The left’s dangerous embrace of cancel culture

BARCELONA, SPAIN – OCTOBER 02: Students hold a silent protest against the violence that marred yesterday’s referendum vote outside the University on October 2, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. Catalonia’s government met Monday to discuss plans to declare independence after the results of yesterday’s disputed referendum. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The semantic history of the term ‘cancelled’ isn’t difficult to trace. It was first used in its contemporary meaning as a line in the 1991 American crime thriller, New Jack City. It reached a wider audience with an episode of VH1’s popular reality show, Love and Hip-Hop: New York, which aired on 22 December 2014 to 2.17million viewers, where one of the characters tells his girlfriend, ‘You’re cancelled!’, during a heated outdoor fight. The term then seeped into ‘Black Twitter’, and from there to the broader public, where it morphed into a lexical weapon to galvanise opposition to perceived offences, in particular those committed by celebrities or other powerful figures, often accompanied with a call for boycotts.