Cancel Culture: How Serious it's Getting and How FIRE can Protect You from it.
Cancel culture isn't anything new, we know that. It's just gotten way, way more serious in the last few years. From the Me Too movement to racial awareness, some people who cause our community harm have deservingly been reprimanded and suffered reputational and/or financial consequences as a result.
Some argue that freedom of speech protects you from suffering from cancel culture, yet we know now very clearly that isn't always the case.
I've seen everyone from college students to small business owners suffer from death threats, expulsion, loss of revenue, and lawsuits due to things they have said or posted online.
This is a contentious topic and a slippery slope, but a discussion we need to have as a society and community. What is lost when we have cancel culture, are we muting freedom of speech due to fear of the consequences?
What is certain though, is that if you are financially independent, and you get canceled, you'll probably be just fine. All though you might still get pummeled online and have a damaged reputation, someone who is canceled and also FI doesn't have to worry about the financial fallout as much. We'll explore that more below, in this cancel culture essay.
What is Cancel Culture?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines cancel culture as "the practice or tendency to engage in mass canceling as a way of expressing social disapproval and exerting social pressure." It says the phrase was first used in 2016! That means back when Desperate Housewives was still on TV and the Tesla Model 3 was first announced, this word didn't officially exist within our vocabulary.
Crazy to think isn't it? I wonder what events happened in 2016 that made it so prevalent, hmm.
The Pew Research Center also adds "Over the past several years, cancel culture has become a deeply contested idea in the nation’s political discourse. There are plenty of debates over what it is and what it means, including whether it’s a way to hold people accountable, or a tactic to punish others unjustly, or a mix of both. And some argue that cancel culture doesn’t even exist."
Why Cancel Culture is Good
Cancel culture can have some benefits, including holding people accountable for their actions, discouraging people from being hateful, unfair, or biased, and promoting fairness and nondiscrimination within our culture. If someone charges a colored person more for a product than a noncolored person, for example, the fear of cancel culture should hopefully prohibit that behavior.
Who is behind cancel culture you might ask? Probably all of us. We all have the right to vote, both with our wallets and our ballots, and have access to social media.
Some might have a lot more clout than others, such as celebrities and public figures, in calling out other people or brands.
However the more "outrage" there is about something, and the louder it grows (going viral as some call it) companies and brands may see it as an opportunity to protect their reputation and sever ties.
We've seen many hateful people, and discriminatory individuals, companies, and organizations face the consequences of cancel culture. Some have lost sponsors, business partnerships, or jobs. Some have just been publicly ostracized if they held their ground and didn't apologize.
Why Cancel Culture is Toxic
Some innocent victims of cancel culture have had their lives turned upside down, because aggressive and quick-to-judge social figures condemn their actions, without understanding the context or origination of what happened.
Recently, an insurance agency in Maine posted a sign about Juneteenth, and while it may have been in bad taste and poor judgment, many took swift action to try and destroy the person who created the sign, who was an employee, and apparently daughter, of the insurance agency owner.
People allegedly made death threats, and made negative reviews or disparaging remarks about the business, possibly ruining its reputation and causing long-term effects.
Some even blasted the insurance companies that do business with this agency and vouched for them to terminate their partnership, which they did. The employee who posted the sign apologized, and stated she tried to be funny.
Although it may have been bad judgment, many were quick to call her a racist. Now, can you imagine being in her shoes? It's easy to say "she deserves it, she's mocking Juneteenth and being racist", yet can you say without hesitation that you've never done something you regretted? Did you face fallout as severe as this?
Now imagine being her mother, who may or may not have known the sign was even posted. Now, she is being blasted nationally and facing bad publicity and negative reviews. Insurance companies have severed relationships with her.
Some of her clients, even if they forgive her, might be reluctant to do business with her because of the stigma, or how it might affect their reputation.
So, she's being canceled, and it's affecting her pocket. Sure, this should blow over at some point, but at what cost? How did we become so judgemental and vengeful?
Imagine if social media didn't create the frenzy, and instead of sharing that picture to go viral, they simply contacted the insurance agency, told them how they felt about the sign and gave them a chance to fix it. We need to be more patient and understanding, we'll all be better for it.
How Financial Independence can shield you from being Canceled
So here we are at the meat and potatoes of this post, or tofu and grilled veggies if you're vegan like me (well, almost vegan. Trying to pry eggs and salmon off the diet. But I'm a millennial, I live and breath avocado toast right?)
Using the example above, let's say this business owner was financially independent. If the business was shuttered tomorrow or forced to shut down, it wouldn't be financially detrimental to them because they can walk away and sustain their lifestyle, regardless of the fate of their business.
This is similar to the concept of F U Money, remember that? If you have enough cash and investments set aside, and you've had it with your boss, well you get the point.
Financial Independence, for all of its wonderful benefits, also affords protection from cancel culture and the damage that ensues from it. I'm not encouraging those who are super well off to run their mouths as they wish, just saying this as a benefit of FI that can enable someone to deal with the reputational risk that comes with becoming entangled in cancel culture.
Someone who is FI might still get death threats or nasty messages, but at least they are not going to lose their house or safety net. Being financially independent, then, is especially crucial for those who run their own businesses, are freelancers, have social media profiles, and engage with the public.
You want to be careful what you say, but also feel free to express yourself. Be kind, be genuine, and ask yourself if whatever you're about to say or do might rub some off the wrong way.
Sometimes, just saying it to a friend or out loud can help you make better decisions, and keep cancel culture as something you hear about on TV, not something you find your name next to in an online search.