In Harper's magazine, liberal elites get worried about cancel culture — about ten years too late

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Cancel culture has gone mad. I’ve never seen it this bad in the west. It’s a mania. It’s a madness of crowds.

Every day someone else falls. Including, for maybe the first time, some leftists.

But look at this:

Harper’s magazine — an establishment liberal magazine, a magazine for the fancy people — has come out against cancel culture.

Let's take a look at this open letter.

It starts with some introductory throat-clearing, as I call it:

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.

So they’re proving they’re woke and they care. And then they come to the word "but":

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.

OK, so now that they have spoken out against the mob, they have to prove their credentials — just like they said we’re liberal, and then snuck in their belief in free speech, they have to immediately bolster their left-wing credentials by bashing Trump a bit, as I'll show you TONIGHT.


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.

Again, not sure how right-wing demagogues are exploiting being cancelled and deplatformed. How, exactly?

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.

Can you remind me the last time a conservative censored anyone? Anytime a conservative mob rioted to protest something? A conservative club on a university blocked a liberal or leftist speaker? A conservative somehow got a liberal journalist fired from a liberal magazine?

I can’t remember either...

There's more, but here's the last paragraph:

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.

I can’t quarrel with it.

So kudos to the people who drafted this letter. And to those who signed it:

I see Margaret Atwood is on there. David Brooks, the political pundit; Salman Rushdie; J.K. Rowling is on there. Her own proteges denounced her for daring to say men who say they are women are not actually women. 

So there are some good people here.

And there are some weird poseurs, liars even, I think. Like Jeet Heer.

Which is strange because he’s a cancel culture guy.

But hey, if a weird opportunist is willing to sign a letter like this, maybe it is a sign that it’s safer than we think to stand up for freedom.

Here’s hoping...

NEXT: Candice Malcolm of True North joins me to talk about an exciting new Canadian organization: The Independent Press Gallery.

You've heard of the mainstream press galleries in Canada, the ones who try to prevent our reporters and those at True North from reporting the news? Well, the Independent Press Gallery has been established just for us and other independent Canadian media outlets.

FINALLY: Your messages to me!

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