It has been noted that “cancel culture” (or as George Orwell might put it, “unpersoning”) is arbitrary and capricious since there are no generally understood rules of what is or is not acceptable, which is especially pernicious when not only is ex post facto punishment not barred but actively encouraged, particularly when it is at the discretion of whoever wields actual institutional privilege and actual institutional power.
But then, that’s the entire point of “cancel culture”: The imposition of real institutional power from those with real institutional privilege. As noted previously, when the evil of racism (or sexism, or cis-heteronormativity, or whatever) is declared axiomatically to be “systemic” or “institutional”, than anything and everything is racist (or sexist or whatever), such that those who are deemed to be oppressors (or those without such “kyriarchical” traits who dare to dissent) can be silenced at any time.
Not even expressing sentiments considered “woke” and even mandated for acceptable society at the time can protect one from future punishment when ideology shifts or it just becomes convenient. During the Cultural Revolution in China, many of those most harshly targeted had been supporters of the Communist Revolution under Mao suddenly found themselves the targets of being enemies of the Revolution because those in actual power had the evidence in old pro-Communist statements and propaganda to target them via the “Struggle Sessions” and the zealous Red Guards, who believed that the now-enemies-of-the-people were insufficiently pro-Revolution enough.
And again, that’s the point!
Cancel culture has the effect of encouraging people to “self-cancel” and stay silent—never even questioning the “justice” of the proffered wokeness de jure—and take themselves out of the culture in permanent surrender. This has the result of furthering the Leftist idea of “equity” wherein institutional discrimination an inequality (of both opportunity and outcome) is perpetually justified by punishing those who benefit by, or otherwise defend, the “systemic” racism (or sexism or whatever) which will always eternally pervades society like some maligning mystical miasma of malevolent malfeasance.
Revolution must be perpectual, dontchaknow, in order to justify itself.