Some 150 writers, academics and activists – including authors JK Rowling, Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood – signed an open letter denouncing the so-called cancellation culture.
They say they applaud a recent “need for math” on racial justice, but say it has fueled the stifling of open debate.
The letter denounces “a vogue for public shame and ostracism” and “a blinding moral certainty”.
The cancellation culture refers to the online shame of individuals who cause an offense.
“The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is becoming more restricted every day,” the letter said.
American intellectual Noam Chomsky, prominent feminist Gloria Steinem, Russian chess master Garry Kasparov and author Malcolm Gladwell also put their names to the letter, which was published in Harper’s Magazine on Tuesday.
The appearance of the name of the author of Harry Potter Rowling among the signers comes after she was recently attacked online for comments that offended transgender people.
His fellow British writer, Martin Amis, also signed the letter.
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He also says: “We defend the value of a robust and even caustic counter-discourse on all sides.
“But it is now all too common to hear calls for quick and harsh retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. ”
The letter condemns the “disproportionate punishment” inflicted on the targets of the cancellation of culture by institutional leaders carrying out “control of panic damage”.
He continues: “Editors-in-chief are fired for disseminating controversial articles; books are removed for alleged non-authenticity; journalists are prohibited from writing on certain subjects; teachers are wanted for citing literature in the classroom; a researcher is dismissed for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study, and heads of organizations are ousted for sometimes awkward mistakes. ”
It was signed by contributors to editions of the New York Times, David Brooks and Bari Weiss. The editor of the newspaper’s editorial page was recently sacked in the midst of the uproar after publishing an opinion piece by Republican Senator Tom Cotton.
The letter goes on to say that the cancellation of culture has spread fear through the arts and the media.
“We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they stray from consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement” he says.
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He adds: “We must preserve the possibility of a bona fide disagreement without disastrous professional consequences. “
A signatory – Matthew Yglesias, co-founder of the Liberal information analysis website Vox – was reprimanded by a colleague on Tuesday for putting his name down.
General criticism of Vox Emily VanDerWerff, a trans woman, tweeted that she had written a letter to the editors of the publication saying that Yglesias’ signature “makes me less secure at Vox”.
But VanDerWerff said she didn’t want Yglesias to be fired or apologized, as that would only convince him that he was “martyred”.
A signatory retracted a few hours after the publication of the letter.
Jennifer Finney Boylan, American author and transgender activist, tweeted, “I didn’t know who else signed this letter.
“I thought I was supporting a well-intentioned, albeit vague, message against shame on the Internet. ”
She added, “I’m really sorry. “