Tanzila Anis was fired by Gaana today for her obnoxious comments on social media where she spewed venom against the Hindu community. Public pressure was mounting on Gaana when the platform decided to act against Tanzila Anis. And the events have once again brought to the fore ‘cancel culture’ and discussions around it have gained momentum.
Some principled individuals have critiqued the campaign that was underway to get her fired while other not-so-principled commentators have conveniently chosen to jump on the anti-Cancel Culture bandwagon now that it suits their objectives.
In any discussion around Cancel Culture, it is important to trace the roots of the phenomenon and decipher how it all began. The decision by the music streaming platform was precipitated by comments made in the aftermath of the murder of Rinku Sharma which allegedly dehumanized the Bajrang Dal activist. It did not occur in a vacuum, it was the logical consequence of a precedent that has been set by multinational corporations and other giants.
The decision by Gaana comes only a day later after Disney, a giant in the entertainment industry, decided to fire Gina Carano from The Mandalorian for her problematic social media posts. They gave reasons that make sense to some but not to most sane individuals.
Regardless of what Disney might say, Gina Carano was fired because she is unapologetically right-wing. A campaign to have her removed from the web series has been underway for months. It’s only now that Disney has ultimately caved in, after finding an excuse they figured they could get behind.
How Cancel Culture began
Cancel Culture, in its initial days, was entirely a left-wing phenomenon. Left-wing online mobs would build pressure on business institutions to fire individuals who refused to toe the party line. Such mobs would also call for individuals and entities to be de-platformed from the internet.
The first such person to be ‘deplatformed’ was James Damore. The then Google employee had shared a memo with his colleagues, replete with data and figures, which made some factual observations and argued against the diversity policies implemented by the tech giant.
The now famous ‘Google memo’ attracted huge attention and eventually led to Damore losing his job at Google due to incredible pressure by online left-wing mobs. The next big moment came in 2018 and the protagonist, or antagonist depending on one’s perspective, was Infowars founder Alex Jones.
The famous conspiracy theorist was removed from Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and pretty much everywhere else. But it did not stop there. Cancel Culture was just beginning.
Since then, it has claimed the career opportunities of many. One of the more unfortunate incidents was when Kyle Kashuv, a Conservative activist, lost his spot at Harvard University after problematic private comments he had made as a kid basically found their way into public discourse.
Other high-profile victims of Cancel Culture include celebrated journalist Donald McNeil Jr. and former Times Opinion Editor James Bennett but the real victims of ‘Cancel Culture’ have not been celebrities but ordinary individuals who have had their lives destroyed because online left-wing mobs decided to come for them.
Cancel Culture comes to India
In India, too, ‘Cancel Culture’ was imported from abroad by liberals and their cohorts. A wise man once remarked, “Indian liberalism is western progressivism with a time lag.” And the manner in which the phenomenon was imported to India further demonstrates that. On an unrelated note, the wise man mentioned earlier is this journalist himself. But enough of the jokes.
During its initial stages in India, a ‘liberal’ journalist with a verified handle on Twitter went after a celebrity chef for comments he made on social media. The chef, who had a business assignment in Dubai back then, became a victim of the phenomenon after the ‘liberal’ journalist dragged the attention of Dubai authorities to comments he had made.
Following that, Islamist on social media started attacking Hindus in Islamic countries over their social media activity. As a consequence of it, many Hindus have been arrested abroad.
An alliance of liberals and Islamists with their friends abroad have also made attempts to cancel OpIndia by going after companies whose advertisements appear on our pages but unfortunately for them, it did not have any impact at all. But that was not due to a lack of efforts.
Liberal Justifications for the phenomenon
There are plenty of justifications for the phenomenon to be found from ’eminent intellectuals’ on the internet. Some argue that it is a business decision by a company after performing a swift cost-benefit analysis of the whole situation.
Others argue that private companies are at liberty to employ and fire people if they violate company guidelines. It is also argued that if an employee conducts himself or herself in a manner that brings disgrace to their employers, then it ought to be perfectly acceptable to fire them.
It is emphasized that it is entirely the decision of a private entity whose primary objective is maximizing its own profits. It is conflated with the situation where a bakery owned by Christians refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding citing their religious beliefs and the fact that they were a private entity.
On the face of it, there is very little wrong with the arguments. We may hate the outcome but we cannot disagree that it is based on sound reasoning. At the end of the day, private entities are at complete liberty to fire employees that disgrace their reputation. It will be very hard to argue that they should not have the liberty.
This is the world we live in
Unfortunate as it may seem, this is the world that we live in today in the 21st century. People on social media often suffer under the delusion that the internet is a ‘virtual world’ but quite clearly, it can have and does have devastating real life consequences.
We may not like ‘Cancel Culture’ but it is here to stay with us. The game was invented by the left-wing mob and only a foolish person, or a terribly idealistic individual, would argue that one side should continue to suffer the effects of it without retaliating.
People who argue that the right-wing and the non-left in India should not celebrate Tanzila Anis losing her job at Gaana are the Digital Gandhians of the 21st Century. Pathological Gandhianism of turning the other cheek when slapped the first time did not work out too well in the previous century and there is no evidence to suggest that it will work out well this time around either.
The Common Man on the Indian internet can be inspired to abandon the Cancel Culture bandwagon by appealing to his conscience. But that would not bring an end to the phenomenon itself. The game is being played by celebrity journalists at the New York Times and the Democratic Party and every other prominent multinational corporation.
Digital Gandhians may succeed in convincing the non-Left but what how do they plan to convince the Islamists to not go after Hindus in the Middle East? How do they plan to prevent celebrity western journalists from going after someone they are opposed to? Could they have prevented Disney from firing Gina Carano?
Like Gandhi’s pathological ideology could not prevent Islamists from partitioning the country and unleashing a civil war, Digital Gandhians of the 21st Century will soon realize that Cancel Culture cannot be stopped by appealing to the good conscience of the non-Left.
A recurrent delusion that Digital Gandhians suffer from is that they believe it is about principles and if a logically sound principled argument could be made against a stated proposition, then the debate could be won.
Unfortunately, it was never about principles. It is about power and those with the means to wield it. Disney fired Gina Carano because it could. Social media giants removed a sitting president of the United States from their platforms while ignoring very real threats of violence because they could. If anyone was looking for justice, then they came to the wrong place.
As much as we hate it, the phenomenon will continue to be part and parcel of the internet until and unless the world is forced to radically alter its ideological trajectory. Until that moment comes to pass, the non-Left might as well play the game and make hay while the sun shines.