Politics

Liberals slam cancel culture, break with leftists

There is a difference between liberals and leftists.

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“Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, New York Times editor Bari Weiss, political activist and academic Noam Chomsky, and more than 100 other sensible (at least on this issue) liberals signed “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate” that was published Tuesday in Harper’s Magazine.

While sometimes it seems to be very small, there is a definite difference between liberals and leftists, especially authoritarian leftists. Liberals, as wrong-headed and destructive as they can be, share some basic tenets with moderates and conservatives. These include a commitment to free speech and the democratic process. Leftists, as we have heard recently per their call for “transformational change,” do not share those basic ideals with other Americans and seek a completely alien society run on oppressive socialist principles. Some liberals are fighting back.

Others who signed the letter include New York Times figures David Brooks and Michelle Goldberg, CNN‘s Fareed Zakaria, The Atlantic writer David Frum, “The Handmaid’s Tale” author Margaret Atwood, and feminist Gloria Steinem. There are reports that some of the signatories, immediately under strong leftist pressure, have, within a day, canceled their signature on this letter rejecting cancel culture. Yes, you read that right. But the majority remain steadfast.

The letter reads, “Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial… 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.”

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The letter warns that leftism will “harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion. The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted… 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. We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought.”

Then they really get going: “More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. […] We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement. The stifling atmosphere that restricts public debate invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. 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.”

While they are not conservatives and are wrong on most issues, on this, these liberals speak with wisdom. Hopefully their own people, and their sometime leftist allies, will listen to them.

David Kamioner
meet the author

David Kamioner is a veteran of U.S. Army Intelligence and an honors graduate of the University of Maryland's European Division. He also served with the Pershing Nuclear Brigade and the First Infantry Division. Subsequent to that he worked for two decades as a political consultant, was part of the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort in Louisiana, ran a homeless shelter for veterans in Philadelphia, and taught as a college instructor. He serves as a Contributing Editor for LifeZette.

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