The phrase cancel culture refers to the new and widespread trend of public shaming, done by canceling subscription or boycotting a public figure; making attacks on the person in question and sometimes, as a harsher retaliation, publishing sexual content about them without their consent.
The expression comes from the fact, that people cancel their support for the accused, both figuratively and literally.
“Cancel culture” in essence is the modern form of public humiliation; rendering a person vulnerable, then displaying and attacking them.
“Cancel culture” started getting bigger and bigger traction since 2018, partly due to the spread of the #MeToo and other similar movements, that called out the morally ambiguous actions and statements of celebrities and public figures, such as Michael Jackson or Bill Cosby.
Over on Twitter, black users started to apply the term “cancel” in hashtags, related to these scandals, involving celebrities.
To cancel someone in this manner, is like severing the ties with the artist of performer, as a fan or a consumer; boycotting the work of the figure.
Spread and Usage
“Cancel culture” is a harsh punishment for even the worst of criminals; to be rejected by the herd and be stigmatized is one of the most ancient fears in humans.
The practice is horribly merciless and extremely dull; people have been cancelled for all sorts of reasons, from animal abuse to being transphobic to even wearing the wrong shirt.
Unfortunately, “cancel culture” had only shown us that humans are still keen on publicly exposing, humiliating and expelling their peers, jumping at every opportunity to be part of the “witch hunt”.