Cancel Culture Amongst Authors

An examination of the cancel culture phenomenon between authors, focussing on JK Rowling's recent comments with regards to trans rights.

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I want to cancel cancel cancel culture culture. It makes sense. Out the loathsome cesspit of first world problems has come one of its most hideous abominations yet: a movement to cancel cancel culture. This can be seen in the ongoing J. K. Rowling row with regards to trans people. But how does one cancel something that doesn’t exist?

Firstly, this idea to cancel cancel culture is based on a misconception. Despite Rowling’s claims, and the fifty odd other writers and creatives who recently rushed to her defence, cancel culture isn’t an organised, centralised movement. It isn’t one body. If we’re going to accept the depressing term, we could define it as: a lot of people objecting to you saying something that’s probably dumb. One can say what one likes in the UK, as in, it’s a physical occurrence that can happen. The key is that whether or not it should happen is a different matter. There are simply consequences to the things that you say. That is the simple truth. There are always consequences to everything. If however, your argument is, ‘I want to say what I like without people opposing it’, which I suspect is what Rowling is bemoaning, then you’re actually asking for something quite different than what you’re initially asserting.

The cancelling of cancel culture is about victimhood. It’s about taking valid criticisms and turning them into false injury, so that not only can you keep perpetuating damaging and discriminatory opinions, but so you can silence and rubbish objections along the way. Cancelling cancel culture is about the very thing it claims to avoid; shutting down legitimate debate.

I think Rowling’s and others of her ilk’s outrage and their comments over trans issues comes partly from a place of being questioned for the first time. I’m aware that she is a woman who lived in poverty for a time, but her recent machinations stink of privilege. She’s cis and was a billionaire.

Cancel culture has been made into a false movement by authors of late, in the same way that ANTIFA has by President Trump and all those who fear it. To make it into one is manipulation. It’s a way to make dissent seem organised and targeted. Yes, writers are often provocateurs and demons and angels all in one, and it doesn’t help consistency’s and decency’s cause that they’re intoxicated a lot of the time. But it’s a sad result that when inclusion becomes the norm, some writers have to rebel against it for the sake of rebellion.

Setareh Ebrahimi performs regularly, and is a poet working in Faversham, Kent. She is the author of In My Arms from Bad Betty Press.

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