Opinion: How cancel culture affects how we share our beliefs


With all the controversial information in the media and the country completely divided, when is it time to self-censor, and more specifically, why do we do this? Self-censorship is the act of censoring your own speech or expression. In recent years especially, self-censorship has become a common trend in how we portray ourselves in person and online. 

Why do we self-censor? Well, the biggest reason this happens is because we have a fear of being canceled. We filter what information we put out, especially online in fear of getting ¨canceled¨ or being outcasted for having different opinions or beliefs. The increasing political polarization in the media is forcing Americans to not only self-censor in fear of every potential opportunity in their lives being stripped of them with one controversial comment; it’s forcing Americans to keep their mouths shut entirely. 

According to The Source in a new study done by Washington University of St. Louis, 40% of Americans, more than ever before, are “choosing to keep their mouths shut rather than express their opinions.” This means free speech isn’t actually free. It comes with a hefty price: getting canceled. 

The phrase “cancel culture” according to the Merriam-Webster Thesaurus, means “the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure.” To me this practice is promoting shameful behavior rather than the ability to take accountability for your actions. Oftentimes after being canceled, especially as a celebrity, your career is ruined and sometimes you’re never given a second chance. 

Per the 2020 Fire Survey, six out of ten college students feel that they could not express their opinions in  class discussions in fear of being ostracized. If you can’t have honest and meaningful conversations in class, is your college experience worth it? Are you getting the most out of your college experience or are you being stripped of those experiences in fear of being canceled? 

I feel that as a society we should allow others to speak freely rather than ridicule people for their beliefs. In 2020, incoming Marquette University student Samantha Pfefferle posted a video titled “When libs find their way to your page” on TikTok, in which she danced with a “Trump 2020” flag in the background. Her captions were  “When people see that I support Trump,” “Then try to hate on me” and “And think I´ll change my views” as her captions of the video. 

After posting this video that got 600,000 views, Pfefferle claimed on TikTok that she received multiple threats in her comment section, including “I hope you get shot” and “I’d pray for you but you’re not worth it.” Most importantly, Pfefferle claims the dean of undergraduate admissions, Brian Troyer, threatened to rescind her admission to Marquette because of this video. But all because she was sharing her political beliefs online. 

Cancel culture promotes online bullying and can incite violence and threats that could possibly result in a suicide of the “offender” in the situation. Instead of shaming people who have made insensitive comments, we should be giving them the opportunity to reform themselves and grow from that experience. And for those being canceled for having different beliefs or opinions than you, we should be allowing them to speak freely and think the way they want to. 

On another occasion in late October of 2018, According to Reason Free Minds Free Markets, University of Virginia School of Medicine student Kieran Bhattachraya attended a panel discussion focusing on microaggressions where he asked “I had a few questions, just to clarify your definition of microaggressions. Is it a requirement, to be a victim of microaggression, that you are a member of a marginalized group?” 

After the panel discussion, an assistant professor logged a complaint about Bhattacharya’s question and within a couple weeks the administration branded him a threat to the university and demanded he receive counseling before he returned to class. When he refused, they banned him from campus. Bhattacharya later went on to sue UVA in a free speech lawsuit as he believes he was wrongfully suspended from campus for exercising his First Amendment right; a federal judge of Virginia rejected the suit, siding with the university. 

Pfefferle and Bhattacharya were purely exercising their first amendment rights and they faced consequences from doing so. I feel that as a society we should learn to accept others not only for who they are but for their views and not contribute to the “cancel culture” that is tearing apart this country.