On Tuesday, my RedState colleague Nick Arama reported on how some prominent public figures on the left and in the media including “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, feminist Gloria Steinem, and far leftist Noam Chomsky had banded together to sign off on a letter condemning the rise of cancel culture, which was accelerated in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.
It stated, in part, that “it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought.” As a result, “institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms.”
The letter was something that sounded good on the surface, except not when one paused not only to observe how self-serving the letter was to some of the signatories, but also to note how some of the signers were participants in past attempts to cancel others once upon a time themselves.
In any event, it didn’t even take a full 24 hours to go by before some of the signers of the letter hilariously began to turn on each other:
“I do not endorse this @Harpers letter. I am in contact with Harper’s about a retraction,” historian Kerri Greenidge told her followers. Her name has since been taken off the letter.
One of the signers of the letter pointed out that it was odd how Greenidge had signed on to something she later claimed she didn’t endorse:
Her name's been removed but was on earlier today. I'm curious how you can sign a statement you don't agree with… pic.twitter.com/4siHfVyc4G
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) July 8, 2020
And then there were the others:
Author and trans activist Jennifer Finney Boylan also expressed regret for having signed the letter.
“I did not know who else had signed that letter,” Boylan tweeted. “I thought I was endorsing a well meaning, if vague, message against internet shaming. I did know Chomsky, Steinem, and Atwood were in, and I thought, good company. The consequences are mine to bear. I am so sorry.”
Boylan’s tweet may have alluded to the inclusion of “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, who has faced backlash in recent weeks for remarks defending the concept of biological sex, which critics say were transphobic.
Another signer, Vox journalist Matthew Yglesias, was publically shamed by one of his colleagues for including himself among the others on the open letter.
“As a trans woman who very much values her position at Vox and the support the publication has given her through the emotional and physical turmoil of transition, I was deeply saddened to see Matt Yglesias’s signature on the Harper’s Weekly letter,” Vox critic at large Emily VanDerWerff began her letter to the editors that she shared on Twitter.
VanDerWerff went on to proclaim that the letter made her feel “unsafe” at her work but that even though she was taking her complaints about it and Yglesias’s participation in it public that she didn’t want him canceled.
Except in reality, canceling him is exactly what she was trying to do, as other Twitter users pointed out:
“I don’t want him fired for this, even though I invoked all the HR buzzwords I know may yield that outcome, but I’d like to leave open the possibility that something else he says that I dislike could be the one.” https://t.co/VJWgkbR86F
— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) July 8, 2020
Doesn't want him punished, just wants everyone to know that supporting free speech as Matt did means supporting the oppression and abuse of vulnerable and marginalized people https://t.co/0wJfqiaBCk
— Wesley Yang (@wesyang) July 7, 2020
A couple of people replied to this by pointing out that EVDW explicitly said she didn't want to get him in trouble. Sorry, but this is bullshit: She mentioned this making her job more difficult and making her less *safe* — it's clear the goal is to somehow punish Matt for this. https://t.co/HK842hhCKj
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) July 7, 2020
This writer may not (vocally) want Yglesias to be fired, but the point of a stunt like this is to a summon a horde that does. https://t.co/olz4nAMfYG
— Saurabh Sharma (@ssharmaTX) July 7, 2020
And about that “safety” rhetoric:
"the letter makes me feel less safe"
No one on that letter is a threat to the physical safety of anyone. People need to reject this "safety" rhetoric. It needlessly escalates tension, steers things away from civil disagreement, and amounts to rhetorical blackmail. https://t.co/6tjxW1H6Ph
— Mark Hemingway (@Heminator) July 7, 2020
In any event, let’s just be thankful for the moment that the pause button has been pushed even if only briefly on canceling people on the right while our intellectual betters on the left
eat their own sort out which team member will be the next one to receive a cancellation notice.
Like I said, popcorn-worthy.