For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be made known and brought to light. Take heed therefore how ye hear.
This ever-changing era of our civilization creates a lot of new systems in many aspects of life, one of which is social justice. In this era, especially where the use of technology is rapidly increasing, the rise of social interaction in the world generates a kind of social justice instrument that we call “cancel culture”. This terminology refers to the popular practice of gaining support from the mass to eject some controversial people such as public figures, leaders, or even some groups or companies for acting or saying something ‘wrong’ or inappropriate1Where Did Cancel Culture Come From?. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.dictionary.com/e/pop-culture/cancel-culture/. This phenomenon keeps recurring all over the world. Indonesia is no exception, especially on social media2Cancel Culture Adalah Budaya Ngawur Favorit Netizen yang Bakal Susah Dihilangkan – Mojok.co. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://mojok.co/ajr/ulasan/pojokan/cancel-culture-adalah-budaya-ngawur-favorit-netizen-yang-bakal-susah-dihilangkan/ 3Lika Liku Media Sosial Bahaya Doxxing dan Cancel Culture. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.djkn.kemenkeu.go.id/artikel/baca/13342/Lika-Liku-Media-Sosial-Bahaya-Doxxing-dan-Cancel-Culture.html. It creates this invisible grip where everybody has to be extra careful in everything they say or do because everyone is watching and being watched in return, everyone can be the judge and be the accused, here, in the anonymous court.
By its definition and general application, cancel culture is actually one form of a pure, direct democracy. Cancel culture itself is a joint movement from commoners to balance the power and influence that influential people hold. Essentially, it’s a new form of Ostracism, a banishment under Athenian democracy, the first system that uses the term democracy, in which any citizen could be expelled from the city-state of Athens for ten years4Thorley, John (2005). Athenian Democracy. Lancaster Pamphlets in Ancient History. Routledge. p. 74. ISBN 978-1-13-479335-8. 5Stockton, David (1990). The Classical Athenian Democracy. Oxford University Press. pp. 33ff. ISBN 0-19-814697-3.. The word “ostracism” continues to be used for various cases of social shunning. Surprisingly, it’s pretty similar to online shaming, which cancel culture brings. Despite the fact that it’s following the path of democracy, the destination is not always towards a utopia. Derived from the views of Ancients Greeks critics, as this kind of democracy alone is too inclusive, opening ‘the court’ to the public and letting them take any role they want seems risky6Samons, L., What’s Wrong with Democracy?: From Athenian Practice to American Worship, University of California Press, 2004, p. 6. Yet again, facing the unfairness and deficiency of the judicial system and law enforcement, people need a tool to bring cases to the court table by their own hands. As now, the cancel culture with its ‘call-out’ movement seems to be the most effective method.
“Actually people have practiced cancel culture for a very long time, we have always punished someone who doesn’t deserve it and reward someone who meets the standard. Cancel Culture is a new form of affirmation or rejection towards the norm in society.”
-Zahra Amalia, a Political Sociologist as one of the speakers of the discussion.
Cancel culture itself is not a completely new thing. This phenomenon has already been established in public and implemented in many forms. Lisa Nakamura, a professor at the University of Michigan who studies digital media connections said that cancellation is a “cultural boycott” of a certain celebrity, brand, company, or concept7Everyone Is Canceled. (2018). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/28/style/is-it-canceled.html. It happens when people decide not to support the targeted individual, company, or country to convince them of certain practices they disagree with. This cancelation is supposed to target big and influential people or groups mainly because their wrongdoings are easily spotted by more people. Common people can get information about those from lots of media like the newspaper, magazine, news on radio and television, etc. Thus, a lot of people have the same issue to be talked about and able to have a discussion about it.
Then, how can something small garner so much attention, from hundreds or even thousands of people? How can a mistake done by a small, no-name nobody become the hottest topic to gush about in public?
That’s the impact of social media. Thanks to the power of social media, our world becomes so much more integrated, and not only for those who are miles away from each other. Even before the boom of social media, our interactions with people around us (friends, neighbors) are limited, but now we can interact anytime from anywhere, about almost anything. The use of social media is rapidly increasing compared to the early 2000s when social media first started and became one of the most popular online activities. In 2020 alone, over 3.6 billion people use social media worldwide, which implicates that half of the population of this world has access to interact with one another8The rise of social media. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://ourworldindata.org/rise-of-social-media 9Number of social media users 2025 | Statista. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/278414/number-of-worldwide-social-network-users/0. Everybody can discover any issue or information about almost anything; everybody has the access to butt in, everybody has the access to execute their opinions. This accommodates the phenomenon of cancel culture and triggers it at the same time.
In Indonesia, the phenomenon of cancel culture is quite rampant, especially in the younger generation. Something that comes to light is that the consequences the accused had to face can be quite severe. . For instance, in mid-August 2020, a famous Indonesian actress, Zahra Adisty, got into a scandal with her boyfriend. It was about a video of the two of them doing some inappropriate things that she accidentally posted on her Instagram10Video Adhisty Zara dan Pacar Cuma Setingan, Masuk Akal?. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.suara.com/entertainment/2020/08/21/103332/video-adhisty-zara-dan-pacar-cuma-setingan-masuk-akal. Even though she took it down as soon as possible, the clip had already gone viral all over the internet. People shared and discussed it on social media, ‘evaluating’ what Zahra did: is it allowed? Is it ok? A lot of people gave their opinion and judgment about what Zahra did. Some of them said it was very inappropriate and disappointing for a public figure to show that, yet there was an equal number of people who said it was totally okay for her to do so because it didn’t cause any harm to others and it’s her right. These opinions were getting likes, retweets, and buzzing everywhere. A lot of companies that work with Zahra decided to withdraw their contracts and she lost a lot of jobs11Imbas Video ‘Nakal’, Netizen Minta Adhisty Zara Dicabut sebagai Brand Ambassador : Okezone Celebrity. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://celebrity.okezone.com/read/2020/08/20/33/2264900/imbas-video-nakal-netizen-minta-adhisty-zara-dicabut-sebagai-brand-ambassador 12Dampak Panjang Video Asusila, Adhisty Zara Kehilangan Kontrak Iklan? | Diadona.id. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.diadona.id/d-stories/dampak-panjang-video-asusila-adhisty-zara-kehilangan-kontrak-iklan-2008224.html. The movie she starred in also got bashed because it became hypocritical somehow (she had a main role on Dua Garis Biru, a movie that portrayed the risk of free sex).
Cancel culture in Indonesia is quite different from in United State which is usually centered in political issues, cases in Indonesia are usually triggered by discrepancy of morality. There are major differences in Indonesia moral and in the west where most Indonesians still hold and practice traditional values and religion, while some of them are slowly leaving those traditional views and going towards secularism. As a result, they have different parameters and standards in evaluating those cases. In real life, the chance of these two-kind people meeting each other and having a discussion is small, because they often don’t know each other, and what’s the need to discuss that topic in the first place. But on social media, everyone is integrated. You can argue against a total stranger without the need to know each other beforehand. The opinions themselves are easily distributed only with likes, retweets, shared, or comments, which can stimulate more opinions and judgements. Because it’s so easy, people only need to type it. Therefore, it’s not about ‘the needs’ to talk about it anymore, instead it’s all about ‘the desire’ to talk about it, particularly on social media where you don’t have to maintain your real life persona.
Which one is real? You or your social media persona?
People tend to act differently on social media compared to in real life, they act more deliberately. This can happen because of the online disinhibition effect, where being online lowers your inhibitions. The result is whether people are behaving meaner, or becoming more honest online than normally in the face to face interactions. John Suler, a psychologist explains the main reasons people act differently online. The first one comes from dissociative anonymity, it’s the condition where people feel less accountable for their actions when they are anonymous online. This anonymous state and invisibility make them feel safer and less intimidated by not meeting or talking directly to another person. The lag or asynchronicity within online communication where people don’t get an immediate response after posting something cause people don’t think too much when posting something. All of those are complementary with the minimization of authority online13Suler, John. (2004). The Online Disinhibition Effect. Cyberpsychology & behavior : the impact of the Internet, multimedia and virtual reality on behavior and society. 7. 321-6. 10.1089/1094931041291295. 14Mirandilla, I. (2020). 6 Psychological Reasons Behind People’s Online Behavior – Hongkiat. Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.hongkiat.com/blog/online-behavior/ 15Is the Internet Making You Meaner? | KQED. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.kqed.org/education/532334/is-the-internet-making-you-meaner#:~:text=This%20phenomenon%20is%20known%20as,lead%20to%20hostile%20online%20environments.. In conclusion, It’s easy to hide the real identity online therefore, people tend to estimate that the consequences and the risks are smaller than using your real identity to judge or give your opinion on something.
What’s actually scary from that? The fact that people have interminable freedom in their fingers to give their opinion or to judge easily, as themselves or even anonymously while still being read and discussed by so many people, it would be very hard to keep the information that has been spread around accurate. It’s not hard to get other people interested or even believe with the statement you give. Rather than indicating that people tend to judge, cancel culture shows that the majority of people tend to believe things easily. It is caused by the high level of Credulity, a person’s willingness or ability to believe that a statement is true, especially on minimal or uncertain evidence, in public.
“It can’t be controlled, massive, and fast. Those are our concerns.”
-Lugina Setyawati, Lecturer FISIP UI, as the speaker of discussion.
This phenomenon is indeed normal to happen in society as social control, but who is suitable or decent to control the others? Society can’t even control itself therefore the social rewards or consequences are immediate and gratifying, its dangers distant and abstract16The Atavism of Cancel Culture. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.city-journal.org/cancel-culture. This happens because people have the tendency to acquire a particular style, behaviour, or attitude because everyone else is doing it stimulated by mob mentality, known as the Bandwagon Effect. Aurelia, a Social Media Influencer, explained that people love to bandwagoning because their individual identities will fuse as one, big, group that have the same opinion. It decreases the feel of responsibility towards the opinion because when it’s proven wrong, who can be blamed for that? People tend to feel safer within the anonymity they acquire from joining a group of others. This Bandwagoning effect will give more publicity towards the issue which can cause a snowball effect where more engagement happens in public, therefore it stimulates more judgement created based on more parameters. The abundance of judgement in society raises the struggle to decide the moral standard, how did the cancel culture decide which one is right and wrong?
Are we actually becoming more aware or more sensitive?
40% of the sexual assault cases in Indonesia are stopped at the police station said KOMNAS Perempuan Indonesia17Media, K. (2020). Komnas Perempuan: 40 Persen Kasus Kekerasan Seksual Berhenti di Polisi. Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2016/05/12/18281941/Komnas.Perempuan.40.Persen.Kasus.Kekerasan.Seksual.Berhenti.di.Polisii. This concerning fact is one of evidence that our country’s judicial system and law enforcement instrument are lacking. With cancel culture we now have an alternative to call out the problems that got ignored and help the victims to get the justice they deserve. Zahra took the example that big politicians are able to bribe the police and the judge, but in public, who can we bribe? People can’t be silenced, therefore cancel culture is actually pushing the accountability that has been disregarded in this country’s judicial system.
“We take them to the court of the people.”, said her
Regardless of the fact that the public can’t be bribed, cancel culture won’t always have a positive result because of many factors. One of these is the fact that even though people can’t be silenced, people can be manipulated easily. This is where we need to advance society’s digital literacy, which is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills. So we can differentiate the right information and recognize the real intention of people to include themselves in this phenomenon. Some people want to express their idealism, to tell other people how it should be based on their belief. But some people also join because of the thrill they would get by butting in, or blatantly to bully someone else by hiding anonymously. Envy can be one of the reasons people cancel somebody, this is why the majority of people got canceled, especially in Indonesia, also comes from the younger generation. With this possibility of misuses in cancel culture, people need to be aware and utilize this tool properly to express their idealism.
While some people really do want to tell the right thing to do, this court has no patent rules as the law. Therefore, what do we use for our judgement? Based on what?
People have gone down this spiral of cancel culture and the idea that everything is offensive.
there’s only an invisible law that keeps changing every time. Controlled by majority-wave, moral compass with the most believer. People are so easy to get trapped in this bias in some aspects, especially on political correctness, because in the end everybody is still not fully sure what’s right and what’s wrong, that’s why when there are more people on the same (page) line of perspective, it will convince them more. This is the reason what’s normal and acceptable in public keeps changing over time. Things that no one bats an eye in 2014 can become a massive issue in 2020, this happens because people’s judgement is not always based on what is right, but what is normal and acceptable for now. This is an application of ascribed coherence in society where people only follow what is there in society18“Cancel Culture” di Indonesia: Kesadaran Sosial atau Sekedar Ikut-Ikutan? – Whiteboard Journal. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.whiteboardjournal.com/ideas/human-interest/cancel-culture-di-indonesia-kesadaran-sosial-atau-sekedar-ikut-ikutan/. It’s correlated with the effect of mob mentality, also called herd mentality, where humans adopt behaviors and follow trends based on their circle of influence collectively without centralized direction. It explains how one’s point of view can be easily altered by those around them, with more and more influence, people become more aware and more sensitive about everything they discover.
Cancel Culture Paradox: where is the limit?
Hana Kimura, a Netflix star and Japanese wrestler found dead in her apartment with her head wrapped in a plastic bag and poisonous chemicals were circulating in her room. The cause that makes this 22 year old woman suicide was not immediately clear, but shortly before she died, she issued a series of concerning social media posts implying she had been cyber-bullied because she, a woman, slapped her co-star, a man, that ruined her champion suit. Apparently in Japan, this is not generally acceptable and a lot of people shamed her and told her to quit19Hana Kimura: Netflix star and Japanese wrestler dies at 22. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-52782235 20(www.dw.com), D. (2020). Hana Kimura: Suicide of Japanese wrestler blamed on online bullying | DW | 26.05.2020. Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.dw.com/en/hana-kimura-suicide-of-japanese-wrestler-blamed-on-online-bullying/a-53567834. This is one of a very tragic case, but it’s not always like that. Kanye West, a musician and fashion designer, was getting canceled over and over but his career is not greatly affected by this phenomenon, or even more successful from all the publicity that he got.
Cancel Culture doesn’t affect everyone equally. There are many factors that put Hana and Kanye in different endings from this phenomenon, one of them is how big the person is or even by the gender of the suspect21Asmelash, L. (2020). Why ‘cancel culture’ doesn’t always work. Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://edition.cnn.com/2019/09/21/entertainment/cancel-culture-explainer-trnd/index.html. Cancel culture won’t affect much towards bigger people, their career will have no-to-little damage, but towards smaller people, this phenomenon will set a new parameter as a warning to society not to do the same thing anymore.The attack that is given to smaller people is sometimes overwhelming. From it’s initial objective, distributing equal power to overcome influential people, cancel culture without constraint can cause a power imbalance towards small people whom they evaluate. This shift occurs because as the power of big people and the public arent the same, we need to remember that the power that every individual holds are also different. Not everyone is strong enough to be brought to this court.
The spirit and initial intentions to cancel culture are actually righteous. Social media has been facilitating a lot of activism, one of them is the #Metoo movement. If it’s organized nicely, it will give a positive result. However, this court is lacking room for conversation. The suspect also has minimal access to voice their points, the one who can defend them is people who don’t think what they did is wrong, as is their lawyer. With so many roles the public holds in this court, people can’t be gullible, and easy to believe any information they found. One of the problems within cancel culture is that society tends to support and believe the first person who speaks. Hence, to be utilized properly, cancel culture needs to be complemented by a good, collective digital literacy. Digital literacy refers to an individual’s ability to find, evaluate, and compose clear information through writing and other media on various digital platforms. It’s not enough to only distribute the power, but we need to make sure the mechanism to voice our critiques and judgment is clear, with the right intention.
Cancel culture highlights the hiding crimes and tries to help the victim. Its application sometimes has flaws that society, actually, can fix. People need to provide room for dialogues. The spirit of discussion in public has to be cultivated, and the enforcement of the rights to speak for everyone. There should be some collective limitation based on digital literacy to decide which issue or case we can include our opinion and judgment on. For example, can we judge a person from their past actions? To answer this we have to note that people can change or stay the same, therefore we need to see the behavior pattern that person has as the parameter. We have to limit the power that people hold because before being a cyber judge, we were only a commoner. We don’t know the right act and punishment for the suspected, We’re only able to point out the problem and unfairness, but we can’t ‘punish’ them on our own, such as giving them death threats or doxxing (Leaking other people personal information to the public). This limitation is needed to keep this tool, cancel culture, align with the public norms and its initial intention.
In the end, there is no perfect system for social justice yet, but also there is no useless one, including this anonymous court with its invisible law of social media. Everything depends on how we apply them and what we use it for, what is the intention that underlies this movement. How we utilize it to complement the not-so-perfect judicial system in this country which is clearly out of our hands, to do our best in helping the oppressed to receive the justice they deserve. As the Judge, as the jury, as the lawyer, but more importantly as a human being, we need to consider all the possibilities, responsibilities, and consequences everybody carries before all of us enter the court at that time we open our social media. Just like Uncle Ben ever said, with great power comes great responsibility. With this role that is given to you, are you ready for the responsibility?
Editor: M Daffa Nurfauzan, A P Islamilenia
Illustrator: Akmal Haikal Rahadian
|↵1||Where Did Cancel Culture Come From?. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.dictionary.com/e/pop-culture/cancel-culture/|
|↵2||Cancel Culture Adalah Budaya Ngawur Favorit Netizen yang Bakal Susah Dihilangkan – Mojok.co. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://mojok.co/ajr/ulasan/pojokan/cancel-culture-adalah-budaya-ngawur-favorit-netizen-yang-bakal-susah-dihilangkan/|
|↵3||Lika Liku Media Sosial Bahaya Doxxing dan Cancel Culture. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.djkn.kemenkeu.go.id/artikel/baca/13342/Lika-Liku-Media-Sosial-Bahaya-Doxxing-dan-Cancel-Culture.html|
|↵4||Thorley, John (2005). Athenian Democracy. Lancaster Pamphlets in Ancient History. Routledge. p. 74. ISBN 978-1-13-479335-8.|
|↵5||Stockton, David (1990). The Classical Athenian Democracy. Oxford University Press. pp. 33ff. ISBN 0-19-814697-3.|
|↵6||Samons, L., What’s Wrong with Democracy?: From Athenian Practice to American Worship, University of California Press, 2004, p. 6|
|↵7||Everyone Is Canceled. (2018). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/28/style/is-it-canceled.html|
|↵8||The rise of social media. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://ourworldindata.org/rise-of-social-media|
|↵9||Number of social media users 2025 | Statista. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/278414/number-of-worldwide-social-network-users/0|
|↵10||Video Adhisty Zara dan Pacar Cuma Setingan, Masuk Akal?. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.suara.com/entertainment/2020/08/21/103332/video-adhisty-zara-dan-pacar-cuma-setingan-masuk-akal|
|↵11||Imbas Video ‘Nakal’, Netizen Minta Adhisty Zara Dicabut sebagai Brand Ambassador : Okezone Celebrity. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://celebrity.okezone.com/read/2020/08/20/33/2264900/imbas-video-nakal-netizen-minta-adhisty-zara-dicabut-sebagai-brand-ambassador|
|↵12||Dampak Panjang Video Asusila, Adhisty Zara Kehilangan Kontrak Iklan? | Diadona.id. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.diadona.id/d-stories/dampak-panjang-video-asusila-adhisty-zara-kehilangan-kontrak-iklan-2008224.html|
|↵13||Suler, John. (2004). The Online Disinhibition Effect. Cyberpsychology & behavior : the impact of the Internet, multimedia and virtual reality on behavior and society. 7. 321-6. 10.1089/1094931041291295.|
|↵14||Mirandilla, I. (2020). 6 Psychological Reasons Behind People’s Online Behavior – Hongkiat. Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.hongkiat.com/blog/online-behavior/|
|↵15||Is the Internet Making You Meaner? | KQED. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.kqed.org/education/532334/is-the-internet-making-you-meaner#:~:text=This%20phenomenon%20is%20known%20as,lead%20to%20hostile%20online%20environments.|
|↵16||The Atavism of Cancel Culture. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.city-journal.org/cancel-culture|
|↵17||Media, K. (2020). Komnas Perempuan: 40 Persen Kasus Kekerasan Seksual Berhenti di Polisi. Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2016/05/12/18281941/Komnas.Perempuan.40.Persen.Kasus.Kekerasan.Seksual.Berhenti.di.Polisii|
|↵18||“Cancel Culture” di Indonesia: Kesadaran Sosial atau Sekedar Ikut-Ikutan? – Whiteboard Journal. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.whiteboardjournal.com/ideas/human-interest/cancel-culture-di-indonesia-kesadaran-sosial-atau-sekedar-ikut-ikutan/|
|↵19||Hana Kimura: Netflix star and Japanese wrestler dies at 22. (2020). Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-52782235|
|↵20||(www.dw.com), D. (2020). Hana Kimura: Suicide of Japanese wrestler blamed on online bullying | DW | 26.05.2020. Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://www.dw.com/en/hana-kimura-suicide-of-japanese-wrestler-blamed-on-online-bullying/a-53567834|
|↵21||Asmelash, L. (2020). Why ‘cancel culture’ doesn’t always work. Retrieved 6 December 2020, from https://edition.cnn.com/2019/09/21/entertainment/cancel-culture-explainer-trnd/index.html|