How far is too far for cancel culture

Mariam Keita ’22 discuses the rise of “cancel culture” and its more recent victims.

Mariam Keita and Cymry Hieronymus

Imagine you wake up in the morning and open your Instagram, Youtube, or Twitter feed to see your name trending across all platforms, thousands of people calling you out, tagging you in harsh comments. The #canceled posted right by your name. 

“Cancel culture” is a phenomenon in which people use the internet to hold a person accountable, it is the forefront of modern online culture, a mob mentality pursuit to punish an artist or celebrity. This occurrence has surfaced many times in recent years usually seen to denounce a celebrity, company, or brand for saying something problematic, racist, sexist or homophobic. Many of the celebrities usually are often “canceled” for tweets or videos that have been resurfaced from the past and are illegitimate. Anything that society deems inappropriate can result in cancelation, yet the punishment doesn’t always fit the crime.

Carson King is a 24-year-old man who raised more than 3 million dollars for the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital spurring Busch Light and Venmo to pledge to match the donations. Many people were touched by this selfless act until a reporter from the Des Moines Register wrote a story about King that revealed old tweets containing racist comments made by King back in 2012 when he was 16 years old. King later apologized stating,

“I am embarrassed and stunned to reflect on what I thought was funny when I was 16-years-old. I want to sincerely apologize.” 

King’s incident highlights the hypocrisy and indecisiveness of people online, especially when they get to decide who gets canceled and why. King lost his chance to have an entire year of beer and his face on the can because of public pressure. Busch Light was fearful for its companies from losing business for associating with someone who made a mistake almost a decade ago, at a very young age. King cannot be defined by a tweet he made when he was 16, he is more complicated than that tweet and the tweet he made does not represent him as a person. 


Comedian Kevin Hart stepped down from being the host of the Oscar’s in 2019 when he received criticism for old tweets that contained homophobic remarks from 2009-2010. The tweets finally reached the Academy, who demanded a formal apology. Hart stepped down from being the host and later apologized to the LGBTQ+ community for his remarks. Hart lost a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a tweet he made in 2009. “Cancel culture” doesn’t give people a chance to show growth, and it encourages the idea that your past mistakes define you as a person. Hart stated that he has changed and evolved as a person realizing what he did was wrong, and instead of rewarding that or supporting his change, we punished his past actions.

Even though many celebrities have been canceled, it doesn’t necessarily deter their audience. Logan Paul had been “canceled” for a video that he posted on Youtube in 2018 with over 15 million views. In the video, he went into a forest in Japan called Aokigahara Forest at the base of Mount Fuji, known to be a frequent site of suicides. He then proceeded to show footage of a man who had committed suicide, cracking jokes and trying to give an inspirational talk at an inappropriate time. Paul later apologized stating,

 “I should have never posted the video. I should have put the cameras down and stopped recording what we were going through,”  Paul said.

Paul didn’t face any real consequences and he is still one of the highest-paid YouTubers according to Forbes, earning over 14.5 million dollars in 2018. Cancel culture is fast-changing and hypocritical when it comes to canceling someone and sticking to what they preach. Paul´s actions were controversially far worse than Hart’s, yet he is still making millions every year.

Words do hurt and it shows how merciless people can be when given the anonymity of the internet. Canceling someone is not an obligation, it’s an individual decision.”

— Mariam Keita '22

Cancel culture isn’t new. For years people have been publicly canceling those who stepped out of line with society’s rules. Recently, however, the number of people participating in this public shaming and the number of shaming themselves have increased. There are no restrictions on who can be canceled or who can do the canceling.

“Cancel culture” also shows how destructive online criticism can be to a person. Words do hurt and it shows how merciless people can be when given the anonymity of the internet. Canceling someone is not an obligation, it’s an individual decision. While herd mentality is an attractive force, people must stop and think before attacking people and going along with the popular opinion. Many of the celebrities do apologize after their mistakes, but the internet stays ruthless. It rejects celebrities instead of holding them responsible for their actions and giving them a chance to show that they have changed. The internet loves drama, but it is the individual’s duty to push back against popular opinion to see a celebrity’s true character.