I hear it all the time from leftists on Twitter: "Cancel culture is a myth, it's not real, it can't harm anybody."
Others might admit it exists, but try to undermine its significance by saying something absurdly broad like, "If you're being cancelled, it's a good thing. You probably said something really racist or bad." Here's a tweet that laughably tries to adopt both viewpoints at the same time:
To be fair, there are some examples that support this claim. Cancel culture is often used as an excuse by many a wrong-doer and politician to claim that they were harmed unjustly. Just yesterday, Andrew Cuomo claimed that his downfall was a result of cancel culture, taking almost no responsibility for his legitimately awful actions against women and his undeniable track record of putting the vulnerable in harm's way.
But that's a story for a different day. Whether people try to utilize it for their own gain or not, the reality is that cancel culture does exist, and it has the potential to cause a lot of carnage. And it's no surprise that most on the left don't see it because, thus far, it has predominantly been used to target conservatives and those with "politically unacceptable" ideas as defined by the mainstream leftist media and Big Tech. As Andrew Knack makes clear in his tweet above, cancel culture doesn't appear to exist to those with a left-leaning ideology because it's only used to silence those that they view as sexist, racist and/or homophobic bigots. And that's not cancel culture, it's "accountability".
In other words, when you control the definition of what's acceptable, anything else is worthy of punishment.
Needless to say, this opinion doesn't hold up under any amount of rational scrutiny. Who is the arbiter of truth and objectivity when it comes to "holding people accountable"? Is it the government? Big Tech? Religion? Society? If it's the latter, then politically correct opinions would change so fast that you could be cancelled tomorrow for something that was perfectly fine to say today, and all the while the likes of Andrew Knack would consider that some sort of justice (that is, until his opinion is unexpectedly under the chopping block).
As if that's not all ludicrous enough, let's consider the state of cancel culture as it exists today. It's not only real, it's actually so powerful that it's being used to fight wars and silence political opponents. Remember that whole trucker convoy in Canada? Private citizens were having their social media accounts locked, donations denied, bank accounts frozen, and jobs taken from them, all over a simple pledge of support for a political rally. The mainstream media may not have liked the message of the trucker protest, but let's not overlook how egregiously alarming this situation should be for any freedom-loving individual on either side of the political spectrum. A sitting political party was using private businesses and banks to carry out a hit job on citizens that it deemed dangerous based on their political opinions. The Canadian government benefitted from the media crafting and exaggerating a narrative that the protests were violent (just take a look at this piece of journalistic gold to see how far they were trying to stretch reality to fit their story), and worked with private and public financial institutions to freeze assets and effectively terminate entire groups of people from participating in society.
If that's not cancel culture on a mass scale, what is? Let me tell you.
In the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war that has erupted in Eastern Europe, you can begin to see the powers of cancel culture being wielded more broadly than ever before. Sure, millions of people may be in support of the current push by corporations around the world to "cancel" Russia, because it feels like the morally right thing to do. And maybe, in a vacuum, it is the right thing to do. But let's not be blind to what's happening here on a global stage. Banks, credit card companies, social media giants, big tech, the airline industry and more are all working together to shut down huge portions of Russia's economy and limit its ability to trade both information and money freely. This might be an effective way to get Russia to back away from its unjustified aggression, but the broader implications can not be ignored:
When a country or group of people does something bad in the eyes of society, they are exposing themselves to a new form of modern retaliation: weaponized cancel culture.
Now let's just get one thing straight here. I'm not saying that we should feel bad for Russia. I'm also not saying that there aren't things that you objectively should get ostracized for based on the inherent and objective moral standards we are born to understand as humans. What I'm saying is simply that there is a new way of fighting wars on full display, and we should take note.
"Cancellation" has become a force so powerful that it's being used in lieu of putting troops on the ground in a current 21st-century war. It's being wielded as a legitimate weapon against one of our greatest adversaries because it costs less, it's not carried out directly by a government entity (and therefore there's no military power to blame) and is potentially just as effective as sending troops to do the dirty work. Why? Because it touches everybody, not just the soldiers fighting on the battlefield. It affects those in Russia that wouldn't have chosen this war themselves, and those that did. It affects the average citizen, the military leader, and even Putin himself. It's a tool of war that can be wielded so broadly, and yet so precisely, that it has the potential to be one of the most effective weapons in the history of mankind. On top of all that, it's not traceable to a single source, so culpability for its effects can be denied by all foreign governments across the board.
Don't get me wrong, I firmly stand with those that want to hold Russia accountable for its despicable acts of war, yet I'm not blind to what is happening before our eyes. We are seeing the emergence of a new class of privatized weapon. It's a force that can't be overcome by bombing a city or capturing a strategic trade route. It's an invisible network of human interest that can completely obliterate its opponent under the sheer weight of what it means to be rejected from society. Sure, government sanctions may have been the first use of something that resembled "cancellation" as a weapon, but we've now begun to see that tactic applied much more broadly, and in a more privatized, less predictable way.
Let's take time to pray for Ukraine and to oppose unjust aggression where it needs to be opposed. But let's also take time to realize the new world we live in, and always be mindful of our actions and our words, considering what we now know about the future of conflict in our ever-changing world.
Be smart, be judicious, and most of all, be prayerful.
Like almost any tool of war, the act of "canceling" others can most certainly be used for good, but it can also be used for harm. I would assume almost every person reading this article would agree that freezing assets and taking other economic actions against Russia is most certainly justified. At the same time, it's important to understand that what is "justifiable" in today's world is not tied to some objective truth like the Word of God, so we shouldn't be surprised when these same powers are used for something that is indefensible as righteous or good from a Biblical perspective. And that's the whole point. Seeing cancel culture for what it is doesn't mean you have to love it - or hate it - all the time. But we should also recognize it when we see it, and be mindful of its effectiveness in both wartime and peace.