More than 150 well-known writers, journalists, philosophers, scientists, and other public figures are confident that the struggle for the rights of the oppressed and minorities turns into a violation of freedom of speech and thought, depriving people of free public discussion. All of them signed an open letter published in Harper’s Magazine and condemned the pervasive fashion of the so-called “new ethics”, of public shaming and ostracism for views that differ from the mainstream. Among the signatories were writers Joan Rowling, Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood, linguist Noam Chomsky, feminist Gloria Steinem, and many others.
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.
Over the past months, many famous people have been subjected to angry attacks on the web for unpopular statements on racial issues, gender, and sexuality. The authors of the letter give examples of dismissals for dissent.
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.
They welcome the civil rights movement but emphasize that it does not cancel open debate in society.