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Old 07-14-2020, 12:40 PM   #1
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The Harper's Letter and Cancel Culture

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A Letter on Justice and Open Debate

July 7, 2020


Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second. The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.

The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty. We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a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. 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. 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 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. 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.

among the many signatories (selected by me on the basis of perceived celebrity, because there's too many to list):

Quote:
Margaret Atwood
David Brooks
Noam Chomsky
Jeffrey Eugenides
David Frum
Francis Fukuyama
Malcolm Gladwell
Garry Kasparov
Dahlia Lithwick
Greil Marcus
Wynton Marsalis
Steven Pinker
J.K. Rowling
Salman Rushdie
Gloria Steinem
Bari Weiss
Matthew Yglesias
Fareed Zakaria




were you in a position where enough people cared about what you thought and wrote and were asked to sign this letter, would you have?

why or why not.

do you worry about "cancel culture"?

why or why not.
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Old 07-14-2020, 01:58 PM   #2
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The Harper's Letter and Cancel Culture

Yes i would have.

And it’s been interesting to see the reaction to this letter and basically confirm what they wrote.

Social media, 24/7 news, talk shows

There’s no room for intelligent debate anymore. Now people are attacked on their ideas because it doesn’t fit a narrative or it is uncomfortable.

Part of a debate is to show bad ideas as that, bad ideas. But you don’t silence them.

The truth doesn’t matter anymore, it’s MY truth. Things that feel true to me and if you don’t agree Or hold a different opinion we will dox you, harass you, burn you at the stake.

I hear no justice, no peace. And that’s true. But without the truth there can be no justice. And if you cannot hold a conversation to pursue justice, to speak with another human being to push for change, to show the facts (as they are at the time of speaking) then you’re left with one other choice. Violence.

I just came Across this and felt it was relevant to the cancel letter

https://www.bariweiss.com/resignation-letter
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Old 07-14-2020, 04:28 PM   #3
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https://twitter.com/helenlewis/statu...382411264?s=21

I found this well written and topical
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Old 07-14-2020, 07:10 PM   #4
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I think cancel culture is valid in certain realms and dangerous in others. The danger we pose is the concept of cancelling something due to a revisionist’s history versus cancelling somebody for something you would have canceled them for had you heard of it then.

Example: 30 Rock and black face. Y’all were laughing then, public america. We decided black face has moved from “socially acceptable racism” to “not socially acceptable racism.” You can’t just cancel someone for something that, upon revision, was poor taste. At the time, it was not the mainstream view that this wasn’t acceptable in that facet.

On the contrary, if you learned that so-and-so had an audio recording yelling out the n word at someone 20 years ago as a full grown adult and we just now find out, yes, cancel them. “I’ve changed” should be reserved for believable cases.

Lastly, atonement is key. Everyone deserves a chance to atone, and if evidence exists in the latter example where the person has clearly atoned *before* the world found out, you should take that into consideration. People make mistakes. People grow. If someone has shown no signs of being willing to change in the past, calling them out for it now with a threat of cancel culture would prove to be a dead end on believability of intention to atone. People will do anything to maintain their power, and without a history of proving they deserve their power, fuck them.
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Old 07-14-2020, 07:41 PM   #5
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I think cancel culture is valid in certain realms and dangerous in others. The danger we pose is the concept of cancelling something due to a revisionist’s history versus cancelling somebody for something you would have canceled them for had you heard of it then.

Example: 30 Rock and black face. Y’all were laughing then, public america. We decided black face has moved from “socially acceptable racism” to “not socially acceptable racism.” You can’t just cancel someone for something that, upon revision, was poor taste. At the time, it was not the mainstream view that this wasn’t acceptable in that facet.

On the contrary, if you learned that so-and-so had an audio recording yelling out the n word at someone 20 years ago as a full grown adult and we just now find out, yes, cancel them. “I’ve changed” should be reserved for believable cases.

Lastly, atonement is key. Everyone deserves a chance to atone, and if evidence exists in the latter example where the person has clearly atoned *before* the world found out, you should take that into consideration. People make mistakes. People grow. If someone has shown no signs of being willing to change in the past, calling them out for it now with a threat of cancel culture would prove to be a dead end on believability of intention to atone. People will do anything to maintain their power, and without a history of proving they deserve their power, fuck them.
So, like, having conservative posts and saying something dumb once vs. having your posts from a white nationalist message board discovered?
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Old 07-14-2020, 07:45 PM   #6
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Old 07-14-2020, 08:06 PM   #7
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I refuse to read it. Exceptionally rich celebrities whining about being "cancelled" when they have millions and millions of dollars and like 100 platforms from which to speak. Give me a fucking spell.
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Old 07-14-2020, 08:33 PM   #8
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I think it's telling that two of the most anti-cancel culture people are:

Brett Stephens, who once wrote to the dean of a university to complain about this tweet that a professor in that university made (and subsequently wrote an entire op-ed comparing that professor to the Nazi):

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Old 07-14-2020, 08:36 PM   #9
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There are legitimate issues with "cancel culture."

These will never be discussed because we're a nation of extremes, and because those who actually deserve to be cancelled use these legitimate issues as cover for their bullshit... so we'll just keep fucking that chicken.
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Old 07-14-2020, 08:52 PM   #10
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Also, there are a lot of bad actors amongst the signatories of the letter.

Let's not forget that the only reason JK Rowling was asked to sign is because she has recently been the subject of criticism from across the board for her transphobic comments.
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Old 07-14-2020, 09:14 PM   #11
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Quote:
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There are legitimate issues with "cancel culture."

These will never be discussed because we're a nation of extremes, and because those who actually deserve to be cancelled use these legitimate issues as cover for their bullshit... so we'll just keep fucking that chicken.


I hate cancel culture and think there are huge issues with it.

But these are some of most privileged people on the planet.
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Old 07-14-2020, 09:29 PM   #12
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I hate cancel culture and think there are huge issues with it.

But these are some of most privileged people on the planet.


But being privileged doesn’t mean you’re exempt from ever having legitimate grievances and that you must dismiss all bad things that happen to you because you’re privileged.
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Old 07-14-2020, 09:31 PM   #13
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I think it's telling that two of the most anti-cancel culture people are:

Brett Stephens, who once wrote to the dean of a university to complain about this tweet that a professor in that university made (and subsequently wrote an entire op-ed comparing that professor to the Nazi):





I agree that Bari Weiss wrote often stupid things.

But what interested me was her charactizatuon if the work environment at the NYT:

Quote:
But the lessons that ought to have followed the election—lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society—have not been learned. Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.

Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative.

My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views. They have called me a Nazi and a racist; I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m “writing about the Jews again.” Several colleagues perceived to be friendly with me were badgered by coworkers. My work and my character are openly demeaned on company-wide Slack channels where masthead editors regularly weigh in. There, some coworkers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be a truly “inclusive” one, while others post ax emojis next to my name. Still other New York Times employees publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action. They never are.

As an aside, I despise Slack.
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Old 07-14-2020, 09:34 PM   #14
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As an aside, I despise Slack.
You're dead to me
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Old 07-14-2020, 10:15 PM   #15
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Also, there are a lot of bad actors amongst the signatories of the letter.

Let's not forget that the only reason JK Rowling was asked to sign is because she has recently been the subject of criticism from across the board for her transphobic comments.


I see the public turning JK Rowling into the monster she apparently was capable of being, and cancel culture enables that. If you can’t get JK Rowling on your side, of all people, well you might as well give up now.
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Old 07-14-2020, 10:38 PM   #16
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I find the JK Rowling situation quite illuminating though, as it reflects what to me is the crux of the discussion. There is an obvious power imbalance here. Because of her very public platform (i.e. power), Rowling's transphobic comments have real-world consequences. At the same time, because of that power imbalance, Rowling doesn't really suffer any meaningful consequencesherself for the opinion she expressed.

She is entitled to having her opinion. What she is not entitled to have is for her opinion to be protected from public scrutiny. Are there better ways to show to Rowling that her opinion on this particular subject is trash? Perhaps. But I don't blame the backlash for one second.

I find that the cancel culture discussion often gets portrayed as a free speech debate, which it really isn't. Nobody is suggesting that a person like Rowling doesn't have a right to say stupid shit. She is not being "cancelled". But she is not entitled to being respected for those opinions either.
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Old 07-14-2020, 10:49 PM   #17
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I agree that Bari Weiss wrote often stupid things.

But what interested me was her charactizatuon if the work environment at the NYT:
.
I don't buy for a second that this is an accurate description of the NYT environment. Also, Weiss herself wouldn't have access to that environment given the firewall that separates the newsroom from opinion writers. The problem with folks like Weiss and Stephens is not the opinions that they have - it's that they are lazy, terrible writers who do not deserve that platform.
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Old 07-15-2020, 12:08 AM   #18
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Seems to me that cancel culture is shielded from thoughtful (as opposed to reactionary) criticism because its loathsome targets necessitate such action, even if it's not broadly appropriate.

I'm all for removing toxic people from positions of power and erasing symbols of adoration for individuals who, in hindsight, were shown to have brought more harm than good to the world. I'm not, however, in favor of censorship and mob rule.

Regardless, I don't think a meaningful discourse about cancel culture is likely to happen between the Twitter Inquisition and its problematic targets with their careers hanging in the balance. I hope the pros and cons are weighed over time by those with less skin in the game and a more efficient, righteous middle ground is devised.

For the moment, I'm not overly interested in what JK Rowling or someone on Twitter with an Ariana Grande avatar has to say about it, but I am listening.
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Old 07-15-2020, 12:36 AM   #19
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ariana grande avatars were last year, this year it's k-pop avatars. get with the times or get cancelled, boomer
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Old 07-15-2020, 12:42 AM   #20
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