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Prominent liberals are looking to cancel the “cancel culture” that has run amok and come back to bite them in recent weeks.
An open letter published in left-wing Harper’s Magazine on Tuesday sported signatures from about 150 liberal academics, authors and journalists bemoaning the hard left shift in the cultural revolution they previously cheered.
Feminist Gloria Steinem, “Harry Potter” creator J.K. Rowling, “Handmaid’s Tale” author Margaret Atwood and others renowned on the left warned about the “restriction of debate” in the letter on the Harper’s Magazine website titled: “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate.”
CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and cognitive scientist Noam Chomsky as well as New York Times columnist Bari Weiss, added their signatures to the extensive collection, calling out the spiraling acts of censorship triggered by weeks of civil unrest, rioting, and protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
The letter included predictable bashing of President Donald Trump and expected moral grandstanding, declaring that the “needed reckoning” over “racial and social justice” has “intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity.”
“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 letter continued, seeming to admit that the left has played a large part in the shift because of perception of the president.
“But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting,” the letter stated, going on to warn about what has been turning into left-on-left attacks.
“The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted,” the letter claimed.
“While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty,” it continued, with no trace of self-awareness for the left which has regularly been wielding the cancel culture sword.
The signers of the letter also called out the “calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought,” criticizing “institutional leaders” who engage in “panicked damage control.”
It seems as the threats to free speech and other Constitutional protections are affecting liberals, they are now willing to take a stand, calling out recent examples:
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 noted how writers, artists, and journalists “fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.”
“This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time,” the letter continued. “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.”
Amazingly, the assemblage of lefties seemed to champion America’s founding principles of free speech – even if one disagrees with the content of the speech – and gave a final jab to what is cancel culture’s oxygen.
“The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other,” the letter declared. “We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences.”
The warnings in the letter were proved a short time later as Vox’s Matt Yglesias was slammed by colleagues when critic Emily VanDerWerff claimed that “his signature being on the letter makes me feel less safe at Vox…”
Rowling announced that she was “very proud” to sign the letter in a tweet on Tuesday.
“I was very proud to sign this letter in defense of a foundational principle of a liberal society: open debate and freedom of thought and speech,” she tweeted.
Not surprisingly, the letter triggered a wave of reactions on social media.
That Harper’s letter, to me, is in large part from people who are unhappy that they’re not leading the current conversation, addressed to the many other people they believe are also unhappy that they’re not leading it.
— Linda Holmes Thinks You’re Doing Great (@lindaholmes) July 7, 2020
1. This Harper’s letter should in no way be controversial.
2. Yes some of the people who signed are obvious hypocrites.
3. I probably consider “cancel culture” to be less of a central threat than some.
— Krystal Ball (@krystalball) July 7, 2020
1. This letter perfectly illustrates my issue with the “cancel culture” trope
The signatories of this letter have bigger platforms and more resources than most other humans. They are not being silenced in any wayhttps://t.co/399Disg5Mo
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) July 7, 2020
The Harper’s letter is revealing a deeper issue: Do we judge opinions/arguments on their merits or on who makes them? Does signing a letter mean you endorse the letter? Yes. Does it mean you also endorse the opinions of those who also choose to sign it? That’s the question here.
— Jenny from the Vox (@jenn_ruth) July 7, 2020
If you’re a big enough writer where you can have Harper’s ask you to sign the world’s dumbest letter, your free speech isn’t in danger of being stifled.
— Otto Von Biz Markie (@Passionweiss) July 7, 2020
Imagine having access to an outlet like this and the audience they all have – the enormity of that collective platform – and they use it to…….whine that the internet holds them accountable for their own words.
— Erin Biba (@erinbiba) July 7, 2020
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