Cancel culture has spread like a poison through our public spaces and society, inciting fear, animosity and trauma that tears at the fabric and social bonds of our communities and society. Organizational psychologist and author Adam Grant tweeted this message in support of a compelling critique of this phenomenon, published in the New York Times this week titled "What if Instead of Calling People Out, We Called them In?"
Call-out culture uses internet pile-ons, "gotta-ya" sneak attacks, and black propaganda mobbing campaigns to dehumanize a target (define them as "evil" and worthy of public scorn, attack and destruction) with the ultimate aim destroying that individual. Morality and democratic principles like "innocent until proven guilty" are thrown right out the window and replaced with medieval witch-hunt like "justice" -- namely, ignorant might is right.
Understanding the tortured and twisted hearts and minds of the participants of such campaigns is a separate field of study. What we can focus on today is what is the role of civic leaders and committed citizens in the face of such toxic campaigns?
The answer is clear. You don't participate and do what you can to stop it. Be an Upstander. A culture is never neutral. It either fosters toxic actions or a spirit of good will. And guess who makes up the culture of your community? You.
For more on shaming in the public square and the role of local government leaders, see my column published in Municipal World magazine in December 2019: Public Shaming as By-Law Enforcement.