By SHAVONNE HANSELL
You’ve heard of the Salem witch trials of the 1600s? Innocent women were falsely accused of witchcraft for speaking their minds or having independent thoughts. This century faces a new kind of crusade but pitchforks and burning stakes have been replaced with 280 characters and a moral obligation to crucify those who dare to have a differing opinion. If you think it’s despicable to be using such a metaphor and feel the need to oppose it, you to prove my point that anything slightly controversial is cause to light the torches.
Cancel culture, once used to expose those who abused their power, is now hunting down divergent opinions that fall outside the sphere of socially acceptable. In the inquisition that puts individualism to the flames, disagreement is deemed ‘intolerant’.
Contributor to The Australian and research scholar at the Centre for Independent Studies Peter Kurti says the control on “truth” and hindrance on free speech “will eliminate any capacity to exercise reasons, evaluate arguments, weigh evidence, and, therefore, to discern truth from falsehood. Truth will be determined solely by the tyranny of the mob”.
It’s so easy to condemn via social media and feel justified as you join the thousands of other voices shaming a person for a human mistake or often a misunderstood post. In 2019, Natasha Tynes, a Jordanian American author tweeted about a metropolitan train worker eating on the job which was against policy. Twitter users pounced on Tynes, eager to call out her out on what they collectively deemed to be a racist attack on a black American woman just having her lunch break. Tynes’ apology came too late to clear up the misunderstanding and was promptly labelled “truly horrible” by her publisher who then stripped of her publication deal. More often than not, the outcry and backlash does not warrant what the “crime” was.
Even celebrities cannot escape cancellation, from J.K Rowling’s recent comments on transgenderism, Marvel’s Sebastian Stan for not calling out his girlfriend’s cultural appropriation and the dredging up of Jimmy Fallon’s blackface impersonation of Chris Rock — 20. Years. Ago.
There seems to be no allowance on the internet for human mistakes, differing views or the possibility of educated growth. As Kurti says, “Repentance for past errors is demanded … if forgiveness for past errors can be obtained by the repentant, it is only by means of penitential acts of renunciation.”
So, can social media users be more understanding and make considered judgements before attacking? Absolutely.
Just remember that social media is subjective and has been cherry picked to include the juiciest news that will spread through social media quickly. Users must take it upon themselves to do research, engage civilly and remember there is a real person with their own experiences on the other end.