Even if you win a shit fight, you still wind up covered in shit.

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

The open internet was the great equalizer, a platform that allowed everyone to reach an audience, share ideas and opinions, and be heard. The internet allowed for a world that was more connected and more transparent.

But the era of the open internet is over. The modern internet is just as antagonistic, manipulated, and divided as any other mass media, with familiar partisan outlets and uniform viewpoints. The internet is filled with the static white noise of unadulterated opinion, where the loudest voices get the most exposure, and a mob mentality can be easily manipulated. It is a billion-headed hydra, and cancel culture is a powerful tool wielded without any form of recourse.

In the last decade, there’s been a dangerous increase in pop culture policing and polarization; as the volume of media we consume increases, our social tolerance is decreasing, and people’s expectations get higher and higher, especially when it comes to politics, gender, race, or anything remotely controversial.

The concept of cancel culture has become deeply ingrained in how people communicate, often with no fundamental understanding of their actions’ consequences on others’ lives.

Cancel culture does not discriminate; it’s a brutal world of mob rule on either side of the political spectrum, designed to foster self-censorship and grow a culture of fear. It’s dangerous, and if left unchecked, it will outlast us all, leaving a legacy of silenced discourse and abandoned ideas.

Cancel culture has all the trappings of social justice activism, but it’s the weaponization of guilt and outrage culture; all the platforms that made cancel culture possible have been carved out of anger, shame and fear. Its purpose is to eliminate and demonize by destroying the livelihood and reputation of the enemy. It’s a weapon that can be used by anyone, either for or against the various factions of the culture wars.

Capitulation to the mob will never satisfy their lust for blood, and your silence will never meet their need for domination. It’s chilling to think that the entire goal of cancel culture is to make everyone afraid of everyone else, a form of public coercion by social pressure.

To the people in power, cancel culture is a helpful distraction. To the media, cancel culture is traffic. To the masses, cancel culture is a meal ticket and a protein shot of catharsis and schadenfreude, a way to comfort themselves with the knowledge that someone, somewhere, is being punished.

It encourages creators to be homogenous, inoffensive, and universally relatable, attributes that translate to bland and mediocre. The artistic process goes through cycles of creation and destruction — art, like life, is messy and chaotic. Art is not a finished product; it’s a living, breathing, constantly evolving entity, and people should stop trying to use outrage to make it static, lifeless, and devoid of emotion.

Our obsession with labeling dialogue and ideas “problematic” is bad for the psyche of our community, and it drives people apart. We economically and socially oppress marginalized voices, requiring people to hold an almost obsessively up-to-date knowledge of mainstream tastes and the zeitgeist or bear the brunt of culture war battles being waged on a pretentious intellectual level far removed from reality.

We now have the power to neutralize dangerous, hateful, and harmful opinions by simply blocking or ignoring them. We can choose to expose ourselves to various views and ideas or insulate ourselves against the world with media catering to our specific values. But we cannot control and censor the speech and thoughts of everyone with whom we interact in the name of respectability.

Proponents of cancel culture need to realize that the internet is not their safe space, and people can use it to say mean things. That’s the breaks. Their tactics are only another form of censorship, and their relentless rage damages our culture. The truth is this; even if you win a shit fight, you still cover yourself and everyone around you in shit.



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Joan Westenberg

Joan Westenberg


Chaotic good. Award winning creative director & writer, ft. in Wired, Inc, SF Chronicle, TNW. Founder thisisstudioself.com