- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Dozens of prominent liberals such as “Harry Potter” creator J.K. Rowling, political theorist Noam Chomsky and Vox co-founder Matthew Yglesias have signed an open letter denouncing cancel culture and left-wing demands for “ideological conformity.”

The letter, which was published on the Harper’s Magazine website Tuesday and gathered 150 signatures, warns that the left’s resistance of President Trump’s “illiberalism” has the potential of hardening into its “own brand of dogma or coercion” and creating an intolerant climate where freedom of speech can’t exist.

“Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes,” the letter states.

“Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal,” it continues. “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.

“This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time,” the letter states. “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. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away.

“We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other,” the letter concludes. “As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes. We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences. 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.”

Mr. Yglesias‘ endorsement of the letter has brought some drama to his publication after Vox critic at large Emily VanDerWerff, a trans woman, tweeted her own letter saying it made her feel unsafe at the publication, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

“The letter, signed as it is by several prominent anti-trans voices and containing as many dog whistles toward 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,” Ms. VanDerWerff wrote in the letter she said she sent to her editors.

Katelyn Burns, a Vox political reporter, and Vox engagement editor Nisha Chittal also spoke out against the letter.

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