Traffic as the new currency: Does “cancel culture” have the opposite effect?

We’ve all heard the saying “any publicity is good publicity” but is this true? Especially in the day of social media, exposing, and the so-called “cancel culture”. It seems it’s more true than ever.

It’s actually quite easy to see that cancelling somebody is visionary. Take the Kardashians as an example; a family that is constantly being called out on social media for appropriating black culture, promoting risky products, and even being accused of not paying their Bangladeshi workers. However, amidst all of this, they have a combined net worth of billions and millions of followers. Have they faced negative repercussions from their problematic actions? Evidently not.

Trisha Paytas, another perfect example of how cancel culture can act in favour of those being recalled. In 2019, she released an outrageous video, where she falsely claims that she is transgender, simultaneously claiming that she still identifies with her natural-born gender. She made $8000 from that one 15 minute video. Judging her other videos on that same pay rate (assuming they also get monetized) she also made thousands of dollars from exploiting Dissociative Identity Disorder, faking a wedding, and empowering the narrative of reverse racism.

An IPhone with YouTube Logo on the screen

Of course, we don’t even have to search YouTube for examples of futile efforts of “cancelling” somebody. Just take a look at the problematic history of the current American President and Prime Minister of the U.K.

It seems the only person who can cancel somebody, is the same person being cancelled.

The sleeper effect could be the reason for these objectionable outcomes. This psychological phenomenon refers to how a persuasive message can have a delayed impact on our brains.

In other words, if we keep seeing somebody’s name pop up, even if it’s related to a controversy, we will remember them — thus increasing their celebrity status.

We’ll also “hate-watch” their videos, check on their social media profiles, and also watch any apology videos that are released. We feed into the drama, allowing them to profit from our disapproval of their actions.

In the digital age, traffic is the new currency. More accurately, we can monetize the traffic. For example, YouTube gives bigger creators money, their videos are monetised, and every thousand views equals a paycheque. Influencers (regardless of how questionable they are) also make money from sponsorships and advertising. Blogs can make money from affiliate marketing, and of course, merch and e-commerce can also be sold.

The more traffic a creator, influencer, or figure gets, the more money they will gain. Whether that’s directly through platforms like YouTube, or indirectly through sponsors and sales.

One of the best examples of this would be YouTuber Tati Westbrooke. In 2019, she released an inexcusable video on beauty guru James Charles. In which, she spent 8 minutes accusing him of predatory behaviour, and the remaining 35 minutes essentially talking about her Vitamin brand. This video amassed 47 million views.

Afterwards, it was revealed that the allegations against Charles were baseless, and debunked.

If Westbrook’s video converted only 1% of the people that watched, towards her vitamin brand, she would have made $19.6 million from that video alone. Realistically, a 37-year-old should have been “cancelled” for making false allegations against a, then, 19-year-old boy. That’s not the way the internet works, though.

With this specific drama being dug up again, over a year later, I decided to conduct my own research. Jeffree Starr who has his own cosmetic company has come under fire for allegedly coercing Westbrook, as well as consistently making racist comments.

Using Moz, I discovered that his cosmetic website actually gained discoveries recently. The same can be said about Shane Dawson’s merch line, despite unforgivable videos coming to surface in the past few weeks.

Is there really an effective way to “cancel” somebody? Should platforms terminate accounts, similar to how Twitter did with Katie Hopkins? Or is that eliminating freedom of speech?

Do influencers strive for controversy, hence why they keep pumping out controversial videos, tweets, and products? For some, this definitely seems like the case.

As an audience, we need to stop giving problematic people the recognition they so desperately search for. Directing our traffic (money) to those who are more deserving.

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Feminist, anti-capitalist columnist and journalist. katieanderton.com

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Katie Anderton

Katie Anderton

Feminist, anti-capitalist columnist and journalist. katieanderton.com

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