By Meghan Daum, Medium
The end of 2019 saw several conflicting reports about the severity — and even legitimacy — of cancel culture. It’s bad. It’s not that bad. It’s real. It isn’t that real. Imposed largely by social-media-based arbiters of up-to-the-minute standards of justice, cancellation in this context refers to social and cultural excommunication imposed on people who’ve committed anything from actual criminal acts (like Harvey Weinstein committing sexual assault) to offenses so minor as to be imperceptible to any but the hungriest scavengers of online shame (like the Iowa man whose efforts to raise money for charity resulted in brief viral fame that led to the surfacing of offensive tweets dating back to his adolescence).
For all the unpleasantness of such predicaments, some argue the threat is overblown. After all, Louis C.K., disgraced in 2017, is currently on a world tour. Kevin Hart, who stepped down from hosting the Oscars last year amid an uproar over years-old homophobic tweets, has a new Netflix series. J.K. Rowling, who in recent weeks has been labeled a TERF (that stands for “trans exclusive radical feminist”) for tweeting in support of yet another person deemed to be a TERF (it’s a long story) has become something of a free-speech hero for refusing to apologize.