Free Speech, the Markets & Cancel Culture

Cancel culture has become a popular concern lately, and for good reason.

For those unfamiliar, “cancelling” occurs when someone states an unpopular opinion (at least unpopular with a large enough audience to make a difference).  The unhappy audience then calls for “cancelling”.  Cancelling moves past disagreeing, bad publicity, shouting down, ignoring, debating or ostracizing. Instead, it is when there is an attempt at keeping you from earning a living as a result.  That may be by calling for the employer to fire the speaker or a company, and its products, to be boycotted.

It can be horrifying to watch, because it can destroy a life.  The outcome can include not just current income, but also the prospects of getting employment in the future.  In other words, we are right to worry about this as a society.  If you are interested in several examples, here is a helpful database.

Here are some thoughts about how we may deal with cancel culture:

  • Keep things in perspective:  The market ultimately decides whether it is successful or not.  Many times, an attempt to cancel results in a win for the cancelled, when the others that agree with the speaker rally around them.
    • Therefore, if you agree, you may decide to rally around the speaker.  Perhaps, we need not freak out because of cancel culture, since ultimately others can swoop in and vote with their dollars if they agree with the opinion…  at least, let’s hope that someone agrees with you.
    • If you disagree, do not assume that an attempt to cancel will go as planned.  When Alexandria Occassio Cortez called for a boycott of Goya because their CEO attended an event at the Trump Whitehouse, Goya named AOC saleswoman of the month when their sales spiked.
  • We should be very careful that the punishment we call for fits the crime.  Remember, the offense is frequently stating an opinion that you don’t like.  Maybe the penalty for that should be facing a vigorous debate?  In other words, make a better argument.  No one should be considered beyond redeemable for a years old social media post made when they were a teenager.
  • For businesses, this may be a wake up call moment.  Unless your business / brand is inherently political, perhaps it is best leaving political discourse to private citizens, politicians etc.?
  • Is “cancel culture” a phenomena of the left side of the political aisle?  No, that is a common misconception.  In my research before a round table discussion that I facilitated over the summer of 2020, I found the most frequent calls for cancelling came from President Trump, who is generally not thought of as left of center (although he is a fiscal liberal on spending for certain).

Just my opinion.  What do you think?  Let me know in the comments.

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#CancelCulture #Boycotts #Cancelling #Censure #Voting #FreeMarket

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