Propaganda dictionary – cancel culture


The term “cancel culture” refers to a phenomenon prevalent in the first half of 2020 is an online action that calls for mass condemnation / boycott / stigmatization of individuals, consequently losing their status, influence and position in society.

Often people fall victim to “cancelling” because of their views, opinions or even mere misused words. Such an action seeks to give the impression that “good” activists are fighting “evil”, even though it is nothing more than ordinary cyberbullying – digital cliquishness.

“Canceling” a person is part of a larger concept of “online stigmatization”, which includes, for example, doxing.

Analyst Peeter Koppel was one of the first to use the term in Estonian. He writes, “The reason for a person’s ‘cancelling’ may be, for example, an arbitrary (conscious?) interpretation of his words to the detriment of the person, or, for example, the application of today’s (and ever-changing) standards to a person’s historical past activities or opinions.”

Laura Vilbiks, a political science student at the University of Tartu, has thoroughly written about the culture of cancelling. She formulated three main problems of the cancel culture:

  • Public stigmatization on social media has had quite a social impact and has turned so many previously respected people to be despised and go underground.
  • Unlike normal boycotting, cancelling seeks the complete expulsion of a person from society without giving them a second chance.
  • People who share their opinions in public are constantly under increased scrutiny and can easily be subjected to an attack of shaming.