, 18 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
1/Since people are talking about cancel culture, I thought I might as well write a thread about it.

Some people say cancel culture doesn't exist. That's obviously wrong. Cancel culture - the practice of ostracizing people for violating cultural norms - has always existed.
2/Excommunication was one of the main threats the Pope used to exert control over temporal leaders.

Proscription was common in ancient Rome. Cicero got cancelled.

Hell, the Salem "witches" got cancelled! The original witch hunt!
3/Nor is cancellation of the rich and famous by the masses anything new.

The practice of famous people getting booted from power by angry mobs is as old as time.
4/Collective ostracism of the high and mighty - or of regular people - is nothing new, and is a fundamental part of any society.

The interesting question is whether something has changed in the age of social media.
5/The internet archives everything and makes all information available to anyone. It's radical, transformative transparency.

And social media allows that information to be spread instantly by word of mouth to vastly larger numbers of people than ever before.
6/What this means is that basically anything bad that anyone has ever done will eventually be turned up and used to denounce them. All the secrets are gone. The world can no longer forget.
7/And because humans live for so long, and are so fallible, and their personalities change, and culture changes around them, there will always be something cancel-worthy to find in anyone's biography. Every single person is cancel-worthy.
8/Even someone like Obama, who apparently never did a scandalous thing in his life, will be subject to cancellation when the political Overton Window shifts and decisions and policies that seemed reasonable at the time are now condemned.
9/There are only two ways to escape cancellation in the age of the internet and social media.

The first way is to be someone that no one cares about enough to cancel.

Thus, most people are safe, because the mob has limited attention.
10/The second way is to have a big and aggressive enough mob of social media allies to fight off any mob that tries to cancel you, while also having institutional power on your side. This is why Trump hasn't been successfully cancelled yet, despite all of us trying constantly.
11/But most famous people are going to now have to live with the ever-present danger of swift cancellation. That is the new reality of what it means to be a celebrity.
12/And in a way this is an egalitarian outcome.

Movie stars, sports stars, media stars, etc. are no longer high and mighty.

The value of celebrity itself has gone down. Because to be a celebrity now means constant vulnerability.
13/Just a couple decades ago if you were an executive or a movie producer or a rock star, you could get away with damn near anything. You were a god.

Now you probably can't get away with anything, at least forever. Now you're not a god, you're a target.
14/Maybe this will make our society more egalitarian in terms of status. Maybe it will be a leveler.

Reducing the benefits of celebrity might make fewer people try to become famous in the first place.
15/Social media cancel culture has raised the social status value of being an average schmo, and reduced the value of being a big shot.

Maybe, in this age of rampant inequality, that's a good thing.
16/Also, social media cancel culture will rid us of all our heroes.

We will no longer be able to imagine that people like Gandhi were saints. We will be forced to realize that they were just flawed, fallible, occasionally amazing but occasionally awful human beings.
17/We will almost certainly have to find new ways of venerating people. Ways that take their human flaws into account.

Maybe we can learn to revere people for doing good things in spite of their base natures, instead of pretending some people don't have base natures.
18/Maybe we can learn to conceive of heroes not as angels or demigods, but as filthy, greedy, small-minded, cruel animals who, just for a moment, reached up and became something more.

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