At least two of those who signed the open letter opposing "cancel culture" are now backing away from it.On Tuesday morning, Harper's Magazine publi
At least two of those who signed the open letter opposing “cancel culture” are now backing away from it.
On Tuesday morning, Harper’s Magazine published a piece signed by roughly 150 liberal writers, professors, and activists voicing their concerns about the current state of public discourse.
However, some signers who took part in that open letter are distancing themselves from it as it drew major social media attention.
“I do not endorse this @Harpers letter. I am in contact with Harper’s about a retraction,” historian Kerri Greenidge told her followers. Her name has since been taken off the letter.
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Author and trans activist Jennifer Finney Boylan also expressed regret for having signed the letter.
“I did not know who else had signed that letter,” Boylan tweeted. “I thought I was endorsing a well meaning, if vague, message against internet shaming. I did know Chomsky, Steinem, and Atwood were in, and I thought, good company. The consequences are mine to bear. I am so sorry.”
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Boylan’s tweet may have alluded to the inclusion of “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, who has faced backlash in recent weeks for remarks defending the concept of biological sex, which critics say were transphobic.
Another signer, Vox journalist Matthew Yglesias, was publically shamed by one of his colleagues for including himself among the others on the open letter.
“As a trans woman who very much values her position at Vox and the support the publication has given her through the emotional and physical turmoil of transition, I was deeply saddened to see Matt Yglesias’s signature on the Harper’s Weekly letter,” Vox critic at large Emily VanDerWerff began her letter to the editors that she shared on Twitter. “Matt is, of course, entitled to his own opinion, and I know he is a more nuanced thinker than signing the letter would suggest. He has never been anything but kind to me and has often supported my work publicly, all of which I am extremely grateful for.”
“But the letter, signed as it is by several prominent anti-trans voices and containing as many dog whistles towards anti-trans positions as it does, ideally would not have been signed by anybody at Vox, much less one of the most prominent people at our publication.”
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VanDerWeff told the editors that Yglesias’ signature on the letter “makes me feel less safe at Vox” and claimed that it makes her job “slightly more difficult” as since, as she suggests, readers will “equate my positions with his.”
“I don’t want Matt to be reprimanded or fired or even asked to submit an apology. … But I do want to make clear that those beliefs cost him nothing,” she continued. “I am used to hearing them from people who believe my own lived experiences pale in comparison to their own momentary social media discomfort. I’m sorry to find Matt among those voices.”
Vox Media did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment. Yglesias declined to comment.
Yglesias, Rowling, New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss and political activist Noam Chomsky were among many attached to the piece titled “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate” that was published Tuesday in Harper’s Magazine.
“Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial,” the letter begins. “Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts.
“But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second,” it continued.
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While the letter calls President Trump a “real threat to democracy,” it also warns that the resistance should not “harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion,” insisting that an “intolerant climate” has plagued both sides of the aisle.
“The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted,” the letter explains. “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.”
“More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. […] 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 goes on to say that the “stifling atmosphere” that restricts public debate “invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation.”
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“We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences,” the letter says. “If we won’t defend the very thing on which our work depends, we shouldn’t expect the public or the state to defend it for us.”
Other signatures attached to the letter include New York Times columnists David Brooks and Michelle Goldberg, CNN host Fareed Zakaria, The Atlantic writer David Frum, “The Handmaid’s Tale” author Margaret Atwood and feminist icon Gloria Steinem.