blog, Cancelled This Month

Travis Scott’s Astroworld Tragedy: Where Does Cancel Culture End?

10 people have died after mass hysteria broke out at Travis Scott’s Astroworld music festival in Houston, Texas, on 5 November.  The festival was attended by about 50,000 people. After the event, Scott faced a massive backlash and cancelled future appearances, a reaction that interestingly was not reflected in the excellent chart positions of his new Astroworld album.

Reactions after the event focused on Scott because he was the face and initiator of the event. His apparent apathy during the incident, which may be explained by his limited view from the stage, and his reputation for recklessly inciting and endangering his fans, contributed to him becoming the sole face of the tragedy.  However, the police apparently let the concert continue for 40 minutes after declaring the concert a mass casualty incident. In contrast to Scott, the police, the security organizers and the production team behind the event did not face this reaction or ‘cancellation’, revealing a limit to the extent of cancel culture and potential hypocrisy within it.

The backlash took curious forms, some reminiscent of the satanic panic in the US in the 1980s, when irrational fears of satanic rituals and abuse led to the harassment of minority groups and distrust of musical celebrities. In the reception of the Astroworld tragedy, similar patterns emerged. Online commentators claim Travis Scott hid secret codes and performed some kind of satanic sacrificial ritual. The question that arises here is whether this is a genuine resurgence of these satanic panic tendencies or whether the theories follow a more general trend in pop music to seek out hidden conspiratorial codes.

When Scott subsequently released an apology video, which by now has become a genre of its own within cancel culture, it was not well-received. The audience seems to have already formed an opinion, and perhaps this is one of the rare cases where the immediate moral judgement anticipates the legal one that follows. This tragic event with its legal consequences is on the fringes of cancel culture. Does it belong to it at all or is it rather a justified consequence of the reckless endangerment of life?  It remains to be seen how the courts of law will decide and whether the courts of public opinion will still remember the incident in a year’s time.

Sources & Further Reading:

BBC News Report of the incident

Forbes Report on Astroworld album climbing charts

The Guardian: “How the Travis Scott Astroworld festival tragedy unfolded – video report”

Travis Scott’s “apology video”

The Guardian on the satanic conspiracy theories around the event

The Independent on the parallels to the satanic panic

“‘I’m Sorry You Were Offended’- ‘Cancel Culture’ and the Language used in Apology Videos” by linguistics students

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