Trending terms gain traction due to social fear and insecurity | In Focus

What, exactly, is “cancel culture”, “woke culture”, and antifa?

“Forget Cancel Culture,

I think it’s a sham,

I do not like it,

Uncle Sam-I-am.”

Cancel culture. This term is part of the vocabulary of today. The above is from a poem by cartoonist Michael Ramirez and refers to a recent news story about Dr. Seuss books. Some have been taken out of circulation due to racial references.

There are many new words and terms used today that not all of us are familiar with. This column will focus on three of them that keep popping up in the media: “cancel culture,” “woke culture” and antifa.

According to the Urban Dictionary, cancel culture “is when someone is called out on social media for something they did, or for an opinion, in the present or past that turns society against them and it goes viral ruining that person’s career or online popularity.”

The term has been used primarily by those on the right of the political spectrum against those on the left. “It is commonly caused by an accusation, whether that accusation has merit or not.”

Those Dr. Seuss books, written in 1937, are now seen by some as politically incorrect due to use of racial stereotypes. The toymaker Hasbro has changed the name of Mr. Potato Head to Potato Head to make it gender neutral. According to conservatives, these are examples of the far left’s cancel culture.

However, Republicans are just as prone to practicing cancel culture as Democrats; they just don’t give it that label. According to a USA Today article written at the time of the Republican National Convention, President Donald Trump stated: “The goal of cancel culture is to make decent Americans live in fear of being fired, expelled, shamed, humiliated and driven from society as we know it.”

Isn’t that what Trump did to his own still-loyal vice-president before the Capitol riot on Jan. 6? His comments put Mike Pence in danger of being hanged for refusing to reject certification of the Electoral College votes. You can’t get more “cancel culture” than that!

The term “woke culture,” according to the magazine UK, means “to be awake to sensitive social issues, such as racism.” For conservatives, “It has become a common term of derision among some who oppose the movements it is associated with, or believe the issues are exaggerated. It is sometimes used to mock or infantilise supporters of those movements.”

The Black Lives Matter movement is an example of “woke culture.” The strategy and tactics used by the movement to make Americans more aware of the nation’s historic and imbedded cultural racism have been extremely effective, changing attitudes toward the Confederate flag, Confederate generals and statues, and systemic racial discrimination toward Blacks. Cultural attitudes have altered dramatically because of the movement.

Conservatives prefer the term “All Lives Matter.” They’re trying to trivialize both the BLM movement and its sensitivity to racism, as if it is not an issue.

Merriam-Webster defines antifa as an anti-fascist movement: “…the backlash to the backlash, a defensive response to the growing presence of right-wing extremism.” – Todd Gitlin, The New York Times, Aug. 28, 2017.

Antifa supporters have argued that violence is necessary to fight rising American fascism encouraged by President Trump and his supporters. This is an absurd pronouncement. The government has the sole monopoly power for violence. Violence only incites more violence and breaks down the social order. Trump and the right have effectively used antifa’s actions to divert attention away from right wing intolerance and hatred. Antifa has only encouraged the right to be harsh and provocative in order to restore law and order.

During the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, Trump told Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy that the break-in was caused by antifa – an outright lie that millions of conservative Americans still dogmatically adhere to. Yet, watching even five minutes of video from Jan. 6 clearly shows it was not a far-left movement, but one from the far right – to any rational observer.

These three terms – cancel culture, woke culture and antifa – are all examples of the fear and insecurity of millions of Americans to cultural change and racial demographic shifts. Hopefully, the moderation of President Joe Biden and his administration will calm the emotions of the insecure and frightened on both the right and the left. If it doesn’t, Americans will soon experience even more polarization and even more violence.

“Today it’s a book

So watch what you do,

One day in the future,

They may cancel you.” (Ramirez)