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The Harper's Letter: How are people split? Show more Show less
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On 7 July 2020, Harper's Magazine published a letter signed by 153 prominent artists, writers and intellectuals including J.K.Rowling, Noam Chomsky and Margaret Atwood. Titled "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate" the signatories warned against the "intolerant climate" crushing free speech. They alleged that the rise of "cancel culture" whereby public figures are called out and boycotted for controversial views, was an assault on free speech. Others see their complaints as ironic, pointing to their elite status and use of a global platform to complain about being silenced. So, what do the two camps believe?

The Antis Show more Show less

The Harper's Letter has been described as everything from entitled to tone-deaf.
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Using a global platform to complain about being silenced is ironic

The irony of the Harper's letter is clear: over 150 artists with millions and millions of followers summated, airing their grievances of being "censored." Any suggestion that any criticism of their ideas has made them voiceless therefore smacks of pettiness.

The Argument

The irony is in the statement: “The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation”.[1] Venting on their repression, a group of elites on the world stage are somewhat undermining actual free speech advocacy. Nations around the world are implementing real infringements on the free speech of their citizens. In Egypt, individuals who speak on the issue of COVID 19 within the population are kidnapped and charged for “disseminating false news” and “inciting terrorist crime”.[2] Not to mention, the numerous new security laws imposed against the will of the people in Hong Kong by China with some of the world's most effective censors. And these are just to name a few! Yet, a group of 150 elite artists in the United States have decided to take a stand via a global outlet to air their own beliefs on what censorship is, bringing up and equating this to ideas of canceled culture, in the eyes of millions who will read their raw, uncensored opinion.

Counter arguments

The complaint of being silenced is not for an inability to deliver speech, but for fear that the consequences will be life-destroying. The signers are not complaining about the current state of affairs. They are expressing that they feel that with the way things are going and the evolving societal norms, there is a chance that eventually, they too will have the inability to exercise their right to free speech irrespective of their platforms!

Proponents

Premises

[P1] A group of elites using a global platform to complain about a lack of free speech undermines the actual free speech infringements that are occurring around the world.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] The complaint of being silenced doesn't include only the powerful signatories of the document, but anyone who isn't famous or powerful and could receive disproportionate backlash for their public speech.

References

  1. https://harpers.org/a-letter-on-justice-and-open-debate/
  2. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/06/egyptian-activist-sanaa-seif-detained-family-decries-abduction-200623155131565.html

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This page was last edited on Sunday, 20 Sep 2020 at 01:09 UTC

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