Cordelia O’Neill | On Cancel Culture

By February 25, 2020News

I’d like to cancel Piers Morgan. I don’t think I am alone in this. Yet, Piers Morgan still reigns supreme across many of our media outlets.

When I was asked to write this blog about ‘Cancel Culture’ I spent a lot of time reading and researching, trying to get my facts right, and tried to piece together a piece on what ‘Cancel Culture’ is, what it does, whether it’s good, whether it’s bad. I tried to be balanced, to show both sides of the coin, I wanted to please all with my article I didn’t want to offend and I think deep down, I didn’t want to be ‘cancelled’.

I don’t blog, I write plays. I put arguments and thoughts onto other characters and blame them if they aren’t politically correct. I can get away with not being ‘woke’ when writing plays, I can get away with being rude, arrogant, stubborn. I can explore concepts of sexism and racism and make mistakes redraft and have another go. It’s more freeing, it’s easier, that’s not to say I don’t and won’t get criticism. But I can justify the characters thoughts and feelings because of who they are, they are difficult not me, they are un-PC not me. I think it’s important to point out that I am a white, middle class woman, from a privileged background who has had a relatively blissful life. I think it’s important to point out that I am more and more ashamed by what I read and hear on a day to day to basis, and I think it’s important to say that I really believe that people like me, white and privileged, are part of the problem. I don’t do enough, I’m aware of that, I don’t blog or write opinion pieces, and the main reason for my well balanced slightly bland first draft of this blog is because I’m scared. Terrified of doing or saying the wrong thing. My Twitter feed is mainly emoticons, they are harmless and not specific, I can’t be accused of something with a rolling eye yellow face, they are diplomatic. I’ve stopped having an opinion publicly, and when people stop having an opinion publicly, people like Morgan cement themselves even more into our culture.

There are obvious exceptions, after Lawrence Fox graced us with his opinions on Question Time my twitter feed was filled with justifiable angry people, we were all united against him, he was the enemy and for that time we had no need to turn on each other. I feel though that Lawrence Fox is only just beginning in his new role as a spokesperson for angry white privileged men. I think we will be seeing a lot more of him. And I can’t help thinking we like it, we like having someone to ‘punch bag’ at. And much like Morgan, Fox seems to rather enjoy it. So we cement them more into our world. I think back to that Question Time a lot, and I think about the brave woman who challenged and confronted him. I think it is interesting that she was talked over, that she had to be quiet to allow him to speak, that she didn’t get to reply and that no one in the panel stood up for her, or told Lawrence to be quiet. That night in that moment she was cancelled. In many ways cancel culture is not a new concept, I have been in many a room where people have spoken over me, where my ideas have been ignored, where I’ve been in a conversation with someone whose eyes are roaming the room for a more worthwhile person to talk too. People are cancelled all day every day we do it to each other, and it hurts, it stings, it stops people from feeling worthy. So I wonder if this new more established version of cancel culture is helping.

The cancel culture rose after the 2017 Me Too era and we saw big names crumble into insignificance. Louis CK, Aziz Ansari, R Kelly, Michael Jackson and Harvey Weinstein all big examples of the public going enough is enough. But is it? Louis CK came back from a 10-month work hiatus with an even more controversial show than normal, which sold out. Aziz Ansari, is back with a new stand up show in which he addresses, rather more maturely than Louis CK I may add, the accusations set against him. R Kelly and Michael Jackson both saw a rise in their music being streamed and Harvey Weinstein, well that remains to be seen. They are not cancelled, they will never be cancelled. So who is? Alistair Stewart recently found himself in early retirement after an ill thought out tweet, Kevin Hart was cancelled after tweets he made over a decade ago, Dua Lipa most recently was cancelled after ‘making it rain’ in a strip club, and I worry that we, the general public, are cancelling each other. I often scroll through my twitter feed, filled mainly with theatre people who have never been known for keeping their opinions to themselves, and can’t help feeling that we’re not helping each other. Often on Instagram we see men and women who have shaped and re-shaped their bodies, who have posed for an inspirational post, who have ultimately cancelled out their true selves. Behind screens with 140 characters and a selection of filters we have so much power, but sometimes that power stops us from learning, we cancel, we criticise and leave no room for defending, for understanding, for learning and improving. There’s no room for truth, we just want to please. Our need to stamp out what we disagree with and opinions that scare us means we are removing the ability to learn about where these opinions come from and that’s how we solve the anger and the division that is currently so prevalent in our climate. We have to learn to have patience with each other. If we’re busy warring, Morgan, Fox and Hopkins can take up as much space as they want, and there will be no room for anyone to challenge them. Piers Morgan will never be cancelled, and apart from my personal feelings towards him, why should he be? What should be happening though, is a unity among those that disagree with him and a voice that can finally force him and those like him into listening.


Cordelia O’Neil is one of the writers of The Apologists, here from 3-8 March – get your tickets HERE→

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