Cancel culture is the modern social attitude that controversial speech or behavior must be punished through public shaming, silencing, boycotting, firing, bankrupting, deplatforming, etc. The result is that the offender’s influence, presence, and/or reputation is “cancelled out.”
It’s proper for whistle-blowers to reveal corruption and illegality or for abused women to come forward, confront their abuser, and make sure he is held accountable. But cancel culture goes far beyond that, setting out new rules to retaliate against speech, behavior, or even thought that has been pre-judged as “offensive” or even simply controversial. In cancel culture, people can be ostracized, their reputations smeared, and their careers ruined although they have broken no laws or engaged in any malicious behavior.
Cancel culture is the outgrowth of two other, equally dangerous things: political correctness and postmodernism. Political correctness is the attempt to minimize social and institutional offense through policing speech (and therefore thought), forcing the use of certain words and banning other words. Postmodernism asserts that all truth claims are subjective. Truth becomes a matter of preference, and “tolerance” is promoted as a supreme value. However, the more “tolerant” a culture becomes, the more intolerant it is of anyone it perceives as intolerant. People deemed “intolerant” or potentially giving offence must be silenced - and cancel culture is the result.
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