'Harper's' Spurs Needed Debate About 'Cancel Culture'

Harper's Magazine yesterday published an open letter signed by authors including JK Rowling and Salman Rushie that defended free speech against cancel culture. Anyone wondering what took these writers so long to condemn censorship likely doesn't have a social media account or hasn't paid attention to the countless examples of today's cultural putsch.
The letter expresses support for global protests against racism and police brutality, while also bemoaning "an intolerant climate that has set in on all sides," as Publishers Daily reported yesterday. Dozens of magazine and newspaper writers signed the letter, including New York Times columnist David Brooks, New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell, Atlantic writer David Frum and Vox blogger Matthew Yglesias.
Everyone in the publishing industry will recognize the letter's diagnosis of the current climate, with editors being "fired for running controversial pieces" and journalists "barred from writing on certain topics."
Look no further than The New York Times, whose former editorial page editor James Bennet quit last month after facing withering criticism from staffers who objected to the newspaper's publication of an opinion piece by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas). Cotton argued the federal government should send the military into cities to quell rioting and restore public order.
What should have been an occasion for more debate about how to stop the growing crime wave instead became another embarrassing example of a newspaper's kowtowing to whiny critics whose ideas also deserved greater scrutiny.



Bennet, who is the younger brother of Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) and previously was editor in chief of TheAtlantic, had an almost unrivaled liberal pedigree that made his resignation even more surprising.

The Harper's letter is clearly aimed at progressives, naming President Donald Trump as "a real threat to democracy," while also pleading for greater openness in public debate. Singling out the president indicates his already-banished supporters aren't welcome in the elitist forum.
Some of the Twitter commentary about the letter attacks its signatories more than its principles. Those negative remarks chide the signatories for being part of a privileged establishment that doesn't face any real threat of being canceled, and is cynically trying to protect book deals and speaker fees. Others were alarmed that signatories would put their names on a document signed by ideological adversaries.
Fortunately, writers like The New Yorker's Gladwell anticipated this criticism, sending a tweet that said: "I signed the Harper's letter because there were lots of people who also signed the Harper's letter whose views I disagreed with. I thought that was the point of the Harper's letter."
1 comment about "'Harper's' Spurs Needed Debate About 'Cancel Culture'".
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  1. Craig Lesly from Lesly Consulting, July 9, 2020 at 1:37 p.m.

    Maybe Voltaire will make a comeback: "I may not agree with a word you say, but I'd fight to thedeath for your right to say it."  VERY politically-incorrect!  His name should be banned forever.

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