“A Letter on Justice and Open Debate”, recently released by Harper’s Magazine, is an open letter that includes 150 signatures by a variety of authors, academics and journalists, all of whom enjoy a certain amount of prestige within their chosen fields.
The letter itself indirectly derides “cancel culture” and condemns attempts by all political sides to shut-down debate over even the most sensitive issues. Of course, debating someone’s very right to exist or oppose systematic prejudice is the privilege of those who occupy ivory towers.
In the theory, the letter itself is bland and inoffensive. But it takes on a more sinister light when one considers a few of the signatories. Some of these well-known figures have abused their power to dismiss or undermine marginalized groups online and in print.
When members and allies of said marginalized groups pushed back on social media, the well-known figures (who have power, money, connections and large platforms) were quick to claim victimhood. Of course, such individuals are against “cancel culture” – their perception of it revolves around the fact that they can be held responsible for their actions or criticized despite their fame. One has to question whether or not these particular signatories are truly endorsing open debate or whether they’re endorsing their right to undermine vulnerable groups without any opposition.