How To Deal with Cancel Culture and Virtue Signalers

by | Self-Defense

Many comments that come from cancel culture—and virtue signaling in general—might touch upon valid concerns or issues.

Virtue signaling in general can add value by addressing some issues that, if addressed, can potentially make for a better world.

However, virtue-signaling isn’t always driven by the goal of making the world better. And even more rarely is it based on data and logic.

Instead, it’s often used to gain power and for self-framing the attacker as “better” while ruining someone else’s reputation.

It’s for the antisocial uses that you want to be careful—and strategic—around cancel culture.

How to Navigate Cancel Culture

#1. Identify IF You Should Apologize

Elaine Welteroth, an award-winning journalist and NYT bestselling author, makes this recommendation to navigate cancel culture effectively:

Elaine: “Acknowledge the harm that you caused. Acknowledge that you understand why it was harmful…Do apologize.”

However, I disagree at an important level:

First, you should ask yourself IF you caused harm.

Much of cancel culture is not about finding guilty human beings, but about guilt-tripping others.

A good chunk of it is about virtue signaling, power/imposing on others, and self-manipulation to hide one’s own true nature.

Sometimes (but not always!) that leads to making a monster out of someone who has done nothing monstrous.

If you apologize when you don’t feel you’ve done something you:

  1. React instead of acting: and enter their frame
  2. Relinquish your right to your own truth/frame
  3. Disempower yourself
  4. Lie/betray yourself
  5. Do a disservice to the world: nobody gains when innocent or normal people are singled out. And everyone loses when people apologize to virtue-signaling bullies

And if you look for what you’ve done wrong, you may find it. As they say, you find what you’re looking for. And that’s how some sensitive people who’ve done nothing wrong start feeling “bad” and guilty for…nothing.

See the guilt-tripping article (cancel culture effects on the victims is guilt-tripping) or this video to see some of the dangers of out-of-place “acknowledgement of harm”:

#2. If You Should, Then Apologize Strategically

Here’s a strategy for giving an effective apology as recommended by Coffeezilla in his video, “How To Survive a Public Shaming“:

Step 1: Find an influential representative of the offended.

Coffeezilla notes in his other video, “Public Shaming,” that:

Coffeezilla: “Our new internet mobs cannot forgive. Consider that, in the past, the public mob might gather in the street for an hour. The whip man whipped [the accused] ten times and it was over…then the [accused] person could be reintegrated back into society. But, today, the public mob gathers on Twitter for days—for months. We all take a crack with no one counting, without even a number to count towards. There is no leader to an outraged collective which means nobody can say when it’s over because no one of us speaks for all of us.”

So, the idea is to pick someone who can best represent the voice of all of the offended. That way, if you can manage to get them on your side (such as by asking for their forgiveness), all of the offended will be more likely to move on sooner (by forgiving you as well).

*Caveat: If you don’t pick the right representative for the offended group, it can cause prolonged controversy or, worse, backfire (see minute mark 3:14).

Step 2: Enlist the representative as an ally (recruit them to your side)

If you did cause harm that warrants an apology, give a full, categorical apology (Smith, 2005).

Some elements to this categorical apology (which Coffeezilla recommends because he deems it the “perfect apology”) are:

  1. Be transparently sincere.
  2. Take full blame and responsibility.
  3. Promise to be better.
  4. Name the people who were harmed.

#2.2 If You Shouldn’t, Then Don’t Apologize

If, on the other hand, you did nothing wrong, use the “Art of the Non-Apology“, which is basically the art of handing out a fake apology.

Or, even better, use frame aligning:

Frame Aligning Technique

Here’s an example.

A lady launched a super cool service.

It generates artificial fashion models pictures to scale eCommerce photo and marketing production.

The models wear different types and styles of dresses, but without taking any pictures: the models don’t exist in real life.

Her post went viral. And, the virtue signaler jumped on it.

These were some of the most upvoted comments:

Trap: “Awesome! But why do they all wear the same size? Are AI Models always thin?
#aiethics #aiforall
Entrepreneur: “We’re completely aligned Carolin Neumann—we aim to reach this breadth in data diversity by the time we fully launch our B2B product. Thanks again for bringing up this important topic and looking forward to presenting our…”

Notice that the trapper is also seeking support with the use of hashtags. That’s a power move as it sub-communicates, “I’ve got a bigger social group agreeing with me and ready to pounce on you.”

And if the entrepreneur didn’t handle it well, she’d be fanning the flames of a larger and larger backlash.

Look here again:

Trap: “Do you plan on working on a wider range of physical shapes for your models?”
Entrepreneur: “Many thanks for your question Valentina Contini 👩‍🎤. The algorithms we are designing are trained on real data (fashion images). Unfortunately (frames it as a “force majeur” issue, effectively discharging the guilt and cleaning her hands), we’re finding that models featured in these fashion images are largely skewed towards certain physical shapes and not others. I am continuously seeking data partners who offer images that can fill the gaps in our dataset, therefore I hope in the next months to release more visual examples to reflect a greater range in the models represented. Let me know if I can clarify anything else (treats her with white gloves, which helps bring her on her side and stop any future attack, nice). Best wishes, Nat

The entrepreneur lady handled it perfectly once again. She used the alignment frame control technique.

We talked about this technique several times with the more general approach of “power alignment”. In this case, it isn’t yet “power” she’s aligning with because, in theory, the criticism is coming from someone lower in social status.

BUT, the trapper is riding the force of a culture/social movement that stands by her side. And she’s rallying the troops on her side to potentially sic and attack in droves.

If the entrepreneur decided to battle that frame and interpretation she might still “win” with logic and rationality (by, for example, explaining the market for plus-size models is too small and impossible to tackle for an early-stage startup).

But virtue signaling is NOT about logic and rationality. So that approach might still create a social earthquake that wastes her time, ruins her reputation, turns out to be a PR nightmare, and damages her business.

In a way, she also joined the virtue-signaling crowd. But, she won the day.

Mindsets to Navigate Cancel Culture

Duration

As of now, I disagree that the cancel storm goes on for months. The news cycle is short, and it might be even shorter in the digital age.

The virtue signalers will throw their stones, but they don’t have an infinite amount.

Eventually, the tempest will reach its peak—a matter of weeks at most in my opinion, not months—and after that throwing, any more stones becomes diminishing returns.

Think of it like that:

The first who throws a stone is the leader.

The second has a lot of power.

The third has quite a bit of power…

But once everyone’s thrown a stone, the blizzard has largely run its course. There is no more “virtue brownie points to gain”, both socially and ego-massaging-wise.

So, the blizzard will clear up almost as quickly as it started.

Damage

It’s certainly possible that the blizzard might leave some damage.

But, what type of damage depends a lot on your personality, outlook in life, and of course…how much you depend on certain media to survive.

If you don’t need the virtue-signaling imbued system to survive and if you can weather it emotionally, chances are that you can see the sun much sooner than you’d have expected when the blizzard was looking all dark and gloomy.

In some cases, it’s even possible that you’ll come out of it stronger and better off.

F*ck the Stone-Throwers

This is a mindset and approach I’ve shared in some posts at The Power Moves forum.

And I believe a good approach is to think of yourself as “above” the mob.

They’re a bunch of turkeys and they do turkey and sheep stuff:

  • They gather in groups
  • They follow a charismatic leader without ever realizing they’re following a SOB
  • They forget about their own dark side (Jesus said it best with the “see the speck in other people’s eyes, but not the beam in your own”)
  • They play the race to the bottom of “who yells the loudest gets the biggest applause”
  • …and they do all the other stuff that turkeys do

If you can keep that outlook, chances are that you can let the blizzard pass underneath you, without being overly affected.

It’s a big IF, but worth keeping in mind.

Summary

To me, cancel culture is a mix of:

  1. Power: controlling the culture and the narrative
  2. Self-actualization: it’s a way of saying “I exist”. But instead of building and doing your own thing, you take the easier way and seek to destroy those who’ve already established themselves.
  3. Self-discovery: a part of the cancel culture is teenagers who have little idea about what they’re doing, saying, or standing for. They’re seeking an ideal to live by, a way to make an impact.
  4. Virtue-signaling: I attack this guy for being bad and morally bankrupt, which by reflection means I’m better.
    1. Self-signaling: if I attack this guy, it means I must be good. It’s a way of hiding one’s own shadow and dark side.

Which one is stronger will vary from person to person.

But, now, with this guide, you can better navigate cancel culture and deal with it (as well as those ill-intentioned virtue-signalers) like an effective social strategist.

About The Author

About The Author