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Cancel Culture

Episode 30

Is cancel culture punishment or accountability? 

While it works in some cases, in others it leaves no room for learning, growth or repair. And sometimes it's just an approach used when someone doesn't like what you have to's happened to us!

Listen in as we discuss various views on this (somewhat) newly held tactic as we cover freedom of speech vs. hate speech, the responsibility of social media outlets, and the affects of shaming and blaming compared to using restorative practices to learn and move forward.

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Cancel Culture Episode


[00:01 – 05:24]

{Intro Music Plays]

Noelle: What uuuup!


Miranda: Welcome to The Unpacked Project.


Noelle: We're your hosts, I’m Noelle.


Miranda: And I’m Miranda.


Noelle: We're here to explore all things social justice; it's through casual conversations, interviews and storytelling that we hope to inspire others to take action towards a more compassionate and equitable world.


Miranda: Because honestly, it kind of sucks here sometimes.


Noelle: For real, we can do better people.


Miranda: Alright, let's start unpacking.

[Intro music fades]


Miranda: Helloooooo everybody!


Noelle: Hi!


Miranda: So, Noelle and I are back with one of our last episodes for the season…


Noelle: Season, no season…


Miranda: I know! You know, Noelle and I had this debate like-do we want seasons? Do we not want seasons? We've talked about this multiple times but, you know, I think in terms of kind of sectioning content and the things that we discuss- super important. So, for one of our last episode we really want to talk about Cancel Culture. This season we've really discussed narratives, media messaging, how politics/politicians utilize narratives to shift our thinking and things like that. And I think really what a lot of that narrows down to is Cancel Culture, and how are we going about holding people accountable, are we choosing to shame them instead, kind of group think and collective thinking in terms of just canceling people. And really, you know the conversation kind of rose out of a text conversation that came up between the two of us. And it was in regards to Kyle Rittenhouse and the question that was posed is should we cancel him and yes the answer between both of us was yes, but the fact of the matter is, you know, where does somebody get to learn, right? And so not necessarily in his case but in other people's cases, where is the opportunity for them to learn and grow from their mistakes? If we're just canceling people, companies, communities, groups, where is the accountability and how do people get to learn through that experience? So really that's what we're here to talk about today. I think we've had some really great conversations around that and I think it's something that we all should explore more.


Noelle: Yeah,I think, well one of the things that we always talk about is being restorative, right? Like it’s part of a lot of our episodes when we bring different speakers on, we try to explore how can restorative justice practices be utilized instead of law enforcement coming in and just punishing or putting something into place where there's really no change. And so one of the things we advocate for is being restorative. So in situations that happen where someone says something that is offensive or does something that has been harmful, we as a society now, I think because we have social media, right? It's easy for us to kind of take it in our own hands, like we talk about citizen journalism, like people being able to record these things that are happening and comment on these things that are happening. And so it's really a way, I think for society to take these public stances, right? Like what you're saying is wrong, what you've done is wrong, and now we have the power, like you haven't been held accountable by the law, we think about the me-too movement that was like a big thing, right? Like we felt these men were never held accountable before, so we're going to use the tools and the power that we have in our hands to cancel you. Like that's what's within our power to do and we want to take a stance on that. But then like what really changes, like you think about the me-too movement, you think of Kavanaugh, like have you really changed as a person, we look at Chappelle, Kevin Hart, like these are people that have had to answer for things that they're doing and have had to kind of teeter that line of are they going to get cancelled or not. Poor Kaepernick, like, for something that we should be calling attention to, his career still hasn't recovered.


Miranda: But right-because there's cancel culture from both sides though and so that's a great example, you know. And I think the other question that comes to mind is ‘at what level should this occur’, right? Because we think of racist, ignorant family members- we just celebrated Thanksgiving, you know, there's so much conversation around, you don't even have to do Thanksgiving with family. Fucking cancel them all, you know what I mean?! Because at a certain point if something goes against who you are as an individual, and your well-being, and your mental health, and just who you are and how you live in this world, and then we say or you say to someone ‘that's not okay because’… and they double down, that's a whole different thing because now you're showing me that you're not ready to be educated, you're not ready to listen, y.,ou’re not open to that conversation, so what choice do I have, right? And so I think that's kind of hard with a lot of celebrities that are in that spotlight because they're not necessarily saying ‘oh damn I fucked up’, you know, like ‘I didn't know that’ or ‘tell me more’. They're like I stand by what I said, I said what I said and that's it. And then they get canceled and they're like oh shit, let me…


Noelle: What can I do now to make my career better?


Miranda: Let me come out with this weak ass apology and like be seen in the spotlight with someone from whatever marginalized community I offended and act like things are better, right? So, it's hard, you know? I think as an individual I wouldn't want to be canceled if I made a mistake but also I would be like oh shit, I’m sorry, you know. So there's that.


[05:25 – 10:36]

Noelle: I mean I think, also part of the issue is like when you think of cancel culture, it's a very individual thing, right? It takes something that one person said or one person did and it cancels that person, and it doesn't do anything to change the system of what's happening. I mean, I know way think, any of these people should just be allowed to say what they want to say like okay, that's one of the big things we cancel culture, right? Like you have all these debates going back and forth, this is censorship, what about free speech, and then the other side well this is mob mentality, this is wolf culture trying to, you know, make everybody, you know, soft, we can't say anything anymore, it's like all these debates back and forth, right? And I think it's a good thing that as a society people are standing up and being like boundaries, like just how you would with your on at thanksgiving or whoever, right? Like my parents who might say something and I might need to, you know…


Miranda: Well, I text you, I’m fucking like-my mother is on some bullshit!


Noelle: Right. Like, you know anybody, our friends, and our family, anybody around us who might say something we might need a challenge or might need to bring something else up, right? But that only really affects that individual in that situation. So, it's like how do we systemically, we talk about systemic racism, we talk about marginalized communities, like how do we take these things that happen and use them as a learning experience like you said, like the Rittenhouse thing. I mean, okay, yeah, we can cancel him, like I was saying Arizona state students on the campus put a petition together, we want him off our campus, it worked. Okay, great, so he's not allowed there but what are we doing in society to learn how he was created in this society, right? And that there are other Kyleritten houses in this society and what are we doing to… I mean, Chappelle’s always involved in with the LGBTQ community and dialogue back and forth, you know, the me-too movement. Like I said like what are we Cuomo, just had the whole sex scandal, you know, like so what are we doing we just cancel this one person and then what do we do to like change what the root of that was and not make it just like an individual issue. So, I mean, we know punishment doesn't work like in general with behavior like that's not something that's effective. I think we've always engaged in social shaming historically, right? There was an article, I can read the quote that I really like because public shaming is something that we've always done as a society, I just think- and we talk about this all the time. Like the internet has just taken these things that have always existed or like racism has just become slavery has just become modernized, right? These things are just evolving through things that always were there and it's just evolving. One of the quotes from an article that I read was “Public shaming is a long-standing public ritual that helped to uphold social bonds and make sure people within communities were equal and understood the norms and to ensure no one got too high and mighty”. So, it's like I think our intentions of cancer culture are good. If we're all being like this is wrong and we're canceling you because we're seeing what you're saying is harmful but then how do we draw the line… like where do we draw the line.


Miranda: Yeah. Well, yeah, right because one of the questions we asked was so should certain people be held to higher or different standards and so at what point what is okay for one person for something and not okay for [someone else], you know… So it's hard. I mean but and I think also really falls into the same things that we see within our legal system, you know, as well.  Why are some people held to certain standards and others aren't? So what's the answer?


Noelle: I mean I don't know, we're just, you're talking about.


Miranda: Final answer now!


Noelle: I do think people in positions of power carry more responsibility. I mean, you know, like you're… and okay, people might want to be like oh they're just actors, but you really are like change agents in society, people look up to you, you're highly valued as someone in our society in a higher level position. We even have actors and actresses or sports people like going into politics because you have money and our system runs on that, right? So, I mean these are people where our children look up to them, adults look up to them and worship them. I mean, I do think obviously anyone in government like politics, I mean, yeah, you should be held to a standard where you need to be very careful about what you're saying. But they're also humans with their own experiences and their own upbringing, so where does that space get created-because I mean I really do think like certain things you need to just be like no. I think maybe for me some of it comes out like you said the apology, if you're just like doing it for your own motives for your career or it seems really in dis genuine. But then who's the judge of that? Like who makes that? You know, like…


[10:37 – 15:16]

Miranda: I mean my mind goes to so many places, right? Because I think of wrong, like what is wrong? Wrong in politics, wrong in our legal system, wrong with lawyers, right? Like the shit that you choose to defend, you know?... Are you done with your thought?

Noelle: Uh huh. 

Miranda: Because it really then takes me into-okay, so we talk about narratives media, right? So we’re talking about individuals but at what point it is hate speech versus freedom of speech? And then what is the responsibility of social media, of media outlets? Because you just mentioned okay, well, as someone who writes, you take someone's biases into account, you take their upbringing, all of those things and it can shape the way that they write. So, you know, we've always…


Noelle: And context, yeah, especially online. Like okay, what was the context of what this person said…?


Miranda: Yeah. Well, I mean that goes back to like the 11, the 11 things you should look for in video messaging, you know. Like what were they again. But I think, you know, we as a society and our media really just need to do a better job, you know. There's a responsibility there, there's a responsibility there.


Noelle: But what you hear people say though is, well I’m getting canceled for my opinions. Okay, so then the question becomes, a question I think we need to start asking too is this just a difference of opinion or are you harming someone.


Miranda: Well, and that's the thing I have a challenge with because- 

Noelle: Your opinion’s harmful!!


Miranda: Yeah, well your opinion can be harmful but I can also ask, right? Like this happens– so I think a simple thing to think of is do you prefer to be called Black or African-American, right? And it's like, one person might be like well I don't–obviously this isn't harmful term either way, but people have different preferences, you know? Dave Chappelle, friends within the LGBTQ+ community, has done extensive work, some people are not offended by what he said, some folks are, right? So, like it also depends on who you ask. Like fuck I don't know.


Noelle: Yeah, even within those communities.


Miranda: Yes, exactly! So, it's like, I don't…


Noelle: Well, I mean, I think when it comes– you brought up free speech, dangerous speech, hate speech. I mean if something is being said to incite violence or literally make threats upon a community, yes that's I think probably something we can agree on. Like a hard line we all should agree, right? From some of our previous interviews it's like if it's going to incite violence or it's making specific threats like, you know, that it could be harmful to somebody or to a community, like it crosses that line, that is not protected by freedom of speech. And I do think that that's something, especially in this day and age with weapons and poor gun control and mass shootings and all these things. I mean we're in a time where  people really can get killed over this shit, you know. 

Miranda: People are!


Noelle: But the way that it's like I mean mass shootings in the society or, you know. It's awful especially thinking of things that have just happened recently over the past couple weeks. And of course, yes we've had racial violence and violence against LGBTQ plus communities forever and ever and ever, right? So when we have speech or actions on social media that can spread really quickly and they are inciting violence or they are, you know, making threats and people can very quickly act on them or get large groups of people together very quickly to act on them. I do think it's a society we need to put a hard line in the sand on that one, like no. But then there's all these other really more frequently seen, really nuanced things that people say where people will be like this is just my opinion, I’m entitled to my opinion and, you know, this is I have a right to say this because this is my belief and it can still be harmful to someone, maybe not a threat to violence or to kill them or anything like that. But it could still be harmful to the community, especially communities that have been historically oppressed. So I don't know, I think it's an interesting conversation that's why we've had this more than one time and I don't think that there's an answer, I would like to find a way for it to be more restorative, I don't know what that looks like necessarily. I also think just because we're saying things need to be restorative doesn't mean there aren't consequences for people. Like sometimes I think when people think of restorative practices or restorative justice, they think, oh well so all we have to do is like have them learn and apologize…


[15:17 – 20:08]

Miranda: Sit in a circle and hold hands and shit!?


Noelle: Right. And it's like no, like there can still be consequences, especially like if you're in a position of power and you said something that's alarming and ignorant and harmful, you need to step back, go do your time of learning and whatever other the consequence of that might be, you lose your position yeah, or you lose your authority.


Miranda: I mean that's a natural consequence I feel like, right? And I think that's what's important is that, you know, the restorative justice system is really about natural consequences, right, and the things that happen because of your choices… But they aren't necessarily like punitive and you can rebuild yourself after.


Noelle: Right. Which I mean for society would be better, right? Like if we're trying to or like take the focus off of yourself and your career and try to figure out why you had your thoughts and why you said what you said…


Miranda: It's called privilege, that's your privilege right there…


Noelle: Go back and fix that. Like its like, okay, Cancel Culture let's think of what we should cancel; racism, cancelled, sexism, cancelled, like all the isms that we talk about those are what should be canceled. And the people that contribute to all of that need to do the work instead of being so upset that your career got cancelled or, you know, like you feel like your name is being slandered or whatever the thing is, do the work to fix what the root of the problem was, of why you even said what you said in the first place, you know. And I mean it won't be everyone who wants to do that because there's plenty of people that are just like I’m right and I’m right. Oh well for your feelings I don't care about your feelings, you know. And they're not the ones that we're gonna even worry about because that's your lost cause but, you know, for the people that want to learn from things that they say and do. But we have to create space for that. If we are just punishing or we're just like not giving people the ability to be able to do that, nothing will change systemically, like we're just in like a punishment kind of, you know, a mentality and people will still go home and have their racist conversations with their families and engage in those implicit biases and micro aggressions, all those things even after you cancel these people, they're still gonna go on with their lives and do those things.


Miranda: And spread, they're still spreading this shit, just on different levels, you know. I don't know. So, we didn't have a game plan today but I just came up with one.


Noelle: Oh, okay.


Miranda: And since I know the game and you don't, only you can play.


Noelle: Okay, oh noooo!


Miranda: Okay, so, you know, you always are sending me wonderful articles to read. So one of the articles– do you know what I’m going to do??


Noelle: No! 

Miranda: One of the articles is from the Pew Center. And folks, so the article is Americans and cancer culture where some see calls for accountability others see censorship and punishment. So, readers wrote in with what they define Cancel Culture as, right? And in their messages they included if they were democrats or republicans.


Noelle: Okay.


Miranda: So, this is like the game on the radio “Black or white?”


Noelle: Okay.


Miranda: Okay, so I’m going to read you two. I’ll read you one and you have to guess it.


Noelle: Okay, nice and simple.


Miranda: Yeah, nice and simple. Cancel culture, no, I don't want that one… “Cancel culture is trying to silence someone that does not have the same belief as you, basically it's taking their first amendment rights away, and it violates affected people's civil rights.”


Noelle: Republican.


Miranda: Yes. Let's see, oh Moderate is in here too.


Noelle: Wait, you didn't do your thing…


Miranda: Oh, are you ready for a game Noelle?


Noelle: Yes.


Miranda: [Whisper sings-game time, game time, gametime!] Okay, alright.


Noelle: I got the first one right.


Miranda: You did. Alright, Cancel Culture is a synonym for political correctness where words and phrases are taken out of context to bury the careers of people, a mob mentality.


Noelle: Republican.


Miranda: Liberal democrat.


Noelle: Oh damn!


Miranda: I was very surprised by that one. Let's see…


Noelle: A mob mentality, yeah, that sounds like Republican…


Miranda: “I think people need to be called out when they say something offensive on social media because if you're brave enough to say it, then you should be brave enough to be accountable for your actions and be able to deal with whatever happens because of it.”


Noelle: Ugghhh, I mean-I’m like I agree with that because there was something I read that they were like, you know, social media, people say things and we've talked about those people say things on social media they wouldn't say out loud.


[20:09 – 25:03]

Miranda: We’ve dealt with that, the shit that people say to us online.


Noelle: We try to– we've been canceled!! TikTok!


Miranda: We have been cancelled! 


Noelle: Let's talk about that. Okay, first of all, let me answer the question. I’m gonna say, I’m gonna say a republican.


Miranda: Liberal democrat.


Noelle: I was gonna say democrat, I switched it because I thought it was wrong.


Miranda: Alright? So, tell people how your folks (not your parents but your white people) think that you're a traitor to your kind and got you cancelled on TikTok.


Noelle: I got cancelled on TikTok because I posted a video, it was a Rittenhouse video


Miranda: It was yes.


Noelle: A video about Kyle Rittenhouse murdering people, I also had a video about Ahmad Arbury on there, it was when the trials were going on and okay, maybe I made fun of him crying a little bit…


Miranda: As did everyone on the fucking internet! Did you see his face!?


Noelle: Exactly. Apparently I was bullying Kyle Rittenhouse, and I’m also a traitor to our country for thinking that what was allowed for Kyle Rittenhouse was exposing the racism in our criminal legal system. Apparently I’m a traitor for thinking that.


Miranda: Yeah, that was great. It was so great.


Noelle: Unbelievable!


Miranda: And then whoever it was reported us and our TikTok video got taken down.


Noelle: So, we get cancelled but we're here just trying to do good work and okay, so you asked before, I love our game though but this is bringing up other conversations, you asked before like the responsibility of social media companies, right? And I mean, forget news outlets but what should be their responsibility. We've had things, we have posted things on Instagram, on Facebook that get taken down or we're told we're not allowed to put that content up, nothing we put up is offensive it's the complete opposite, right? The work that we're doing, like we're calling attention-most of the things we post are research based, facts, interviews, stories that we see that we throw up and we get told we can't. Our content gets censored, but what's harmful in what we put up? Nothing! It's just you don't like our opinion or what we're doing. And then you see all these other CLEARLY harmful things on social media that are allowed to spread like wildfire and then that doesn't get taken down.


Miranda: You know, it reminds me of CRT in schools. Seriously and literally, what you just said, apply it to the same thing like…


Noelle: So yeah, I guess it comes down to- these are private companies, right? And they're allowed to do whatever the hell that they want to do.


Miranda: Well, they are allowed to do whatever they want to do. I think, you know, that's a whole other issue with how the fuck their algorithms work and, you know if you're reporting to a bot or people are actually looking at this information. I mean you think about the billions of users that are on social media and the amount of people that work for these companies like you can't be checking every single message, right? Something gets reported and, you know, if it's reported by more than one person- your account is flagged, your content isn't shown to as many people, so like essentially the same thing, your careers are being destroyed, right? So it's an interesting concept but typically in the guidelines for whatever social media platform it is, you know, they'll have these things against political views, racism, whatever, harmful speech things like that and some of the things that we're talking about or other accounts are talking about don't go against those guidelines, right? It's just been reported enough and then you go against it, you know, you try to combat it and they're like nope, sorry, done, so…


Noelle: Or someone was somehow offended by the work we're doing and they complain about it and they can make a case for themselves, that it's like how white people want to say “reverse racism”, it's like people need to have something to complain… I mean seriously, you know, and it's like well, I’m being I’m offended by what you're saying–shut up. You know, you just need to have something to complain about, you have to center yourself.


Miranda: Yeah, you have no life.


Noelle: Being a victim–it's just so irritating and especially when it's something where there's good that can come out of it. And say I keep going back to Kaepernick with the whole Kaepernick not that we want this to be about Kyle Rittenhouse but like that was the big thing, right? Like he's a hero, he's, you know, defending the country and like all these things and then you have someone kneeling at the national anthem and he's completely blacklisted. And, so I don't know, it's just, I’m just like…


Miranda: Drink more coffee, do you want champagne…


Noelle: Who is making these decisions; they are clearly not using the right guidelines.


[25:04 – 30:00]

Miranda: Well, you know, again I always go back to really our podcast is truly rooted in white supremacist norms, you know, I think so much of what we're against, you know, and you think about our politics are rooted in that, our social media is rooted in that, like everything is rooted in that. And I think it always points back to that being the case, you know, like who gets privileges in this country, yeah, so… I don't know I feel like we… is it a good time to end the show? 


Noelle: I think so. Well I mean I think, you know, we're not gonna have all the answers obviously we just hope we can invoke thought and like thinking in people.


Miranda: Well… and I think that's the key, right? Actually, I think one more thing someone that we're interviewing later today Kimmy, right? We had had… so the back story is that we had posted on our TikTok and our Instagram this video of what we deemed to be an intake session, right? So, we interview people before they actually come on the podcast, just to hear how they talk, ask them some questions, kind of figure out the types of questions, we're going to ask things like that. And this guy like talked to us from how long he talked just an hour, oh my god…


Noelle: It was longer than that.


Miranda: I’m just like we're texting on the side like will this guy shut up, I’m trying to get a word in, like Noelle has to go to sleep, she wakes up at like five in the morning…


Noelle: It was like nine o'clock…


Miranda: It was and I’m like I finally tell him like Noelle has to go to bed, he just keeps talking, I’m just like oh my god and he's not saying anything of importance, right?


Noelle: He was just talking about himself.


Miranda: Oh god! So fucking egotistical! So anyways we didn't interview him needless to say but, you know, we came across a TikTok with a guy that sounded very similar to him, right? Just kind of going on and on, not saying anything of importance and we're making fun of it. So someone that we wanted to come on to do, our Live actually, she was like well I noticed your TikTok or your Instagram and that's really how I speak as well. And I’m like– I’m not really understanding what she's saying, right? And so I came to the conclusion that she may have been offended and just felt like it wasn't a good fit for her to come on our show, so I listen to her podcast, I’m like no, completely different, not y'all aren't in the same group, not at all, she has a lot to say, I reached out to her, I’m like hey sorry, not our intention and this is what it was meant as, I’m so sorry, gave her compliments because she's really an amazing woman, has done amazing work, has a diverse experience. And I think that that's important for our listeners. But it's about opening up that conversation and being willing to say hey, I’m sorry or like I didn't realize, let me know. And she came back and was like oh yeah, I’m down, you know? And so I think within Cancel Culture, again I go back to the whole is someone doubling down, are you asking to learn more and I think…


Noelle: And are you willing to listen? If she had come at us in a way where it was like, you know, just maybe insulting us back or leaving no space for there to be conversation about it or we responded in a way of like kind of dismissing what her concerns were, then we probably wouldn't be having the live with her this afternoon and there wouldn't have been that dialogue back and forth. So, I think it's like you said it's both sides, right? It’s people being able to listen to what– The Listen First Project, I mean we did that as one of our episodes, right? Like if you say something and someone has a problem with it, listen to what their concerns are and try to understand their perspective, and for the people that are offended maybe instead of just wanting to cancel and punish, let's kind of learn how we can express ourselves in a way, where we're creating space for someone to not just be completely turned off and want to double down because that's a natural instinct, right? If someone's coming at you and coming at you, you want to defend yourself, that's a natural instinct everyone has. So, it takes both sides to have those conversations and try to grow from the messed up things that people are doing because of how society is.


Miranda: Very true! And so, I think it's about all of us doing the work and it's annoying sometimes because I like to cancel people, I’m like F you, F you, F you, I like my mental peace, just go on about my life. But, you know, if we're really about this work, we also need to be able to put some of those feelings aside as well. So, I think that that's a good place to end.


Noelle: We'll be back in January, we have actually some really exciting interviews coming up in January, we'll be talking about Black masculinity, talking about vulnerability, looking at societal programs where there's tons of great things happening for communities that I think historically get harmful narratives out there about them, and just really like innovative cool things that are happening for our communities out there. So just some really good interviews, Noble will be back on.


Miranda: Heeeey, I’m so excited. I mean, I’m excited for next season in general.


Noelle: Yeah, we have a lot of good stuff coming up. So, we hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, a happy new year, and we will see y'all when we come back in January.


Miranda: Alright, byeeee. We love you!


Noelle: Bye, everyone. 


[Outro music plays]


Noelle: Show The Unpacked Project some love and be sure to like, subscribe and review our podcast. You can also check us out on Instagram at The_unpackedproject. 


Miranda: And if you enjoyed today's episode visit our website at, where you can make a donation that supports the research, production and operating costs of this work.


Noelle: Shout out to all of our listeners who unpacked with us today.


Miranda: See you next week.


Noelle: Peace!

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