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USA Today column speculates cancel culture could be on its way out: It 'went too far'

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Photos by Carmen Mandato, Getty Images/Patricia Schlein, Star Max, GC Images/Jacopo Raule, Getty Images

A Wednesday USA Today article titled "Joe Rogan. Whoopi. Awkwafina. Chappelle. None was canceled. Is this a new cultural detente?" speculated that cancel culture might just be on its way out.

What are the details?

Calling social media a 24-hour social free-for-all where you can say anything you like, USA Today writers Marco della Cava and Rasha Ali said that people might be hearing the death knells of cancel culture.

Della Cava and Ali cite recent examples such as comedians and talk show hosts Joe Rogan, Whoopi Goldberg, and Dave Chappelle, among others.

"Not long ago, comedian Dave Chappelle caused a firestorm with his comments about trans people that infuriated the LGBTQ community," the two wrote. "Netflix stood by Chappelle, who offered not an apology but an extended tour where he explained his position while promoting a new documentary. His career sails on."

Next, della Cava and Ali pointed to the recent example of Asian-American comedian and actress Awkwafina, who was taken to task for what some people said was "appropriating" black vernacular English.

"Awkwafina offered up a nuanced defense on Twitter before quitting the platform," the two wrote. "A week later, she appeared in a new Disney+ ad during the Super Bowl."

Popular podcaster Rogan, for example, courted controversy by discussing the veracity of Big Science's guidance surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, and then later received heavy criticism for having been caught previously using the N-word during some of his podcasts. He apologized, moved on, and still remains on Spotify.

Whoopi Goldberg, co-host on "The View," recently caught the ire of much of Hollywood and social media at large by stating that the Holocaust was not about race, but about man's inhumane treatment of his fellow man. Though she apologized, she spent two weeks on a suspension and returned just this week to the airwaves.

"It’s too much to argue that cancel culture is canceled, but it is perhaps on notice," della Cava and Ali wrote. "And that may not be a bad thing, argue a range of cultural experts and scholars."

'Went too far'

Sociologist and author James Davison Hunter said that cancel culture at large "went too far" in some ways.

“In its early stages, cancel culture, whether on #MeToo or racial matters, went too far and in ways that were not ethically sustainable,” Hunter said. "The extremism of the activists discredited many of the legitimate concerns of these movements. I think what we are now seeing is a pullback from that extremism.”

Todd Boyd, who holds the Katherine and Frank Price Endowed Chair for the Study of Race and Popular Culture at the University of Southern California, said that cancel culture can be dangerous if applied with a heavy hand.

“What frustrates me is people often have no appreciation for context,” he said. “You don’t want to be in an environment where someone says something, and boom, they’re done, because everything is not the same. The culture needs to get away from broad-based criticism and pay more attention to nuance.”

American University professor Lara Schwartz told the outlet that out of cancel culture came something important: The potential for civil discourse if feelings are considered.

“Conversations happen faster now, whether on cable news or social media, but the one truism to remember is people can’t be wrong about the way you made them feel,” Schwartz explained. “That doesn’t mean we always have to change the way we say or do things, but when people signal they have been hurt, the brave thing is to try and engage with that.”

She continued, “We all have a line we don’t want people to cross, but you can suddenly find you are the one on the other side of someone else’s line. If we’re interested in finding a definitive answer for any of these cultural cases, we are bound to be disappointed.”

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