Today I found myself scrolling through yet another news story...about yet another celebrity being canceled. I started thinking about free speech, and what rights and recourse cancel culture "victims" have. So I decided to re-read the Bill of Rights (which I probably haven't done since AP US History class). I came across something that stopped me dead in my tracks.
The 8th Amendment reads: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."
We don’t talk about the 8th Amendment very often; it's not as sexy, as, say, free speech or gun control. But it's just as important. This amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Basically, the punishment must fit the crime.
Think about that as it relates to today.
A terrible drunken video surfaces of a country star. His music was pulled from radio stations, Spotify and Apple Music. He was suspended by his record label "indefinitely". He was banned from the Academy of Country Music Awards.
A family business was publicly shamed and nearly went under, forcing more than 50 employees to lose their jobs, because of a racist tweet the owner’s daughter sent 12 years earlier.
A professor, forced to resign over offensive tweets, committed suicide.
These are all real examples. And of course, the list goes on.
All "canceled": Country singer Morgan Wallen, Holy Land Hummus owner Majdi Wadi, UNCW Professor Mike Adams
Each of these actions is inexcusable - abhorrent, even. But should someone be completely cast from society – or even lose their life – because of it? The punishment must fit the crime.
Technically, the 8th Amendment prohibits the federal government from imposing overly harsh penalties in a court of law. But with cancel culture, it's not the government or law enforcement imposing these punishments; we are. Our peers, our fellow Americans, of all ages, from all walks of life.
The 8th Amendment was meant to prevent Congress from using cruel punishments as a tool for oppressing the people. But if citizens themselves are using cruel punishments to oppress each other? This can't possibly be what our Founding Fathers would have wanted.
So how can we fight this?
There have certainly been successful lawsuits where, for instance, a "blackballed" person has sued an employer, but today's cancel culture is a bit more nebulous. In fact, Former US Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia went so far as to state that canceling someone is free speech, meaning it's protected under the First Amendment!
What we need is a landmark legal case setting a new precedent that you can't cast someone from society for making a terrible remark. Maybe we should establish some standardized set of consequences for this person, proportionate to their misdeed.
What punishment(s) do you think someone should face for their terrible remark(s)? How should this punishment be enforced?