Titled, “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate,” and originally published on July 7 in Harper’s Magazine, 153 prominent center-left to liberal activists, writers, psychologists, lawyers, and professors have signed a letter warning against the growing threat of “cancel culture.”
Interestingly, following the publishing of the letter, several signatories have subsequently been cancelled.
Some of the most prominent voices who signed on to the letter include historian Anne Applebaum, columnist David Brooks, linguist, and anarchist Noam Chomsky, authors J.K. Rowling and Malcolm Gladwell, feminist activist Gloria Steinem, longtime president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen and CNN host Fareed Zakaria.
The letter begins by reminding readers that they support liberal positions and that none of them support President Donald Trump. “The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy,” the authors opine.
The signatories also condemn twice the “radical right” for supporting the restriction of the “free exchange of information and ideas.” It’s unclear who the authors meant by this since the support for the restriction of speech is almost universally from left-wing groups like ANTIFA, who wish to silence what they view as “hate speech.” There really is no counterpart to this desire on the right.
Moving on, the letter blasts cancel culture and its corrosive effect on society.
“Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes,” the letter states.
Here, each one of the listed concerns refers to a specific instance over the past few years.
For example, regarding the letter’s first concern, earlier this year the editorial page editor of The New York Times, James Bennet, was forced to resign for publishing a purportedly controversial op-ed from Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
Regarding the letter’s last concern, that the heads of organizations are ousted for mistakes, on July 1, 2020, Boeing’s communication’s chief Niel Golightly was forced to resign after a letter surfaced from 33-years-ago where Golightly asserted that women should not serve in active combat roles.
In an even more recent example that occurred after the publication of the Harper’s Letter, activists are now supporting a boycott of Goya Foods because the CEO recently said that our country is “blessed… to have a leader like President Trump,” at a press conference in the Rose Garden on Thursday.
“This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time,” the letter concludes. “The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation.”
J.K. Rowling’s signature on the document prompted outrage from some transgender activists following its publication. The author is known for defending the reality of biological sex on social media.
Matthew Yglesias is an editor and journalist at the liberal publication Vox. After signing the letter, trans activist and Vox critic at large Emily VanDerWerff wrote to the editors at Vox expressing his (VanDerWerff is a biological male) concerns that Yglesias’ signature threatens his safety since Rowling was also on the list of signatories.
“As a trans woman who very much values her position at Vox and the support the publication has given her through the emotional and physical turmoil of transition, I was deeply saddened to see Matt Yglesias’s signature on the Harper’s Weekly letter,” VanDerWerff wrote. Yglesias’ signature on the letter “makes me feel less safe at Vox,” he added.
The left has now cancelled fellow comrade and leftist Matt Yglesias.
For additional ‘cancels,’ historian Kerri Greenidge and trans activist Jennifer Finney Boylan have now removed their signatures from the letters following the blowback.
It’s ironic that for many liberals, endorsing free speech and open and honest dialogue is now enough to get you cancelled. Supporting free speech now means that you lose your right to speak freely and express your own opinion.
You can follow this author on Twitter @MettlerZachary
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