Table of Contents
- Kosoko Jackson and the Cancel Culture Conundrum
- Brash Beginnings of Cancel Culture
- A Culture of Censorship
The internet is a place to connect with other people. It is a place to find people with whom we have common ground; a place where we can air out our grievances for the world to see without knowing who we are. It is a place for research as well, a place for information dissemination and consumption. It just so happens that in the middle of all that, culture also seems to have made a resurgence in the middle of it all, so more people now have access to information that validates their culture. Is that so bad? When it comes to callout-and-cancel culture, things could get tricky.
Kosoko Jackson and the Cancel Culture Conundrum
So what happens when more than enough people are connected to each other and what is essentially a seemingly inexhaustible amount of information? People speaking their mind. According to the New Yorker, young-adult novelist Kosoko Jackson’s trial was held on Twitter, after a “disparaging Goodreads review” had been enough to make Jackson the center of discussion regarding the culturally inappropriate representation of the Kosovo War, an important piece of history to the Muslim community.
It was a recipe for disaster, and before long, Jackson was in the grip of a Twitter trial, seemingly only continuing to flail about for an anchor where there was none. Eventually, he had resorted to what most Twitter users would reluctantly settle for: an apology. In a tweet addressed to the “Book community,' Jackson wrote: “I failed to fully understand the people and the conflict that I set around my characters. I have done a disservice to the history and to the people who suffered.” If the book doesn’t ring a bell, it stars the lives of two American boys on a journey of love on the backdrop of the Kosovo War, an armed conflict that transpired from 1998 to 1999.
If Jackson had it this bad then it must be that he had had no chance all this time. Except the biggest irony of all was this: when Jackson was called out, he had already been working on taking other authors down for much the same reason he had been himself. YA author Amelie Wen Zhao was an author Jackson loudly spoke out against, and now, just before her “Blood Heir” book was published, Jackson had met the same fate. It’s not just them. So many YA authors are falling in the jaws of a Twitter-driven crowd concerned only of seeing what they want to see. While the callout culture works in some ways, it’s in these situations that things become more confusing.
Brash Beginnings of Cancel Culture
How did it all explode so quickly? Over at the New York Times, writer Jennifer Senior pointed out that the biggest nuisance of it all is that that one review from Goodreads that started an avalanche of heavy-handed criticism was nothing but an “intemperate, if highly impassioned, review” and has therefore driven Twitter residents out of control.
It’s also worthy to point out that most of those who jumped on for the public mudslinging of Jackson were actually people who hadn’t actually seen nor read the book. So, what’s going on? First, Twitter is essentially an entire subculture, it has its own invisible rules. Second, even the YA community has rules, some of which Jackson claimed also to champion himself.
A Culture of Censorship
To be fair, rules are not bad, but in the world of literature, if everything is policed and strong-armed for a prior mob review before setting it out to the world so other people can then decide what is meant for them, it turns the world of young adult literature into “a dreary monoculture that admits no book unless it has been prejudged and meets the standards of the censors.”
This in itself is akin to a fallacy. Firstly, because no one has the ultimate authority to decide what should be censored in a specific sense. While some books that escape the detection of the warmongering YA Twitter community may particularly be more malevolent than Jackson’s, the YA community can’t possibly sign off on everything that comes out. Jackson’s case was just a little different, in that people don’t expect this kind of thing from him on account of his actually being a sensitivity reader for Big Five publishers.
In fact, Jackson even goes so far as to callout informed questions that actually made sense--as far as sensitivity talk is to be taken into account--when an author by the handle KidLitIcon retweeted a “pointed but civil and informed disagreement” on the matter of all these “attacks” that everyone on Twitter is worked up about.
According to an article on Reason, where they mentioned the musings of Kat Rosenfield for Vulture on the matter of callout culture and the big influence and oftentimes control it has now on the YA community: “Young adult books are being targeted in intense social media callouts, draggings, and pile-ons--sometimes before anybody’s ever read them.” That still doesn’t answer the question of whether Jackson’s mistake is supposed to be considered as Earth-shattering as YA Twitter is saying it is. To that, Jennifer Senior says it isn’t: “There’s nothing wrong, per se, with making a victim a villain, or a hero a jerk: Art is filled with antiheroes with redeeming qualities, whether they’re Humbert Humbert or Tony Soprano. Nor are two American teenagers in a war-torn country, on the face of it, a bad premise for a Y.A. book.”