Barack Obama on cancel culture: ‘The world is messy. There are ambiguities’

Former US President Barack Obama in Berlin

Honestly, I don’t think I throw around the word “cancelled” all the time. I think I’m reasonably judicious in who I cancel, and it has repercussions on the job too: I avoid writing about certain (cancelled) people unless they’re doing something particularly newsworthy. Kanye West is cancelled for his MAGA crap, misogyny and ignorance. Harvey Weinstein is cancelled for being a rapist. Lena Dunham is cancelled for being awful for years. We also made a site-wide decision to cancel a few actresses so thoroughly that I’m not even going to name them here. That’s about it. I know there are places on the internet which rejoice in cancelling people all the time, just as I know that “cancel culture” is something racist, unfunny dude-bros whine about when their words and actions have consequences. So, President Barack Obama has some thoughts about Cancel Culture and whether people should be cancelled for, I guess, simply making a mistake here and there.

Former President Barack Obama has made an appeal to Americans not to see “compromise” as a bad thing. He hit out at Twitter outrage and “cancel culture,” saying it was “not activism.” The former president was speaking at an Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago on Tuesday, HuffPost reports, and he urged Americans to stop seeking ideological purity.

“This idea of purity, and you’re never compromised, and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff. You should get over that quickly,” Obama said. “The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws.” He went on to say that young people in particular are are risk of mistaking being judgmental about people as activism. “You know, that’s not activism” he said. “That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.”

He continued to tie the issue to activism: “I do get a sense sometimes now among certain young people, and this is accelerated by social media — there is this sense sometimes of the way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people, and that’s enough. If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself. Did you see how woke I was, I called you out. Then I’m going to get on my TV and watch my show … That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.”

[From Rolling Stone & The Daily Beast]

I understand what he means with the hashtag activism and people just being outraged all the time about everything. As I writer of pop culture/political gossip, of course I’ve made mistakes and I’ve had “bad takes.” I would hate to be “cancelled” over some stupid sh-t I wrote. But… I still feel like there are some really bad actors using the “cancel culture” argument – the worst conservatives, the worst racists and white supremacists and generally terrible people are the ones whining about cancel culture, and it’s just because their actions and words have consequences, you know? Delineate between “so-and-so is canceled” versus “so-and-so did a sh-tty thing, then didn’t apologize and I remember it.”

Former President Obama Campaigns for Florida Democrats Gillum and Nelson In Miami

Photos courtesy of Backgrid, Avalon Red.

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140 Responses to “Barack Obama on cancel culture: ‘The world is messy. There are ambiguities’”

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  1. Marisse says:

    He doesn’t get it bc he’s an artifact of the pre-Trump era.

    Did he consider how ‘online activism’ helped the #metoo movement catch on farther & bigger? How about the exposure of ppl marching in Charlottesville, including cops? He seems to be painting w/a pretty broad brush.

    Honestly, I don’t have time for Obama’s spiel. It’s not 2012. Maybe he should just go sit on the edge of a lake and read a book like a good retiree. Seriously, just sit down and be quiet. This is a new world now & it isn’t the world he had to deal with. It’s so, so much worse – it makes his two terms look quaint by comparison.

    • Silas says:

      You think the first black president of the United States doesn’t get it?

      And I think he’s aware of the positives of social media because he utilized it.

      The drawback of hashtag activism is there in the meme: That is so sad. Alexa, play Despacito.

      Social media should be an entry way, not the full thing. That’s what he’s saying.

      • Gabby says:

        Perfectly said.
        If you “don’t have time for Obama’s spiel”, what are you making time to listen to? I’d listen to him speak all day, reminiscing about the days when we had a President with dignity and class.(not “you”, @silas, ).

      • Tiffany :) says:

        Well said, Silas. I totally agree.

      • lucy2 says:

        Well said Silas.

        He’s making good points here, and I think he’s talking generally – I’m sure he’s quite fine with the “cancelling” of seriously bad people like Weinstein, Trump, etc. But a lot of people freak out and overreact about even small things.
        It’s important to call out problems like racism or sexism when we see it, but also to give most people a chance to apologize, learn from their mistakes, change their ways, and grow.

      • stepup says:

        Yes, I think the first Black president of the U.S. doesn’t get it.

        By definition, he is also a Black person whose career depended on being “liked” by White folks. Said another way: He spouts things that White folks want to hear.

        I’m with Marisse. Obama’s time is over. Plus, when he says stuff like this, the people who actually NEED to change, hear: “I’m good. Even Obama says so. It’s not me, it’s THEM!” I don’t hear about Obama waving his finger at White folks who’ve made no effort to understand casual racism. I don’t see him chastising men who still strut around in a bubble of toxic masculinity. He’s using the old playbook that brought us….TRUMP! You know who used to do this type of shit? Bill Cosby.

      • WTW says:

        @Stepup, Obama is by no means perfect, but the Bill Cosby comparison doesn’t seem fair in this instance. I do think the problem with cancel culture isn’t just that no one is perfect and people are complicated, but that Twitter is a place that applauds users for performative outrage. Some of the people leading the charge to cancel others seem like self-serving narcissists who get off on the attention they get for being so socially aware. And when these people inevitably get called out for something, they lash out and tell their critics that they’re as human and problematic as anyone else. So, they want to be treated as imperfect human beings but not for others to be? Make that make sense. I’ve also seen so many inaccuracies and lies posted on viral twitter threads. I’ve seen the woke brigade go after people and then fangirl those same people later. Julian Castro is the latest example of this. Woke Twitter accused him of selling home mortgages to Wall Street when he was HUD secretary, a problem he’d actually inherited. But they now like him because he’s one of the most progressive candidates running and has spoken out against police brutality, met with prisoners, denounced Trump, etc. Go figure.

      • stepup says:


        A woman whom I occassionally spent time with (no longer do) sent me this yesterday with a message that basically said “See, even Obama agrees with us. It’s you, not us.” Or something like that. This woman was a MAGA-voting person who called all people crossing the border “Dirty Criminals.”

        So, if Obama is going to continue on this road, then maybe he should make it more clear who and what he is talking about.

      • NYer says:

        I’m so heartened to read a lot of the feedback here… To all who are helping to fuel cancel-culture: it’s not the answer. We need to be hearing each other, not ‘canceling’. (Unless someone’s calling for actual violence against another group or individual – then you’ve lost your 1st Amendment rights, in my book.) There’s a more nuanced conversation to be had. Remember Al Franken? Do we really think that was a useful outcome? If we on the political Left (bc we seem to be in the majority posting here) don’t cut it out with the trigger-happy, knee-jerk, hot-take, black-and-white, no-room-for-compromise, political-correctness-overkill we’re gonna have four more years of Trump. And we’re gonna silence a lot of brilliant thinkers and admirably engaged citizens in the process — yes, possibly flawed, but brilliant and admirable nonetheless. The current (impossible) purity metric will absolutely erode our fight for economic and social equality. End of.

      • stepup says:

        I hear what you’re saying NYer, but at the same time, I’m not convinced your way is the answer either.

        Part of the problem is that we’ve become so accustomed to being in our bubbles that some people take ANY criticism as “cancel culture.” So, we’re at a point now where people who probably still need to learn some lessons about implicit bias, quotidian sexism, and the like, are not listening now, and instead jumping on the “enough with this cancel culture” stuff, while plugging their eyes and ears.

        That tact will keep us just as stuck.

        I’ve noticed the term “purity test” thrown around a lot lately. It’s not a purity test if someone tries to point out how a certain statement or act contributes to a larger problem.

      • Baby Jane says:

        Marisse and stepup, I think your points are valid and uncomfortable, hence the blowback. And for all the “he knows prejudice” comments… Obama is (literally) a million times more like rich white folks in power than he is like ANY marginalized cohort. Same reason Ellen hands with GWB- socioeconomics is the bond.

      • perplexed says:

        I think Obama still faced prejudice when he was President of the United States though. Michelle Obama definitely did. And he’s only rich now. I don’t think he was ALWAYS as rich as he is now. And a lot of rich people of colour have talked about how even money and power couldn’t insulate them from racism.

        So I think he is aware of prejudice he and others face, but has adopted a pragmatic perspective. Since he’s a lawyer, he’s probably trained to look at things from the perspective of how change can be effected through policy rather than simply emotion.
        Lawyers are likely to be more pragmatic about things because that’s what the profession entails. You definitely have to be pragmatic to succeed as a politician AND win. If you don’t adopt a perspective that is willing to negotiate, you won’t be able to make deals on policy as a politician. He’s also an intellectual — he is more likely to think things out before he says them.

        I also don’t think he’s talking about cancelling, but about patting ourselves on the back when we do the bare minimum. I post articles on Twitter, but I’m under no delusions that I’m somehow more “woke” just because I posted an article.

      • stepup says:


        But…see…what you did there was equate people who speak up about racism and the like as overly emotional. This is a trope that’s long been used to shut us up. It’s a form of tone policing. You’re reinforcing the notion that activists are just overly emotional and therefore can be easily dismissed.

        It’s fine for members of marginalized groups to be emotional about the maddening realities of this country’s inherent bias. It’s normal! We’re humans with emotions. Why should certain groups of people be forced to stifle them in service of making the majority feel more comfortable? Who does that serve? Who does that hurt? What does that help keep in place? Whose mental health does that help and hurt?

      • perplexed says:

        I used the word emotion because telling someone they used the wrong verb ( the example he used) isn’t really activism or calling out racism. Maybe it’s not even emotional (which is better than calling out someone because they don’t pass a test you have in your head). Maybe emotion isn’t even the correct word to use here since emotion can be constructive. All I know is I don’t consider social media arguing to be activism either. It might be a form of journalism or content creation or publishing or editorializing that makes the CEOs of these companies money, but I’m not convinced it’s activism that has had an active impact on changing the trajectory of how we behave in daily life.
        It’s something but I don’t consider simply posting on social media from the comfort of one’s home as really changing anything. If you’re calling out actual racism, that makes sense. That’s constructive and objective. But if you’re fighting like Susan Sarandon and Debra Messing do with each other online, I don’t think anything in the political landscape has changed. In the end, they’re both judging each other and neither has changed the other person’s point of view. I think there are distinctions to be made in the kinds of things people do online, and I’m pretty sure he’s simply talking about random people arguing that doesn’t get anywhere.

      • stepup says:


        And that’s exactly the problem: He doesn’t clarify what he means, so people can ascribe their own meaning to it. It is, in a way, nothing more than political pablum — which, arguably, doesn’t add to the conversation and further muddies the waters…the exact thing he seems to be complainig about.

      • Christina says:

        Marisse and Stepup, I understand why you feel the way you do: the Trump era is terrifying and we have to fight back. The problem I see is that Trump is working to take U.S. and world policies back to the 1930s. The way we got out of that was through measured, thoughtful activism and the Creation of the United Nations. it was through listening to people, respecting differences, and knowing that some people aren’t ever going to change.

        Don’t let Donald Trump and his cohorts make you give up on working with people who aren’t like you. Be angry, but be measured and tell your truth through activism. AOC is my shero: she gets it, like you do, but she is also learning from Pelosi About how to wrangle folks to get what she wants. Now THAT will bring change. We should work to have the courage to believe that what we believe can make the lives of everyone better, even our enemies, without being afraid to call out their weaknesses.

        Obama put it in a way that makes young people defensive. I don’t want for you to be patient. Be angry, but understand that opting for a “new way” is actually the old way from the 1930s that caused the second World War. anything OTHER than engaging your rivals with civility is pre-war. Cancel culture is actually prewar when you really think about it. All of us just know it in seconds instead of being fed the propaganda from one source. Some places, like China and Saudi Arabia, don’t even get the real news. Americans don’t, either, but at least we are free to look to see how different things are from the propaganda out government is spewing.

      • stepup says:


        With all due respect, and I know you mean well, but telling people how they should handle racism is not the answer. Moreover, pointing out inequities and problematic tropes is NOT cancel culture — it’s actually what some may call “teachable moments.”

        Look, I am not young. I spent my entire life following the rules of “respectability” politics…and it got us Trump.

        The creation of the United Nations hasn’t done shit for me or mine — and my grandfather was one of the first Black men to work there. I still have to deal with the everyday casual racism thrown about by well-meaning liberals and right wingers alike. And guess what? I’m not letting it slide anymore — to maintain MY mental health. If someone says something dumb to me, I’m calling them out. If someone heeps stereotypes on me, I’m calling them out. I’m done being quiet. It doesn’t work for me. And if that upsets some people, oh well.

      • perplexed says:

        I mention this in another comment below but I think being an activist means that you’ll put yourself on the line for something (ie Colin Kaperneck taking the knee and losing endorsement deals and his career). For that reason, I don’t consider simply posting something online to be activism. It’s likely a form of conversation that makes money for Mark Zuckerbetg and Jack Dorsey, but I don’t think it’s anything beyond that. That said, I do think there are activists who post online but they’re doing more than just posting online. If you’re ONLY posting online for performative reasons or because you’re bored, I wouldn’t consider that activism. We’re debating stuff online here, but in the end I’m not foolish enough to think we’re changing anything. We are probably creating more advertising dollars for the site though.

      • stepup says:

        That’s fine Perplexed, and I’m unsure if you’re talking to me….

        If so, that is fine that that is your definition, but you haven’t addressed my questions / points. Everyone has a different threhold for activism. That’s fine. I guess I just don’t get your point past that.

      • stepup says:

        Also, one more word about what is activism, what isn’t, and who has the resources to PARTICIPATE in “acceptable” activism.

        Someone brought up AOC. Yes. She is a role model. But look, everyone doesn’t have the intelligence, mental health bonofides, health, nor “look” to make it as a successful politician. Moreover, not everyone has the money or time to join a group after they get home from their two jobs, before they leave for the night to Uber for a few hours to make ends meet. If some people need to vent online when they can, and that’s the way they add their voice…I’m not jumping down their throats.

      • perplexed says:


        To be honest, I’m not really sure what point to address from your original post because you told me the use of the word emotion was problematic and talked about tone policing and then moved on to mental health. I think we may simply be talking about different things which is why I don’t think I can address your points. This is where I find online conversations to be slightly futile. It’s likely easier to have this kind of conversation face-to-face. And this is also where I think we fall down a rabbit-hole where one person feels the other person hasn’t adequately provided a rebuttal that meets their standards and in the end nothing has changed. We’re kind of proving his point…

      • stepup says:

        Are we though.

        If you don’t understand what I meant by emotions and tone policing, here’s a primer:

        As for proving his point, I’d disagree. I feel good about voicing my opinion and speaking MY truth to power / the status quo.

        And curiously, why does the mention of “mental health” shut down a conversation?

      • perplexed says:

        I never said the topic of mental health shuts down conversation. I have other things and errands I have to do today in my offline life. Spending too much online isn’t personally good for my own mental health. Everyone else feel free to discuss!

      • Christina says:

        Stepup, I have also started to not give a rats behind what people think when I express my truth and anger. I agree with you about not accepting racism, and calling people out about it. That’s the part I absolutely do and continue to do. I think that we agree more than we disagree. BBQ Becky happened near where I live. I’m Mexican American from Compton-Watts, my family is mixed Black, Mexican, and white. I’m tired of waiting too. But I don’t want to close all doors. I want to SLAM some doors, but I don’t want to throw away people who are teachable.

        Keep the faith and the fight, but help us win people to us because we are right. The racists are going to racist, so they are lost. The people who want to know who we REALLY are, let’s teach them.

      • stepup says:

        Aboslutely agree Christina….

        I guess I am frustrated that when we try to “teach” and “point things out” — many people recieve it as being attacked, and then jump on the “enough with this PC cancel culture stuff” — instead of….learning, ya know? It’s gotta take both sides, and I think when people like Obama say things like this, half of the population hears what they want to hear, which is: “It’s not me. It’s them. I don’t need to change at all.”…..and then they don’t bother to make an effort, too.

        Anyway, I am preaching to the choir with you. You seem to get what I’m saying. Cheers!

      • Christina says:

        Stepup, you ARE NOT lying about how so many folks who are truly suffering don’t have a voice. I mentioned AOC, but you are right: you, me, and her get to be educated and middle class, but many of our brothers and sisters don’t get the space to be activists. Hell, my ex took so much of my time to be an activist, and now I’m 51 and exhausted, but my baby has been told to “go back to” her country numerous times, and she was born in Oakland! And it’s exhausting to go through the micro-aggressions. When people say, “all of the PC cancel stuff is so exhausting”, I tell them that me and my people are in pain, and I try to relate it to their experience.

        I don’t know. The allies I have are trying, and they hear me, but not all of them, and I just keep trying to humanize us one white person at a time, one man at a time, one woman at a time, but the senate? Holy crap! Alabama! Georgia! Saudi-F-ing-Arabia!!! How do we slam them shut and not kill the innocents? How do we get people to see that marginalization doesn’t serve them? Cancelling is tempting, but so many vulnerable people are manipulated.

        I didn’t think that white supremists could be converted until I read about one who was converted, and he said that all we had to do when they protest is have a fun filled diversity party next to them. Show them that life doesn’t have to be dark and filled with hate. When we cancel whole swaths of folks, we leave the most vulnerable behind who may not understand that they don’t have to live that way. Now, cancel Matt Lauer? HELL YES!!! Charlie Rose. Hell yes!!! I want to cancel Mitch McConnell, but he has supporters in Kentucky who are those vulnerable folks voting against their self interests. I don’t want to cancel Kentucky; I want to straight talk them and show them that my California life isn’t the nightmare they are sold, and my family isn’t stealing their jobs, and, as a matter of fact, my people are doing jobs no one wants, and no one wants to pay Americans more to do those jobs.

      • stepup says:

        Perplexed, I know you went away, but in the event you come back, I wanted to make one more point.

        You said: “I used the word emotion because telling someone they used the wrong verb ( the example he used) isn’t really activism or calling out racism.”

        This is the fork where I think people lose each other. You see what you said as “just using a word,” whereas someone who has dealt with, and has experience with, being in a marginalized group sees how using a given word in a given way contributes to a larger problem. And no, the person pointing out why it’s problematic may not be an “activist” by your standards, but they are someone who has every right to try and teach how your stance contributes to a problem.

        Think of inequality as a dandelion. The yellow puffs on the top are visible to everyone. The yellow puffs are Charlottesville, Shootings, Trump, etc. But what allows that yellow puff part to grow is the fragile, non-visible roots, under the ground, that we ignore. But to kill off the dandelion, we need to yank it by the roots, or it will just come back.

        So, bringing it back around. You may think your comment about emotions and all that was no big deal, and in the grand picture, it’s not. But it also isn’t helpful. These insidious behaviors and phrases, which we take for granted and don’t explore, are the toxic foundations on which more visible bullshit feeds. Why not learn what those things are, instead of shutting down? We all have “work” to do.

        Hope that makes sense.

      • stepup says:


        I hear ya. And I think we agree, pretty much.

        I’m trying to figure out ways to explain my point of view. But basically, it boils down to: I’m tired of giving people so much space to NOT check themselves and be problematic without consequences, when they don’t return the favor. Plus, a lot of the time, their blind spots directly impinge on my personhood. Yeah, I think that’s my sticking point: the double standard. You know what I’m talking about….lol. :-)

      • madsky says:

        I don’t want to cancel the Trump’s or the Weinstein’s of the world, I want them punished for their wrong deeds and crimes, preferably convicted and jailed. Punishing people on social media and most of the other ways that goes with the mass cancelling culture doesn’t really work for me.

        President Obama does get it, and some of you woke people who think you understand it better than him cause you don’t go to Woody Allen movies and rant on twitter about all the injustice in the world, just don’t get it. How about working to change the laws that make it easier for victims in sexual abuse cases. How about helping all of society more than being obsessed with the crazy rich celebrity who got away with something. Sure their crimes are important, but there are always going to be some who commit crimes. Work to make the system better for everyone and you’ve achieved something. I don’t care if people cancel people they think did something wrong, but I think generally it doesn’t accomplish much. As far as the metoo movement only time will tell. If women have a better time in employment and other areas in the next years then it will have done something, but if we don’t stop just obsessing about a few rich celebrities and actually enact new laws, make systems for women to report than we really haven’t accomplished much for future generations.

      • stepup says:


        First: How do you know what we do and don’t do? Further: Why are you the arbitar of what works and what doesn’t? Why do you think you get to dictate that? As for your assumptions about what “woke” people do and don’t do….your understanding is sophomoric and seems like it only serves to pump up your own ego.

        How about YOU try to listen instead of just deciding what is what, based on your own experiences? The generalizations in your rant are WAY off.

    • runcmc says:

      Is this satire? You can’t possibly be serious. Maybe he’s never dealt with sexual harassment (that we know of) but he’s dealt with a LOT of prejudice and ignorance that he became a beacon of hope for the ability to overcome it.

      If anyone should sit down in this conversation, it’s you. He is more than welcome to share his thoughts, which have always proven to be intelligent and nuanced.

      • Marisse says:

        If you think the hellscape world we live in & the vitriol on SM & beyond as of the last 4 years matches the world from 2008 till the campaigning started for 2016 in’14…..can you send over whatever you’re smokin’? Cause me & the real world would love some.

      • Purplehazeforever says:

        I disagree, Marisse. The last thing I’d tell anyone is to sit down & be quiet. Even people I disagree with. By the same token, I want to hear your opinion, too. So I’m not sure the comments directed at you are productive. Obama has every right to voice his opinion, just like you do & the commenters here. While we don’t live in normal times, there was a lot he said that does ring true for many people. To dismiss it outright because you disagree means you believe in absolute perfection & ideological purity. Maybe you don’t at all but you’re completely dismissing what he said & how many people feel. That’s not right, either. I don’t think anyone can live up to a perfect ideal. He’s talked about this before. That no one is going to save the Democratic party, they have to vote & get back up on their feet. He might not have talked about ideological purity directly but he’s been alluding to it.

      • Tiffany :) says:

        You think he didn’t interact with the world once he stopped being president? He’s been living in the same world you have since he left office and is on social media.

      • WTW says:

        @Tiffany, just what I was thinking. Does she think Obama has been put on ice since he left office? I follow him on Twitter, and he uses social media on a regular basis. He reads a variety of websites and retweets and comments on articles. He is very informed about social media and social media outrage. He’s a very hip ex-president. His music playlists, which he drops on social media, always go viral.

      • The Recluse says:

        He gets it. He had an interview years ago on 60 minutes in which he pointed out that if he was out walking on the sidewalk he would still just be a POC where the police were concerned. He is safer now that he has earned SS protection, but with Drumpf out there fanning hate and nursing his grudges, Obama is still not completely safe.
        I am a little astonished with all the dismissal being directed at Obama. He and Michelle GET it and if they every didn’t, their daughters would bring them up to speed.

    • Christo says:

      Marisse. The world is ambiguous. Yeah, there are the extremes that warrant dismissal outright, but summarily dismissing anyone and everyone for every perceived slight or misstep has taking a seat alongside fake outrage these days about the most trivial and ridiculous of things. I think his argument is that humans are flawed…and while there are legitimate sources of outrage that warrant activism…a mutually-exclusive, hair-trigger, and reactive mindset to most anything in general doesn’t allow for most anyone to grow—-who can grow——which I believe is the majority of us or so I would hope. Reacting to everything waters down what is important and what should truly warrant outrage. This doesn’t mean one CANNOT be outraged by crimes and corruption.

    • SarSte says:

      What I interpret this as is that there needs to be more room for nuance and conversation and GROWTH in the world rn. That’s my biggest problem with American society – a complete lack of nuance. Everything is black or white. Everything is Dems or GOP. Everything is cancelled or not cancelled. One of my fav twitter follows tweeted something the other day along the lines of “y’all pretend to be so woke but you were using f****t as a throwaway insult until 2009″ (shout out Guy Branum, go follow him) and you know what, he’s right. Everyone in this entire world weren’t woke until suddenly they were. It’s so performative and it’s such a joke.

      What he’s NOT telling you to do: forgive or make room for or educate the likes of Trump/Weinstein/etc. Don’t get it twisted.

      • Amy Too says:

        I think that’s part of what he’s trying to say: leave room for people to do better, don’t cancel over little things. But I sort of don’t like it when people opine about whether or not someone deserves to be cancelled, or tells people to not cancel people. Everyone can make their own decisions. What might be an unforgivable offense for one person is something that another person feels can be forgiven. Cancelling is basically just boycotting. If someone decides they don’t want to ever support a certain actor or corporation again, so what? It’s not like “cancelling” is legally binding and it’s not like if one person cancels someone then that means everyone else has to cancel them, too. I think it’s kind of silly to insist that any actor or corporation DESERVES to have everyone’s support. Or that’s it’s somehow unfair if someone says they don’t want to go see a certain movie or buy a product.

        And the other part of his message was that you can’t just do all of your activism online, you have to do stuff in real life too. But I think the way he delivered that message is not great. With such an emphasis on calling out young people and basically saying that they’re doing it all wrong and they don’t get how to be activists. There’s almost a mocking tone. Like he’s mocking young people for thinking they’re woke when he thinks they’re not doing enough. I think he’s painting with too broad a brush, but that happens when you dismiss things, like cancelling and online activism, wholesale. He doesn’t seem to be acknowledging that canceling people/corporations has led to changes in real life. Boycotts can and do work. Social media is a great way to put a lot of pressure on people/corporations directly and immediately. It’s a way for the little people who usually don’t have a voice to speak directly to power. That intense public pressure can and has led to changes.

        I feel like he may have been trying to inspire more people to do “real life” activism outside the house… but his delivery was off. And with so many people in the world truly deserving of intense criticism, why would you use your speech to call out young people and the people who are trying to make a difference and trying to be woke/progressive, even if they might be doing it mostly online?

      • DaisySharp says:

        Hmmm. Very thoughtful post Amy. You made me stop and rethink my first impression of this.

      • perplexed says:

        If you look at his actual words, he’s talking about being judgmental which I think we’re all guilty of online. He even uses an example of using the wrong verb. I really don’t think he’s taking about huge offences like what Weinstein has done.

        He also talks about how social media accelerates a problem, not necessarily that it’s the sole driver.

      • Christina says:

        Sarste, I agree. Our society is dumbing down more than ever. Everything isn’t black/white right/left right/wrong, but many marginalized people have been ignored. Many countries have been transformed by racist policies from colonial countries like the US and England, and the marginalized people who endured those “uses” by the colonizers live with it everyday, and we are told that we should just accept this, that things are getting better, but we don’t see it. We see innocents killed in their homes by police.

    • Esmom says:

      Please. He brings more thought and nuance to the discourse with just a few occasional sentences than a lot of talking heads can’t begin to approach even with a daily platform. I feel like he’s cautioning his audience not to weaponize something like cancel culture like the right does with its never ending grievances and hypocrisy. He’s right. We should be better than that.

      • antipodean says:

        @Amy Too, thank you for your clear and concise summation of Obama’s point. I read your comment nodding my head in agreement.
        I have to add that I could weep at what we have lost since 2008. The world has become so aggressive and coarse in the intervening years. Attack and personal insults seem to be the first resort of the loudest and emptiest of vessels. It was so soothing to listen to Obama’s dulcet, intelligent, and almost compassionate (dare I use the word) tones. Please, please, can we move on to a time when the lowest common denominator does not dominate and over-rule the best of what we can be! I have to keep hoping that it is not only possible, but that it will once again be our common goal.

    • Debby says:

      You are without knowing it confirming his point though. You may not be using the word “cancel” but by telling him to retire just because you don’t agree with his take on something you’re actually proving his point about how shortsighted cancellation culture can be.

      • Christo says:

        Excellent point Derby. She totally reacted and “cancelled” Obama’s comment without even bothering to understand it. Marisse, you are in for a very singular existence and perhaps the false comfort of arms-length social media interaction with a collective group of people with whom you can agree on a few issues—-that allows you to be ignorant of traits for which you would even dismiss those people.

    • VS says:

      Wow ‘Obama’s spiel’………I could listen to the man all day!

      @Silas —–thank you; You have answered it so well

    • Tuntmore says:

      This isn’t a new world; it’s the same old world as it’s always been. Humans haven’t changed (and won’t change) — we just have more ways to express ourselves to large audiences now. Anyone who thinks that “cancel culture” is going to actually effect a change in human nature is delusional.

      People have been practicing forms of “cancel culture” for millennia, in the form of exile, excommunication, and other methods. Humans are social creatures, so being ostracized is one of the worst punishments available. What people are “cancelled” for depends on the societal norms of the time/culture.

      Obama is an intelligent, thoughtful, “big picture” person. After being president for 8 years, he harbors few illusions about humanity. He’s not saying that people shouldn’t be held accountable, or that bad people shouldn’t be “cancelled.” His point is that A. even good people eff up sometimes, and B. that just tweeting outrage about bad people doesn’t qualify as social justice and activism.

      Obama lived through the civil rights movement, in which people fought, protested, and died in their efforts. Civil rights activists were assassinated and their homes were bombed; college students registering minorities to vote were killed and buried in shallow graves; guns, gas, and fire hoses were used on protestors by the authorities. We all like to make fun of baby boomers, but the truth is that, as young people, they fought like crazy for causes such as civil rights, an end to war, denuclearization, and environmental awareness.

      Just because we have different tools at our disposal now doesn’t mean that we’re fundamentally different from people in the past. Some people will fight for equality and peace; some will remain indifferent and/or inactive; and some will be a-holes who need to be held accountable. Implying that people need to be quiet because they don’t align with your exact beliefs is simplistic and misguided.

    • DaisySharp says:

      Obama gets it, he’s not talking about metoo! omg, he is just saying don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. He’s saying if someone is overall a good person, don’t say, well they don’t support medicare4all! they want to get to universal coverage some other way, CANCELLED! That’s what he’s saying. And human beings make mistakes. That goes to a Justin Trudeau type situation. He is NOT saying that a garbage dump human being like Weinstein or Trump should be understood and shown kindness. Uh uh!

      • Busybody says:

        Perhaps Obama is thinking of people like John Conyers whose leadership in the Civil Rights movement and public service (in the military and then in government) can be respected even though he was also a sexual harasser.

      • STRIPE says:

        “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good” Louder for the people in the back!! This is the biggest place Democrats have to improve IMO.

      • Erinn says:

        Busybody – yes! And while I enjoy my right to vote as a Canadian woman – I also know that many women who were involved in the movement also supported Eugenics which I find absolutely abhorrent.

      • madsky says:

        No he’s not saying people shouldn’t be punished, and he wasn’t talking about specific movements either. He was talking about the Democratic candidates and degrees of things. People aren’t perfect and if at one time they voted or did something stupid look at it and decide whether the whole of the person is worth your support and don’t put a purity test on them, like Republicans with abortion or that’s the only issue you are going to have and we will end up with Trump or Trump adjacent with Pence if we do.

        Virginia is a perfect example with their governor and his blackface issues. A lot of woke white people were upset with him and wanted him removed, but African Americans in Virginia were still really for him. When polled why, they said first they thought most white people did this back then, which is a sad commentary, but then they said he actually enacted many programs that worked for our community. Seriously, I think African Americans as a constituency is one of the most pragmatic group voting. President Obama is very pragmatic he knows we don’t get everything, but maybe if we get a little bit we can improve more lives. Now with the movements, I think Obama is encouraging these people who are passionate about it to also push for more action and not just talk or tweet, etc. I am active somewhat, but I get it I’m not as active with causes as I could or should be either. I think he’s just reminded us all to be realistic and realize not everyone is going to agree with you so you won’t find the perfect candidate, but they all are better than Trump, and to put a bit more effort in the game to help our society.

    • Jerusha says:

      Thanks to all who responded to Marisse. You expressed what I was thinking perfectly and much more eloquently than I could. Also more politely, I admit.

    • Derrière says:

      @Marisse, the whole point iDVD thzy has to go beyond the #metoo on social media to get real activism done. We’re all guilty of giving a hot take then doing no follow up. And that’s what’s he’s saying. Go a bit deeper because hashtags and cancelling people are just on the surface. I do believe that everyone who stays cancelled does deserve it though.

    • Arpeggi says:

      You’re comment is pretty much exactly what he’s talking about, d’you realize that?

      Yes, there are awful ppl that shouldn’t be given a tribute anymore because they’re awful, but can we still use nuances when talking about general ideas? To tell a man who receives death threats daily for daring to have been POTUS while black that he doesn’t get it and should shut up and get lost, well that lacks nuances

    • Pixie says:

      Hi @Marisse, I totally get the point you are making and I agree that Obama’s point of view on this is outdated. As much as people love the Obama’s and they seem like decent people, imo they have always peddled a brand of respectability and civility politics that serves the powerful more than it serves the marginalized. People use social media to call out powerful corporations and individuals that they would otherwise have no way of reaching. The idea that these powerful people are sooo hurt and sooo powerless against ‘cancel culture’ is preposterous and disingenuous. Can anyone name one person that has truly been ‘cancelled’ and no longer has a career due to cancel culture? Louis CK and James Franco are still working and even criminal Harvey Weinstein is gallivanting around NY. Kanye has been offending everyone for literal years and he still has a succesful business and no issues promoting his new music. So what are we really talking about here?

      • Mariettaj91 says:

        @Pixie, Is Kevin Spacey Cancelled? I’m pretty sure he has no career left. On IMDB he’s had nothing since 2018. I’m pretty sure he’s cancelled.

      • Pixie says:

        @Mariettaj91 Um you mean Kevin Spacey that was charged with felony sexual assault after literal decades of accusations? He wasn’t cancelled by online ‘cancel culture’, he was charged with a felony. Surely, you can see the difference?

      • Ellen Olenska says:

        Throwing in an observation. Isn’t it interesting that so far the only “ me too” folks who have been cancelled in a deep way are 1. African American Bill Cosby and 2. Gay man Kevin Spacey. Of course Jeffrey Epstein is now also cancelled…but only because he got caught a second time.

        So far the white straight guys are doing just fine working on their comebacks… ( and compare and contrast with the treatment of Kathy Griffin)

        I am with President Obama on this one though, too many people consider online activism as enough. It’s not, never has been.

      • perplexed says:

        I think Jeffrey Epstein got cancelled because he dropped dead.

        But, yeah, your point still stands.

      • Pixie says:

        @Ellen, hey, yeah that’s definitely a fair and pretty damning observation. Although, I will say they weren’t so much cancelled by online ‘cancel culture’, as they were cancelled by the American Judicial System.

    • Annie says:

      Not going to offer any thoughts other than let’s not call a person an artifact. Rhetorical flourishes can have unintended consequences.

    • Jaded says:

      @Marisse – your opinion seems to be the typical knee-jerk reaction of today’s social media bloviators where activism is often a cover for thoughtless, discussion-less cancel culture gone mad. Unfortunately there are a million cowards out there who use these platforms to troll, insult and incite rancor and disagreement rather than keep an open mind through calm debate and information-sharing. You act like Obama’s 8 years in office was a thousand years ago and that nothing other than the present has any value. Well…no actually, you should look at the past like it’s a giant library of information that we can draw on, study, modify, learn from instead of instantly consigning it in the trash bin of existence because there’s something newer, better, faster and doesn’t require people to actually sit down, put their own agendas aside and LISTEN.

    • perplexed says:

      Even with the #MeToo movement, there are contradictions and people don’t cancel altogether.

      Someone like Rose McGowan had something terrible happen to her. But she works with people who did the same terrible things to other people. Then there’s the other lady who was with Anthony Bourdain who was victimized but then proceeded to victimize someone else.

      It’s all a bit confusing. No one lives by an absolutely perfect standard. People are vocally judgmental, but don’t necessarily live up to the same standards they’re imposing on other people. At some point one does start to think cancel culture isn’t really accomplishing anything but almost seems like a platform for self-promotion.

    • perplexed says:

      He says this: ““I do get a sense sometimes now among certain young people, and this is accelerated by social media — there is this sense sometimes of the way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people, and that’s enough. If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself. Did you see how woke I was, I called you out.”

      Yeah, I’m pretty sure he’s not talking about Weinstein. He uses using the wrong verb as an example.

      He could simply be talking about people fighting with each other on Twitter in online arguments. Those arguments do devolve into absurdity sometimes. We’re guilty of it in a lot of places on the internet, including blogs.

      Since he’s a busy guy who’s done a lot, I can see how he’d be like “I don’t have time for this.”


    • NYer says:

      stepup, my point exactly – I think we’re in agreement here. Might there be a point somewhere between letting hate speech go unaddressed and ‘I hear a microaggression, you’re canceled!’?

    • Sarah says:

      Jesus – a perfect example of all of the outrage. He didn’t tear anyone down, but you did in response. “Honestly…just sit down & be quiet”. Kinda sums up his point, way to be the example of what not to be these days. Kill any conversation you don’t automatically agree with, no depth, no consideration.


    • Raina says:

      Marisse, the only reason you’re getting a justifiable amount of backlash is because you act as though you’re some new wise revolutionary who is starting a new world single handedly and only came alive 2016. The kind of person who is part of the new dialogue shutting everyone up and using repetitive lingo as in have a seat and cancelled and whatever else. I may be wrong, for your sake I hope I am, but you’re probably young and outraged. I get it. But telling a person who has definitely went through hell that you don’t have time for their speal, although you clearly do and you make use of your time any way you want, is the self righteousness that got all of us here in the first place.
      I’m not a huge fan of the cancel culture personally and things going to an extreme because that means we, as fallible human beings, are being intolerant to potential growth and pretending that it’s impossible to achieve a higher level of understanding this lifetime. In some cases, yes, some don’t this time around. But to cancel a soul entirely and indefinitely is also off putting to me for obvious reasons. What Obama was trying to say is that people sometimes compromise for what they believe is the greater good and don’t always get it right…initially or ever. I respect that immensely and I believe he has 2 young daughters who influence him on this as he sees how their peer group operates, how dangerous extremism can be. How black and white and ruthless.
      That said, there are plenty of things I do not agree with regarding Obama’s choices but I absolutely respect him. He earned his place in not having a seat, he is a man who can stand quite well.
      I’m honestly not trying to preach or teach; I simply want you to understand the core of the backlash and the way life will operate that’s not always parallel to your extraordinary high standards. I’m positive you have compromised before or taken missteps (like now…) but you would be opposed to being cancelled for it I imagine.

      Vote. Make a difference your way. Go forward and be grateful we are all given another chance in this world. Fight for that. Be true and passionate. But, do not tell anyone to take a seat unless you offer them your chair.

      • M.A.F. says:

        Very nicely put.

      • Pixie says:

        @Raina oh it’s ‘that self righteousness that got all of us here in the first place’? I could have sworn it was white nationalism and ideologies of white supremacy that got us here. No offence, but your entire comment is deeply condescending and melodramatic. Nobody is ‘cancelling a entire soul entirely and indefinitely’, and to pretend that is even something that happens is disingenuous. In fact, are you able to name any such person that has fallen victim to this so cruel cancel culture that hasn’t committed a federal offence? I’m genuinely asking. @Marisse doesn’t seem to have extraordinarily high standards, and even if she did that’s not an unreasonable standard to put on someone with extraordinary power and influence. Obama is using language that has been weaponised by right wingers against marginalised people with limited power and access. That people don’t have time to hear it, shouldn’t be a shock.

    • kerwood says:

      THIS is why Donald Trump is President.

      • Pixie says:

        @kerwood ummmmm what?

      • kerwood says:

        @Pixie, Dismissing President Barack Obama? The only person qualified to dismiss President Obama is Michelle Obama and she has too much sense to do something that stupid.

        President Obama is one of the most intelligent men in the United States and the kind of thinking that would dismiss him out of hand is the same kind of thinking that believed Donald Trump belonged in the White House.

  2. Rapunzel says:

    Cancel culture has been around always. Republicans, for example, canceled Obama because he was part black. And HRC cause she was a woman.

    • Esmom says:

      Ugh, don’t get me started. They weren’t “cancelled” for valid reasons, though. I feel like there is a place for legitimately calling out people on their true bad/criminal behavior but the right uses it to their advantage and, not surprisingly, not in good faith.

      • Rapunzel says:

        I just meant coordinated campaigns to smear folks have long been a political tool. Politicians kinda invented the “one strike you’re out” attitude.

        Is cancel culture any better? Depends who’s canceling. Some use it wisely, others get outraged over anything. Like any element of culture it has good and bad.

      • Esmom says:

        Ah, got it. And I agree, it does have good and bad elements. And that’s what Obama was cautioning people not to get caught up in, the “all or nothing” thinking and mindlessly just posting about it.

      • Rapunzel says:

        Yep. And I like what he says about social media activism replacing real activism. It’s true. Like, supporting me too while not caring about victims in your community.

    • WTW says:

      I don’t think “cancel” culture is the same as systemic racism, which is what Obama was up against. Canceling refers to people who were formerly in the public’s good graces and then did something so scandalous or reprehensible they had to be canceled. But, yes, I agree that some form of this has always existed.

  3. Who ARE these people? says:

    I think he’s trying to help voters understand that even strong candidates for office aren’t Messiahs and it’s not helpful to hold them up to that impossible standard. That social media may flatten and erase some of complexity and ambiguities he’s faced in years of public life. I don’t think he’s saying there is no immorality or that anything goes.

    • Debby says:

      Exactly and it’s a fair point. People like Trump or Weinstein are fair game. They have proven for decades and continue to prove they’re monsters so a lifetime cancellation is completely warranted. To cancel someone for some stupid thing they did or said years ago and completely ignore anything else is shortsighted. Especially considering that if you dig deep enough anyone and everyone has done or said something stupid. If they see and truly feel this cancelling just makes it impossible to be human.

    • lucy2 says:

      Good point.
      There is no perfect candidate who will make everyone happy, but all of them are better than the current situation, so people are going to have to suck it up and vote for whoever gets the nomination, if we want things to change.

  4. Diana says:

    I love this man with every fiber of my being. He is so introspective and thoughtful. Just a kind, balanced, even guy who cares. We need more of his kind of leadership. It’s beautiful.

  5. Michael says:

    I think he is speaking more of the stupid mistakes people have made like saying something dumb in a tweet 10 years ago or when you were a child. Celebrities get pile driven for tweets they sent at 13 or 19 that were mildly racist or ignorant in general without people taking a look at who they are now. Nobody is perfect and we all have done some stupid things but when they are online those stupid things live forever and always there to bite us 5 to 10 years later

    • DaisySharp says:

      Yep! That’s what I got. I think this was completely misread by the media yesterday. I personally thought he was especially thinking of Justin Trudeau. We, and by we I mean the non-facists, almost lost Canada because of Trudeau’s blackface history. And Obama came out shortly before that election and endorsed him. A lot of hot takes said Canadians would resent him getting involved. I didn’t think he was getting involved. I read that as listen, I’m black, Justin’s still my friend, I forgive him, don’t vote for the Nazis over this. And thank god, Canada held the line, because I need them there. Just a bit to my north here in NY, my escape.

      Oh and of course, PS, there was some bernie bro shade in there too. Of course there was! Obama left it all on the field for Hillary and enough berners stayed home and pouted or voted Stein out of their “purity” that we have trump. So…

  6. Enn says:

    I love Obama, but if you read between the lines this is support for Biden.

    • Purplehazeforever says:

      I don’t know, that wasn’t my first read of it.

    • Christo says:

      I respectfully disagree. This is a general statement that would apply to anyone.

    • Esmom says:

      Ha, I didn’t even think of him. I thought of Elizabeth Warren, tbh.

      • DaisySharp says:

        I read it as Justin Trudeau and also, .shade on bernie bros. But it could be read as Biden I suppose. It’s not for Warren. Obama is not a warren fan, nor should he be expected to be the way she treated him. I’m sure he’s chill about it and would totally support her if she’s the nominee, but he’s not giving any under cover endorsements of Lady Warren.

      • Esmom says:

        Oh I didn’t think he was secretly endorsing her or anyone else really, just making some thoughtful points and I thought of her. Justin Trudeau makes sense.

    • ema says:

      this seems more as shade for the purity test idealism bernie bros. this notion that you have to have always been on the right side of everything in history forever or else your cancelled. the left is great at self-destruction and this is largely the reason for it.

      • Purplehazeforever says:

        I see it as shade for the purity tests that some people have for candidates & not necessarily as a statement for Biden, Trudeau or against Warren or Sanders. I’ve run across it on Twitter mainly, not here. People will not vote for the Democratic candidate unless it falls with their test & I mean ideological views. If the candidate doesn’t come out & support say Medicare for All, the Green Deal, etc…they will not vote for that candidate & do not care if Trump is reelected. Think, Susan Sarandon. It has nothing to do with if they dressed up in blackface like Trudeau or were like Biden & sniffed hair & hugged women, it’s about ideology. They only care about their ideological views & not the country as a whole..

      • perplexed says:

        That point about Susan Sarandon is a good one.

        I have no idea what she’s actually managing to accomplish despite being so vocal.

      • BorderMollie says:

        Not supporting drone strikes on innocents and refusing to embrace a military industrial complex that destroys and pollutes the world while robbing our children of a future is not a purity test. It’s basic decency.

    • Allie says:

      This can be about anyone. And he is absolutely right.

    • Scorpio ♏️ Rants says:

      People find what they look for. I didn’t see it as a sleight of hand to support Biden at all. As stated elsewhere it’s applicable in many places.

      It’s truth. He nailed it totally IMO.

      I also despise the “cancel” culture. It negates our humanity. People can and do change every day….sometimes good, sometimes bad. Canceling someone is as short sighted as canonizing someone. We should strive to see people where they are today, not yesterday or tomorrow. That doesn’t mean we make ourselves or loved ones vulnerable in the process though our being blind or naive.

      And keyboard warrioring is indeed lazy and narcissistic. Most do it in an echo chamber anyway and really for ego purposes…so they can feel smug when affirmed and powerful when they block dissent. Real growth, real learning and real change oftenhappens in places of discomfort which usually means you are authentically interacting with those who think or see things differently.

      And that’s my keyboard warrioring for the day.

    • lucy2 says:

      I don’t see it that way, but it could be applied to him, or anyone really.

    • The Recluse says:

      I’m not sure of that. Obama knows Biden well, knows his weaknesses and flaws, some of which we all have been seeing on the campaign trail. And I remember hearing whispers several months ago that Obama wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about Biden running for reasons he will not publicly express since he does not want to be seen as putting a thumb on the scale where our decisions in the primaries are concerned. Obama will back whomever we choose in the end.

  7. Sierra says:

    Ohhh I do miss this man as president..


    British Citizen

  8. perplexed says:

    For some reason, Justin Trudeau came to mind. I wondered what his perception of him was after the racist pictures came out, and in the end, he endorsed him. He endorsed on objectively looking at policy, not emotion.

    I also think he could be talking about people like Demi Lovato or Miley Cyrus, not Harvey Weinstein. Heck, maybe he’s even talking about Kanye (a much more extreme example.) I think he has Kanye streaming on his phone.

    I can’t tell if Weinstein is actually cancelled though. I’m sure some of us are making the mistake of watching Shakespeare in Love when it comes on the tv because we forget he executive-produced him. The sentiment might be there but I’m not sure if we’re actually executing it. I feel like we’re talking about stuff, but not really doing anything. Micheal Jackson is another example. Don’t tell me someone hasn’t bopped their head to “Beat It” when it comes on the radio even though we think he’s guilty. So, I’m not really sure what cancel culture really is in terms of actual actions. I’m not convinced any of us as regular people really do much to change anything in economic terms. What IS cancel culture in entertainment? Just randomly talking about things online, but not really executing anything in terms of constructive action?

    I’d like to cancel Mark Zuckerberg, but I still have a Facebook account.

  9. Becks1 says:

    I agree with what he is saying. People like to say “so and so is canceled” and then they feel like they have “done” something. And there are some people who should be “canceled.” Harvey Weinstein is an obvious example. But the phrase does get thrown around way too much and its starting to lose all meaning.

    From a political perspective, compromise can be good sometimes. But for many years now we can see how the tea party and the republican party in general demand total loyalty and allegiance, and there is no room for compromise. How can Democrats compromise when the other side isn’t willing to budge? That’s not compromise, that’s caving in. So we have this huge standstill in DC. And then if someone does move to the other side of the aisle for a bill, they’re accused of betrayal, not being loyal to the party, etc. It’s not sustainable in my opinion, or at least not healthy for the government.

  10. HK9 says:

    I think he’s right. A lot of people think because they put their views on social media that they’ve done something, and they don’t do anything other than that. They don’t give their own actual time in service of a particular cause, which in many cases is what is needed. Life is messy, and we need to deal with that complexity if we’re going to get anywhere.

  11. Insomniac says:

    He made a lot of people on my Twitter feed mad with this yesterday, but I don’t care. I think he’s right.

  12. Stara says:

    He doesn’t say the phrase ‘cancel culture’. He’s criticising ppl that think highly of themselves because they tweet and do nothing else. Which is valid. I was there and seeing it twisted into a critique of cancel culture is interesting. It really was more about how ppl can and should get more involved. This was just an example of a way that’s not constructive.

    • DaisySharp says:

      You were there? I have been wondering about this because none of the videos I saw show him saying cancel culture at all. SO I didn’t know if he said it and it just wasn’t on the tape, or they were making this up. I am not surprised to find this out, thank you for clearing this up for me.

      • Stara says:

        Yes, it was absolutely about how to engage with people you may not agree with to enact change. He digressed slightly to talk about how it’s easy to criticise others for not being perfect and not act and feel like you’ve done something. but the greater point was how to get involved and be effective in your activism.

  13. LP says:

    So many of the “kids these days and their cancel culture!!1!!” takes are made in patently bad faith, by people who are looking to avoid consequences for actions for anyone white/rich/straight/Christian/male, etc. This is separate from Obama’s thoughtful, nuanced take (which he’s gained from his years in politics and in the presidency, during the rise of social media and while facing some of the ugliest smears and underhanded tactics America has ever seen), but it can be jarring to read at first!

  14. Annabel says:

    I think he’s right. Being able to deal with nuance and ambiguity and dissenting viewpoints is an important part of adulting.

  15. detritus says:

    Cancel culture is part of capitalist activism though. It’s the idea of voting with your dollars, and refusing to support those you don’t agree with. Obama, I adore you, but this is a stupid take based on your buddy Trudeaus missteps. He’s made it about politicians, when the worst of recent years could have been avoided by cancelling Trump.

    • perplexed says:

      ” He’s made it about politicians, when the worst of recent years could have been avoided by cancelling Trump.”

      The worst of recent years could have been avoided by actually VOTING. A lot of people didn’t vote in the last election, and, well, Trump happened. I really don’t think the majority even like him. Everyone was just either lazy or didn’t have the candidate they wanted, nobody voted, and I think this proves his point. People have to actually VOTE to make a difference rather than just argue with someone online or make a made face on tv and then go back to watching their tv show.

      I don’t think someone like Susan Sarandon is responsible for Trump. But I think she, as someone who did vote for a 3rd party candidate, wound up accidentally cancelling her vote rather than actually cancelling a person. In the end, her criticisms of Hillary didn’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things and she still got stuck with a candidate I’m sure she secretly knows is horrible but can’t bring herself to admit is terrible because that would mean admitting she really didn’t make a difference at all as a voter.

  16. Ceecu33 says:

    Somethings/people with cancel culture are necessary like men who prey on women in the industry and in the job world period. Anything misogynistic or racist makes my blood boil, but it often goes farther these days. We have a tendency to cancel people for stuff they said as children or decades before. Of course there should be a fine line and some criticism is expected, but it’s kind of ridiculous and extreme a lot of times. We all have said stupid sh!t at some point in our lives and sometimes on a bad day we ranged on social media over nonsense. 20 years later you run for a political position or perhaps you are selected as a spokesperson for your favorite beer, what you said 20 years ago should be held against you? People change. From 18 to 33 I went from an extremely close-minded individual to the complete opposite. I married a Muslim man. At 18 if you introduced me to my now husband I would have stuck my nose up and assumed he was a terrorist. That’s my issue with cancel culture. It’s like we’re afraid to forgive people

  17. perplexed says:

    People got upset when Ellen was seen laughing with George W. Bush. And everyone got mad on Twitter. He could be talking about something as easy as that.

    In the end, we all moved on the next day to some other story. And nothing changed in the general political landscape.

  18. Libby says:

    Kaiser, thanks for the thoughtful explanation of where you and the site are on cancel culture.
    I love Obama. This is an example of why I love Obama. And yes, I’m white.
    I don’t read Obama as telling white people like me “You’re fine just the way you are, you’re great, you don’t heed to change.” In my experience, it’s generosity of spirit like his that makes people want to change and learn and try to connect with others, and gives them hope that these things are possible.

  19. No Doubt says:

    I completely agree with him. The cancel culture is ridiculous. This site is very much guilty of this. Kanye has been so-called canceled all year, but there are still plenty of posts and comments about him because it gets traffic which equals money. Besides this site, Kanye still sells albums and crappy merchandise. He is a rotten person, but he is not canceled by any stretch of the imagination. It’s fine if this site or people want to report on or talk about him, but don’t fib and say he’s canceled.

    • Carol says:

      Totally agree. I think the cancel culture is completely ridiculous too. It really hinders our ability to “deal” with people who are completely different from us just because of their opinions (I’m not talking about criminals here like Epstein). Yes, there are people whom I would love to have shut up like MAGA folks. But cancelling them removes any chance of a dialog or a smidgen of a chance to change their mind. Have you never heard of a Neo-Nazi changing his views? I have. Its not a way to “change the world.” Cancel culture just shuts off ANY possible change.

  20. otaku fairy.... says:

    A concern I have about ‘Cancel culture’ is how people tend to selectively weaponize it against groups already seen as less than, and whom they’re just tired of being told not to treat the way they used to. It becomes about justifying or minimizing discrimination, dehumanization, and abuse thrown at a group instead of just rightfully calling out an individual’s problematic behavior.
    “Why can’t we say things we said a decade ago? Why should we have to pretend to take this issue that people have suffered and died over seriously? Ugh. This group has experienced worse pain, so like, shouldn’t they all be numbed up now? These people are taught before or at puberty how their group will be treated, so why the anger? Free speech! I pray that that what one member did is finally bad enough to silence the whole group forever!” That’s all about resenting/fearing progress.

  21. perplexed says:

    I think he’s saying that there’s a futility to patting yourself on the back just because you managed to argue with someone online. It might be the patting yourself on the back for doing very little that he takes issue with, not even that we managed to pass judgement.

    We may be erroneously expanding the scope of his meaning beyond what he intended.

    You’ll often see celebrities arguing with each other online, but then nothing changes. So, honestly, I don’t think he’s wrong. The current occupant of the White House is wasting his time on Twitter getting into beefs on people, and this is supposed to help us how???

    He’s probably saying what we’re all saying (but at times fail to do): Do More, Do better.

  22. BC says:

    Aww, Obama is defending his brother in bromance, Trudeau. Its so obvious. Woke culture has been there since forever and he only speaks abt it now? Trudeau was so cancelled to me after that blackface drama then Obama came out to support him last minute. I guess he mustve been with his advisors trying to figure out how it would look for a black man to support a white guy caught in blackface in the 21st century who happens to be his bestie. They probably advised him to only speak up last minute. And he just couldnt wait to give the world a tongue lashing on how we are judging flawed, GOOD people. Yaaaawn. I love Obama but he can be so problematic. Glad hes showing his true colours more and more. He never did anything abt police brutality while in office and i wont forget how he did North Africa, Libya to be specific, well it was Hillary but he was right behind her. Im still waiting on his book but supporting Trudeaus RACISM is NOT cool Obama.

  23. perplexed says:

    I think what we’re doing online is having “conversations”, but not necessarily activism. I think being an activist means you’ll actually put yourself on the line for something.

  24. Well Wisher says:

    I will borrow the comment from “culookin” and “BadOmbre”

    “Let’s take a quick look at some supposedly “Cancelled” people:

    Mel Gibson: Currently making movies in Hollywood.

    R. Kelly: In prison for being a serial child rapist, still has adoring fans somehow.

    Harvey Weinstein: Currently working behind the scenes in Hollywood.

    Bill Cosby: In prison for being a serial rapist, still has adoring fans somehow.

    Matt Lauer: More than likely looking for new work in TV News.

    Louis C.K.: Still doing stand up tours.

    I could go on, but y’all get the point. There’s no mystical cancel culture that’s preventing these cultural figures from still flourishing. The only thing occasionally stopping them is the criminal justice system. Most of these “cancelled” people are never going to see any real blowback other than people choosing not to support their bullshit.”

    “Yeah, PLENTY of failed people and ideas need to be cancelled.”

  25. Jen says:

    This isn’t the same as conservatives disingenuously saying we need to find common ground and liberals are the divisive ones. He’s saying, as he pretty much always does to young people, become real activists. Do stuff. And honestly I’m seeing a lot of what he’s saying the problem is in the comment section here, as much as I enjoy it for other reasons. But I do agree that there has been some positive traction in a few instances like #metoo. This is very “on brand” for Obama speaking to high school and college age people and I think there’s a lot of misreading that in the comments. He begged people to get up and volunteer as he left office and to mobilize around voting because he was worried about exactly what happened happening.

  26. Estonian Bot says:

    I”ve cancelled Amazon. I’m prepared to go without stuff if Amazon is the only place I can get it. I also won’t pay for Foxtel even though they have the best football coverage. Sure my actions won’t stop them, but that doesn’t mean I should be actively supporting them.

  27. ans says:

    I think what a lot of people may be missing is that he’s not criticizing anyone who speaks out on twitter. He’s criticizing the people who feel that being morally superior is enough. For example, Celebitchy may cancel someone or tweet with outrage but then is promoting civil discussion and bringing value to the conversation by writing and prompting further thought by its readers. So I don’t think it would fit into the category of what’s being discussed here.

    I also don’t think commenters canceling him for these comments see the irony…

  28. perplexed says:

    I think cancel culture only works if people follow through on it. From what I can tell no one really does. We just say someone is cancelled but we’re still providing clicks for ttt he them.

  29. sue denim says:

    Love him, but no… I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately… It’s nice to think when they go low we can go high, but you can’t compromise with fascists… We’d all be goose stepping (though I wouldn’t be here) if we’d tried that w the nazis… Sometimes things are black and white…and being neutral is what sustains the worst among us…

    • sue denim says:

      just to add, I think he prob did mean something else w this statement as others here have pointed out, but I also feel like his decency was sometimes problematic as well intentioned as it was…

  30. perplexed says:

    I think Billy Bush may have been cancelled (until he finds a way to make a comeback) but the guy who made the actual comments is now President of the United States. In instances like this, cancel culture does go a bit awry.

    Billy Bush learned a lesson (I think?). But I also don’t think he was going to ever inflict the kind of damage that Donald Trump does both in America and globally, even if he hadn’t experienced the growing pains of being punished for laughing at the kind of jokes Donald Trump makes.

  31. A says:

    Someone pointed something out on Twitter which has stuck with me ever since. It should have been called “accountability culture” from the very beginning. Because it’s not about cancelling people for the sake of it. It’s about holding people accountable for the things they do say that are hurtful and awful and cause actual harm to people. You want to be an asshole about LGBTQ+ rights? You have to held accountable for that. You want to be a dick about women? You have to be held accountable for that. You wanna be a racist? You have to held accountable for that. People are running scared and getting angry because, for the first time in a long time, there are potentially LEGIT consequences for people who spew dumb sh-t unchecked. You could lose your friends. You could lose your job. And hopefully, just maybe, people will start to think twice about the things they say and the prejudices they hold. Because a lot of people do not hold them in ignorance. They hold them with full understanding that what they’re doing is hurtful to people who don’t have the power to fight back. They want to inflict that hurt without feeling any blowback. They don’t get to.

    So yeah. F-ck any criticism of accountability culture. You don’t get to dispute my humanity and act like thinking I deserve to be treated poorly for simply existing is a “different opinion.” You’re hurting me. You’re harming my life. And there should be consequences for that.

  32. adastraperaspera says:

    Obama is warning us that a house divided will not stand. He is providing real leadership, and not sound bites. Listen carefully. This is a person who has had access to the highest levels of information about what is a threat to our national security. What are the chances that many of the social justice hashtag movements I might agree with are actually created and pushed by hostile foreign governments to divide us before the 2020 election? Pretty high, I think. We have evidence that the 2016 Russian interference included:

    “… the Russian trolls used Facebook’s targeting tools to focus its messages on specific demographics of the American population based on users’ race, gender, age, sexual orientation, political affiliation, and interest in things like the Tea Party, Malcolm X, “funny pics,” Fox News, and Maya Angelou. Perhaps the most striking thing in this batch of ads…is how fixated the [Russian] IRA was on racial tensions in general and Black Lives Matter in particular.

  33. Meg says:

    I saw a meme that said,
    ‘ it’s like no one can say something racist these days without being called racist ‘

  34. Lexluthorblack says:

    This comment section felt so white and very dismissive.