Backlash: Liberal Thinkers Write Open Letter Opposing Cancel Culture

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This has been a long time coming, and it doesn’t land a moment too soon. We’re not hopeful about the change it will or won’t bring to American discourse, but it’s at least encouraging to see liberals (finally) speak out about the cancel culture that is threatening some of the most fundamental aspects of liberty, conversation, and progress.

More than a hundred liberal thinkers and writers signed on to an open letter “on justice and open debate” this week, standing up bravely against the intolerant masses who have quickly and tyrannically taken control of the debate over this nation’s future.

Make no mistake, these are not conservatives by any stretch of the imagination. Among the signatories we have Margaret Atwood, J.K. Rowling, Anne Applebaum, Olivia Nuzzi, Gloria Steinem, and Noam Chomsky, all of whom have written enough anti-Republican, anti-Trump punditry to fill a library several times over. In the letter itself, the writers go out of their way to express support for the Black Lives Matter movement and other “racial and social justice” efforts. Some of these people aren’t just “on the left,” they are well to the left of Bernie Sanders.

And yet…

“Resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides,” the letter reads.

“The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted,” it continues. “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. 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.”

Even though it’s embarrassing to watch them bend over backwards to signal that they’re “the good guys” with their constant references to the evils of Trump and “right-wing demagogues,” you have to expect that from the writers. After all, they know their audience. They aren’t trying to reach producers at Fox News. They’re trying to reach the editors of The New York Times, the media companies who are so quick to fire or cancel anyone who strays from the narrative, and the Twitter hordes who – while they know they hate Trump – aren’t sure what to think about this sudden fascism rising on the left.

“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 continues. “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.”

Well, like we said, we’re concerned that it’s a matter of too little, too late. Already, the usual cancel mob on Twitter is calling this a collection of the white, the old, and the privileged. They don’t want to hear it. Why would they? They’ve already made it abundantly clear where they stand on the issue of free speech.

We can only hope that there are more of us than there are of them. More people who believe in the values of free expression and open debate than those who believe in criminalizing “hate speech” and destroying the careers and reputations of those who disagree with their ideological narrative.

That hope gets harder to maintain with every passing day.