I woke up this morning in true Gen Z fashion (I'm December 1994, so I'm claiming it, ok thanks), and checked my notifications. Fourteen unread messages in the office group chat - about Alastair Stewart? Huh? Turns out, after 40 years of bringing us the news over at ITV, this morning, before he could even rub the sleep from his eyes, he got cancelled.
"Why?" I assume you ask, in the interest of continuing this blog post.
Well, he quoted Shakespeare to the wrong person. Top tip for all you boomers, know who you're talking to. So, if you're speaking to a black person, don't bring apes into it, even if you are paraphrasing the Bard himself. A pinch of common sense goes a long way. But, perhaps it was neither racism nor naivety. For someone who tweets in Trumpesque fashion (the digital equivalent of verbal diarrhoea), it's quite possible that he really didn't know who he was talking to.
Regardless, the aim of this post is neither to exonerate, nor accuse - rather, I'd like to pose the question: is the decision for him to resign a fair one? We're talking about a four decade long career, cancelled in less than 240 characters.
Not too long ago, Kevin Hart experienced the wrath of the internet when he too was cancelled, after some resurfaced homophobic tweets went viral. He lost his gig as host at the Golden Globes, over something he typed a decade prior. I wonder how many careers cite Twitter in their epitaph.
Now, I'm not saying people don't deserve to stand corrected when expressing ignorant views. BUT - the internet has documented billions of opinions, comments, thoughts and feelings over the span of just a couple of decades...
Are you telling me I wouldn't be able to find any digital dirt on you?
Did you hold any opinions a decade ago that you no longer hold today? I challenge ANYONE to find me two decades where popular opinion stayed the same on all things race, sexuality or gender.
I know I've held opinions and said things before that would get me cancelled today. And I wouldn't have to go back a decade to find them either. So, why am I not cancelled? The truth is, because no one really cares (cue world's smallest violin). But, I like to think they might do, one day.
This is the experience of recently evicted Connor Durman of Love Island fame. D-list status won't protect you either. It certainly didn't deter Connor's loyal chums from handing the Sun a collection of vile racist and abusive text messages he'd exchanged with an ex a couple of years back. And just like that - cancelled. All because a flawed individual entered the public eye.
And that's just it. We're all cancelled. In ten years time, an opinion we hold now, a tweet we compile tomorrow, could get us cancelled. This is not about free speech. It's not about deciding what is and isn't a racist, sexist or homophobic tweet. I am not questioning Alastair, Kevin or Connor's intent. I merely wish to point out the hypocrisy inherent in cancel culture.
Find out more about cancel culture, and its implication for brands in Episode One of our brand new podcast, Don't Curb Your Enthusiasm. Let us know your thoughts!