Young Czechs increasingly embrace cancel culture

The phenomenon of cancel culture is “knocking on the door” in Czechia

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Vojtěch Kristen
via: info.cz

By removing the “sinner” from social networks, eliminating his or her public influence and depriving someone of a job, you can simply “cancel” that person. That is, in a nutshell, the phenomenon of cancel culture. Although this development is mainly known from the United States and the United Kingdom — where many have already fallen victim to it — it is also knocking on Czechia’s doors.

Such cases are increasingly growing in the country, including from students and on social media, according to Czech news portal Info.cz.

Cancel culture is a social phenomenon that stands out from many others. However, if you stopped a hundred different people on the street, you would probably get a hundred different answers to what cancel culture actually is. There is no comprehensive definition. However, if we describe the phenomenon as “an activity in which people massively ‘cancel’ (or delete, erase) opinions of their opponents, and create social pressure to realize this goal,” we will not be too far from a definition that generally describes what is occurring.

When we place this definition in the context of social media, we are almost at the finish line.

One of the most well-known recent examples of cancel culture is the case of Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling, who angered trans and left-wing activists last year by claiming that “only women menstruate”. In Britain’s hyper-politically-correct environment, the statement was perceived as an attack on transgender people, and Rowling faced pressure from (former) fans, activists, and some colleagues in the industry. Nevertheless, using Rowling as an example of what defines cancel culture is not entirely accurate, according to sociologist Marie Heřmanová from the Czech Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences

“In my opinion, in the case of J. K. Rowling, it is not so much a manifestation of cancel culture, but rather that people have started protesting against the author. But if you look at the final account, she has not lost any power, and book sales are still growing. In short, Rowling only became part of a relatively heated public debate,” said Heřmanová in an interview for Info.cz. “I see cancel culture when people’s lives are destroyed; they have to leave work, school… “

However, you do not have to be famous and rich for someone to “cancel” you. The wrong opinion on social media can set in motion a series of events that end in disciplinary action, expulsion from school or university, and have a disastrous impact on a young person’s life.

The Czech version of Cancel Culture

The cancel culture phenomenon began to reach a fever point around 2017 in the US and grew dominant during the #MeToo movement and later mass protests in major cities following the tragic death of George Floyd.

“Cancel culture did not reach Europe in any meaningful way. In my opinion, one of the reasons is that in the United States, because of its emphasis on freedom of speech, people often get away with things that are unthinkable or even criminal in the Czech Republic and most of Europe, such as Holocaust denial. While in Europe, in such a case, the boundaries of speech are enforced by a legal framework, in the United States they must be enforced ‘from below’ — increasingly through phenomena such as cancel culture,” said Heřmanová.

Sociologist Vojtěch Bednář added that there is a difficult environment for cancel culture in the Czech Republic — not because it is an “American affair”, but because of the cultural customs of the country.

“Our own culture doesn’t like hypocritical behavior very much, on the other hand, we like ‘incorrect’ exaggeration and humor. And most importantly: we relativize everything,” Bednář calculated.

“I don’t think we’ll see that a celebrity, for example, is labeled a sexual predator and pushed out of public life. Immediately, after such an accusation, several other media outlets will interview the person on the topic.”

Bednář said he was reminded of the case of Jiří Kajínek — a convicted double murderer who enjoys the status of a celebrity after a presidential pardon.

However, this does not mean that cancel culture is not visible in the Czech Republic at all. The phenomenon is at least showing some signs that it is finding a foothold in Czech society. According to Heřmanská, the case of the left-wing politician Tomáš Tožička was probably the closest to a real case of cancel culture. The candidate for the Senate for the Pirate Party in one of his posts on social networks placed a graphic with a swastika within the Star of David.

Quite understandably, accusations of anti-Semitism arose, which ended in the withdrawal of Tožička from his party’s candidate list.

“In this case, it occurs to me that it was the closest to cancel culture. Tožička was de facto forced to withdraw from the candidate and withdraw from politics,“ said Heřmanová.

There are other cases as well. Cancel culture was mentioned, for example, in the case of the poet Petr Kukal, who, by mutual agreement, left the position of spokesman for the Faculty of Arts at Charles University after comparing women covering their faces with veils to “Persian princesses” in the daily Metro.

And a third example is the case of a worker at the Kanzelsberger bookstore, which shows how easy it is to face a career-ending incident for a single post on social media. The case from the beginning of last year provoked a strong reaction from the public after the saleswoman of the Jablonec branch of the bookstore on the social networks shared racist comments. After a number of people on social media drew attention to the statements and called on the bookstore to react, Kanzelsberger fired the woman immediately.

The last example shows that even those who are not in the public eye can quickly become the target of cancel culture. It is simply enough for them to write several inappropriate statuses on social networks. And as it turns out, this is increasingly also the case for Generation Z — those young people who spend the most time on social networks and now even more so due to the pandemic.

What does such a Czech version of cancel culture look like? In recent months, Info.cz has learned about several examples where teenagers on social networks reported what they believed were inappropriate posts of their peers — not to the administrators of the social network, but directly to the school that the so-called “sinner” attends. The case of the user “JsemStepanka” attracted the most attention, who, after Czech users collectively reported her remarks on social networks, faced possible expulsion from Lancashire University. The girl went through some disciplinary proceedings because, but in the end, stayed at the school.


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