Tweet, Cancel, Repeat

By Ciara McCrory

Last week, TikTok influencer and self-proclaimed ‘big sister’ of the internet, Christina ‘Tinx’ Najjar, fell from grace as hurtful, fatphobic and somewhat questionable Tweets resurfaced from her past.

While Tinx was quick to issue an apology, saying she was “ashamed and embarrassed” by her mean-spirited posts, the internet hoards seemingly weren’t feeling so forgiving after she failed to acknowledge some right-wing, xenophobic retweets and likes from as late as 2020.

Cancel culture is nothing new. We’ve seen everyone from Chrissy Teigen, Zoella, and Kevin Hart jeopardise their careers when things they had tweeted in the past resurfaced. The revered Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Will Smith, is currently hanging by a thread after his controversial Oscars slap. 2021 alone saw once beloved celebrities like JK Rowling, Ellen DeGeneres and Matt Damon getting cancelled for various transgressions.

But it isn’t just individual celebrities and influencers who are at risk from being cancelled. Brands aren’t safe from cancel culture either. Fashion retailer, Revolve, was denounced last week after a misguided activation at Coachella and closer to home, the backlash to P&O Ferries’ controversial mass firings has seen many call for a boycott.

Contracts have been dropped, movies have flopped, and brands have been left extremely red-faced after internet users have done some digging or a celebrity or influencer has unwittingly revealed their ugly side.

But is cancelling ever the answer?

Cancellation is ultimately linked to accountability. The rise of social media has meant that the once disenfranchised can now voice their discontent at the powerful in society, whether it be a politician or a TikToker. An exercise in democracy, everyday people can, in theory, call out those in power who are abusing their rights or privilege like never before.

This has never been more poignant than during the #MeToo movement, where marginalised people who had experienced or were experiencing sexual assault at the hands of powerful men, took a stand.

While the cancelling of prolific sexual abusers has had varying efficacy, with some continuing to work and see great success in the industry, it was an online crusade that impacted real-life change.

With instances where something particularly egregious has happened, the lines are clear. However, we’re seeing the same mob mentality displayed in people going after misguided young influencers who call celebrities fat.

Tinx’s recent cancellation comes as her fame was propelling. With brand deals, her own podcast, appearances on TV and a rumoured Met Gala invitation, it’s unknown if she’ll recover from her past transgressions that deviate so wildly from her current online persona. There’s little doubt it will have been a challenging week for her PR team and affiliated brand partners.

While the rules around online indiscretions are blurry, what’s clear is that cancel culture is in no way cancelled. With influencers a huge part of the PR and communications vehicle today, this most recent calling out of an influencer on the rise has fired warning shots throughout the industry.

As comms specialists, it’s crucial we know our audience and ensure messages on behalf of our clients are delivered in a clear and honest way, via the right people.