In Harpers, a grab-bag of pundits, artists, has-beens and assorted progressives/liberals were persuaded to sign an open letter protesting the “cancel culture” and bemoaning its suffocating effect on free expression and debate.
Tangent: Lots of people wrote that they didn’t recognize most of the names. I know 28 of them, and several, like Ron Sullivan, Emily Yoffe, and Dahlia Lithwick, have been subjects of posts here. Not only that, one signer is a college classmate (Nadine Strossen) and another, Diedre McCloskey, was a next door neighbor when I lived with my parents in Arlington, Mass.)
“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. 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 epistle says in part.
Apparently allowing prominent conservatives to sign the letter was considered “divisive,” or the organizers could only get the leftists to join in if the righties were excluded. This restriction of expression in a letter about censorship undercuts the message, don’t you think? To make sure no dedicated conservatives agitated to sign, the letter cleverly included this poison pill:
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.
Ann Althouse yesterday properly and vigorously flagged this as the disingenuous BS it is, writing,
Ugh. Sorry. I have come to expect this from the radical left. Not the right.
… I’m irritated by the gratuitous shot at right-wingers. The censorship and cancel culture they are talking about is very much a thing of the left. Take some damned responsibility for the attack on freedom of speech that has been nurtured among elite thinkers for the last 40 years. I experienced it in academia — first hand — through my entire career as a law professor…This isn’t something that is just beginning to grow on the left. It’s been going on for decades, and why haven’t you opposed it sooner? Is it just because it looks particularly ugly now and your political goals are threatened? Sorry, I am not experiencing this letter as courageous.
Oh, brava, bingo, right on, gazinga!
Exactly. The timing of the letter is a smoking gun: now that the George Floyd Freakout has the Left toppling its own statues (Fredderick Douglass even went down this week) eating its own, attacking dissenters and seeking to destroy those who don’t do a double back flip to rescind their non-conforming opinions emphatically enough, the Good Progressives decided things were getting out of hand, since they could be on the menu soon.
Why weren’t, say, Jonathan Turley, Alan Dershowitz, Tucker Carlson, Drew Brees, or any of the professors who have been or who are being ostracized on college campuses for not conforming to progressive cant invited to sign the letter? Because the Good Progressives and Democrats who signed don’t want to associate with those Nazi scumbags, that’s why.
The hypocrisy of the letter is staggering. There are, for example, three New York Times columnists among the signers, none of whom voiced any opposition when the paper experienced an uprising—causing an editor to resign— after it published an op-ed column by Senator Tom Cotton that offended many staffers’ woke sensibilities.
True to form, it didn’t take long for some of the signatories to decided that they didn’t want to be on the same page with some of the other signers. Emily Vanderwerf, a trans critic-at-large for Vox who did not sign the letter, tweeted that the fact that fellow Vox pundit Matt Yglesias was a signer “makes me feel less safe at Vox.” That’s right, signing a letter decrying suppression of opinion makes someone “unsafe.” Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you THE AMERICAN LEFT!!!
[Notice of Correction: I erroneously wrote that Vandewerf had signed the letter herself. Thanks to reader Tom R. for the correction.]
These people are incorrigible.
Jennifer Finley Boylan, “an American author, transgender activist and reality television personality who is a professor at Barnard College of Columbia University and a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times” (never heard of her) apologized for signing the letter, presumably because she had joined Harry Potter author J.K Rowling, currently LGBTQ Public Enemy Number One because she has said that trans women aren’t women:
Translation: If I knew that I had to endorse the freedom of expression of those I disagree with, I wouldn’t have endorsed it.
Black historian Kerri Greenridge signed the letter, then claimed she didn’t mean to and made Harper’s remove her name.
Conservative gadfly Ben Shapiro, who is routinely censored on college campuses, observed, “Not sure who’s funnier — the cancel culture maniacs insisting that cancel culture doesn’t exist while trying to cancel those who disagree, or the brave souls who signed a letter decrying cancel culture then immediately unsigned the letter out of fear of cancel culture.”
As Jack Nicholson observes in “A Few Good Men” shortly before his character’s meltdown, “It isn’t [funny]. It’s tragic.”