Calling Out Call Out Culture

thoughts orangutan

What with freedom of speech week coming up, I thought now would be a good time to start pissing people off *ahem* saying all the *controversial things* I’ve ever wanted to say. Starting with the fact that I HATE cancel culture… which I guess means I’m going to cancel myself with this post 😉

Just kidding- I know that the blogosphere is basically the sanest place on the internet and I’m probably just talking to an echo chamber of people who agree with me 😉 But you all know what I mean by cancel culture: those dumpster fires that rage online daily and seem intent on destroying everything in their path.

two minutes of hate
And people call 1984 too far-fetched 😉

I’m referring to the fact that many ordinary people are walking on eggshells for fear they’re about to receive their FIFTEEN MINUTES OF SHAME! I’m talking about the way people try to cancel YA for being too dark or daring to cover a controversial topic or the author saying something that strays from a rather niche-and-ever-evolving hymn sheet. Many of the articles I’ve included in my sources will give you examples, yet the one of the most striking is the curious case of Blood Heir, where critical advanced reviews promoted the incorrect idea that the reference to slavery in the book must inherently refer to the Slave Trade and therefore this was cultural appropriation (gosh, so many things wrong with that view, not least that slavery is endemic across history and an ongoing global issue). There was good news on that front recently, with the book now being scheduled for release in November (after people came to their senses and realised Zhao did *nothing wrong*), but not everyone that comes under fire lives to tell the tale.

Most authors can easily have their career ruined by these actions. No one is immune- I’ve seen the most famous authors and virtual unknowns attacked. And I’m often ASTOUNDED by how blasé so many creative people are about it (sometimes even being ringleaders in this regard). Too many seem to be kidding themselves that “oh well I believe all the ‘right’ things so they couldn’t possibly come for me”- when in reality I’ve seen the goal posts change a million times in the last few years. I’ve seen some books praised for covering difficult topics… and the next one condemned. The perceived *target* seems to be as guilty as the next person. All at the whim of select reviewers, social media activists or journos.

Now, far be it for me to criticise negative reviews! You all know I’ve defended them at length. No, I’m talking about targeted campaigns to get a book cancelled because of something (usually) one individual disliked about it. Which to me is a bizarre attitude- as Angela Carter said “Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms”– no two people will read a book the same way (I know, very death of the author 😉). And I think we all experience this with reviews. I know I can’t be the piles of booksonly contrarian that’s read a negative review and thought “huh but that thing they’re complaining about really appeals to me- ADDING IT TO MY ALREADY INSANELY LONG TBR!” (#bookwormlogic) That might even be why some authors seem to thrive off a little healthy debate.

let it goOf course if you had a problem with a book *wrestle with it, examine it, dissect it to your heart’s content*, but also LET IT GO! Because, not only are we all individuals who experience books differently, but it isn’t a healthy attitude to have such a visceral reaction. You know why I write negative (and to some extent positive) reviews? To get it out of my system. I think the thing, say the thing, move on from the thing- never have I thought “I’M GONNA GO ON A CRUSADE AND RUIN THIS AUTHOR’S LIFE!”

Shockingly, there are people who do think like that. Annnd this is the part of the post where I’m going to throw some real shade. Cos the agitators behind this know *exactly* what they’re up to. They think they’re getting good publicity and that no one could possibly think they’re the jerk. They think that the cover of social media grants them anonymity- and yet I’ve spotted a pattern with repeat offenders. While they may be happy to destroy careers on a whim, they like equally problematic things in other books (cos it’s pretty easy to have a little looksie at their goodreads 😉). Hypocrisy aside, there’s nothing wrong with them liking some books over others- the problem arises from them trying to act as the moral arbiters here. Because who the hell crowned them the king or queen of taste?! Most people rightly realise opinions are *SUBJECTIVE*.

Being the worrier that I am, I fear I’ll get a chorus of “name names” and “tell us who’s doing this”- but that is the antithesis of why I’m doing this post in the first place. I don’t see how turning the mob on these individuals will help calm things down. Besides, too often we’re so fixated on the named “criminal” we forget what we’re even talking about. Recently, I’ve written articles in response to some statements by famous authors and, rightly or wrongly, I chose not to include names. While I don’t want to rely on hearsay, I personally think it’s usually better to focus on their ideas and avoid the possible (totally unnecessary) author-bashing. Especially since the one time that I did name an individual for off the cuff comments, it ended up being a distraction to the point at hand. Naturally, this isn’t to say every journalist or commentator is wrong to do so, I just think sometimes it is possible to argue your point without making it personal.

As much as I hate call out culture, I know not everyone who gets caught up in it is an awful person. We’re all human (or in some cases monkeys) and we all make mistakes. But maybe, just maybe, it’s time to stop liking those tweets from people saying “let’s end so-and-so’s career”. Maybe we can stop posting and reposting the angry diatribes directed at individuals. It might just be a little too late in some other areas of life, but we can do better in the bookish community at least. Or else, all art will be dictated by the mob and books can be nothing more than drab, colourless, lifeless autobiographies. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? 😉

Other blog posts on the topic…

Katie @Never Not Reading – Book Twitter is Kind of the Worst

Nicole @Sorry I Am Booked – Bookish Thought Sensitivity: Cancel Culture in Literature

And elsewhere around the internet…

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jun/15/torn-apart-the-vicious-war-over-young-adult-books

https://www.newyorker.com/books/under-review/in-ya-where-is-the-line-between-criticism-and-cancel-culture

https://slate.com/culture/2019/01/blood-heir-ya-book-twitter-controversy.html

http://www.papermag.com/cancel-culture-doesnt-work-2602364106.html

http://www.womensmediacenter.com/fbomb/the-problem-with-cancel-culture

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/17/opinion/sunday/cancel-culture-call-out.html

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2019/04/228847/own-voices-movement-ya-literature-impact

https://www.spectator.co.uk/2019/05/writers-blocked-even-fantasy-fiction-is-now-offensive/

Phew- that was a big topic to get through! And now I’m terrified of what everyone is going to say! Even so, this has always been a platform for free speech and I want to know your thoughts on the issue. So, do you agree with me that cancel culture goes too far? Or should I just head off to the gulag? 😉 Let me know in the comments!

122 thoughts on “Calling Out Call Out Culture

  1. I am definitely not a person who jumps at the opportunity to cancel anything, just because I have all too often seen people act prematurely without all the facts and then it coming back to bite them in the a**. I understand the anger and frustration with some matters and think it’s fair if you want to stop supporting certain people or companies, but to create this online mob can be kind of dangerous. I always think about crazy Black Mirror-esque episodes somehow …
    So, as predicted, I basically agree with you. The blogging community really does feel like one of the more sane areas of the interwebs. (Not that we are all perfect, but yeah)

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oh yeah- that’s another side to it- too often people leap first without all the facts! (actually that happened with the Blood Heir case- people went for the author on faulty evidence and without reading the book). I do understand the perspective- but I can’t condone the actions. I think it’s very apt to compare it to Black Mirror…
      Really glad you agree!

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  2. I’ve never heard that term cancel culture before. Does it also refer to campaigns to get places like universities to remove statues of people who – for example – were associated with the slave trade?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Not really. A lot of the cancel culture problem is that it tends to pour undo punishment on basically well-meaning people who say or do foolish things that some people find offensive.

      In some cases the whole thing gets overblown because Twitter doesn’t allow for nuance and it’s easy to take things out of context, to the extent that the outrage is based on a misunderstanding that is not actually close to what the supposedly offending person intended. And of course, there are bad faith trolls that like to stir up the mob for their own amusement.

      To my mind, an offensive element in a book or film, or even a poorly worded tweet, which are generally fairly easy things to avoid, is quite a bit different than a statue in a prominent public place honoring a person who engaged in actual human trafficking.

      I think the statue thing is really an argument about how we build historical narratives and whose perspectives are prioritized or ignored. It also tends to be more about the institutions that own the statue not responding to the sensibilities of the communities they serve which is also a different thing than dogpiling harassment or ostracism on a single individual.

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      1. Thanks for the explanation. Social media has many benefits but it does have its downside, one being that people are quick to take offence and respond with anger. Often they haven’t bothered to read the “offending”content carefully..

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        1. Yeah it’s more what rsrook says- and to me it’s about the campaigns that get people to stop speaking on colleges or get events cancelled (or in the case of what I was talking about in the post, get authors to lose publishing deals) as well. Sorry for not making it clear in the post.
          I do agree with you about social media- especially that people who get involved in this rarely read the material they’re “critiquing”.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Considering that china has an entire internet that is gutted by their government, you’d think people would be all for free speech, even when it disgusts them or heaven forbid, “offends” them.

    We’re headed for a tyranny of worldwide proportions and idiots like those who lead the lynch mobs now will welcome it with open arms.

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  4. I completely agree! When I see this kind of thing going on on social media, I just find it so cringy. Just because an author has written about something, it doesn’t mean that it is the author’s actual belief or that readers will start copying it. After all, George R.R. Martin wrote Ramsey Bolton and I have no reason to suggest he is sick or depraved.

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    1. Really glad you agree!! I definitely agree- cringy is exactly the way to describe it. Absolutely! We used to understand that fiction wasn’t the author presenting their own views (obviously!) and that authors need room to write evil/evil characters (Ramsay Bolton is the perfect example!)

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  5. I 100% agree with you. I’ll use the example of the producers of GoT cancelling their TV series about if the south had won the Civil War. People claimed they were just promoting slavery and I don’t think that was the case at all. It would have been a really interesting concept. I mean, there is already The Man in the High Castle, about if the Nazis had won. =/

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    1. Oh I didn’t even know that happened (gosh there’s just so many examples- can’t keep up with them all!) That is a really bad reason to cancel it- because every single alternative history I’ve seen about, say, the Nazis (I’ve not seen Man in the High Castle yet, but I imagine it’s not on the side of the Nazis 😉 ), has been used to show how bad they were. I would have thought this would be a really good way (if incredibly disturbing) to show the evils of slavery in a more modern context- which would have a powerful effect. I also think people would be able to draw parallels with how things might be the same… basically I can’t see any reason to cancel that. As a piece of art, it would have done a great job of condemning the slave trade.

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  6. To me the current ‘call-out’ culture is a modern-style lynching mob, facilitated by social media, and the reaction is often well removed from the original ‘triggering words’ (if they exist at all). What worries me is that – as we know – authors don’t necessarily believe, personally, what they end up writing about. Sometimes they’re describing an unpleasant character or events in a story, necessary to the plot. If they’re writing non-fiction, maybe they’re looking in to why something objectionable happened – because understanding how stuff happened becomes a way of avoiding it in future. But the impression I get from ‘call out/close down’ behaviour is that those doing it believe that the author is a heart-felt personal advocate of whatever was written, who must be judged for it on that basis. Sigh… What ever became of reason, tolerance, kindness – and reasonable discussion about things?

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    1. Really agree with you. That always worries me, because in so many cases people use the existence of an evil in a book as the author condoning that act of evil… which is crazy. We used to understand that fiction wasn’t just a place for authors to soundboard their ideas. I agree that sometimes it’s necessary for the plot- but it’s also necessary for human thought to explore the nature of evil. We need to understand it, in order not to go in that direction (so yeah, for me the same rules of why you explore it in non fiction can apply to fiction). I do get the impression that people think that about the author- but sometimes I think they’re just acting in bad faith to be honest. I have to agree- I wish and hope there’s a way to return to that.

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  7. I’m all for calling out problematic writing when I see it, but these “crusades” as you call them are going way too far. Especially since we don’t all see the same things when we read (which is one of the greatest things about reading imo). In the case of Blood Heir, I actually know the author personally; she was one of my childhood friends. I know she never had the intention to offend anyone, and I was shocked to see the huge amount of backlash she received online. Most of the time, cancel culture takes up a lot of time, energy, and attention, without giving much in return — so thank you for calling it out. Honestly, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between that and cyber-bullying…

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yeah that’s the thing- as I mentioned in the piece, I’m all for critiquing work and I think it’s such a valuable thing to be able to do. I think if you see something problematic in a book, point it out. But that doesn’t mean mobbing the author and trying to get them cancelled. Wow, that’s incredible that you know the author- so thank you so much for sharing that- and I hope to read her book someday soon 🙂 I’m always shocked to see these kind of things- but especially with that case, because even on the surface, I couldn’t see any reason for people to take offence. I couldn’t agree more. And I also see it as cyber-bullying- but unfortunately the people behind it don’t see it the same way.

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  8. I’ve noticed that this is largely an American/English speaking phenomenon of the younger generation (my own) in which the book is viewed as an immovable commercial object rather than a Craft that can be taken apart to study our society’s psyche, shifting the conversation away from literary criticism to customer complaint.

    Zadie Smith puts it brilliantly: “But the problem with readers, the idea we’re given of reading is that the model of a reader is the person watching a film, or watching television. So the greatest principle is, “I should sit here and I should be entertained.” And the more classical model, which has been completely taken away, is the idea of a reader as an amateur musician. An amateur musician who sits at the piano, has a piece of music, which is the work, made by somebody they don’t know, who they probably couldn’t comprehend entirely, and they have to use their skills to play this piece of music. The greater the skill, the greater the gift that you give the artist and that the artist gives you. That’s the incredibly unfashionable idea of reading. And yet when you practice reading, and you work at a text, it can only give you what you put into it. It’s an old moral, but it’s completely true.”

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      1. Your welcome! It really captures something I had never been able to put into words. I once had boyfriend who has horrified that I wrote marginalia in my books. I couldn’t understand the fuss. He thought it was disrespectful, as though a book is a picture in an art gallery, not to be touched. Books to me are little construction sites for my own thoughts. Reading as a conversation with myself, if no one else. Art makes art and I owe a lot of my art to bad writing, the kind that makes me so angry it makes get up and do it myself.

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  9. My head might fall off my neck from all the nodding I did as I read this. There’s a little too much cancel culture and gatekeeping going on these days. The worst part about watching some of it unfold is how people grabbed onto a soundbite, but then fail to research the finer details. So, they are furious without knowing the whole story. I try to stay out of that stuff, and you know, as I have seen other people saying (above), it comes across as cyber bullying.

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    1. hehe I’m glad you agree!! I couldn’t agree more! I definitely see what you mean about that- so often, I see people (going back to the example of books) who haven’t bothered to actually explore the book in question. Actually once, somebody in the blogging community went and read one of the targeted “offensive” books and basically said “hey it’s not that bad”. Needless to say, there was no response on twitter saying “we take it back” (and I even saw people in her comments section telling her off for writing this more balanced review). People are just happy to be furious. And yes I agree.

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  10. Thanks for the shout-out! I’m with you, I get annoyed at the repeat offenders. The most upsetting to me is professional authors throwing shade at other authors. Recently, for example, one author has been on the receiving end of the twitter-hate from like, five people, because of something she wrote that is allegedly racist. (Having read and loved the thing, I disagree, but what do I know because I’m white?) Regardless, a recent release had one insy weensy line in it that got all five of them in an uproar, and they got an author that I had really been respecting the last few years in on it. I don’t look at the author the same way anymore. And I unfollowed someone who was constantly bashing on J.K.R. Like, it’s okay to have an opinion, but if you’re an author I don’t think it’s professional to air that opinion in public. Because it’s not like these authors have never done anything wrong in their life…

    Sorry, end tirade.

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    1. You’re welcome! Really liked your post! I really agree with you- especially cos some people seem to want to make their online careers out of getting offended… but they don’t seem to realise or care that they’re ruining other people’s lives. I really hate when authors do it too. Not just cos it comes across as unprofessional (which it most certainly does) but because it comes across as sanctimonious and borderline bullying. I get what you mean about JKR- especially cos it always seems a bit much to me (she’s been accused of anything and everything by this point). Funny you should mention her though, cos it reminds me of another point- it never seems to go in the opposite direction (a bit random, but I once tweeted a defence in response to some ludicrous accusations, because I was in a good position to disprove it. I got zero traction- probably/entirely because I’m irrelevant 😉 But I do think the point still stands- people don’t want to hear “hey this person’s not guilty”).

      hehe no worries- I kinda went off on my own tirade there 😉

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  11. I find cancel culture really worrisome. To me, it’s the new form of censorship and it’s often very effective, yet people still talk about censorship like it’s something only done by the political right to remove books from school reading lists when they contain drugs or sex. Even the American Library Association has statements still out about censorship that still imply this is what censorship is–a right-wing tactic focused on specific content some find “immoral.” No one seems to mention cancel culture during Banned Books Week or anything like that. Indeed, I’ve even seem some librarians in School Library Journal support the canceling of books, which I find astounding since librarians have historically been the champions of free speech and opponents of censorship.

    It bothers me, too, that cancel culture seems so personal. I understand people not agreeing with the content of a book. I’m sure everyone could find a book with content they don’t agree with or that they find offensive. It’s just bizarre to me, though, that the first reaction to finding such a book is to create a Twitter mob to destroy a person’s life and career completely. I know this is shocking, but authors are real people; they’re not just symbols of something to be burned to the ground. Maybe that’s not apparent when mobs are reacting on Twitter, but I don’t think it’s very charitable to attempt to ruin someone forever because they wrote one thing one person on Goodreads said they didn’t like. Everyone does or says thinks that maybe they regret or that others misinterpret. I certainly hope not everyone finds themselves out of a job for it, with a big sign announcing that no one should ever employ them again because they are the Literal Worst. There has to be a way to engage with literature where we can discuss what was written and whether people should buy it without blindly trying to destroy people along the way.

    Even if someone has written something a majority would agree is undoubtedly offensive, I think people forget that learning takes place when you approach people with charity and kindness. People don’t typically change because you come at them yelling expletives. Why would they stop to listen when they feel attacked and defensive? This is an unpopular opinion, I know. I’ve been informed by friends basically that, “These people deserve to be yelled at.” “They have it all coming because they’re the worst.” But that’s not what creates change. That’s just what makes the person yelling feel better. So I think we have to decide. Is it better to yell and curse and create mobs to create a sense of righteous anger? Or is better to adopt an approach that could actually result in a person coming to an understanding of how they can do better in the future?

    Of course, the irony here is, as you pointed out, that the understanding of what is acceptable or nor changes constantly, so now we’re seeing people who used to be champions of the cancel culture being called out themselves. Perhaps another reason for some to adopt a charitable approach. I’m sure there are some who found themselves at the mercy of the mobs who wished they had never helped create them.

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    1. I completely agree and definitely see it as a form of censorship. I do find it troubling every time I read posts about banned books, which, while important, often overlook the biggest form of mass censorship going on right now. Especially if people consider that cancel culture causes books to get pulled before they even get released.

      Sadly, it doesn’t surprise me that people support this. Unfortunately, putting your neck on the line and saying you don’t support this can mean your own head is on the block. For that reason alone, I can see why people would be nervous to condemn/side with the people doing the cancelling (which is perhaps the more generous way to see it). The only thing anyone can do is try and say it’s wrong- maybe then organisations will stop siding with the mob.

      It definitely bothers me that cancel culture is personal and doesn’t take into account the author’s humanity. The thing is, a lot of people talk about criticising books and the right to criticise, but I often don’t see people talking about the book’s content. So much of it is about destroying the author as a person. And I completely agree that it’s uncharitable (to say the least… some of what I’ve seen is downright vindictive). And it’s such an important point as well that it’s usually *one person on Goodreads*- nearly everyone jumping on the bandwagon hasn’t read the book themselves (/read it and didn’t have a problem until someone pointed it out… which I hate, because backtracking reviews to suit the mob seems incredibly dishonest).

      And I really agree that there has to be a way to talk about books without it exploding (the one positive that I can say, having written many negative reviews, is that this doesn’t have to be the outcome. People actually have to go out of their way to turn their negative review into a hate mob- so if- and this is a big if- fewer people get behind these deliberate tactics and publishers stop caving to them, there’s a chance it doesn’t have to keep going in this direction… but like I said, it’s a big if).

      Hehe- I have to laugh because I really don’t see why it should be an unpopular opinion to say “maybe don’t yell at people if you want them on side” (although, sadly I also know that there are people who think that way). You’ve also summarised why this so quickly gets out of control: people are all too quick to assume the opposition is “the worst”. I mean, of course if you think someone’s basically got no humanity, you might think the only course of action is to shout and scream at them. But as fun as that righteous anger might feel in the moment, it won’t work, because anger only begets more anger. If change is what people truly want, then there are better ways to seek it.

      Yes, the crazy thing is many of the examples I didn’t get to, which I found in articles, were of people who did the same thing to other people before they got book deals. If nothing else, it’s probably not the best idea to build a fanbase out of people who love to see authors burn. I’d like to think that too. But I’d also like to think that more people, less involved than that, can kinda step back and see this is not the way to go.

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  12. I remember reading about how someone who was a part of call-out culture ended up getting his book cancelled – I think it’s in your Guardian article as well? It just goes to show that cancel culture can turn on anybody, which is worrying. It’s as though they want to cancel people for the fun of it rather than to “protect” any particular group.

    And regarding Blood Heir: I’ve repeated it a thousand times but this was the one instance that really annoyed me. I attended a series of talks on Saturday where we discussed the Slave trade in Tang dynasty China and it’s so obvious that having slaves in a China-inspired fantasy-fic is not automatically cultural appropriation.

    There are definitely problematic authors (Kathleen Hale and that author who attacked the blogger), but people are way too happy with the trigger button when it comes to cancelling people.

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    1. Oh yes, I know which one you’re talking about (though I forget what his name was). Yeah I think that a lot of the time cancel culture “eats its own”- but that also goes to show that no one is really safe. And yes I very much see that.

      Oh I very much agree with you there- I can’t believe people saw that as cultural appropriation. Aside from the fact I hated to see how the author was treated, it actually irks me that people could be so wilfully ignorant to other historical instances of human suffering.

      I do hear you there with the Hale case- although I think that happened a while before cancelling authors meant they’d lose their book deal- but I think those cases are rare and I agree that people are way too eager to cancel people regardless.

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  13. This topic makes me so sad and a little concerned for what appears to be a significant portion of our population who doesn’t seem to care about facts or due process before jumping down someone’s throat. What cancel culture boils down to is a cyber witch hunt, really. One person says something, and before you know it their followers are dog piling on whoever they point their finger at – what happened to common sense and thinking for yourself and freedom of speech?

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  14. Very true! There are elements of conscious lynching and trolling in this call-out internet culture, and there is a lot of tribalism involved as well. I wonder what can be done to prevent it, besides actually assigning and demanding responsibility from those involved (which is not as easy as it seems, as our current trouble with social media indicates).

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    1. Yeah I really see that as well. I’d love to see people being held accountable- but like you, I just don’t see that happening. I think the best we can hope for is that reasonable people stop bowing down to the mob, whenever they make demands (with regards to books, I definitely think publishers can take the high road and ignore twitter mobs).

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      1. Yeah, its a dangerous form of pseudo-democracy, “sonorocracy”, to totally hack together some Latin and Greek ;), where the power belongs to the loudest… Aristotle would’ve been mortified 😉

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  15. Yeah, and the bad thing is that some people easily jump on the bandwagon.. if someone calls out, the people rally behind them. In lots of cases they’re not even offended themselves. They just THINK they have to be. Different people like or dislike different things. They have the right to say so. But jeez, keep it reasonable! And don’t rile up others.

    …we do live in the age of outrage though. People have become way too sensitive if you ask me. And thanks to Social Media everyone will hear about it

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    1. I really agree with you. Unfortunately, so many people think that dogpiling wins them brownie points as well (in my opinion, it really doesn’t- I see people doing that and I start to distance myself from them). I absolutely agree- everyone has a right to different taste- but there’s no need for it to devolve into a witch hunt!

      Yeah unfortunately that’s too true.

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  16. Reviewers should wield their power with care. It is easier to destroy than to preserve. It is easier to tear down than to build. Those who feed on destructive emotions and ambitions and deny the responsibilities that are the price of wielding power, can bring down everything you care for and would protect.

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    1. Definitely agree with you about it being easier for people to tear down than to build- but I will say, this isn’t just people writing negative reviews (even very harsh ones) because it takes a concerted effort to then turn that into a hate-mob. Which is unfortunately what people do. People deliberately go and @the author or @the publisher or send emails to the people behind the book to get it cancelled and stir up anger online. I wish I was joking. So it’s less about wielding power with care (though as I mentioned in the post, it’s worth doing that at times) but about not going out of your way to do this (or just not liking/following people who do this).

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  17. Amen! Cancel culture is a very dangerous trend that goes against the best traditions of free thinking people discussing their differences. Demanding the end of someone’s career because he or she wrote sth you disagree with is an example of the first one, writing a negative, even scathing review – of the second. I actually think we need more respectfully negative reviews, but not deplatforming, in the small world of genre-literature.

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    1. Couldn’t agree more! Absolutely! Writing negative reviews is an important part of free speech. I think critiquing people’s art/work is part of a free society and I will always think that’s useful. But I really don’t see the argument for de-platforming.

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  18. My brother is always talking about the cancel culture. Being a drag queen, it can get really toxic. It’s sort of seeping into other areas. It’s almost like people take an opinion and somehow make into a fact, and then forget it’s an opinion.

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  19. Really great article. I haven’t come across cancel culture much (I only joined Twitter last week and I’m not terribly active out here in the webby place), but I have heard stories, as you do, and it worries me. Sure, I’ll write a negative thing about something I didn’t enjoy, but as you say, I do it to get it out of my head, to let it go.
    It’s the vehemence that scares me.
    One of the things I’ve been most grateful for in my bloggish adventures so far is that everyone I’ve interacted with seems pretty fair-minded and tolerant. This is what I would hope reading does for people: enable them to get into the headspace of characters with whom they have nothing in common, thus increasing empathy; and expose them to ideas and possibilities, thus broadening their outlook. This is very much what I’ve found so far.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! Ah that makes sense and it’s good you haven’t come across it- I don’t generally engage with that side of twitter, but even if I don’t, other people I follow do/they get a lot of traction, so I see it whether I want to or not these days. And yeah, I hear a lot of stories and read articles as well and it really worries me. Absolutely! I don’t actually understand that mentality if I’m honest- why would anyone’s response to something they don’t like be to talk about it endlessly and make campaigns to get it cancelled? it’s really scary that people don’t see how wrong that is.
      And yeah, I definitely think the blogosphere is a great place, because so many more tolerant, reasonable people hang out here 🙂 Couldn’t agree with you more! And I do like to think that blogging and reading does that!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I tend to support cancelling someone or something if what they have done is morally wrong — like they’re racist, or homophobic or ableist and refuse to show remorse — but all of the books that were cancelled this year … weren’t any of those things. And that makes me so incredibly sad/frustrated because more often than not people cancel the book without knowing anything about it — to me its all performative. I was very angry a few weeks back when early reviews of Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo came out and people starting canceling the book because it features “problematic” content: rape, sexual assault, and forced eating of feces. I saw people on twitter claim that LB had no right to write about rape because younger readers of hers coming from YA shouldn’t be subjected to reading that despite the fact that the author said multiple times the assault scenes in the book mirror her own experiences. Yeah, imagine telling a sexual assault survivor that she can’t write about her own experiences?? I was furious. Because like you said, those people love other books that feature “problematic” content (I take massive issue with calling discussion of rape and rape culture in books as “problematic” but anyway) but for some reason this is the one they decide to cancel. I just don’t get it. If someone doesn’t want to read a book because they hear it has some tough topics, that’s fine don’t read it. But to cancel the author, to ruin their career, for what? For five seconds of twitter fame? Grow up.
    great post as usual!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I can sympathise with that- cos I certainly don’t like people with those views and can’t see myself reaching for a book by a living artist where I was so wholly opposed to the creator (I’d prefer to just not buy their stuff than actively cancel). But like you said, it doesn’t seem to be like things are getting cancelled for that reason. Yeah, I saw that about bardugo- it’s terrible that people think it’s okay to attack an author for writing about her own experiences (even if it wasn’t her experience, to be honest, if she was trying to tell/show people that rape is bad, I don’t see any reason to condemn it!) I also thought she was *very clear* from the start that it wasn’t YA. Oh yeah, I agree with you- I didn’t want to get into egs, because I don’t want to make this about particular books, but I was thinking more of stories where the love interest’s abusiveness is played off as romantic and I’ve seen *so many* people criticise one example, whilst holding up another as great (which, you know, people can have their opinions, but I don’t see the justification for trying to destroy people’s careers based on a flimsy viewpoint). But like you said- this happens in so many areas.
      Thank you! And thank you so much for your comment

      Like

  21. I’d never heard the term cancel culture before, but I surely know what you’re talking about. As you say, the goalposts get moved without any warning. I was especially surprised to see Ellen recently being given a huge load of grief over her friendly encounter with George Bush, whereas it seems only months before many a word was being written about the “sweet” and friendly relationship between Michelle Obama and the self same man.

    Anyway, excellent post & I admire you for sticking your head above the parapet with such consistency & courage.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. There’s definitely a very hostile feeling toward other people’s creative endeavors. You see it in things even outside of books, like TV shows and movies. If they have a problem with it, they should try creating something of their own that’s more to their liking.

    Liked by 3 people

  23. Thanks for the shout out! I really enjoyed writing about it and reading this post. It’s also interesting, like one commentator said, that the prevalence seems to be more in the younger generation or with books, targeted towards YA (though I imagine not always).

    Knowing Twitter is a huge platform for this type of culture, I am always reminded of the book The Circle – there’s this weird mob/ hive mind mentality where it’s easy for someone, who like you say isn’t a terrible person, to get caught up with others trying to ‘cancel’ someone because they believe they still have anonymity on the internet.

    I can only hope that this doesn’t stray into other facets of society, at least not more than it already does.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No problem- I really liked your post! oh yes definitely agree that this definitely happens more with YA.

      Oh I really need to read that- and I definitely agree with you there. I think a lot of people see themselves as anonymous in this or coming across as righteous (although I think in many cases it’s easy to spot individuals in the herd and I obviously don’t think they’re righteous 😉 )

      I completely agree- I’d like to hope this won’t stray into other areas of society. But I’d also like to hope that we can pull back a little.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. I think our current culture goes too far, at least those with big mouths and hidden but not-so-hidden agendas. Everyone seems to think their opinion should count, and it should – to a degree. But not everyone’s opinion is worthy of paying attention to. We are intelligent adults who can learn to read with insight and respond with compassion. If I read anything that’s obviously filled with hate, prejudice, or a minded POV, I usually delete it. Not all beefs should be bitten into because some are just rotted meat.

    Our e-blast culture has made bullying a universal agenda. Here’s to the defense team.

    Thanks for an intelligently written article about an issue I”ll take to heart.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I completely agree with you! Yes, everyone should say what they have to say- but there’s no need for it to devolve into nastiness. Couldn’t agree more!

      And yes- unfortunately not enough people see cancel culture for what it really is: bullying. And I’ve never been a fan of bullies.

      Thank you so much for reading and for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  25. “Head off to the gulag” oh my goodness :’) I could NOT AGREE MORE with everything you said here!! It’s so unfortunate that cancel culture is a thing, and that people’s careers or reputations are too often ruined by a very small yet vocal percentage of the general audience. While it’s so true that no two people read a book in the same way (and some authours even give all the leeway in the world for that, encouraging it, like Tolkien did), to try and warp or redefine the authour’s intentions is not right. Yes, we approach a novel with our own subjectivity, but we have to bear in mind what the authour meant–and what is therefore, usually, fairly objective, and not always up for interpretation. We gotta find the best of both worlds :’) Loved, loved loved this post!!! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much!! I’m so glad you agree!! I really agree with you! It’s often not even their audience- it’s just people dogpiling :/ Oh I completely agree with you there! I definitely see people trying to warp what the author said as well. And I really agree with you that it’s important to find the best of both worlds! Thank you! ❤

      Like

  26. Yet another well written and thought provoking post. I think humans are social creatures who tend to mob; the mob mentality is not something that evolution has managed to remove (as yet). The internet and social media just makes it easier to spread, snowball and keep these things in the spotlight. 😦

    Liked by 3 people

  27. I think that there can be value to calling out when it brings attention to an issue that people might not otherwise be aware of. But it can and often does go too far. It seems like often people are called out for something valid and then some time later, offer an opinion on something totally unrelated. That opinion will frequently be dismissed because s/he was wrong/biased/called out about something else once. That’s just not productive IMO. Firstly we all have biases and blind spots. Calling out CAN make us more aware of them. But to use that to later discount something totally unrelated is silly and counterproductive. I mean, what’s the goal there? To find someone who has never made a mistake or expressed him/herself badly? Obviously that’s not realistic.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can understand that and agree! I definitely think it goes too far when people are basically never allowed to redeem themselves, never be allowed back into public discourse and never given a chance to re-enter polite society. I really agree with you. Especially since we all change our minds about things and realise we’re wrong- isn’t that part of being human? Like you said, it’s just not realistic for people to be perfect. I’ve definitely been proved wrong in a debate for instance- so I see what you mean there- although I think there are times when I think it would be productive to admit other people have a different viewpoint and it doesn’t mean they’re bad people. I think these things can get blown beyond any sort of reason.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And how will we ever learn and grow and discourse together, if we just shut down the other person’s argument without listening? It just boggles the mind.

        Like

  28. I think this is such an important topic, and I’m sure many people are scared to give their real opinions about it. I’ve thought about starting a series on my blog for all the “canceled” books, where I’d read them and give them a fair shake–maybe call it “451 Degrees”? But at the same time I don’t want to get piled on or draw controversial attention to my little corner of the Internet. Cancel culture has such a chilling effect. 😦

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you! Yeah I definitely think that- but it doesn’t surprise me. Oh that would be a fantastic idea!! I’ve thought about deliberately buying and reviewing cancelled books for years- the trouble is, I’m often not interested in the books to begin with- but I think it’s a great thing to do 😀 I completely get that- I definitely have to weigh it up myself- and understand why people wouldn’t want to engage. I guess, from my perspective, I figure it comes for everyone eventually, so I might as well just say my piece while I still can… which is admittedly not the most optimistic outlook 😉

      Like

      1. Funny you mention publishing… That’s one reason I actually went the indie route with my books–it takes a publisher caving to a Twitter mob out of the equation. Maybe that scenario seems far-fetched, but I write YA, and that sphere can get mega-toxic.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m not sure why my comment ended up down here. I’m on my phone. I meant that for Katie Gallagher, for her idea to review the books that have been banned by cancel culture.

        Liked by 2 people

  29. 100% agree with you on this. Your walking on eggshells metaphor is so apt: it’s hard enough to write a few lines of a social media or blog post without worrying someone is going to take issue with some facet of it and set the mob on you… the idea of putting a whole book out into the world, especially one that deals with problematic topics, is even more terrifying! And I hate the idea that this might scare some authors into writing bland, similar works that take no risks.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m really glad you agree!! Every time I write a post or tweet that’s controversial, I feel nervous… and that’s nothing compared to a book. I think that everyone who loves reading and writing should be concerned- because there’s really no way round it these days. Anything dark or out there (like Bardugo’s Ninth House) can be taken the wrong way and stir up anger.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. This choir definitely enjoyed being preached to. Well said.

    Two things that bother me about this, in particular with reference to creatives, is how much it discourages experimenting and pushing the envelope, as that requires being able to make mistakes, grow and change. No-one is perfect, nor will they have been for their entire lives. The other is what you point out at the end, how dull everything would be if we only created things that were bland and inoffensive. No one can please everyone. When did that become the point? Unless someone is actually doing harm or advocating doing harm to others, this who outrage culture thing just seems like a lot of nasty egotistical nonsense.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’m so glad you agree!!

      Couldnt agree more!! I think anyone who enjoys reading or writing should be concerned about what this does to art. People are already nervous and self-censoring. This means art is becoming more bland. Absolutely agree with you!

      Liked by 1 person

  31. One day years ago a very popular and respected author in the romance world embarked on a cruisade to trash a fellow author’s latest story. She was irate and as she had (and still has) many followers of course people followed. My first reactoin was to read the blurb of the book and it came with the appropriate warnings and triggers. My thoughts “What the heck? If you can’t stand such topic well don’t read it!”. I was so sad for the author victim of that shame fest that I messaged her my support privately. And she was so sweet thanking me I just wanted to punch the attacker in the face! I think when you are a celebrity in your own world you have a duty to behave accordingly. Of course if someone is torturing and raping people in real life then talk. But these are JUST BOOKS for Godsake! And they are fiction so please just stop it this is not the third world war! So basically yes I do agree with all that you’ve said!

    Like

  32. This was one of the most refreshing things I’ve read in a long time. And I’m with you! I think we can change this and then, maybe, hopefully, it can be a model that ripples outwards. Too often I start to scroll Twitter and have to roll my eyes and/or sigh in frustration and then choose to jump off it because of this sort of stuff. Thank you for this! And reading it over breakfast as I am make this a lovely way to start my day.

    Like

      1. Hahaha, I am being completely serious now but I JUST looked at Twitter and “#ThingsImCancelling” is trending right now! I didn’t click on the hashtag (and I was only looking at my notifications, not my feed) but it made me think of this piece. Yep, it looks like cancelling ITSELF is trending right now. Wow…

        Liked by 1 person

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