‘Unsafe everywhere, you are.’
I had an epiphany the other day. I was discussing actress Gina Carano being both fired from her role as ‘Cara Dune’ in Disney’s mega-hit show The Mandalorian and having her upcoming show canceled because of something she tweeted (random sidenote: Grogu rules), and it got me thinking:
How has this whole cancel culture thing become so potent now?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I know that what Carano said was bad, so please don’t cancel me along with her. Comparing anything to the Holocaust other than something akin to the enslavement of Africans or the genocide of Native Americans is usually not a good idea.
But this cancel culture really only started back in like 2016 or so, so how does it have teeth this sharp so quickly? And then it dawned on me:
The potent mix of the Internet and economics.
Just follow me here for a second.
ECONOMIC HARDSHIP AND ANXIETY
Do you remember how the economy was before COVID-19 took over the world?
Before the pandemic, things were already bad for people economically. Now my fellow countrymen and women are suffering the highest poverty rate in a half-century.
So workers feel hopeless. Workers feel powerless. And they’re searching for something, anything, to make them feel like they have some modicum of control.
Enter some pompous, seemingly-entitled, filthy-rich person or a company (that has already been siphoning an inordinate amount of money from workers’ labor) doing something that sparks some sort of controversy online.
If all current and potential patrons (or at least a large-enough block of them) become angry enough at that arrogant rich person or the company itself, workers nationwide (and sometimes worldwide) will boycott them, which negatively affects their income/bottom line.
They’ll do this to bend the employee or the company to their will and have them reverse course on the thing that sparked the controversy.
The goal is to make the rich person or company believe that, if they don’t bend, the angry mob will break them personally and both the person and the company financially.
Hence, ‘cancel culture’.
Now, how does the angry mob cancel them exactly?
By going after their career – their name and money – which means they have to go after the companies that employ, partner with, and sponsor them. And I believe this tactic happens often now because, well, boycotts really do work, so people feel empowered when they boycott companies.
Yes. That’s what I strongly believe people feel when they cancel someone who or a company that they see as being horrible and/or doing/saying horrible things.
So, when some pompous, seemingly-entitled, filthy-rich person or company representative says something that rubs people the wrong way, the combination of the economically-fueled rage and both the ease and reach of the Internet make them a prime target for this righteous rage via cancelation.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to dish out some pain and stick it to some arrogant rich prick when you’re barely able to put food on the table for your kids, right?
And the thing about this righteous rage is that it breeds tangible results that people can actually see, which is why I think that righteous rage in boycotting and cancel culture is fueled by the economic, no-longer-upwardly-mobile frustrations of working-class people.
So, when cancel culture comes to a company’s front office, they instantly panic and go into damage control mode to placate their current and potential patrons in regard to their rage against the private-sector employee or company.
Because these companies need us for their brands to survive and thrive long-term.
Hey, they’d rather discipline and/or fire them than to piss off their walking wallets even more and increase the backlash, and thereby the potential damage.
So, the quick snap of a finger, and that employee is done. The company apologizes and rebrands or it announces their employee is fired or demoted, and boom!
The crowd cheers because they’ve got their pound of flesh, ‘mob justice’ has prevailed, the pitchforks are put down, the torches are snuffed out (for now), and the corporate short- and long-term damage assessment is initiated.
“Whew. That was a close one.” ~ Said probably every executive in every almost-canceled company.
That’s power. People power.
But, again, I don’t think that righteous rage is stemming from anger at those people or entities, and I also think that it is being pointed at the wrong group of people.
PRIVATE SECTOR CANCELING
Every day, working-class people hold massive amounts of power, but rarely wield it, especially individually. So canceling employees or companies in the private sector; putting pressure on corporations whose entire existence is based on monetary profit, is something that average, every day, working-class people have a chance of controlling.
And that’s power. Power they can see. Power they can touch. Power they can feel.
And the Internet allows for the unlimited magnification of that power, so, unlike public voting or legislation in politics, it’s swift.
And, because it usually doesn’t have the emotional, ‘multi-side’ potency that religion or politics has, the offensive pressure from cancel culture on private-sector employees and companies usually comes from only one side, current and potential patrons, with almost no defensive pushback or pressure to match from the companies.
Because remember: Our patronage is what’s supposed to keep these companies sustainable for an extended period, so would you slap the people who make you rich?
PUBLIC SECTOR CANCELING
Now public employees, on the other hand, are a different story entirely, particularly politicians. Canceling them is not so easy.
See, politicians primarily get their money from corporate donors first, which means they need working-class people’s votes more than they do our money. Yet, they need our money even more than they need our attention.
In fact, a lot of times politicians would rather we not pay attention, at least the incumbents do.
That way they can gerrymander districts, suppress the ability for people to vote, and then use propaganda to make people who glance over politics now and again think they’re someone they’re actually not.
This makes it much easier for them to trick those citizens into unknowingly helping them maintain and grow their political power.
Yes. The same political power they will use against the people if the people try and cancel them.
So, with funding coming from corporate sources through the back door (not placed in front of the public’s eyes and readily available for them to see), needless to say, it’s much harder to target companies to put pressure on them.
Well, remember what I said about religion and politics and how they have emotional, ‘multi-side’ potency that private-sector capitalism doesn’t?
See, companies don’t need your money as much as they need those politicians to write legislation to simply funnel them government money (bailouts anyone?), which, in turn, they use to give those politicians campaign donations.
Not to mention that politicians usually have the support of close to half of the electorate, so the companies that support these politicians get a chunk of that support as well by default.
That, by definition, makes it much more difficult to ‘cancel’ a politician or the companies that support them because the offensive pressure from cancel culture wouldn’t be coming from only one side in this instance.
It would be almost split down the middle, and a corporation can easily survive with almost half of the electorate’s patronage.
RIGHTEOUS RAGE, TARGETED
As you can see, the public and private sectors operate on different playing fields when it comes to the whole culture of canceling people and organizations.
But I think there is one group of people who deserve the brunt of cancel culture much more than a rich private citizen like Gina Carano who said some ignorant comment:
Politicians. That is to whom the righteous rage of the masses should be directed.
They have the ability and power to positively affect what I believe to be the very source of the rage, the economy, but, instead, spend their time and energy protecting and further enriching their corporate donors.
No, this is not a deflection from Carano’s statement, but, instead, an epiphany on the potential origin and subsequent better targeting and use of the power of We The People’s righteous rage.
We want to feel and be empowered, right? Well, imagine how powerful it would feel and be to use that rage against the ones who are actually negatively affecting your life, and then snatch their power from them?
Now THAT would be the ultimate height of rage-fueled empowerment, and its targeting would most definitely be righteous!
But what would be even better is to not be in the economic situation that gave you the fuel for such rage.
So what do you all think? Am I on to something?
Do you agree that, if people had much better economic and career opportunities, a better safety net, better pay, and universal healthcare that they would be much less likely to get online and revel in canceling people?
Because, right about now, if Grogu could talk, I think he’d say, “Unsafe everywhere, you are” when it comes to cancel culture. And, if you disagree with my assessment, that’s Ok. Just don’t cancel me (*Insert awkward laugh and smile here).
No, seriously. Please don’t cancel me.