The Case for Cancel Culture: How This Democratic Tool Works To Liberate Us All

St. Martin’s. Feb. 2023. 256p. ISBN 9781250280930. $26.99. POL SCI
Owens, a journalist, media CEO, and podcaster, explains what “cancel culture” really means and how the left and the right use it differently. The left, Owens says, uses it to expand people’s rights and freedoms, whereas the right applies it to retain power and to keep others from acquiring it. This argument is illuminated with examples, such as the 2018 March for Our Lives movement to cancel the pervasive gun culture in the United States, efforts to call out sexual predators in the public eye, and attempts to cancel voting and abortion rights and the separation of church and state. Above all, the book indicates that cancel culture is a tactic to level playing fields and to call for change, and cancellations depend on gender, race, and status. Owens argues that cancellation is not a new phenomenon and cites examples from ancient Rome, early Christianity, the American Revolution, the abolitionist movement, India’s fight for independence, McCarthyism, the civil rights movement, and the counterculture movement. Distinctions between cancel culture, bullying, shaming, and social media’s impact are also discussed.
VERDICT This is a provocative and important book that enables readers to gain a deep appreciation for the nuanced meaning of cancel culture.
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