Call-out culture

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A Facebook page on a smartphone screen, call-out culture is a social media phenomenon.[1]

Call-out culture (also known as outrage culture) is a social phenomenon. It involves the public denouncing of perceived racism, sexism, homophobia, religious fanaticism, fascism, capitalism, transphobia, classism, national interest, and other forms of prejudice or bigotry.[2] Different forms of denunciation ("call-outs") happen in person and/or online.[3][4]

Call-out culture carries multiple, formal definitions. It is a "tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and language use by others"[5] and has also been defined as a "practice of using social media to hold individuals and groups accountable for their words and behavior".[6]

The digital manifestation of Call-out culture is best represented by Alyssa Milano's viral Twitter post that helped to spark the "Me Too" movement. It called upon the victims of sexual assault to use the hashtag "Me Too" (created by Tarana Burke) to tell their stories. The campaign lead to the "firing and public humiliation" of a number of powerful, industry-embedded men.[7] Call-out culture has also manifested into additional protected spaces on University campuses throughout the United Stated.[8]

Extreme cases are referred to as safe-baiting.[9][10]

Alternatives to "calling-out" have been assigned the term "calling-in". Instead of calling-out individuals or groups in a public forum, accusers would reach out privately to discuss the accused's problematic behavior.[11][12]

Critical reception[edit]

Shaun Scott defends call-out culture and contends that it is a form of social activism.[13] Florence Ashley defends call-out and outrage culture, saying that they are a "performative practice through which people signal their care for one another" and turn harmful statements into "solidarity and love", that builds the bonding in a community.[14]

Pamela Paresky says call-out culture is a pernicious influence in both the academic and business world. She cites a memorandum controversy at Google that concerned the respective vocational interests of men and women, authored by former Google engineer James Damore.[15]

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt describes call-out culture as a "prestige economy", where "you get credit based on what someone else said if you 'call it out'", and that it has some positive benefits, such as increasing tolerance, but that it can become vindictive when people go too far to misconstrue what others say as insensitive.[16]

In 2013, Mark Fisher authored the essay "Exiting the Vampire Castle".[17] This piece is often cited as an early critique of call-out culture.[18][19] In it, Fisher argued that "call-out culture" created a space "where solidarity is impossible, but guilt and fear are omnipresent". He also states that call-out culture reduces every political issue to criticizing the behaviour of individuals, instead of dealing with such political issues through collective action.[18][19]

Other commentators have agreed with Fisher's remarks, echoing that rather than using dialogue to change peoples' prejudiced behavior, Call-out culture attacks those individuals instead.[20][21]

In the article "The Problem With Callout Culture", author Kitty Stryker defends the principle of calling out injustices. Stryker also states that call-out culture may be "encouraging marginalized people to fight each other".[22] She encourages "teach[ing] rather than punish[ing]", and considering that people are all "wounded animals" who make mistakes in life.[22] She suggests that during a call-out episode, that people who are observing the exchange consider the "power dynamic[s]" among the people involved, the response of the person being called out (e.g., whether they are "apologizing, offering to educate themselves" or trying to "save face" and be deemed correct), and the behavior of the person calling out the person.[22]

David Brooks, a political commentator with The New York Times, has criticized the binary and dehumanizing aspects of call-out culture.[23]

David Brooks of The New York Times states that the negative aspect of call-out culture is its naïveté and its use of "binary [and polarizing] thinking in which people are categorized as good or evil".[23] When a person is called out, they can be "rendered into a nonperson" through a "vigilante justice" of denunciation that can "destroy lives without any process", mercy, "awareness of human frailty", and without offering a "path to redemption".[23]

Asam Ahmad says call-out culture can become "toxic", because when it is done on social media, it can become a "public performance where people can demonstrate their wit or how pure their politics are".[20] As well, he says that in a call-out, critics tend to forget that the subject of their denunciation is a human being. He expresses concern that the goal of call-out culture seems to be "to banish and dispose of individuals rather than to engage with them as people" and he says that there is a "mild totalitarian undercurrent" in progressive call-out culture's policing of which people are "in" and "out", due to people's language use.[20]

In Julian Vigo's article "Call-Out Culture: Technological-Made Intolerance", he says that in online activist communities, call-out culture can lead to communication becoming more about "whining about others than actively exchanging ideas or constructing political actions".[24] Vigo continues that in call-out culture, the anti-harassment tools end up being used to "block, mute, and even report" people whose views are not liked. In some online spaces, people show groupthink, as one is "only allowed to agree" with prevailing ideas, or face epithets, zealotry, and bullying; the result is a scene of "boring, pompous adults who are as incapable of having a constructive discussion" and who always want to be right.[24]

Michael Shammas' article "Outrage Culture Kills Important Conversation" states that our society is becoming hostile to dissenting opinions, which decreases our ability to discuss issues in a civil fashion.[25] In outrage culture, he says all disagreement is viewed as "problematic", which prevents people from discussing issues, because a person whose ideas you do not like can be labelled as "[s]exist", "racist", "xenophobe", or "bigot" (against conservatives) or "communist" or "bleeding-heart" (against leftists or bleeding-heart libertarianism), creating an "anti-democratic stigmatization of the Other".[25]

Nancy Rommelmann's article "Outrage culture is out of control" criticizes the social climate in which expressing an opinion that is not seen as acceptable can lead to "instant annihilation, no questions asked" of a person's life and career.[26] She says the call-out culture's online participants develop the issue into an emergency, in which they get involved in an addictive and even seemingly pleasurable state of spreading hate against the person.[26] Rommelmann and her husband were called out after she criticized some elements the Me Too movement, which an online critic said was "vile, dangerous, and extremely misguided".[26]

Oscar Schwartz says call-out culture's social justice has been called contrary to the "institutional justice" used in trials, because calling out lacks "systematic regulation and procedure", making it a type of direct "mob justice".[27] Sam Angell links outrage culture to the "intersectional progressive ideology" of social justice activism.[28] He agrees that using social alienation and public criticism against people who engage in anti-social behavior such as racism is a good way to deal with these types of unwanted actions, but states that outrage culture's punishments are "not well calibrated to deal with the challenges of bigotry", because the social penalties (online anger, calls for firing) do not get more or less severe depending on the severity of the alleged offense.[28]

Frances Lee says she sees "parallel between the authoritarian dogmas of orthodox religion and social justice activism" in call-out culture's "quest for purity", which makes even activists "self-police" their statements for fear of being called out for statements that are deemed "wrong, oppressive, or inappropriate".[29] Lee says that this self-policing is a "reproduction of colonialist logics", in which people are "preaching" and "tell[ing] each other what to do" by using "shaming, calling out, isolating, or eviscerating someone's social standing", which she calls "controlling and destructive behaviour".[29]

Online and on campus[edit]

Texas Woman's University Free Speech Area. Much of campus Call-out culture is exercised from similar types of campus environments throughout the United States

Social media became a vehicle for Call-out culture. Consumers, political activists, and individuals used it to communicate to larger audiences more expediently and pervasively than traditional methods. Call-out culture often publicly denounces perceived acts of bigotry, as stated above. It also refers to the act of publicly calling out a larger entity, such as an organization, business, or vendor. In an effort to hold these businesses or organizations accountable, individuals will take to the online forums to "call them out". Whether the individual is addressed by a representative from within the organization or not, some of these posts or tweets (depending on the medium) can go viral and cause a public relations issue for the business. In effect becoming a de-facto boycott.[original research?]

The effects of call-out culture are also noted[by whom?] as more prevalent today on college campuses, where most students are aware of the social justice culture that exists and is expressed online. This has included the rise of safe spaces.[30][31] In 2016, British actor and writer Stephen Fry criticized safe spaces and trigger warnings as infantilizing students and possibly eroding free speech.[8][31] Safe spaces are the subject matter of Adam Carolla and Dennis Prager's 2018 documentary No Safe Spaces.[32]

There are some that are careful to avoid missteps (e.g. cultural appropriation by way of an insensitive Halloween costume) in order to avoid public online call-outs and others that are exploring ways to deal with past aggressors by way of calling-out online.[33]

Proposed alternatives[edit]

As an alternative to practicing call-out culture in a public forum, an individual or an entity can "call-in". This practice suggests the accuser speak to the accused or message them privately about conduct or behaviors.[34] Kyli Rodriguez-Cayro says it can be less toxic and a "less reactionary route to work through conflict" for people who feel that calling out is "counteractive to social justice".[34] Ngọc Loan Trần says calling in can help to "pul[l] folks back in who have strayed" and give them an opportunity to return, in a loving approach which accepts that people make mistakes.[35]

Cancel Culture[edit]

Cancel culture is a term used to refer to the phenomenon of "cancelling" or no longer morally, financially, and/or digitally supporting people—usually celebrities—events, art works such as songs, films or TV shows, or things that many have deemed unacceptable or problematic after having being "called-out". It has been defined as "a call to boycott someone – usually a celebrity – who has shared a questionable or unpopular opinion on social media".[36] Cancellation often arises in "response to a person's comments or actions".[37]

The term is often used as a hashtag on social media, where it originated from Black Twitter, which is a cultural identity consisting of Black users on Twitter from around the world focused on issues of interest to the black community, particularly in the United States.[38] The expression "cancelling", in reference to cancel culture, has been used since 2015, with widespread usage of the expression beginning in 2018.[38]

Lisa Nakamura, a professor at the University of Michigan, described cancel culture as "an agreement not to amplify, signal boost, give money to. People talk about the attention economy — when you deprive someone of your attention, you're depriving them of a livelihood."[37] Cancel culture has been defined as a "makeshift digital contract wherein people loosely agree not to support a person (especially economically) in order to somehow deprive them of their livelihood".[39] Jonah Engel Bromwich from The New York Times defines it as "total disinvestment in something (anything)", often for "transgressing fans' expectations".[37]

The impact of being cancelled ranges from "mostly conceptual or socially performative", in cases such as the social media efforts at "cancellation" of Kanye West even during the same year as a number one Billboard album, to actually leading to cancellation of shows or activities, as in the cases of "Bill O’Reilly, Charlie Rose, and Roseanne Barr", who had their TV shows canceled due to public pressure.[37]


Cancel culture has received both defense[40] and criticism.[39] It has often been criticized as being ineffective.[39][41][42][43][44] The very existence of cancel culture is also a point of contention.[45] In an interview with Vogue UK, British writer and fashion blogger Chidera Eggerue called cancel culture "an outcome of the kind of intense idolatry that an online following encourages", saying, "when you idolise someone you say that you find them a role model, that they’re goals, but then you’re dehumanising them at the same time because you’re robbing them of the ability to be wrong, the ability to make mistakes."[46]

It has been praised as an "expression of agency" and of "taking back of one’s power."[37] However, cancel culture is more effective on celebrities than on business leaders and politicians, because whereas celebrities depend on the "attention economy", business leaders and politicians are less dependent and thus the threat of "cancellation" may not be effective on them.[37] Kimberly Foster warns that "isolating people [through cancel culture] does not undo harm they've done.:[37] Cancel culture and cancellation have been described as "transactional" in nature, as they frame the action within a "lifestyle of commodity, consumerism and capitalism, of transactions being canceled."[37]

Nick Cannon has claimed that there are double standards in cancel culture.[38]

Nick Cannon claimed that there are double standards in cancel culture after he found tweets from the past by Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, and Chelsea Handler in which they used the expressions "fag" or "faggot" in a negative sense.[38] Comedian Billy Eichner states that "I don't like that [F] word but I also don't like cancellation culture", on the grounds that "many of us, myself included, have made jokes/tweets in the past that we deeply regret."[38]

VICE magazine writer Connor Garel calls cancelling an "inarguably comical expression on social media" and refers to cancel culture as a "myth".[39] Garel states that while cancel culture has "democratic aspiration[s]" of asserting "agency and control" and reclaiming power by boycotting a celebrity, it "rarely has any tangible or meaningful effect" on the comfortable lives of those who are cancelled.[39] Garel says that the "rulings" of cancel culture have hazy "terms and conditions" and subjective criteria for applying the punishment.[39]

In Stephanie Smith-Strickland's article "Why Cancel Culture Doesn't Work", she expresses concerns about how cancel culture does not allow celebrities to make mistakes, apologize, and then learn from the experience, because the typical response is being "permanently dismissed" and having their career ended (intermediate consequences, such as allowing an apology or correction, are not common).[41] She says that people who judge celebrities by online comments should remember that this "online presence is not a holistic reflection of their personality, nor is it always an accurate indicator of their personal evolution".[41]

Dorothy Musariri states that a danger of "cancel culture is that there’s an arrogance attached to it", in that it creates a world in which "no one else is allowed to make mistakes", and then with the silencing of the allegedly offensive person, it is like a "form of public bullying".[36] She says cancel culture is becoming "more aggressive, destructive and less tolerant; instead, she calls for a movement to "educate" or "teach" people who have purportedly made offensive statements, which she says would be more productive.[36]

In Joshua Joda's article "How 'Cancel Culture' Risks Eliminating Nuance From Public Conversation", he says that cancel culture may "hinde[r] addressing the darker sides of the world we live in", which may make it hard to have "nuanced conversation of complex moral or ethical issues" if people are worried that a comment can lead to calls for their "cancellation".[47] He says no celebrities are immune from potentially having made "jokes about sexuality or race, while you were in your younger more ignorant phase."[47] He expresses concern that cancel culture does not leave "room for discussion of what motivated past actions" or for personal growth, and it does not make allowances for previous immaturity.[47]

Ayishat Akanbi calls cancel culture a case of when "celebrity worship goes wrong", and says that it sets up an unrealistic "moral [and political] purity pedestal" for celebrities and entertainers", a goal which she calls a myth and a "figment of the imagination", because these celebrities are human and fallible.[48] She says that the attitude of "cancel instead of counsel leaves us fractured".[48]

Garnett Achieng's article entitled "The problem with 'cancel culture'" states that the cancel culture and the call-out culture "creates toxic online spaces that are not conducive for learning", as they divide people into "good" and bad" and they do not acknowledge that people "develop new ideologies over time and shed ones that they’ve outgrown".[49] She says that this focus on shaming and cancelling is a missed opportunity to educate and explain "why what they said was hurtful or problematic".[49] Achieng states that we should examine statements for "intent and context, and be empathetic before rushing to attack others".[49]


Call-out culture[edit]

  • "Hated in the Nation", a 2016 episode of the anthology series Black Mirror partly inspired by So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson.[50]
  • The March 2019 confrontation of Chelsea Clinton by two New York University students, who accused her of stoking the Islamophobia that led to the Christchurch mosque shootings by making comments critical of Ilhan Omar's comments about Israel, has been characterized as a manifestation of call-out culture.[51]

Cancel Culture[edit]


  • In January 2018, "#LoganPaulIsOverParty" and other hashtag variations trended online after the Internet personality Logan Paul posted a video to YouTube of a corpse he found while exploring Aokigahara, a forest in Japan known for suicide and attempts at suicide.[39]
  • Director James Gunn was fired by Disney in July 2018 after old social media posts in which he joked about "child abuse and pedophilia" were found.[38] He was re-hired in March 2019.[52]
  • Comedian Kevin Hart stepped down from hosting the 91st Academy Awards in December 2018 in events that were attributed to cancel culture.[38] Hart was 'cancelled' as the planned Oscar host after old "homophobic comments and tweets" were found.[38]
  • Kanye West's statement that "slavery was a choice" for Black Americans led to calls for his cancellation.[36]
  • The singer and producer Doja Cat (birth name Amalaratna Zandile Dlamini) became popular for a viral music video, until old Twitter posts in which she used homophobic language were found, leading to Internet outrage.[41]
  • YouTube personality Laura Lee lost commercial sponsors after old Twitter posts with racist content were found.[41]
  • TV presenter Maya Jama faced calls for cancellation after old Twitter posts about "dark-skinned black women" were found.[36]
  • Mary Bono lost her job as president and chief executive of the USA Gymnastics Federation after a Twitter post was found in which she criticized NFL football player Colin Kaepernick.[36]
  • Comedian Pete Davidson faced calls for cancellation in November 2018 after he joked that Dan Crenshaw, a Texas congressman who wears an eyepatch after a war injury, looks like a "hitman in a porno movie."[36]
  • After the resignation of Kirstjen Nielsen from her post as Secretary of Homeland Security in the Trump administration on April 8, 2019, The New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg authored an opinion piece entitled "Cancel Kirstjen Nielsen" on the basis of Nielsen's involvement in the Trump administration family separation policy.[53]

Songs, documentaries, and fictional works[edit]

The HBO documentary Leaving Neverland about Michael Jackson's alleged molestation of young children led to a backlash against Jackson in the media.[54] Radio broadcasters removed Jackson's music from their stations, including Cogeco in Quebec, the NH Radio in the Netherlands,[55] and Radio New Zealand and the NZME group.[56][57][58] "Stark Raving Dad", an episode of The Simpsons that guest-starred Jackson, was pulled from circulation.[59] Drake removed "Don't Matter to Me", a song with Jackson's vocals, from his Assassination Vacation Tour.[60] Items of Jackson's clothing and a Jackson poster were removed from The Children's Museum of Indianapolis.[61] Louis Vuitton announced they will no longer produce Jackson-inspired products as part of a 2019 autumn/winter collection.[61] Katelyn Ohashi, American artistic gymnast, removed Jackson's music and signature moves from her floor routine at the 2019 PAC-12 Championships.[62]In addition, singer and actor Barbra Streisand faced calls for cancellation on March 22, 2019, after defending Jackson's alleged molestation of young children in a series of statements.[63] She later apologized and expressed her sympathy for the accusers.[64]

Due to the popularity of the Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly, the #MuteRKelly campaign had risen in prevalence and has seen R. Kelly charged for his advances onto underage women.[65] Twitter and Facebook have been the lead forces in the spreading of hashtags like #MeToo and #MuteRKelly. Streaming services like Spotify have also participated in cancel culture, as Spotify has introduced a blocking feature which allows users to mute controversial artists like Michael Jackson.[66] The rise of the Mute R. Kelly hashtag has initiated public outcry, as radio stations have vowed to stop playing his music. According to Mediabase, which tracks terrestrial radio stations, plays of Kelly’s music have dropped, from more than 220 "spins" per day in recent months to less than 100 a day after the documentary aired.[67] R. Kelly's record company, RCA Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment, have faced backlash to cancel their contract with R. Kelly. After facing constant pressure, they finally parted ways with the singer in 2019.[citation needed]

In 2018, the airing of the Christmas song Baby It's Cold Outside was cancelled by a number of radio stations including Canada's CBC streaming service, after social media criticism of the song's lyrics, in which a man repeatedly suggests to a woman that she may need to stay overnight in the winter, including a line in which the woman implies her drink has been drugged.[38] The song was eventually reinstated due to public backlash.[68] [69] Following the controversy, the song rose to the top 10 of Billboard's digital sales list for the week of December 22, 2018, with a 70% increase in downloads. [70]

In 2018, the Irish national broadcaster (RTE) was pressured to cancel the airing of the Pogues' 1987 Christmas song Fairytale of New York, as it includes the lyrics "You scum bag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot" in its depiction of an argument between a couple; the use of the last word led to concerns that it was offensive.[38]

The 2018 reboot of the TV show Roseanne was cancelled by ABC in 2018 after the show's star, Roseanne Barr, allegedly made racist statements on Twitter.[38]

Liam Neeson faced calls for the cancellation of Cold Pursuit,[47] a then-newly-produced movie, after he said in an interview with The Independent that he once "roamed the streets of Northern Ireland for a week looking for a random black man to kill after his friend told him that she was raped by a black man."[71][72] The film's red carpet premiere was cancelled because of the controversy.[73]

The American animated television series South Park mocked cancel culture with its own "#CancelSouthPark" campaign in promotion of the show's twenty-second season.[74][75][76][77] In the season's third episode, "The Problem with a Poo", there are references to the documentary The Problem with Apu, the cancellation of Roseanne after controversial tweets by the show's eponymous actress, and the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.[78][79]

Milkshake Duck[edit]

The term "Milkshake Duck" is a recent Internet meme that describes a similar phenomenon to both cancel culture and call-out culture.[80][81] [82] Oxford Dictionaries defines the term as "a person or character on social media that appears to be endearing at first, but is found to have an unappealing back story".[83][84] A notable example includes the disclosure of political activist Ken Bone's Reddit history after becoming popular during the 2016 United States presidential debates.[85][86][87]

See also[edit]

Other articles of the topics 2010s AND Internet : Doge (meme), Yoga challenge, Nimoy Sunset Pie

Other articles of the topic 2010s : Dragon (2017 film), Crack (2017 film), 2014 Tours stabbings, Mark of Death, BombSquad, The Bad Guys (book series), Then the Night Comes

Other articles of the topic Internet : Keith Gill, Internet, SHOPX, Board Game Arena, Smartphone, Imasse, Zamio Cryptocurrency
Some use of "" in your query was not closed by a matching "".Some use of "" in your query was not closed by a matching "".

  • Call-out culture
  • Concern troll
  • Hashtag activism
  • Internet vigilantism
  • Inclusive language
  • Milkshake Duck
  • Narcissism of small differences
  • Online shaming
  • Outrage porn
  • Political correctness
  • Slacktivism
  • Snowflake
  • Social criticism
  • Social justice warrior
  • Victim playing
  • Excommunication
  • }}


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