The book ‘The Rules to Break– A Personal Code for Living Your Life Your Way’ by Richard Templar, exposes all those ‘well-intended’ rules and gracious advice from teachers, parents, friends that somehow become ingrained in us. The trouble is many of those rules often aren’t true and yet they have a major influence on our lives. Instead of blindly accepting the rules set down for us by other people, we should learn to question them, think for ourselves, and be more fluid in our judgment. This article is the first of a series of articles I have decided to write offering you a selection of rules to break and the question of the day is whether the internet makes you anonymous, why freedom of expression is so fundamental, and how Cancel Culture is becoming a thing these days.
Rule to break: The internet makes you anonymous.
The ‘accepted’ rule is that the internet makes you anonymous. Richard Templar disagrees. It’s so easy he said, sitting all on your own in your bedroom with your computer, to think that no one can see you. You use your computer like a mask, except that your computer doesn’t conceal your real identity. You may feel a level of detachment from your social networking pages or your emails, but the people who read them are very conscious that these words or pictures come straight from you. So, you have to take responsibility for what you say and do online. If you wouldn’t say a thing to someone’s face, don’t say it to Facebook either. Be considerate of what pictures you post or the tone of the emails you send. If you wouldn’t do it or say it offline, then don’t do it or say it online. And if in doubt don’t.
New Rule: The internet doesn’t make you anonymous, but it can make you a hero or a prat.
“Social media makes you all way too comfortable with disrespecting people and not getting punched in the face for it”.Mike Tyson
There are a lot of talks these days about Cancel Culture which is defined by Wikipedia as a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrown out of social media or professional circles either online on social media or in the real world or both. Those who are subject to this ostracism are said to be canceled i.e., culturally blocked from having a prominent public platform or career.
On the one hand, we have people who are condoning, encouraging, and participating in cancel culture, those people have a tendency to see themselves as civil rights activists and romanticize their activities as some radical but necessary form of citizen justice. On the other hand, we have the canceled victims who because of a misplaced word, post, tweet, image, or statement (which by the way falls perfectly within the remit of the law) can see their whole life and livelihood destroyed.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the freedom of speech, religion, and the press. In the UK, article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998 protects the Freedom of Expression: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authorities and regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art or through any other media of his choice.”
Superior Rule: Freedom of Expression is a fundamental and inalienable right of all individuals
Freedom of expression in all its forms and manifestations is a fundamental and inalienable right of all individuals. Additionally, it is an indispensable requirement for the very existence of a democratic society. At the same time, it is also universally recognized that it is not an absolute right, and every democracy has developed some system of limitations on freedom of expression. Any restrictions on freedom of expression must firstly be provided by law and secondly, it must be for the protection of a legitimate and overriding interest. For example, common limitations or boundaries to freedom of speech relate to libel, slander, obscenity, pornography, classified information, copyright violations, trade secrets, etc.
Cancel culture is a direct affront to the freedom of thought, expression, and speech. The idea is to blame, shame, and destroy the target. There are no rules, no code of conduct. It is open season, and it operates beyond the remit of the law of the land. You can’t really describe it as a movement because it has neither leaders nor membership and those who take part in it do so erratically, but it is a practice that is often used in the political arena to ostracize people with a different political opinion. It is not clear whether the goals are to right a specific wrong and redress an injustice, or to speak out against and condemn an untrustworthy system and make a plea for a fairer one or whether it is just done for sport and for the thrill of humiliating and destroying the target.
Whether you condemn or condone cancel culture is up to you and can be the subject of some virulent debates, but for me, Cancel Culture is all about how we communicate and treat each other. Wanting to destroy someone’s life and livelihood just because of their view on a particular subject is taking it way too far; it demonstrates a lack of decency, way too much intolerance, and most of all an astonishing overreach of the power of media. It is not uncommon nowadays to be de-platformed, censored, banned from your social media just because; media companies have granted to themselves the ultimate power of censorship which goes way beyond what the law of the land allows. Think about this for a minute or two and let it sink in.
Rule of Karma
But beware, because the pendulum always swings in both directions; you could be a perpetrator of Cancel Culture today and become a target tomorrow. A vivid example of this could be found in the French Revolution which began in 1787 as a populist movement against the Monarchy. The uprising culminated in the beheading of Louis XVI and his wife Marie-Antoinette.
Maximilien Robespierre was a controversial figure of this period in French history. He started his life as a lawyer, became a politician and a revolutionary figure of the French Revolution who actively participated in the revolt against the French Monarchy; he had an active role in helping put in place a new Republique based on the principles of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. But as we all know by now, power corrupts, and it corrupts absolutely.
Robespierre became so obsessed with the idea of ‘defending’ the revolutionary ideas at all costs that he became a ruthless and bloody dictator himself, imposing his will right, left, and center and being directly responsible for the massacres and public executions of almost 17,000 ‘dissidents’. Robespierre famously declared that “Without terror virtue is impotent”. This dark period of French history is known as the Reign of Terror.
Eventually, a group of brave souls decided that enough was enough, the fearmongering and killing had to stop; so, they decided to give Robespierre a taste of his own medicine. They took it upon themselves to arrest Robespierre and his companions in crimes and publicly executed/canceled them on the same guillotine used for Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. This final execution put an end to the Reign of Terror.
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