Cancel Culture Is No Big Deal Because, Like, You Can Become Successful Or Something

If you’ve spent any amount of time on social media over the past year, you’ve seen at least one person argue that cancel culture can’t be all that bad, as everyone who gets canceled goes on have a better career than they had previously. Nathan Robinson is the latest to make such an argument with this tweet

Robinson is speaking directly about David Shor, the data analyst who was fired in 2020 for the grave sin of pointing out that rioting is not good for Democratic poll numbers, citing the 2% drop in poll numbers for Democrats following the rioting in the wake of Martin Luther King’s assassination. Shor correctly pointed out that the slight drop in support for Democrats gave Nixon the win in 1968. For some reason, progressives got very mad at being told their tactics could end up costing them elections and started an online campaign against Shor, which lead to him being fired from his job at Civis Analytics. In short, Shor was fired for being a little too good at his job and posting his findings on Twitter. 

Since then Shor has become extremely popular, having become something of a media darling in the wake of his firing. His insights on campaign strategy have been sought by the Biden administration and Barack Obama has promoted interviews with Shor on his Twitter feed. He did find another job in his field as Head of Data Science for Blue Rose Research and Shor himself admits that his career has improved since his cancellation. 

Those that argue that cancel culture is ultimately beneficial to those who have been canceled cite examples such as Shor, Bari Weiss, Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Greenwald, and the majority of the leaderboard of the Substack politics section as proof that cancellation is an excellent career move. But gather in a little closer my friends, I want to tell you a secret — there are two ways to having a successful career after cancellation. 

  1. Already be famous, with a following large and devoted enough to sustain you financially if you choose to start a Substack, podcast, Patreon, etc.

  1. Become a big enough cause célèbre that you can quickly develop a following large and devoted enough to sustain you financially if you choose to start a Substack, podcast, Patreon, etc.

If you don’t meet one of those two criteria, well, good luck. 

The argument that being canceled is just a wonderful experience that leads to all sorts of career opportunities is disingenuous because it focuses on those who already had all the tools they needed to be successful post-cancellation. The victims of cancel culture who aren’t so lucky get swept under the rug; Amy Cooper is in hiding somewhere outside of the US, Emma Sarley’s apartment caught on fire (not related to the dog park incident, and both she and her dog are fine), and to the best of my knowledge neither woman is employed. Neither one of them, nor the hundred if not thousands of others who have been in their shoes, is making six figures off of a Substack newsletter or a podcast. 

Nor, I presume, do they want to. The other assumption the “cancel culture is great for your career” argument makes is that everyone wants to be internet famous, which is false. Not everyone is an attention-seeking monster (I include myself in that description) that wants to share their thoughts with everyone on social media, nor do they want their 15 minutes of fame/shame. Most well-adjusted people simply want to live their lives and be left alone to do so, and being the target of a cancel campaign ends that possibility for them. 

I doubt Shor expected his life to change based on a single, factually correct tweet but to hold him or anyone else who has successfully emerged from a cancelation campaign as proof that cancel culture isn’t corrosive is absurd. There are very few people who are in a position to come out ahead after a cancellation campaign and to pretend that everyone is similarly situated ignores the real harm that can be inflicted by being made the social media villain of the week.