Written by Zach Grossfeld
Recently, the “cancel” culture has been running rampant on social media. Anyone from Mario Lopez to Soul Cycle cannot escape the scope of the Twitter mob. What is cancel culture? How is it deepening the divide? What’s the end game? Here’s my take:
Wake Up Call
Alarm rings. 5:45 am.
Three emails populate the screen.
One is a business newsletter, one is spam, and the last is an email labeled urgent from your boss.
Typically, you’d wait until after arriving at the office to check your email, but the urgency of the message forces you to click. You’re the CFO of a Fortune 500 company, so it’s probably a good idea to get a head start on the matter
Here’s the message:
Come directly to my office when you arrive and do not post anything on social media.
Did you tweet this back in 2009?
CNN’s already picked it up and #RaydenTheRacist is trending on Twitter. Board wants you out.
Dean Chezik, CEO
Now, you’ve been at this company for ten years, given them your blood, sweat, and tears, and a social justice warrior decides to start digging through old tweets.
No big deal.
Everyone at the company knows you’re a stand-up guy.
You’ve fought for equality of opportunity, created hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships for underprivileged kids, and even found time to help run your daughter’s PTA program. But, then you check Twitter:
Rayden saying Black people look like toast #Burnt #RaydentheRacist
What a piece of sh*t #RaydentheRacist #Cancelled
Anotha One #RaydenTheRacist #Cancelled
Check your privilege Rayden. Not everyone can travel freely to and from Mexico. Do you even care about the border crisis? #GetHimOut #Cancelled
The mob has turned. It doesn’t matter that your great grandfather was black, or that the tweet isn’t racist in the slightest. You were trying to show how tan you got.
But to the Twitterverse, you are a racist. A ten-year-old tweet about sun exposure just burned your million dollar job and entire reputation.
Seems extreme, I know.
But in today’s world, this situation is not out of the question.
Large corporations have altered plans and fired employees because of concentrated twitter rage. It doesn’t matter that people who tweet represent a tiny slice of the population. Companies cave.
Even if the company does not fire you, you’ll likely be forced to apologize for something of which you may not be guilty.
Yes, people who tweet racist, homophobic, and sexist content should be punished, of course.
Bigotry is disgusting and unacceptable.
But recently, seemingly harmless, even positive comments are twisted into fuel for twitter rage.
Twitter Is Not The Majority
Before we get into a recent example, I’d like to highlight a recent twitter study. The results of the Pew study found that “the top 10% of tweeters are responsible for 80% of the tweets created by all US adults.” Also, Twitter users are much younger than the average US adult and more likely to be democratic.
A take on Twitter does not represent the sentiment of the general US population. Sometimes, they align, but Twitter backlash often does not paint an accurate picture of how the average person feels.
As the Pew study shows, a small fraction of Twitter users is responsible for four out of every five tweets.
When thousands of people on Twitter, aka the ‘Mob,’ attack an individual or corporation, it can feel as if the whole country is calling for your head.
Instilling this fear is how the mob operates.
Groups of accounts actively coordinate against a target, an individual or a company, to “cancel” that target. Just look at the recent New York Times headline switch or the boycott of Equinox and SoulCycle. In this case, “cancel” means “cast out from society” or “make irrelevant.” Once canceled, anyone who associates with you is also canceled.
Let’s examine latest victim of cancel culture, Mario Lopez. Back in June, Lopez appeared on the Candace Owens talk show to discuss various topics:
Family values (5 F’s - family, food, fitness, faith, fun)
Being first-generation Mexican American
Politics of Hollywood
Parenting with Social Media
Transgenderism with three-year-olds
The Twitter mob took issue with the last two bullet points discussed on the podcast.
Here are a few quotes from Mario Lopez from his episode on The Candace Owens Show:
“A lot of weird trends come out of Hollywood and one of the weirder ones, for me, is this new trend where celebrities are coming out — and I know Charlize Theron did this a few weeks ago — is saying that their child is picking their gender. And this is strange to me, and they say, ‘Oh, I looked at my child and my child was swimming in a bathtub and looked up and said, “Mommy, I’m a boy’”
“I am trying to understand it myself, and please don’t lump me into that whole [group]. I’m kind of blown away too. Look, I’m never one to tell anyone how to parent their kids obviously and I think if you come from a place of love, you really can’t go wrong but at the same time, my God, if you’re 3 years old and you’re saying you’re feeling a certain way or you think you’re a boy or a girl or whatever the case may be, I just think it’s dangerous as a parent to make this determination then, well, OK, then you’re going to a boy or a girl, whatever the case may be … It’s sort of alarming and my gosh, I just think about the repercussions later on.”
“When you’re a kid … you don’t know anything about sexuality yet. You’re just a kid. I think parents need to allow their kids to be kids but at the same time, you gotta be the adult in the situation. Pause with that and — I think the formative years is when you start having those discussions and really start making these declarations.”
In summary, Lopez states that it is harmful for a parent to determine their child’s sex based off of a three year old’s thought patterns.
No sensible parent would allow a toddler to maintain authority over a life-changing decision such as gender reassignment.
Parents don’t even let three-year-olds decide how to eat or dress. I never thought that the following statement would draw controversy, but toddlers do not have the cognitive ability to address or understand the ramifications of changing their sex.
Back To Reality
If your three-year-old son says he is Superman, would you buy him a cape and let him jump off the roof? If he tells you he is a girl, would you start dressing him like a girl, treating him as such, and injecting him with puberty blockers? In both cases, I would hope to God not.
Children blurt out wild constructions of their imaginations daily. In the morning, your daughter may think she’s a mermaid. By night, she is a boy. And the next day she’s made of cheese.
Untamed curiosity is how kids operate.
In early stages of development, three-year-olds sponge everything, and in many cases, leave reality by the wayside. It’s our job as adults to encourage imagination with the guidance of truth, not make life-altering decisions based off of a child’s invention.
Wait, Wait, Wait
According to a study lead by gender-dysphoria specialist, Thomas Steensma, 88% of children who suffer from gender dysphoria (a boy who thinks that he is a girl and vice-versa) grow out of this phase as an adult. Many of these children grow up to become gay or bisexual adults. Dr. James Barrett, a consultant psychiatrist at Charing Cross Clinic, the oldest gender identity service in the UK, states:
“If you wait until puberty has got a little way along, a fair proportion of children change the clinical presentation and feel more like straightforward lesbian and gay kids. They don’t seek the social role change any more and will end up with no need for lifelong medical intervention, surgery, and with no loss of natural fertility should they want children.”
If a child, especially a three-year-old, expresses the belief that they are, in fact, the opposite sex, it seems it would be smart to wait. Making rash decisions may alter the course of a child’s biological and social development.
Your son or daughter always has the choice to explore more options as a fully formed adult. Considering the research, Mario Lopez has given sound advice: Don’t destroy a three-year-old’s life by letting him or her be the adult in the room.
Another part of the Candance Owens podcast that received attention was Lopez’s quote about #BelieveWomen. He stated:
“I think blanket statements or hashtags like #BelieveWomen is a dangerous hashtag. People lie and sometimes those people are women. God forbid you have a son out there, and a girl may have felt a certain way about a situation, dismissed, hurt, and is feeling vengeful and decides to tell a certain story that is not true... come back and hurt that individual. If we’re just supposed to assume she’s telling the truth without proof, evidence, that’s incredibly dangerous. You can’t just believe men either.”
Again, the above seems uncontroversial. It would be a terrible idea to believe the entire population of any gender, sexuality, or race. People lie, and lying does not discriminate.
Sometimes those people are women.
Sometimes they are men.
Sometimes they are White.
Sometimes they are Black.
Sometimes they are Jewish.
But always, they are liars.
Although Lopez has since recanted his words, I think he made a mistake by apologizing. He said nothing wrong and bowing to the mob only reinforces their case. While I don’t agree with Lopez apologizing, I understand his decision.
He works in Hollywood, one of the most liberal, unforgiving groups on the planet. When it comes to conservatism, Hollywood has a ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy.’ If Lopez wants to work, an apology keeps the cash flowing.
Also, Lopez is slated to begin a new gig at Access Hollywood in September, sliding over from the competitor, Extra. I can imagine that Lopez was feeling heavy pressure from executives who weren’t looking for drama.
What does the Lopez case say about our society?
Most people seem to agree with Mario Lopez, yet he felt the need to apologize.
Even on twitter, #IStandWithMarioLopez was trending just like its #MarioLopezCancelled counterpart.
Don’t Bow To The Mob
According to the Pew study mentioned prior, most Americans are not on twitter and seem to hold relatively reasonable views. But Mario Lopez and his employers don’t care about the average person. They care about the radicals. By inciting hysteria, the loud minority has forced prominent public figures and corporations to bow time and time again.
When faced by the mob, I think the best strategy is to hold out.
If you can intellectually back up your viewpoint and believe that you have nothing to apologize for, then don’t.
Twitter has a short term memory.
Twenty-four hours later, the next social justice issue will arise, and the mob will shift focus. Letting the mob dictate your actions signals to keyboard warriors that their tactics work. More corporations and people need to hold their ground when digitally stampeded.
The outrage is fickle and fades.
Of course, this is easier said than done. I’ve never felt the sort of hate that Lopez has on such a grand scale. I hope that if the truth is on my side, and I face a fiery attack, I will have the courage to stand by my principles.
As I don’t believe Lopez said anything wrong, what if he had? What if ten years ago, Lopez tweeted something seen as benign in 2009 but controversial by today’s standards? Does he deserve to be fired in 2019?
People change. People grow.
Today, that growth occurs on public networks composed of billions of users. A single, ten-year-old statement without context does not represent the present state of someone’s mind.
In 2019, the teenagers tweeting inappropriate content will be our leaders of tomorrow. Generation Z has matured under the lens of social media. If we attack people based off of snapshots from decades ago, no one will be left. Everyone says stupid shit. I’ve said stupid shit. We learn by messing up, shifting our views, and interacting with the world through a new perspective.
The public puts an enormous amount of weight into a stream of consciousness platforms like Twitter. Because of old tweets, people are fired, corporations are boycotted, and anyone associated is outcasted.
On the other hand, we have no problem with letting rapists and murderers walk the streets once they have served a jail sentence. If people who have committed some of the most heinous crimes imaginable are not canceled from society, how can someone like Mario Lopez become canceled?
Rapists can rehabilitate and re-enter the workforce, but one semi-controversial statement and you are unfit for duty? Right now, a hardened criminal can open a Twitter account, but others are being run off the platform for controversial tweets.
Cancel Culture = Cancel Conversation & No Accountability
The worst part about cancel culture is that obliterates conversation. If I “cancel” someone with whom I disagree, no back and forth ensues. Understanding and empathy fall by the wayside, and people remain stuck inside their unchallenged perspectives.
If people, especially public figures, are canceled for taking a particular viewpoint, how can we progress as a society? We need a brutally open market for free speech where the best ideas prosper. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and canceling is cowardly. It’s saying “I think you’re wrong and I refuse to engage with you, be gone. Anyone who associates with you is also gone.”
If you have sound ideas and educated opinions, you should have no problem speaking with someone who disagrees with you, especially in a public forum.
You should invite discourse.
When we stop talking to the people who disagree with us, society has no room for growth. Intellectual diversity breeds progress and innovation.
Without it, we are a country of divided echo chambers feeding into our distorted realities.
No matter what side of the line you represent, this cancel culture is toxic. But to defeat this culture, you have to understand it. I get what makes “canceling” somebody so appealing. You don’t have to engage in confrontational behavior or even back up your views. One, two, three, wave a wand, and that person no longer exists. With little work and no personal accountability, you are now “safe.”
But in the case of Mario Lopez, he still does exist and so do all of his followers. Just because you cast them out of your Twitterverse does not invalidate these people to the rest of the planet.
Mario Lopez is a human being, and a good one it seems.
The cancel culture is an attempt to dehumanize its victims. If Mario Lopez maintains his platform to speak, people may agree with him, which is precisely what the mob does not want. The more the mob can paint you as a pariah, mentally disturbed, and evil, the less human you seem.
It’s easy to outcast people when you don’t see them as human, which is why we can’t stop talking to each other. We thrive on connection and love. We find purpose in it. Incredible value can be gained from a conversation, especially if it's uncomfortable or ends in total disagreement. At least you now know how someone else thinks.
Reminder, just because you sit down and talk to someone does NOT mean that you agree with them.
I could speak to the vilest, cruelest person in the world on my podcast and I’d probably leave the studio in total disagreement. Some may cry that since I spoke with this person, I must agree with them.
This mentality is flawed.
Talking to someone is not agreement.
Agreeing with someone is agreement.
I’m not gifting them a platform. I’m not cosponsoring their beliefs. I’m merely trying to interpret someone else’s point of view, as disturbing as it may be. You can’t stop what you don’t understand, but you can “cancel” it.
Lastly, if Twitter seems overwhelming, log off.
It’s not real.
If the world looked like Twitter, every skyscraper would be burning down, millions of KKK would be marching through Times Square, and half the population would be easily offended, keyboard warriors.
The best thing you can do to combat the craziness is to talk to people. Most are kind and decent. Start face to face conversations with those of different backgrounds, beliefs, and values.
Learn how others think.
Don’t let 140 characters paint the picture of your worldview.