Don't Confuse Being Canceled With Being Publicly Accountable

Ed Zitron 5 min read

Note: I know it said “don’t confusing” in the headline before. I know. I know! I’m sorry!

One of the core issues that plagues people in general, but in particular during quarantine, is that people cannot stop posting. They love to post about how much they love things, but also how much they hate things. This classic slice of regular human life is great in your own skull - you can think whatever thoughts you want, and only telepaths can read them! - it continually becomes an issue when you dedicate yourself to posting it on a public forum such as Twitter.

The phrase “I’m just asking the questions!” usually follows a statement around race or gender, and is usually the calling card of a person who wants to be racist or wants to be transphobic but also wants the plausible deniability of being a good faith poster. It’s also a classic sign that someone has spent too much time online and needs to remember a core fact:

You do not need to comment on everything.

I cannot be clearer about this than I am right now. It is very unlikely that anybody is waiting for your opinion on something. And even if they are, that’s still not a good reason to talk about everything.

Most people who get into trouble online are doing so because they decided that they’d wade into a subject that they either didn’t know enough about or were not self-aware enough to realize that their opinions on it are akin to running one’s tongue along the third rail of a train track. People’s imagined importance leads them to think that they must share every thought in their brain, and/or that they are not seen as an intelligent contributor to society if they don’t have a loud, public opinion on everything under the sun.

Having been on Twitter for 120 years now, I can safely say that my time on the site has become a lot easier since I just stopped posting every single thought I have. A friend described my account as controlled chaos - seemingly random, but curated in such a way that I don’t constantly land myself in trouble, because the random thoughts I share are not particularly inflammatory. There’re plenty of interesting, daring things you can say that aren’t going to get you in trouble - but a crutch of those who whine about cancel culture is that they claim that they “just can’t talk about certain things.”

The problem isn’t that you can’t talk about stuff. Censorship does not stop you from saying most opinions you have. What does stop you are the societal norms that are carried out en masse on Twitter - that if your opinion is dumb as hell, people are going to find it and say “what are you talking about?”

This is commonly misinterpreted as Big Brother Censoring Free Speech, when it’s really just the actions of one’s consequences. Yes, you can go on Twitter and start questioning the validity of trans people’s lives. You fuckin’ suck, and people are going to tell you that at length, they’re going to quote tweet you and challenge you and say nasty things, because what you’re saying sucks ass. But you’re allowed to say it. The consequences of holding an opinion publicly are that you must be measured by the public, and you must respond either with an understanding of their side or, indeed, with a vile defense.

The same goes with political opinions, or opinions on the homeless, or opinions on women’s rights, or any other thing. You’re absolutely allowed to spew your hateful garbage online if you are willing to get burned, but calling it ‘cancel culture’ is actively absolving you of responsibility and ownership of your own beliefs. It’s throwing up your hands and rejecting the fact that society has norms that we all follow, and that as time advances these norms change, which means you can’t be a noxious asshole about the same things you may have been five or ten years ago.

Take the movie Boat Trip, a movie that is truly bizarre and vile in its homophobia - you couldn’t release it today because society has moved on from it, but you can still rent it, watch it on TV, and so on. It is not banned, but its norms are inherently understood as wrong. In the same way, opinions you may have had in 2002 that you have stuck to are now bad, and if you did not move on with society, maybe you’re the problem.

Society is better as we accept people for who they are, but that does not mean that we have to accept people who have built an identity around not accepting others. People are attaching themselves to a paper-thin ideology of feeling repressed because they cannot publicly call for the repression of others. Instead of finding an actual hobby, there are people that have decided that their cause is mostly around “cancelling cancel culture,” which can be boiled down to “stop making my bigotry uncomfortable.”

It’s so easy to not get into these situations - you simply avoid them entirely. Don’t go on Twitter and say stuff that you know will just get people mad at you. Realize that this is not the same thing as “being censored,” because it is not censorship, you are simply not able to say certain things to certain people (otherwise known as being an adult).

There’s also the consideration to make that perhaps if everyone gets mad at you for your opinions that you may have a bad opinion. If you “can’t talk about a subject” to a large group of people, perhaps your views on the subject are inherently brittle and need interrogating. And if you’re so dogmatic that you truly don’t think you’re wrong, maybe you don’t need to argue about it (or even talk about it) online?

Generally, I try and keep things on Twitter easy. I’ve got to a point where I’ll type out a tweet and say “eh, no need to put that out there,” mostly in the realm of not liking something or being pissed off at something - the world doesn’t really need that energy. I post random thoughts that make me laugh, and if I talk politics I keep it high level and oh god do I try and avoid talking about stuff I haven’t read about. Hell, I’ll even admit when I’m wrong about stuff. Nobody really minds.

All in all, I try and think whether putting something out there is funny, interesting or informative. If I’m mad about something, am I going to truly hurt someone by being mad about it? If I post something - or respond to someone - and I’m pissed off, I usually take a beat and try to see if I just lashed out, and have found that a sincere “I’m in a shitty mood, my apologies, that wasn’t necessary” does wonders for both sides.

I think that it’s a lot easier to post without getting in trouble than people make it out to be. Just relax. Follow people you like, and talk to them about stuff you like. Focus more on the things that you like than the things that piss you off and you’ll have a much better time online.

More from Ed Zitron's Where's Your Ed At

Empty Laughter

Amongst the sludge of AI-powered everything at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show, a robbery took place. “Dudesy —” allegedly a
Ed Zitron 15 min read

Welcome to Where's Your Ed At!

Subscribe today. It's free. Please.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Ed Zitron's Where's Your Ed At.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.