Margaret Atwood and JK Rowling join dozens of public figures to warn of threat to freedom of expression


LONDON – Dozens of artists, writers and academics have signed an open letter denouncing the weakening of public debate and warning that the free exchange of information and ideas is threatened amid an increase in this which they call “illiberalism”. JK Rowling, Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood are among dozens of writers, artists and academics to argue against ideological conformity in an open letter from Harper’s Magazine. The letter comes amid a debate over the so-called cancellation culture – where prominent figures are attacked for sharing controversial opinions.

“The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength around the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who poses a real threat to democracy,” the letter said. “But we must not let resistance harden in its own brand of dogma or coercion – which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can only be achieved if we oppose the intolerant climate that has taken hold on all sides. ”

Rowling, for example, sparked criticism of his views on transgender issues, which angered many activists. In a series of tweets, Rowling said that she supports the rights of transgender people but does not believe in “erasing” the concept of biological sex.

The comments prompted Daniel Radcliffe and other actors in the Potter films to publicly disagree with her. Rowling did not move, but was attacked for weeks online.

The letter criticized the state of public debate and the “quick and severe punishment” inflicted on all perceived wrongs. He denounced “intolerance of opposing opinions, a vogue for public shame and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex political questions in blinding moral certainty”.

“The way to overcome bad ideas is to expose yourself, argue and persuade, not by trying to silence them or to wish for them,” the letter says. “We reject any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without the other. ”

The other signatories were Noam Chomsky, Gloria Steinem and Malcolm Gladwell.


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