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Another brick in the wall

Debating cancel culture

Photo: Taelar Pollmann ⋅ The Sentry

Saturday Night Live announced its new cast members for the upcoming 45th season on Sept. 12. The next day, journalists found videos of new hire Shane Gillis using racial slurs to describe Asian Americans, among other inflammatory remarks, on his podcast.

Former SNL castmember David Spade on his talk show Lights Out defended Gillis, claiming that when Spade was on SNL “the first move wasn’t to rifle through your past to make sure you get fired right away.” Comedian Bill Burr added, “We’re not running for office,” and proceeded to blame millennials for being too sensitive.

These comments echo many other celebrities in recent months bemoaning “cancel culture,” when public figures face career repercussions for past statements, whether it’s ill-advised social media posts, like Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, or offensive comedy sets, like comedian Kevin Hart.

Here’s what I think of cancel culture: I don’t think people should be punished for, say, something mildly insensitive they posted on social media when they were teenagers, especially if the person in question is not, by any definition, a public figure.

But we can hardly characterize what happened to Gillis as people maliciously digging through his past to find something to use against him. First of all, the offensive videos in question were from the last couple years, not decades ago. Secondly, his defenders can hardly accuse journalists of just looking for controversy when Gillis literally made his offensive comments in a public podcast, indicating that he clearly meant for his comments to be heard by a wide audience.

Every time this happens, I remember growing up and how much it was drilled into us, especially girls, to be careful what we post online. A photo in a swimsuit could be perceived as salacious and unprofessional. So could a photo of drinking with your friends at a club, even if everyone in question is of drinking age. More recently, there’s been many cases of social media users getting fired for ill-advised public posts.

Granted, I’m not a comedian and it’s not my job to make provocative statements. But how do these people have no awareness of the fact that anyone can find anything you put online? If normal people have to monitor their online activity for the sake of their careers, so should comedians.

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