Surviving Cancellation (Zine)
The profound social disconnection of a large-scale cancellation on the Left causes despair, desperation, and suicidal ideation in almost everyone who experiences it. Cancellation regularly results in its victims feeling that they have completely lost control of their lives, with their social relationships, employment, housing, sense of self, political identity and often personal safety all in jeopardy or in collapse. These extremely adverse outcomes, put together, amount to serious personal crisis from which people struggle to escape. In such circumstances, people can feel that their very survival is under severe threat.
There are few resources directly addressing this type of crisis, and very little in the fields of psychology or counselling designed to help people survive it. Many people become caught in destructive patterns in an attempt to cope with what is happening to them. They may become trapped in cycles of self-hatred, or begin to ruminate obsessively about the loss they have suffered. They may fantasize about revenge or suicide. They may fruitlessly attempt to control the narrative about themselves, or fawn and grovel, hoping that their acquiescence will end the torment. Very often, these coping mechanisms occur at the expense of healthier and more productive behaviours, behaviours which can lead to healing and growth.
Our podcast, Fucking Cancelled, seeks to analyze the phenomenon of cancel culture and its associated ideological structures from a leftist perspective. We do so primarily through the lens of our experiences as longtime members of left-wing scenes and subcultures, our academic backgrounds in women’s studies and anthropology, our understanding of mental health models surrounding the science of trauma, and our many years of recovery in 12 Step groups—as well as, of course, our experiences of cancellation.
This zine is an edited transcript of Episode 23 of the podcast.
The episode, titled ‘Nobody’s Getting Cancelled: Surviving Cancellation’, is one in which we reflect on the lessons we have learned from our own struggles with cancel culture and try to offer tools for others trying to survive this misunderstood, under-theorized and often extremely traumatic form of life crisis. In particular, we use the concept of the ‘locus of control’ to refocus on our personal agency, and explore the various elements of our lives that are and aren’t within our control. We also offer reflections concerning such topics as legal recourse, the practice of ‘counter-cancelling’, what it means to take responsibility, and the possibility of building cancelled community. The suggestions we offer are meant to apply to anyone who has been cancelled, whether or not they did the things they are accused of. The zine itself is an edited transcript of the episode, modified for ease of reading, with added footnotes and explanations, as well as charts and figures to visualize important concepts.
As we build a Left which is divested from cancel culture, which undoes some of the damage that the politics of denunciation has caused, which comes up with better ways to resolve conflict and keep people safe, we need also to protect people who have been victimized by these cruel practices. We hope that our contributions will help people survive and grow, and empower them to take control over their lives even in the face of the mistreatment they are experiencing. It’s a hard road to travel, and survival is not always simple. But as the movement against cancel culture grows, we are confident that there is a bright future for the Left ahead of us, and we will all be part of it.