Cancel Culture: Do Two Wrongs Make a Right?

Imagine this: a simple gag-sign you made requesting beer money from patrons and viewers of ESPN’s “College GameDay” has gone viral, leading to over one million dollars in donations. After buying a single beer case, you donate the remaining money to Stead Family Children’s Hospital. This act of kindness then gains further media attention, attracting major companies, such as Anheuser-Busch and Venmo. They matched your donation dollar for dollar — tripling the final donation. This is precisely what happened to Carson King, a 24-year-old from Iowa, in 2019.

However, this story isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. After garnering so much media attention, a reporter from Des Moises Register published two of King’s past social media posts from his high school days — both of which were racist. These posts quickly caused controversy and backlash for King, putting him in the middle of a social phenomenon known as “cancel culture.” A form of public shaming and boycotting of an individual done once an accusation of problematic speech or action has been exhibited (Leake, Armijo, & Stroud, 2019).

So, the question many have debated is whether or not King deserved to be “cancelled” over his previously published racist tweets. In my opinion, while racism is something that is never to be tolerated (ethical objectivism!) and those who participate to any extent need to be held accountable, cancel culture is something toxic in and of itself. Rather than merely publicly shaming and ridiculing an individual for their wrongdoings, I believe individuals would affect more positive moral growth by being given the opportunity to educate themselves and make amends with any past mistakes. However, I acknowledge this approach hinders the expectation that the individual who is being “cancelled” wants to change, which, sadly, is not always the case. Keeping this case study in mind, I think King should have been allowed to take responsibility and issue an apology when his past tweets surfaced before the public decided once and for all whether to continue to support him or not.

All in all, while everyone’s moral compasses are calibrated differently, there are a few agreed-upon issues that are never okay. Some individuals may try to test the limits and spark controversy with their words; however, being awful back is not the answer. They don’t cancel each other out. Two wrongs don’t make a right. To effect moral growth, we must first offer them the resources to educate themselves on their wrongdoings.

Works Cited
Leake G., Armijo A., & Stroud S.R. (2019). Beer Cans and Cancel Culture. The UT Ethics Project/Media Ethics Initiative, Retrieved from https://mediaethicsinitiative.org/2019/12/04/beer-cans-and-cancel-culture/

Communications and digital media studies student. Dog mom.