In short, boycotts are good and cancel culture is bad. This should be as clear as day to anyone, but the two have been conflated for various reasons in recent years. Let’s look at both so we can put a rest to the notion that if you’re pushing for boycotts, you’re participating in cancel culture.
First, let’s look at cancel culture. Even the progressive Merriam-Webster definition is fine for these purposes. They definite it as “the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure.”
The extended definition by Demetria Slyt makes it even easier to see why cancel culture is bad while boycotting is good. “For those of you who aren’t aware, cancel culture refers to the mass withdrawal of support from public figures or celebrities who have done things that aren’t socially accepted today. This practice of ‘canceling’ or mass shaming often occurs on social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.”
There are two keys to understand why cancel culture is bad. First, it almost always targets an individual through mass shaming over something that was said or done with the goal of damaging that individual in some tangible way. An example was the cancellation of Kevin Hart. Old Tweets demonstrating that he was allegedly homophobic in the past relieved him from hosting the Academy Awards. According to Breitbart:
Kevin Hart knows what it feels like to be “cancelled.” The actor-comedian was invited to host the Oscars two years ago but was forced to step down before the job even began after the media dug through his old tweets and accused him of homophobia. Now Hart is hitting back at cancel culture’s practitioners, saying they leave no room for growth or redemption.
“We’re letting people control and dictate the start and finish of people’s lives,” Hart said in an interview with Deadline. “If people [have done something] wrong, the idea of canceling those people, and ending whatever career or thing they have…If it’s just over, then what’s the teachable moment for them? What, it’s over, and then you can’t do nothing else for the rest of your life, because you made a mistake?”
Kevin Hart spoke to Deadline to promote his Emmy chances for his Netflix special Kevin Hart: Don’t F**k This Up. But the lengthy conversation turned toward more controversial subjects including cancel culture and his friend Ellen DeGeneres, who is facing her own cancel mob.
The second reason cancel culture is bad is because it invariably pertains to “wokeness.” Most of the time this manifests when a celebrity isn’t progressive enough in their words or actions and therefore is targeted by the left for being a Nazi or something. Sometimes, it happens when someone who is or was viewed as right-leaning gets “woke” on a subject, at which point it’s the right that engages in cancel culture. The former is much more frequent than the latter. Neither is a good thing.
Righteous boycotts are not cancel culture. They should not be viewed in the same category. With boycotts, we are denying the use of products or services offered by companies that work against our worldview. The primary thing that separates it from cancel culture is there is direct influence on our own lives by companies that oppose our worldview. This isn’t the case with cancel culture. No members of the LGBTQ community would have been harmed if Kevin Hart hosted the Oscars. They may have had their feelings hurt, but Hart was not working against their interests. He’s a comedian who made inappropriate comments on Twitter at a time when those comments weren’t nearly as inappropriate as the hyper-sensitive now.
Companies like Coca-Cola and Major League Baseball didn’t just make comments. They are actively working to push a leftist agenda in opposition to our best interests as conservatives and/or Christians. There is tangible harm their actions and donations have against us. Calling for boycotts of these entities is not engaging in frivolous cancel culture. It’s defending our rights and positioning our buying power with organizations that do not actively hate us.
It’s somewhat understandable that many on the right conflate the two because the folks on the left who engage in cancel culture also engage in boycotts. The ones who canceled Hart also tried to cancel Goya Foods because the CEO supported Donald Trump. But conservatives can and should be more selective. We should separate the two actions; canceling someone we do not like is very different from boycotting a company that works against us.
Perhaps the easiest way to differentiate the two practices is to understand what they represent. Boycotts are a form of financial activism that tries to either correct the ideological direction of a company or reduce their power. Cancel culture is a form of lazy Cultural Marxism. It uses shaming and pressure to punish someone, not because they caused or are causing material harm to the aggrieved but because they simply weren’t woke enough (or, in some cases, were too woke).
Cancel culture is bad. Righteous boycotts are good. Understanding the difference between the two is key for conservatives in order to end the former while advancing the latter.