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Why our creators got cancelled. 👀
Would you let your team get away with this?
People do and say problematic stuff all the time.
You do, we do, and there were probably a few questionable things said in this episode.
But now it seems we’re all starting to fear real consequences and face accountability for what we say, and we’ve started to second guess what opinions to share to avoid being cancelled.
By Wiki definition:
👉 Cancel culture is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – whether it be online, on social media, or in person. Those subject to this ostracism are said to have been "cancelled".
We’ve got some pretty outspoken creators on board with VAMO so there’s a lot of ground covered in this month’s episode.
From whether Lea posting *that* screenshot and if it was the right thing to do, Dan getting in a scrap at a business awards ceremony with a guy who made a racist remark, to what they’d do if it was one of their employees being cancelled.
We’ll save the quotes, views and points made from this newsletter, you’ve got the episode sat at the bottom of the email.
The long and short of it is - if someone has a different opinion to you and you don’t like it, you can put your pitchforks together and call to have them cancelled. Whether people like it or not, it works.
By making the issue public and calling for it to be cancelled, it forces the accused’s employers, friends, and family to address the situation and distance themselves from the cancelee in question.
💭 But is someone having a different opinion to you enough for them to lose their voice?
💭 Who decides the line between acceptable and unacceptable?
💭 Is there a better way to fight it?
With the way most algorithms work, chances are you have a bunch of people who follow you or engage with your content that have the same views as you. Likewise, we follow people that we’re interested in, who teach us things, or we admire for whatever reason.
When we like the posts and share it on our platforms, we’re shown more of it.
That’s why one of you might have a feed that’s full of cute cat videos and vodka pasta recipes, whilst someone else spends their days scrolling through incredibly well put together conspiracy videos or political propaganda.
If you’ve not seen The Social Dilemma, we suggest you add it to your list. 📺
It’s pretty eye opening and your first bit of homework for this week.
“There’s only a handful of people at these companies who understand how these [algorithm] systems work, and even they don't necessarily fully understand what's going to happen with a particular piece of content. So as humans we’ve almost lost control over these systems. Because they’re controlling the information that we see, they’re controlling us more than we’re controlling them.” - Sandy Parakilas, former operations manager at Facebook, former product manager at Uber
“The way to think about it is as 2.5 billion Truman Shows. Each person has their own reality with their own facts. Over time you have the false sense that everyone agrees with you because everyone in your news feed sounds just like you. Once you're in that state, it turns out you're easily manipulated.” - Roger McNamee, Early investor venture capitalist in Facebook
It’s rare we follow people with opinions different to ours because we’d just spend the day getting wound up – though it seems from how many people get cancelled, maybe a lot more people do it than you’d think.
We need to consider that a lot of the time, these people think a lot of people share the view with them. Sometimes they do. Their feeds will be tailored entirely to what they like.
💭 Does it mean it’s wrong?
💭 Is it just another opinion we disagree with?
💭 Could they learn from this or is it a continuing pattern?
Dan (🦡, IYKYK*) has built a business called Offended off the back of polarising opinions and drumming up conversation. He knows exactly how to use those tactics to get people to take note of your brand, to create stop and stare campaigns and something people will remember.
You’re always going to find someone who can take offence to what you do and take it out of context, but it’s not a bad thing.
If it’s marginalising groups, then of course you’re going to have most of the population disagreeing. If you’re sharing an opinion without thinking about the wider implications, there are usually a few ways for people to take that out of context. If something is said with intent, it’s often relatively clear.
But if you’re using it as a marketing tool - you need to be smart.
The consensus seems to think there’s a big difference to taking something out of context and running with it in your own direction, and someone making intentionally questionable comments.
In the episode, Dan says “The way things are going and the way viewpoints are changing in terms of political correctness I think I’m fucked in 20 years.”
But does that mean people can’t share these opinions without the risk of losing their jobs and futures?
Or does it just mean we need to hold ourselves accountable for how something makes us feel and the way we interpret it?
When people get cancelled, it’s usually because they’ve said something that is alleged to cause harm or upset to a particular person, group or community. Sometimes it’s because they’re committed an act that does the same.
Take Lea 🌈 for example.
Recently she got a message from a stranger online telling her she has great tits.
Fair game some might say, but when you’re on a platform designed for networking professionally (LinkedIn) and have the business you work for tied to that account, where do you stand with comments you make privately being held against you in the office?
In the episode she said:
Ultimately sometimes people need a harsh lesson, and I will stand up for women when I see it happening and I will stand up for them by standing up for myself. I’m in a position where I can do that with social media, but I am aware that I’m being somewhat hypocritical because I essentially did cancel him… but he’s a grown man, it’s sexual harassment. If he’d come up to me in a bar and said that, you’d have expected to smack him in the face. If he’d said that to me in the workplace, he’d have been sacked.
Dan said he’d fire one of his members of staff if they did it.
Mike asked if we needed to consider what this guy thinks is right and wrong.
For the most part, people in the comments cheered on and applauded Lea for speaking out and standing up for herself. Some disagreed with the way she went about it.
In the episode she says she doesn’t regret how she went about it and if he didn’t learn his lesson from it, it was worth it and she’d do it again.
💭 What do you think, call out publicly or call in?
People see cancel culture as a decent way to hold public figures accountable.
For many people this works.
They lose publishing deals, they get dropped by brands, and they lose fans across the world, but at the end of the day, they’re still making multiple streams of income and in some cases their sales even increase.
💭 But is it a fair punishment?
“Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes.” cited A Letter on Justice and Open Debate on Harper’s Magazine, signed by over 150 public figures - including Cancelee of The Year 2020, J.K. Rowling.
It’s a different story for us regular people though.
Those who, after facing usually an incredibly intense backlash online, often suffer far more detrimental consequences.
Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow in the Governance Studies program and the author of eight books and many articles on public policy, culture, and government, said “professional life is the soft underbelly of modern free speech culture”.
“There are always lots of people that employers could hire. When confronted with a large number of people demanding the firing or punishing of one of their employees and saying, ‘We’re going to boycott you and your company because you have a racist homophobe or sexist or whatever working for you’, it’s easier for the company to solve the problem by getting rid of the employee,” he said.
“People frequently lose not just one job, but their entire careers, or they have to change careers. They’re deeply scarred by the experience of having people they assumed were friends, colleagues and supporters, be afraid to be seen with them,” “This is about the hardest thing for a human being: being ostracised by the tribe.”
Every time you see a cancel culture case on your Twitter feed or pop up on the news, it’s a reminder to not to say or do the “wrong” thing because jobs are at stake.
Last year, Gillian Phillip faced a public cancelling and lost her job.
Glasgow-born children’s novelist Gillian Philip has been removed from the team that produces books under the pen-name of Erin Hunter after she tweeted #ISTANDWITHROWLING in support of the Edinburgh-based Harry Potter author.
Rowling last month retweeted an article referring to “people who menstruate” and questioned why the story did not use the word “women”. She was subsequently accused of being transphobic.
In a statement, Philip, said: “I am disappointed that the hard work and professional attitude I have brought to my work for HarperCollins and for Working Partners counted for nothing in the face of an abusive mob of anonymous Twitter trolls.
“It is concerning that my concerns about women’s legal rights and spaces have been presented as ‘transphobia’, and that this accusation has been allowed to stand by my former employers.”
In the workplace for normal people like us, depending of the severity (but again, this comes down to personal opinion), calling-in might be a better use of time and resources.
👉 Being “called out” and cancelled is saying “I disagree and won’t tolerate this. You should apologise and accept you’re in the wrong.”
👉 Being “called-in” is when you explain to the person why their behaviour was considered inappropriate by yourself or the group it targeted and try to open a discussion to rectify the behaviour, so it doesn’t repeat itself in the future.
This seems to make sense to most.
Dan says on the episode, “People should be punished for what they do, but completely cancelling their voice I don’t agree with.”
Maybe that’s just because his voice polarising opinion is how he makes his money. Maybe it’s because he believes in freedom of speech. Who knows.
After all, what one person finds distasteful on his posts, another wouldn’t bat an eyelid at.
Whether we like it or not, cancel culture is influencing how, and a lot of the time if, we voice our views.
Businesses are going to need to brush up on their understanding of canceling, have an internal conversation about their values, expectations (in and out of the office) and workplace culture, and put policies in place to deal with it in a fair and clear way.
Or risk getting canceled themselves…
Anyway, we’ll leave you with the episode below and are interested to hear your views.
Write them in the comments or add them to the VAMO chat channel in the private slack community. We’ll open up the floor for questions for the next 3 newsletters, too.
💭 The content we create will be community driven.
We'll be asking what you'd like support with and get the views of the trio. Our goal is for your businesses to be more successful and make you more money.
📺 The next episode is all about marketing, with Dan sharing some of his Offended secrets normally reserved for clients, and the other two talking about how they marketed and made/are making their millions.
*first private slack in-joke. Sorry not sorry.