Cancellation Is An Important Power; “Cancel Culture” Is Power Corrupted

One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Some things need canceling. Unjust laws* need canceling, racists too. So do inciters and manipulators and hate-mongers.

Cancellation’s Slippery Slope

Dr. King understood the difference between (the necessary) cancellation and (the treacherous) cancel culture. In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail (quoted above), Dr. King reminds his readers that cancellation hinges on a moral question:

One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust.

To discharge the weapon of cancellation, one should first (thoroughly, thoughtfully, and honestly) weigh Dr. King’s differentiator: just or unjust? Cancellation isn’t a self-defense weapon; there’s no intruder at the door, in the dark, with little chance to ask “Who goes there?” But cancel culture is shoot first and ask questions later, with little care if the killing is justified or not.

When Canceling Becomes Easy

Delivering the punishment should not come so easy to so many. Dr. King stressed our “moral responsibility to obey just laws,” which means the act of disobeying is never so simple. Thus, moral responsibility (before disobeyment) must come first … i.e., distinguishing between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.

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Social media expert, higher education advocate, writer, Founding Fathers fan, lawyer in a past life