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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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The Harper's Letter is tone deaf and offensive

We are at a point of severe global uncertainty. To choose their popularity, book sales, or Twitter followers as the cause to bring to the world's attention is tone-deaf. It shows just how little we should listen to their cries for attention.

The Argument

As soon as Harper’s letter was published, a handful of signatories denounced the letter after seeing the others who signed the letter. Signers who switched, such as Lucia Martinez Valdivia and Jennifer Finney Boylan, claim to have been told a different list of the people signing.[1][2] Of course, who can blame these writers for attempting to distance themselves from the various homophobes, racists, war-hawks, etc. who have joined the discussion of free speech. The timing of this letter is problematic. We are facing global warming, a devastating economic crisis, the decline of the West, Trump's unstable and damaging Presidency, record unemployment, and a global health pandemic. There is also a national reckoning and review of the role of Race in American Society, which has included calling for change at multiple white-dominated arts and academic institutions. Interestingly enough, a columnist at Harper, Thomas Williams, mentions that the production of the letter considered the current state of affairs: “we didn’t want to be seen as reacting to the protests we believe are in response to egregious abuses by the police. But for some time, there’s been a mood all of us have been quite concerned with”.[3] Within the letter, examples of censorship or silencing of free speech were few and vague, aside from a single New York Times Editor who resigned after an edgy op-ed. Therefore, readers could easily interpret the letter as being a defense against backlash some signers experience from their own damaging public stunts or rhetoric.[4] For the signatories to use their platform to draw attention to this, instead of all the other pressing problems, shows that they are offensively detached from reality.

Counter arguments

The fact that the identity of individuals who signed the letter is being used to delegitimize their argument indicates that they are being censored. When one attempts to invalidate an argument solely based on who is expressing the said argument, this is, in fact, the definition of censorship.[5]

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Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://medium.com/@luciamv/trying-failing-trying-again-bb6e6a9f1f83
  2. https://twitter.com/JennyBoylan/status/1280646004136697863
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/07/arts/harpers-letter.html
  4. https://harpers.org/a-letter-on-justice-and-open-debate/
  5. https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095558166#:~:text=1.,circulation%20of%20information%20is%20controlled.

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This page was last edited on Sunday, 20 Sep 2020 at 01:06 UTC

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