Cancel culture, an obstacle on the road to redemption | Aysha Taryam - GulfToday

Cancel culture, an obstacle on the road to redemption

Aysha Taryam


Editor-in-Chief, Gulf Today News and Media.

Editor-in-Chief, Gulf Today News and Media.


Photograph: Prateek Katyal/ Pexels

Humans are a peculiar creation made up of all things contradictory. Both of good and evil, of love and hate too, creatures capable of waging wars in the pursuit of peace and causing heinous hurt in the name of love. So innate is this contradiction, this raging turmoil of emotions manifesting in unexplainable behaviour that we have accepted it as that which makes us human. Souls navigating the world, always brushing ever so close to sin and at times falling into its tempting arms, humans are by nature a contradiction and so are their behavioural patterns.

Civilised societies have learnt to judge certain actions and punish others according to what the law of the land deems fit, eradicating the ability for people to take the law into their own hands and yet we witness its frequent occurrence at this point in time. People are adopting a mechanism whereby a horde of voices, amplified by social media, moves to tarnish or eliminate the image and reputation of a person whose actions they deem offensive. This phenomenon is happening often enough that it has been labelled ‘cancel culture’ and has taken accountability with it to the murkiest of waters in which no one comes out clean in the end.

In this praise or blame society where people are elevated to the highest levels and brought down just as fast, the reasons for a person being called out may vary, some legitimate others not so much, always remaining in the greyest of areas, but the approach is one and the same. A barrage of berating tweets, posts and images that seem to have no end hurled at the target until nothing is left of him but sin. If ever this person has done good, achieved praise or been part of something great does not matter, irrelevant is the sum of his parts for the only part this horde chooses to see is the grotesque.

This topic, like many others regarding the use of social media, is bound to steer us towards the revered idea of freedom of speech. Yet, if people are not absolutely free to act as they wish, for consequences play a great role in one’s decision to act, then why should speech be any different? Slanderous comments are just as hurtful to a person or an organisation, words uttered even if unsubstantiated can mean a loss of reputation which in turn means loss of careers and potential future.

So, a mistake is made, a word is spoken out of turn, a cultural norm is broken, and all is fair in the pursuit of cancelling this person, erasing them off the face of the earth, banishing them to a world of shame and regret

Let us now assume that the accusations are true, and the entity being attacked has indeed erred then as per the law of the social media jungle the ruling is almost always an execution regardless of the weight of the crime. The target’s past is irrelevant, their future is insignificant for the attack has taken place and this kind of attack leaves nothing unearthed and no place off-limits. In courts of law the accused have some semblance of privacy where matters are kept off the record and only the judges and lawyers are privy to certain details, sadly no such thing happens in the courts of Twitter, Facebook and the rest of the social media ordnance. The way forward in that world is an unethical process that takes place in the name of justice aided by the ease of diving into its dark waters that then seem to blindly steer one into irrational conclusions fuelled by nothing more than hate that is armed with anger.

So, a mistake is made, a word is spoken out of turn, a cultural norm is broken, and all is fair in the pursuit of cancelling this person, erasing them off the face of the earth, banishing them to a world of shame and regret. If we are to say that this norm has been deemed acceptable by the social media dwellers and that this is their idea of justice the question to them remains: after your mission has been accomplished what then?

In our earthly world we debate the idea of prison reform and rehabilitation, yet the cyber world’s ‘cancel-culture’ leaves no room for such hopes. What of the road to redemption? And there lies the heart of the matter, do you want people to progress, to learn from their mistakes that you uninhibitedly shouted from the metaphorical rooftops? Or is it all a sport, a selfish need to maim and murder people in the name of so-called ideas that you hold as truths? The obvious irony is that in practising your freedom to speak you silence others.

Humanity is fallible and every single one of us is capable of sin but if it were not for the hopes of one day being redeemed none of us will seek to understand our flaws and make the effort to rectify the damage our actions have made. If we continue to cast people out there will come a day when there will be none left on the inside and those who have been banished will find other places to be accepted, ones that might be dark and viscous and result in regrettable ends. If indeed the motives are noble, then we must tread with care and the means must matter as much as the ends. Let us accept that people make mistakes and if we are not able to help them heal then let us not play a part in harming them further. The road to redemption is a treacherous one that the accused must walk through in darkness but if we don’t shine the light then there is no hope for anyone finding their way to the other side.

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