Oh, So NOW You Support Free Expression! [CORRECTED]

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 trams 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.”

Revealing, however.

15 thoughts on “Oh, So NOW You Support Free Expression! [CORRECTED]

  1. “We have come to expect this of the radical right” is just plain sociopathic gaslighting. Anything ugly about themselves they have to imagine as being even worse among the hated out-group, even it’s the ugliness is their own homegrown thing.

    It doesn’t get more “radical right” than Liberty University, and not only do they regularly engage with and discuss opposing ideas, they invited Bernie Sanders to come speak to a gathering of 12,000 young people and treated him like an honored guest. There is no comparison.

  2. That’s a really strange from of ad-honinem… “When I agreed with that viewpoint, I didn’t realize that that person over there also agreed with it! I now no longer hold that viewpoint.”

    • Yes, the Poisoning the Well fallacy. 2+2 can’t equal 4, because Hitler believed 2+2 = 4. How can I speak up against Cancel Culture when that horrible person also speaks against Cancel Culture.

      I have been publicly shamed in my professional life by people who didn’t bother to get facts. I worry about people’s safety and how quickly people dox others. Some days I feel like crying for western culture.

  3. This is one of those episodes where I really want the left-leaning commenters to speak up. Doesn’t this make you ashamed for trusting these people? Why isn’t the hypocrisy repugnant to you? Why is your first reaction to make rationalizations for them?

    • I’m not left leaning anymore though some on the right think I am wayyyy left.

      Yes Jack, it makes me feel like they are the biggest bunch of hypocrites ever. BUT, all are not that way. Some of my left friends are embarrassed by how others are acting and FEARFUL to speak up because of exactly what this letter says.

      So their friends assume they agree.

      I’ve never felt more concerned and actually afraid in my life for what the media and sadly the Democrats and even some Republicans.

      Maybe there really is as deep state because something is really off. And most people I talk to, even strangers feel it.

      • Mermaidmary99 describes describes quite a few educators I know. Ann Althouse wrote, above:

        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…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?

        Althouse goes on to say she experienced it throughout her career in academia. Try being an average teacher with other than Woke Mob membership, and let that be known. Good luck with that. Yet Althouse is right. Stand up we must. So, I don’t completely check myself at the door, pick my battles and suffer the consequences. Still feels like a major compromise, given the fact that this is supposed to be PUBLIC education in a FREE country.

        There is a terrible story in a July 10, 2020 National Review article called “The Left’s Culture War Cancels the Humble Along with the Mighty,” by Jonathan Tobin. In it, he relates the case of Manhattan cafe owner Thomas Bosco, whose seemingly saintly life of direct support of progressive causes and individuals representative of oppressed groups meant nothing in light of his revelation that he voted Trump in 2016. Subsequently, he is suffering consequences including boycott, and has endured harsh criticism from his patrons and abandonment by those he helped.

        Among his now former patrons is Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. In the National Review article, she is quoted as saying that “it’s hard to ever go back” to the cafe. Language is a mite ambiguous. On reading the Harper’s letter, I see that Weingarten is one of the signatories! Is this her version of acting with courage and integrity? This may merely be classic bet-hedging, American Public School style. As dangerous as politics are in education, it is SOP to live and die by hypocrisy and opportunism.

  4. Ok, please don’t yell at me til you read the whole post 😉
    They did say “radical right”, not just the right… and… and i agree with RADICAL right.

    Here’s the rub…

    FOX news is NOT radical right, Rush is NOT radical right, Dennis Prager is NOT radical right, etc.

    I think is an important distinction. ANY right wing view is considered radical by the LEFT but that is NOT true!!!

    We sadly have bought into it, because THEY refer to the normal right or anyone who disagrees with them as “the RADICAL right.” They did that on purpose because who wants to listen to a RADICAL???? No one sane.

    So, Be it Fox, or Breitbart, or Epoch Times. ANY person who does NOT carry the left’s flag is marked a radical right but that is NOT the radical right.

    So i’d sign happily as a conservative, and mention, “yes, those radical right people who thankfully we RARELY hear from anymore… those radicals who won’t even LISTEN to a different view than theirs, who wont DEBATE, or even be FRIENDS with a person who disagrees!!! I’m so glad we don’t hear much from them anymore!!!”

    It’s as if we have a new radical “moral majority” but it’s the Left and the media.

  5. The incessant whining for “safety” drives me nuts. These people need to grow up. Maybe they should try doing something like practicing law for a living. The old line about the difference between practicing medicine and practicing law comes to mind: At least when you’re a surgeon, there’s not another doctor in the operating room trying to kill the patient. If you want safety, get yourself committed and put in a padded room.

  6. My response to this on twitter was generally:

    They protest but they’ll stay Leftists. A question to ask themselves: “Does modern Leftism always end in a cancel culture? Are the characteristics of cancel culture a component of the modern Left’s DNA to the degree that, while protesting now, and even while slowing or pausing cancel culture now, is this outcome of wanting to cancel one’s enemies inevitable?”

    Maybe they shouldn’t question cancel culture alone, but question Leftism altogether.

  7. It’s a classic motte and bailey defense. The unassailable bailey is “cops shouldnt kill innocent black people.” From there, they can sally forth to all the wildest rallying cries they can dream up, retreating back once pressured. Couple that with the genius of the ‘you’re a racist’ kafkatrap, and they dont even have to pretend there is another side of the argument.

  8. Hey Jack, I don’t think Emily from Vox actually signed that letter. She was disappointed that someone else at Vox had signed the letter, and she sent her own letter to Vox voicing how she now felt “unsafe.” She then later claimed she has no intention of getting Matt fired or punished.

    You should read her Tweets and maybe do a post about it. Is she being honest saying that she doesn’t want Matt punished? Why did she choose to send a letter to Vox instead of talking to Matt directly? You should also see how Emily and others are claiming that the letter was full of “dog whistles.” Someone added annotations to the letter, inserting said dogwhistles, so the unwoke can see what the letter “really” was saying.

  9. These people signed a letter speaking out against cancel culture and the trend towards thought policing ON THE LEFT, and still found a way to blame Trump and “the radical right” for it? Wow!

    When I say that JK Rowling deserves all the heat she’s getting (and more even though I agree with her), because she had a hand in fostering the growth of this Frankenstein, THIS is what I mean.

    To be sure, they’re doing this now because they see how close they are to being swallowed up by it too. Very French revolution-esque.

    It’s also really funny that while fighting for their lives, they still won’t leave Trump alone. And Disgusting of course.

  10. The timing of the letter is a smoking gun: now that the George Floyd Freakout has the Left toppling its own statutes (Fredderick Douglass even went down this week) eating its own,

    Even a fourth of a year ago, if I heard that a statue of Frederick Douglass was toppled, I would first suspect some neo-Nazis who put away the meth and kiddie porn and crawled out of their moms’ basements.

    Now I can not be too sure.

    Ann Althouse yesterday properly and vigorously flagged this as the disingenuous BS it is, writing,

    Have you read the comments section?

    Especially comments by a commenter under the nym of DJK?

    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.

    Who would accuse Alan M. Dershowitz of being a Nazi?

    How close are you to the abyss now?

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