These days, whenever someone famous does something wrong and is rightfully called out for it, fans usually come to their defense, saying that the situation is just an example of cancel culture. This often goes along with them then criticizing social media for being at fault for cancel culture.
The issue I have with this is that cancel culture, although a prominent issue today, was around before social media became a part of everyday life. We just didn’t have a name for it back then.
Growing up, the only music I ever really heard was country music, which meant I was introduced to The Chicks (formerly The Dixie Chicks) at a very young age. The Chicks are perhaps the biggest example of pre social media cancel culture.
In March of 2003, days before the invasion of Iraq, The Chicks’ lead singer Natalie Maines, who is from Texas, was filmed at a concert in London saying the band was ashamed that then-President George W. Bush, who effectively orchestrated the invasion, was from Texas.
To put it lightly, the backlash was severe. The band was almost completely blacklisted from country music radio, and countless fans were filmed destroying the band’s records. This was all before the most popular social media platform of the early 2000s, Myspace, was founded in August of 2003.
I often wonder—when people complain about social media creating cancel culture—if they haven’t thought about how people have always found ways to shun public figures when they get the chance.
Further back in the past, long before the debacle with The Chicks, there was the Tanya Harding incident. After her husband orchestrated an attack on Nancy Kerrigan, her figure skating rival, Harding was shunned by the nation. Harding claims she hadn’t known about the plot until after the fact.
There are valid concerns when it comes to the relationship between cancel culture and social media, especially since the development of so many platforms has made it easier for the public to catch and cancel celebrities. But to say that social media is the cause of this would be, in my opinion, an error in judgment.