When Cancel Culture Comes for the Person With the Pitchfork
The Teen Vogue cancel culture news cycle reached its inevitable denouement earlier this week after social media sleuths discovered that Christine Davitt—a staffer at the publication who was involved in the successful effort to oust incoming editor-in-chief Alexi McCammond due to her decade-old insensitive tweets—had also tweeted bad words a long time ago.
While McCammond had profusely apologized for offensive and racist remarks she had made about Asians at the age of 17, she was nevertheless forced to resign—something that prompted Davitt to exhale “the deepest sigh I’ve ever sighed.” But now it’s Davitt’s turn in the hot seat.
This is utterly unsurprising. Attempted cancelation of the person involved in the initial cancel mob has become a recurring feature of these stories. People who rejoice that their least favorite celebrity, media figure, or children’s book author is finally being held accountable for some past wrongdoing are soon forced to remember that they, too, have done and said things they regret.
A facilitator of this phenomenon is the recent, relative ubiquity of social media. When I was 17 years old, in 2005, it was unlikely that any offensive comments I might have made would be preserved for later embarrassment. But just a few years later, it became the case that virtually every teenager had a smartphone, and their insensitive utterances would exist forever in text, tweet, or snap form.
This is one of the few points of agreement between myself, Will Wilkinson, and Jane Coaston, with whom I engaged in a spirited debate about the existence and extent of cancel culture for a recent episode of The Argument, the podcast of The New York Times’ opinion pages. Coaston, formerly of Vox, is now the host of the podcast; Wilkinson was a senior staffer at the Niskanen
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