Choose Understanding Over Cancel Culture

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We’d be better off canceling cancel culture

The concept of “cancel culture” refers to the practice of publicly calling out and shaming individuals or entities for problematic behavior to hold them accountable and often results in social or professional consequences for the individual or entity. Over the past several years, cancel culture has become a deeply contested idea in the nation’s political discourse. To be clear: it is not a good trend.

Let’s delve into the topic of “cancel culture” and its influence. The concept of cancel culture refers to a form of boycott or public shaming used to call out individuals or entities for perceived offenses, often on social media. The goal is to hold people accountable for their actions and to push for social change.

While that goal isn’t necessarily a bad thing, “cancel culture” has been politicized and is being used to dismiss legitimate criticism and accountability for harmful behavior. It is important to hold individuals and entities accountable for their actions, but in a way that promotes dialogue and fosters understanding, rather than perpetuating fear and intolerance – which is the goal of cancel culture. 

To better understand how the public views the concept of cancel culture, the Pew Research Center asked Americans to share – in their own words – what they think the term means and, more broadly, how they feel about the act of calling out others on social media. The survey finds a public deeply divided, including over the very meaning of the phrase.

The research shows cancel culture leads to fear and intolerance, where people are afraid to express themselves freely for fear of being criticized or ostracized. This can stifle open discussion and debate, which are essential for a healthy society. Cancel culture often involves calling for people to be fired or removed from public platforms for expressing unpopular or controversial opinions. This can create a chilling effect on free speech, where people may self-censor or avoid expressing their views out of fear of being targeted.

Cancel culture is often used as a tool of coercion or oppression, particularly wielded by those in power to silence marginalized groups or individuals. Cancel culture is oftentimes driven by social media “outrage”, which can be based on incomplete or inaccurate information and fed by the relative anonymity of those hiding behind a keyboard. The fear of being “canceled” can lead to an environment where people feel pressured to conform to a certain set of beliefs or ideas. 

This can discourage open dialogue, critical thinking, and the expression of diverse viewpoints. I would argue that cancel culture has gone too far, leading to online harassment and the destruction of people’s careers and reputations over relatively minor offenses. Cancel culture creates a situation where people are afraid to speak out against the prevailing narrative or challenge the opinions of the group. This reinforces groupthink and prevents the exploration of new ideas or perspectives.

The public shaming and ostracization that often accompanies cancel culture can have serious negative effects on individuals, including loss of income, reputation, and mental health. Cancel culture leads to a lack of forgiveness and an unwillingness to engage in dialogue and understanding, which can ultimately hinder progress toward compromise and collaboration.

We should strive to be open to having discourse without being disagreeable. We should aim for understanding and be mature enough to change our minds on issues. Instead of rushing to judgment, let’s stay curious, respect each other’s freedoms, and instead of being offended and censorious, let’s choose to be empathetic, kind, and tolerant. In short, let’s cancel the cancel culture.


Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at