New Battle Over 'Cancel Culture' Is Getting Vicious

Dozens of writers, thinkers fire back at open letter in Harper's Magazine
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 11, 2020 3:30 PM CDT
New Battle Over 'Cancel Culture' Is Getting Vicious
In this Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018 file photo, writer J.K. Rowling poses for the media at the world premiere of the film "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" in Paris.   (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, file)

Over 160 academics and journalists issued an open letter Friday in an ongoing battle over so-called "cancel culture," the Wrap reports. The letter rebuked an earlier letter—published in Harper's and signed by luminaries including Fareed Zakaria, JK Rowling, and Gloria Steinhem—that decried "the intolerant climate" seeping into "liberal society." The latest letter attacked what it saw as a privileged elite trying to undermine a new brand of diverse liberalism: "The signatories, many of them white, wealthy, and endowed with massive platforms, argue that they are afraid of being silenced, that so-called cancel culture is out of control, and that they fear for their jobs and free exchange of ideas, even as they speak from one of the most prestigious magazines in the country."

While certain events mentioned in the original letter are called "real and concerning"—like a researcher who got fired after after sharing a study about protest and rioting tactics—the new letter insists they aren't trends "in the way the signatories suggest." The letter also calls out Harper's signatories who allegedly "made a point of punishing people who have spoken out against them," including Bari Weiss and Anne-Marie Slaughter, per the Hill. Signatories of the new letter are perhaps less well-known and include journalists who said newspaper NDAs prevented them from signing. Now Thomas Chatterton Williams, a Black writer who led the Harper's letter, has tweeted the names of its signatories of color, saying, "Starting to think if these critics don't know a name they think it's white." (A newspaper editor was recently fired for allowing an op-ed to be published.)

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