So you’ve been cancelled. You said something regrettable, or regretted, and now the mob has come for you. What do you do next?
The traditional response to being canceled involves an apology and a promise to be better and more aware of whatever group one has ostensibly offended.
“Cancel culture is more about power than it is actual offense,” Christian Toto, Editor-in-Chief of Entertainment In Toto, a right-leaning entertainment website, told the Daily Caller.
Which is to say, cancel culture, which claims to assail entrenched power structures, is actually an expression of them. It’s an exercise of power, not a challenge to it.
It’s also a political tool to enforce a certain point of view, Toto added, “as opposed to general concern for other people.”
If you find yourself on the wrong end of a cancellation, perhaps you can get some ideas from those who have been cancelled before you.
J.K. Rowling: The Silent Treatment
The famous Harry Potter author faced down an attempted cancellation this month after she expressed support for May Forstater, a woman fired from her job for saying she believes in biological sex differences. After her initial tweet, she has refused to engage the critics. (RELATED: How J.K. Rowling Went From Resistance Hero To LGBTQ Enemy)
Dress however you please.
Call yourself whatever you like.
Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you.
Live your best life in peace and security.
But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 19, 2019
Rowling has not tweeted since and has left the tweet up with no apology. She also did not respond to any media outlets that reached out for comment.
“I do think J.K. Rowling went about this the right way. She’s a multi-millionaire, she has lots of power, she has a huge following, it won’t really hurt her in any significant way,” Toto said.
Toto also pointed to an Adam Carolla podcast in which Carolla observes an important principle for the cancelled: “if you retreat, they will encroach,” meaning, if you try to placate them they will only grow bolder.
Had Rowling apologized there would have been more attention drawn to the apology and the original tweet. Her choice not to engage may have helped her avoid being canceled.
Carolla did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment.
“It does help at a cultural level when our biggest stars stand up to these scolds, where they don’t do the apology tour,” Toto said.
Ellen DeGeneres was also nearly cancelled for sitting next to George W. Bush at a Cowboys game, and while Ellen did explain herself, she didn’t take it back.
“We can disagree with certain people about certain things and not cancel them, we are complex people, we can have different views, we can agree with 80% of something,” Toto said echoing Ellen’s point that its okay to disagree.
Yes, that was me at the Cowboys game with George W. Bush over the weekend. Here’s the whole story. pic.twitter.com/AYiwY5gTIS
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) October 8, 2019
Ricky Gervais: The Bull in a China Shop
“Two years ago Jim Jefferies had a sketch on his comedy central show and he referred to [Melania Trump] as wooden and he sexualized her, and that would never be acceptable with Michelle Obama,” Toto says, noting the difference in the likelihood of being cancelled for offending the left or the right.
Ricky Gervais, on the other hand, provoked a quite different reaction from the left and on social media, for his now-infamous monologue at the Golden Globes.
“That’s why Ricky Gervais is important,” Toto said, “not just because he’s a comedian, not just because he’s funny but he’s a guy saying ‘I’m not going to apologize, you can come after me, you can attack me, look elsewhere.’”
“Welcome to the 300,000 new followers I acquired today. I promise you won’t like everything I say, but here’s a sexy photo,” Gervais tweeted after his appearance.
Welcome to the 300,000 new followers I acquired today. I promise you won’t like everything I say, but here’s a sexy photo. pic.twitter.com/zLv7nDBWg7
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) January 7, 2020
Gervais kept his responses lighthearted and funny, but also didn’t give an inch, which likely had an effect on the overall response to his comments.
Referring to “the reviews” of Gervais after the Golden Globes, Toto notes that the commentariat “called it ‘tame.’ What he did was the absolute polar opposite of tame. But they needed to diminish him because they didn’t like his message.”
Roseanne Barr: The Apology Tour
Comedian, actress and writer Roseanne Barr, famously known for TV sitcom “Roseanne,” was canceled after her controversial tweet about former Obama Advisor Valerie Jarrett.
— Kate Aurthur (@KateAurthur) May 29, 2018
“Look at Roseanne Barr, she said that awful tweet, she said she was on Ambien whether she’s right or wrong, and she apologized profusely, it didn’t save her it didn’t save her show, it didn’t save her career,” Toto said of the Barr situation.
Barr has always had a complex, run-your-mouth relationship with Twitter and has consistently pushed boundaries. Her many apologies didn’t save her.
“What that did was wipe out a woman who set the standard for sitcoms, who gave voice to blue-collar America, who according to her cowriters was very welcoming of women of color in the writing. All those wonderful things are gone, and it didn’t matter that she apologized,” he continued. “She has been canceled.”
“You do need to be careful of what you say, but I am a little fearful you know, I use Twitter, and if the Twitter powers that be decided to cancel me, that would be a blow to my career,” Toto said when asked about avoiding being canceled. (RELATED: Is Anti-Trumper Stephan King About To Be Canceled After Commenting On Diversity?)
Is there a clear-cut path to avoid being canceled, or how to respond to it? No, since it depends on the situation and the controversy.
Gervais and J.K. Rowling were among the more successful, who did not retreat or retract their comments.
For Roseanne Barr, there is probably no helping her now.