Off The Wall: It was Not an Attempt to “Cancel” Me

Mike – Lots of people are really upset that Returning the Favor is no more. They say this has happened because Facebook is censoring conservative voices. Do you think you were cancelled? If not, then what happened? Why would one of the richest companies in the world cancel an Emmy Award winning show that was clearly a hit? It just makes no sense. Can you take the show somewhere else? Please? Beth Krebner

Hi Beth

Like you and many others, I was surprised by Facebook’s decision to cancel the show. Returning the Favor seems tailor made for times like these, with a loyal fan base that’s both large and very engaged. It is perplexing. For what it’s worth, though, I don’t feel as though I’ve been treated unfairly. I think, after a hundred episodes, Facebook simply wanted to invest in other projects. Yes, they’re a very wealthy company, but budgets are budgets, and this show was not cheap to produce. In other words, Facebook didn’t cancel me, they cancelled my show. The bigger question, is why do so many people assume differently?

Reading through the many thousands of comments has been instructive. Some people believe that RTF was cancelled because I was very vocal about The Social Dilemma, which I strongly recommended that everyone on this page watch. I still do. It’s an important film, the reveals a lot of troubling facts about social media. Several people have blamed the fact that my new show, Six Degrees, is sponsored in part by the energy industry. Others say it’s because I award “work ethic scholarships” and talk a lot about things like personal responsibility, delayed gratification, and a positive attitude. Those people say that such ideals are now associated with conservatives, and therefor unpopular on platforms like this one. Many others seem to believe that RTF was cancelled because I’ve been critical about the cost of a four-year degree, and the unintended consequences of forgiving all of student loans. And so forth.

I don’t believe any of this is the case. Fact is, Facebook has never done anything to restrict anything I’ve said on this page, or limited the reach of anything I’ve posted, (beyond the infernal and infuriating algorithm that impacts everyone.) To the contrary, I’ve been thanked repeatedly by Facebook executives for using this platform responsibly, and for challenging my six million friends to help close America’s skills gap. In fact, Facebook has donated generously to my foundation, repeatedly, and enabled me to raise millions of dollars for mikeroweWORKS. For that, I remain grateful.

But none of that is to suggest that Cancel Culture isn’t real, or a serious problem on social media, corporate America, and in everyday life. It is. Like the advent of “safe spaces,” this thing we call cancel culture is changing the way we think, changing the way we live, and changing the way we interact with each other – and not for the better. We simply can’t eliminate bad ideas by suppressing them; we have to confront them with better ideas. I’ve said this before on this page, many times, and I’m repeating it now because I don’t wish to be confused with someone who is blasé about the ability to speak freely in the public square. But nor do I want to be confused with the latest victim of what many are calling a “purge.” To say the same thing in a slightly different way, I wasn’t cancelled, I was fired. And believe me, I know the difference. When Discovery cancelled Dirty Jobs, I moped around for the better part of a year, feeling sorry for myself and wondering how the network could have been so short-sighted. But the truth is, big companies make unpopular decisions for all sorts of reasons, many of which make a lot of sense to the outside world. So, I don’t take this one personally. However – I will say this:

Hit shows are hard to come by. Really hard. And, to your point, Beth, a lot of Americans today are looking for reasons to feel better about the country, the species, and themselves. Returning the Favor really was the perfect show for these times. It not only entertained a lot of people, it brought together an engaged community from both sides of the aisle – regular Americans who simply wanted to celebrate decency and kindness in regular Americans, regardless of their politics. That’s rare. Now, several million of these folks find themselves in a Facebook community that formed around a show that no longer exists. If I were a network executive, looking for a hit show in these challenging times, I’d pay attention to those people.

Anyway, my feelings haven’t changed since the announcement. I’m very grateful to Facebook for funding this program, and doubly grateful for the chance to profile so many extraordinary people during such an unprecedented time. I can’t tell you why they cancelled such a popular show; I can only tell you it was not an attempt to “cancel” me. Believe me, if I thought otherwise, I’d say so.


P.S. If you are one of the aforementioned network executives, here’s a link to the RTF community, which now consists of 2.5 million agitated fans. You’ll also find links to all the episodes, which have been viewed over 450 million times…Enjoy.

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