A group of more than 100 writers and activists have signed a letter published Tuesday on Harper's Magazine's website calling for an end to "cancel culture."
Cancel culture — the movement to take away platforms from people or end their careers who have caused offense — has risen sharply during recent protests that have seen statues and other monuments toppled. Typical targets are writers or entertainers who have made statements or performances that go against the current zeitgeist.
Signers of the letter include Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, The New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss, political activist Noam Chomsky, and writer Salman Rushdie. Others include The New York Times columnists David Brooks and Michelle Goldberg, CNN host Fareed Zakaria, The Atlantic writer David Frum, "The Handmaid's Tale" author Margaret Atwood, and feminist leader Gloria Steinem.
The letter is critical of "the radical right" and calls President Donald Trump a "real threat to democracy," it also says "it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought" from the left.
"More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms," the letter said. "Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a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."
Such a "stifling atmosphere" will only harm "the most vital causes of our time," the signers warn. "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."
Rowling has recently been taken to task for view that biological sex is the true determiner of gender. Critics call her stance "transphobic."
Weiss has been under fire for comments that there is a "civil war" at The New York Times after the printing of Arkansas GOP Sen. Tom Cotton's column caused the removal of editorial page editor James Bennet.
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