Cancel Culture: The Product or Root of Political Polarization in America?
President Donald Trump recently labeled cancel culture as the “very definition of totalitarianism” in his Fourth of July speech at Mount Rushmore. Nearly two months later, cancel culture resurfaced as a popular talking point at the Republican National Convention where politicians called for its abolishment. Several speakers for the RNC denounced cancel culture because of the danger it seemingly presents to the American people: a violation of our First Amendment rights.
Cancel culture is typically known as the practice of publicly shaming high-status individuals who have demonstrated offensive actions. However, more recently, the act of “canceling” could be extended to anyone. In America’s hyper-polarized political climate, most people today are being canceled for their exposed racist, homophobic, or immoral actions.
Online platforms, like Instagram and Twitter, are where people usually circulate such information about a person that can go viral. The internet community then decides whether or not to condemn the person’s actions. If a person is “canceled,” online users will even go as far as to identify the person and contact their school or employer to notify the administration of their actions. This is what infuriates the Republican Party.
The Republican National Committee adopted a resolution that states the First Amendment is being threatened by cancel culture’s violation of the “free exchange of ideas, thoughts, and speech.” Trump and the RNC delegates chose to use part of their speaking time to rebuke the “liberal elitist” social media movement instead of focusing on how the Republican Party plans to rectify the issues in our country or issues that the Democratic National Convention outlined in the week prior.
Trump said that cancel culture aims to make “decent Americans live in fear of being fired, expelled, shamed, humiliated, and driven from society.” The inability of conservatives to proclaim their beliefs on the internet without meeting public criticism is what Republicans see as an attack on Americans’ freedom of speech. But exactly what beliefs are being rejected by society?
Despite the RNC’s efforts to paint cancel culture as a violation of Americans’ First Amendment rights, it is evident that the practice is a valid exercise of every American’s freedom of speech. Social media platforms — where the majority of these cancel culture discussions take place — were not created to foster political tensions, but do not prohibit them from happening either.
Twitter, for example, is a marketplace of conversations where people can feed off of one another’s thoughts on the same event, idea or issue. Trump is known to be very active on Twitter and has fallen victim to cancel culture on many accounts, one of his most recent call-outs was in response to his repost of a video that featured a man shouting “white power.” Although the tweet was taken down hours later, the news that it happened remained online for all of Twitter to debate.
Many called out the president as a racist who must be held accountable for his actions. However, unlike a typical victim of cancel culture, Trump is in a seat of power that cannot be easily taken away. So instead of contacting his bosses, people keep tally of all of his non-dismissable actions and use his words against him to urge people to vote him out of office during the general election this November.
The thousands of calls for Trump’s removal from the presidential seat do not sit well with him or his colleagues and therefore had to be rebutted during the 2020 RNC. In reality, the Republicans are not so much afraid of Americans losing their voices, but rather using them to expose the ethical, political and social violations made by everyday people and Republican politicians.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who spoke on the third night of the RNC, said that Democrats paint law enforcement and military personnel as villains rather than heroes because they do not “fit into [the Democratic] narrative.” Blackburn is correct that law enforcement has been under attack in the cancel culture world — but it has not been unsolicited.
Police officers and recently weaponized federal agents have been caught on camera exercising an unwarranted abuse of power. These are the actions condemned by the “far left.” It is not as black-and-white as Blackburn made the situation out to be.
Republicans claim to decry cancel culture because it does not encourage the “differences of opinion and debate,” as said by Ivanka Trump at the RNC. But cancel culture has forced the American people to confront controversial situations and take a stance on its moral correctness.
Cancel culture has sparked more debate and conversation than ever before. Not everyone who participates in the conversations agrees with the Democrats or the Republicans, and some people do not take a side at all. Regardless, the hard conversations about the deeply-rooted issues in our country — such as racism, homophobia, misogyny — are being brought to light, and it has raised the stakes for those who are campaigning to lead our country.
Unless Trump plans to censor the American media, and truly rip everyone’s First Amendment rights away, cancel culture will persist.