Joining the ranks of Praetorian Guard comedians, Jon Stewart declared that cancel culture does not exist, arguing that proponents of it are merely upset over what he called “democratized criticism.”
During a virtual talk with New Yorker editor David Remnick during the 22nd annual New Yorker Festival, Stewart said free speech is more prevalent than ever before because of the internet.
People that talk about cancel culture never seem to shut the fuck up about it. Like, there’s more speech now than ever before.
It’s not ‘you can’t say it,’ it’s that when you say it—look, the internet has democratized criticism. What do we do for a living—we talk shit, we criticize, we postulate, we opine, we make jokes, and now other people are having their say.
And that’s not cancel culture, that’s relentlessness. We live in a relentless culture. And the system of the internet and all those other things are incentivized to find the pressure points of that and exacerbate it.
Stewart did not appear to address the modern phenomenon of people being fired from their jobs for expressing unorthodox views, such as author Gillian Phillips for tweeting in support of JK Rowling, or the fact that celebrities like Mario Lopez are nearly de-platformed for criticizing radical elements of the LGBTQ community.
In many ways, Stewart’s remarks echo that of Marvel-DC Comics movie director James Gunn, who also denied the existence of cancel culture under the guise of “free speech.”
“Stop calling everything ‘cancel culture’ because you’re too dim to have a nuanced opinion. People can be offended by something, or think something sucks, and that’s not ‘cancel culture’ – it’s free speech,” Gunn tweeted in March. “To all of those writing me about the times people get unfairly attacked – yes, that sucks! But that doesn’t mean every time someone is offended by something it’s ‘cancel culture.’ Calling EVERYTHING that is a knee-jerk response that destroys your point.”
To all of those writing me about the times people get unfairly attacked – yes, that sucks! But that doesn't mean every time someone is offended by something it's "cancel culture." Calling EVERYTHING that is a knee-jerk response that destroys your point.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) March 7, 2021
Seth Rogen, Katt Williams, Andy Richter, Jay Leno, and Hannah Gadsby have all denied the existence of cancel culture, going so far as to argue that comedians should change with the times.
Conversely, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Whoopi Goldberg, Dave Chappelle, Damon Wayans, Tim Allen and many others have all spoken out against cancel culture in one facet or another.