancel culture even exists. Online shaming and twitter trolls are certainly real, but the impact and permanence of “cancellation” varies so much as to essentially render the term meaningless. It’s true that the careers of Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein are almost certainly over (and both men are currently serving lengthy jail sentences). Likewise, R. Kelly and Kevin Spacey are unlikely to work again.
On the other hand, Taylor Swift released her sixth consecutive number-one album in 2019 despite being “cancelled” in 2016; Michael Jackson’s album sales actually increased after his cancellation; JK Rowling remains one of the richest women in the world despite fan sites distancing themselves from her over her tweets; Woody Allen and Roman Polanski are still making movies and winning awards; even Louis CK is touring again, despite admitting to openly masturbating in front of unconsenting female comedians.
Has cancel culture really gone too far? Is freedom of expression being stifled? Or is the idea of “cancel culture” as an organised movement of “left-wing fascists” just a paranoid fantasy? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!