Over 150 people, including many journalists and writers, signed a response letter to Harper’s letter Friday following major criticism over the original one, which pushed for “justice and open debate.”
The original letter, titled “A Letter on Open Justice and Debate,” endorsed free speech but sparked backlash from many. Multiple Vox writers, for example, openly condemned their colleague Matt Yglesias, who signed the letter. Others who signed the letter include Noam Chomsky, J.K. Rowling and Steven Pinker.
In response, writers and journalists were among 153 people who signed “A More Specific Letter on Justice and Open Debate,” published on The Objective Friday. The response letter countered six points from the original letter surrounding censorship and free speech. (RELATED: People At Vox Are Mad That Other People At Vox Support Free Speech)
“They write, in the pages of a prominent magazine that’s infamous for being anti-union, not paying its interns, and firing editors over editorial disagreements with the publisher: ‘The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted,'” the response letter reads.
“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.”
A longish response to the Harper’s letter. I don’t agree with everything in either letter but it’s worth reading this one if you read the first one. https://t.co/h37sNC2V8f
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) July 10, 2020
Friday’s response letter claims that the original letter’s “great concern” appears to be that “Black, brown, and LGBTQ+ people – particularly Black and trans people – can now critique elites publicly and hold them accountable socially.”
The response letter pushes back on claims from the original letter, including that: “editors are fired for running controversial pieces,” “books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity,” “journalists are barred from writing on certain topics,” “professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class,” a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 was “fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study” and that “the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes.”
“In fact, a number of the signatories have made a point of punishing people who have spoken out against them,” the response letter reads. “What gives them the right to use their platforms to harass others into silence, especially writers with smaller platforms and less institutional support, while preaching that silencing writers is a problem?”
The letter includes signees who opted not to leave their name – instead just putting where they worked or what type of job they do. This was due to fear “of professional retaliation,” according to the letter. It was organized as “a group effort, started by journalists of color with contributions from the larger journalism, academic, and publishing community.”
Signees included an unnamed journalist at NBC News, The New York Times and The Hill, among many others.