S M Ong: Cancel culture went after Xiaxue – you’re next?
What is cancel culture?
Hands up those who think it refers to stuff getting cancelled because of Covid-19.
Like the disease, the term "cancel culture" first emerged last year but in the last few months, started spreading like, uh, the coronavirus.
I'm actually afraid to explain what cancel culture is because I will probably get cancelled for getting it wrong.
So I shall cowardly point you to Macquarie Dictionary, which defines the term as "the attitudes within a community which call for or bring about the withdrawal of support from a public figure, such as cancellation of an acting role, a ban on playing an artist's music, removal from social media, etc., usually in response to an accusation of a socially unacceptable action or comment".
Recent targets of the woke cancel culture warriors include Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling for her transphobic views and Mediacorp for its Channel 8 drama My Guardian Angels, which depicted a gay character as a paedophile. Mediacorp has apologised. Rowling has not.
This online behaviour has of course been around for years since the rise of social media. It's just that now there's a fashionable name for it.
Also known as "call-out culture" or "outrage culture", "cancel culture" was Macquarie Dictionary's 2019 word of the year.
No, I've never heard of Macquarie Dictionary either. It's a dictionary of Australian English. This is where I might've made a gnarly joke about Australian English, but I don't want to get cancelled from Down Under.
Closer to home, local influencer Xiaxue posted a 19-minute video on Instagram last week warning Singaporeans about the encroaching scourge.
"Cancel culture is coming to our shores and right now, it may not affect you, but trust me, it eventually will," she said.
Yeah, just ask Mediacorp.
In the video, the enfant terrible also known as Wendy Cheng began: "Recently, people have been trying to cancel me. What's new? But this time around, it's definitely a little bit more serious."
By "a little bit more serious", she meant a "small group of people making police reports against me, resulting in the police coming to my house".
This was over tweets that her accusers dug out from years ago and claimed were racist.
This was after Xiaxue threw Instagram shade at Workers' Party then-candidate Raeesah Khan after police reports were made against the now MP-elect.
This was over tweets that Ms Khan's accusers dug out from years ago and claimed were racist.
This was after Mr Ivan Lim withdrew as a People's Action Party candidate following what Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong described as "trial by Internet". PM Lee might as well have said "cancel culture".
Hey, at least no one accused Mr Lim of being racist. Just "arrogant and elitist".
In a way, he started the sequence of events that led to Xiaxue's video.
In response to it, playwright Alfian Sa'at posted on Facebook: "Ugh. Stop it already with 'cancel culture'. It's just a backlash and a boycott. Don't make it sound bigger than it is."
He concluded: "But hey, you've decided to build a career out of pissing on the marginalised and engaging in flame wars with other personalities. You've made your bed out of pee and gasoline. Now, why complain about having to lie in it?"
Could this finally be the end of Xiaxue's controversial 17-year career many have long wished for?
Not only are advertisers shunning her, YouTube channel Clicknetwork also announced on Facebook that it had dropped her as host of an upcoming show. In the same post, the company said that it is "against racism, bigotry, and hate", which sort of implied that Xiaxue isn't.
Her blog and Twitter account have since been set to private - but her Instagram and Facebook page remain accessible.
I still remember her going to war with K-pop fans in 2017 after she likened Monsta X to a "group of trannies" and tweeted that BTS sucked. If she can survive the fearsome BTS Army, she can survive anything.
Cancel culture... cancelled?
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