Titled “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate,” the letter was published in Harper’s Magazine and includes signatures from Noam Chomsky, Gloria Steinem and actress Dael Orlandersmith.
It begins by applauding the “needed reckoning” surrounding police reform and equality, but quickly turns to denouncing so-called “forces of illiberalism.”
“The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. 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,” the letter reads. “We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought.”
Last month, Rowling came under fire for her comments about transgender issues. The author defended her views in a series of tweets saying she did not want to erase the concept of biological sex. Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe spoke out against her opinion.
Situations like Rowling’s were seemingly addressed in the letter, which called out “hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms” for those who speak their controversial thoughts.
“Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal,” the letter continues. “We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.”
The letter has taken the internet by storm, leading to debates about “cancel culture” and whether it really exists.
The letter is set to be published in the magazine’s upcoming October issue. ~Brie Davis