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Empathy = the Cure to Cancel Culture?

Empathy = the Cure to Cancel Culture?

By Edgar Louis de Gracia
HAPI Scholar


Photo by AP

Cancel culture is a controversial internet phenomenon that has put down a lot of people, innocent or otherwise. In the beginning, the movement’s heart was in the right place, taking down predatory men in power like Harvey Weinstein. Then, it devolved into something that was often predatory itself.

A movement that was supposed to be for the good of women and men was slowly corrupted from within by malicious individuals (often hiding behind keyboards and Twitter handles) who weaponised it instead. Bizarrely, the influence and power of these bad-faith actors grew as days went on, and companies including Blizzard, Disney, EA, and Lucasfilm often found themselves bending to the demands of the former at the risk of looking insensitive in the eyes of the public. The ubiquity of television and social media became a useful tool for these individuals who sought to ruin the reputation of public figures – with recent examples being Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, and Ellen DeGeneres.

But then, we caught on to their game. After intense scrutiny by other netizens on social media platforms (and even on news networks), the movement was exposed to be more harmful than good. As a result, it lost supporters and though it still exists, its influence has dwindled quite significantly.

Looking at current news, actor Amber Heard has lost a defamation trial against ex-husband Johnny Depp. Their relationship is proof that no matter what sex/gender you belong to, you will be capable of committing domestic violence and acts that could cause harm to those around you. Since their messy, public divorce has involved not just their respective “cancellations” by netizens but but the topic of feminism, let me just make this clear: Amber Heard does not represent Feminism and its principles. She does, however, belong to a group of people who would willingly hop on a humanistic movement for her own gain, causing setbacks for real victims of domestic violence and other heinous acts. Acts of violence are not ingrained in a certain gender and sex as some people on the internet would lead you to believe; anyone can be capable of criminal acts, but they choose not to do so because that is the right thing to do.

(The inverse is also true, by the way: belonging to a group should not be used as a defence to protect oneself from consequences. As we tread the ethical path, we need to understand that belonging to a certain group does not exempt us from consequences.)

We need to take a stand against malicious behaviours like cancel culture not because we’re trying to “virtue-signal” but because it is the ethical option. Beyond that, acting on good faith will also benefit the real victims who desperately need their voices heard.

As humanists, we need to uplift our fellow citizens towards a better future. We don’t have to look up to the divines to be good people but our actions will be the defining factor in whether we are a force for good or evil. We should take a stand against those who would seek to harm others purely out of hatred for them. We should take a stand against cancel culture by spreading facts and the truth.

“A lie has speed but truth has endurance.”

– Edgar J. Mohn

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