People are now generally aware of cancel culture, but where and when did it begin?
The essence of cancel culture is to inhibit free speech.
It came to prominence during the US Presidency of Donald Trump. The removal of the President of the United States from social media demonstrates the pitch to which cancel culture has reached.
The conspiracy theories about the 2020 Covid coronavirus pandemic gave social media platforms the excuse that appeared to justify their removing content they considered to be spreading error. However, this is just an excuse to carry forward the wider agenda that has always been followed by bullies and control freaks to silence their opponents.
Historically, it was called censorship but it now goes by various names.
The cancelling of politics, sex and religion from polite society was an earlier form of cancel culture.
Other terms have been boycott, sanction, ostracise, and in recent times no platforming.
The modern phase began with political correctness. At first, people laughed at the concept but as civil authority began to promote political correctness, people began to quail before it, from fear of losing their job or being discredited in the public eye and it is now ‘the new normal’.
It is the price society has paid for losing Christianity, which promoted critical thinking. When the concept of God and sin disappeared from social vocabulary, it was replaced with Big Brother watching you with CCTV and Smartphone technology and with criminal penalties.
Political correctness is the secular equivalent of the moral law, the difference being that secular morality keeps changing with the mood of the moment and that it punishes with civil penalties where God’s moral law simply warned sinners what to expect if they did not amend their ways.
One’s own conscience informed by the Word of God and its weekly preaching is a very much cheaper, pervasive and efficient manner of policing society. Instead, nowadays cancel culture is trying to scare people into obedience. They may succeed to an extent, but it does not change hearts.
In the absence of Christian thought we have the Thought Police operating through the law-enforcement agencies “checking people’s thinking”, social media platforms cancelling people by its own standards of thought and behaviour (platform policy), and diversity training courses in the work place forcing employees in the public sector to bow down to the woke agenda. Woke is the most recent word. It is difficult to keep up with the latest p.c. words and with the latest demonising ‘flavour of the month’ word.
The origin – when did cancel culture begin?
One may think that this began when homosexuals began to change the language so that gay, pink, proud and pride changed their meaning, then marriage itself was redefined. Now gender is so fluid that some people don’t know how many genders there are, nor which gender they themselves are.
The origin of cancel culture goes further back than this.
The 1960s saw a sea-change when Home Secretary Roy Jenkins MP redefined the concept of the ‘permissive’ society as well as changing attitudes towards unborn children and casual sex outside marriage. The most significant cancelling in that decade was cancelling and snuffing out the lives of children snuggling in their mother’s womb until they were unceremoniously torn from their place of comfort and safety and incinerated up the hospital chimney. The same decade saw the murderer freed from capital punishment, and no wonder when mothers were free to murder their unborn child, refusing to give the succour and protection that the fruit of the womb might expect. What could one expect from such heartless women, who cancelled not only the child’s life but the father of the child out of the decision-making process?
This particular cancelling goes further back – to the gas chambers and incinerators of the Nazi era during the WWII.
By now it should be apparent that cancel culture has been around for a very long time, and one needs to go back to the beginning of mankind for the beginning of man’s inhumanity to man.
It begins in the lives of individuals at an early age. Older siblings control their younger siblings and children ostracise those whom they do not like. The ‘us and them’ mentality continues and ‘is he one of us?’ strengthens throughout adult life unless Christ intervenes in their lives to change their thinking and behaviour to a more Christian and godly mode.
However, is the western world, the ‘first’ world, not a civilized society that should not be demonised like this? Yes, we have gone through phases of improvement, the most recent being the 16th-century European Reformation that brought Christian values into civil life.
It was a hard struggle, many losing their lives in the cancel culture of the bloody Counter-Reformation. There were multiple arms to that cancel culture. The first List of Prohibited Books, issued by the Roman Catholic Church, was drawn up by order of Pope Paul IV in 1559. It became a best-seller list.
But freedom of thought and freedom of religion prevailed until it began to be cancelled by the secular wave of academia in the 19th century.
The loss of faith in Christ and Christianity in that century chipped away at the academic posts in universities and national churches until the residual Christian goodwill bled away with the rise of secular values in the 20th century.
The cut-throat cancel culture of secularism and false religion is experienced by many, but not diagnosed as such.
A modern parable
At the beginning of the twentieth century it was heresy to believe in plate tectonics to such an extent that such a person would not gain a teaching post in main universities. At the end the twentieth century the position is reversed with the new orthodoxy. Now someone who does not believe in plate tectonics, or at least the prevailing paradigm about timing, would not gain a teaching post in main universities. This a parable for what is happening now in western thought.
Ditto – for so many other topics. Cancel culture locks in the prevailing paradigm and truth has difficulty emerging from beneath the anathemas and mob hysteria of political correctness.
Cancel culture is the end result of Christians failing to confess Christ openly in society.
21 Jun 2017: Control freakery is running wild.
7 Sep 2021: God and Cancel Culture: Stand Strong Before It’s Too Late. Stephen E. Strang discusses it here.