NOAM CHOMSKY is among 150 public figures to sign a controversial letter denouncing ‘cancel culture’
The letter states they applaud a recent “needed reckoning” on racial justice but argue it has fuelled the stifling of open debate.
The letter denounces “a vogue for public shaming and ostracism” and “a blinding moral certainty”.
Several signatories have been attacked for comments that caused offence.
That includes Harry Potter author JK Rowling who was fiercely criticised this month for comments about transgender people.
The letter, which was published on the Harper’s Magazine website Tuesday and gathered 150 signatures, warns that the left’s resistance of President Trump’s “illiberalism” has the potential of hardening into its “own brand of dogma or coercion” and creating an intolerant climate where freedom of speech can’t exist.
The letter goes on to say: “Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a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 is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes,”
NOAM CHOMSKY ON ‘CANCEL CULTURE’
This one is firmly in the LOL pile. With absolutely no self-awareness, the Woke Stasi are attempting to cancel LeFT wing philosopher Noam Chomsky.
With Noam Chomsky at 91 years old, there is a natural distance from the world of Gen-Z. But just like a paternal grandfather, Chomsky is fully aware of the traits of that generation specifically ‘cancel culture’. but more so the dangers it brings. The attempts by the so-called ‘WOKE’ and those that claim to be on the Left have shown how distanced they are from socialism and the real LeFT of the working class.
The working class who have held the right of free speech in the same reverence as democracy, the working class that revel in vigorous debate, don’t shy from the argument, they rely on truth and the freedom to speak ‘truth’ they see that is the only way our democracy can survive.
“The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted,” the letter states.
It warns that censorship, while something “we have come to expect this on the radical right,” is also spreading more widely on the left through “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.”
“The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.”
Chomsky, importantly, is defending free speech for all, because he correctly understands that the powerful are only too keen to find justifications to silence those who challenge their power. Elites protect free speech only in so far as it serves their interests in dominating the public space.
If those on the progressive left do not defend the speech rights of everyone, even their political opponents, then any restrictions will soon be turned against them. The establishment will always tolerate the hate speech of a Trump or a Bolsonaro over the justice speech of a Sanders or a Corbyn.
Noam Chomsky has previously spoken on the same issue to some effect. Chomsky is a staunch defender in the rights of free speech. This has previous got Chomsky in trouble, as this defence has resulted in some hard-hitting statements.
Noam Chomsky has been quoted to have said:
“If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Goebbels was in favour of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re really in favour of free speech, then you’re in favour of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favour of free speech.”
CHOMSKY GETS ‘CANCELLED’
The publication of the letter ended with the irony of a woke attempt in ‘cancelling’ Noam Chomsky.
The ‘WOKE’ are now calling for the Left-wing philosopher to be ‘cancelled’ for signing the letter, some of whom were not aware of Chomsky before. This point has not been lost on many on the LeFT and Chomsky’s supporters.
One fan tweeted: “Apparently he is cancelled now for signing a letter pro-open dialogue which is forbidden on the internet apparently and oh, 17 year olds now think they’re better Chomskys than Chomsky. It’s a rabbit hole, enter at your own risk.”
Another added: “Noam Chomsky having his entire life cancelled over signing a letter. This is why I have to take frequent breaks from this hellsite.”
Last week Labour Heartlands published Cancel Culture: Two minutes of hate.
Freedom of speech has turned into Orwell’s ‘Newspeak’ only in the language of IngSoc can politics be spoken.
Through the leaked Labour Party report on its handling of anti-semitism complaints, known as the #Labourleaks, we can clearly see how the Labour Party staffers used Cancel culture and by doing so helped to exacerbate an environment of ‘Newspeak‘, a culture of fear and guarded expression of opinion.
Without freedom of speech, we would never have had the hope of socialism.
It was ‘The Age of Enlightenment‘ the liberty to express and freedom of speech that brought us the ideas of socialism. If cancel culture existed in Victorian Britain the Iron heel of the right would have been a permanent fixture on the face of the oppressed.
The Hopes of Socialism are Liberty, Equality, Solidarity. Socialist revolutionaries have claimed that overcoming the bourgeois system would usher in a new way of life where the free development of each person is a condition for the free development of all. Life in this classless society would be marked by liberty, equality and solidarity. You don’t get freedom and liberty by stopping Free speech you ultimately get fascism.
Defender of press freedom
Marx’s defence of press freedom against censorship ranks among the most powerful ever expressed. Censorship, railed Marx, “exercises tutelage over the highest interest of the citizens, their minds… You marvel at the delightful diversity, the inexhaustible riches of nature. You do not ask the rose to smell like a violet; but the richest of all, the mind, is supposed to exist in only a single manner?”
Authoritarian states invariably insist that the people are “not ready” for political freedoms, including a free press. Marx points to the contradiction this leads to; “to fight freedom of the press, one must maintain the thesis of the permanent immaturity of the human race… If the immaturity of the human race is the mystical ground for opposing freedom of the press, then certainly censorship is a most reasonable means of hindering the human race from coming of age.”
For advocates of censorship, “true education consists in keeping a person swaddled in a cradle all his life, for as soon as he learns to walk he also learns to fall, and it is only through falling that he learns to walk. But if we all remain children in swaddling-clothes, who is to swaddle us? If we all lie in a cradle, who is to cradle us? If we are all in jail, who is to be the jail warden?”
If historical circumstances dictate that a people are unready to be free, then how has one section of the population, which just happens to be those who rule, somehow been able to escape this fate? And who polices the police?”
But does Marx’s powerful attack on the censorship of the press by the state place in him the camp of those would say we must simply accept the existing press, warts and all, as the price of freedom? To see why this would be to miss the real point Marx is making, we need to note two things. Firstly, Marx’s goal is not simply the freedom of the press for its own sake. He sees it as part of wider fight for democratic freedoms. The “press, in general, is a realisation of human freedom,” he writes.
Not so long ago socialist were the advocates of Free speech, socialist relished the arguments and only through rigorous debate was an argument won. Tony Benn once said “I tell you, I don’t care what they call me. They can call me a Marxist, a Jesuit, a Flatearther, a Trotskyist, I don’t care what I’m called because I know why they call us names, its because they dare not face our arguments.”
This is the open letter signed by Chomsky and the other 149 people.
A Letter on Justice and Open Debate
July 7, 2020
The below letter will be appearing in the Letters section of the magazine’s October issue. We welcome responses at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts. 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 favour of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second. The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.
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. 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. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. 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 is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes. Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. 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.
This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. 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. 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.
Saladin Ambar, Rutgers University
Marie Arana, author
Mia Bay, historian
Louis Begley, writer
Roger Berkowitz, Bard College
Paul Berman, writer
Sheri Berman, Barnard College
Reginald Dwayne Betts, poet
Neil Blair, agent
David W. Blight, Yale University
Jennifer Finney Boylan, author
David Brooks, columnist
Ian Buruma, Bard College
Noam Chomsky, MIT (emeritus)
Nicholas A. Christakis, Yale University
Roger Cohen, writer
Ambassador Frances D. Cook, ret.
Drucilla Cornell, Founder, uBuntu Project
Meghan Daum, writer
Gerald Early, Washington University-St. Louis
Jeffrey Eugenides, writer
Federico Finchelstein, The New School
Richard T. Ford, Stanford Law School
David Frum, journalist
Francis Fukuyama, Stanford University
Atul Gawande, Harvard University
Todd Gitlin, Columbia University
Michelle Goldberg, columnist
Rebecca Goldstein, writer
Anthony Grafton, Princeton University
David Greenberg, Rutgers University
Rinne B. Groff, playwright
Sarah Haider, activist
Jonathan Haidt, NYU-Stern
Roya Hakakian, writer
Shadi Hamid, Brookings Institution
Jeet Heer, The Nation
Katie Herzog, podcast host
Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth College
Adam Hochschild, author
Arlie Russell Hochschild, author
Eva Hoffman, writer
Coleman Hughes, writer/Manhattan Institute
Hussein Ibish, Arab Gulf States Institute
Zaid Jilani, journalist
Bill T. Jones, New York Live Arts
Wendy Kaminer, writer
Matthew Karp, Princeton University
Garry Kasparov, Renew Democracy Initiative
Daniel Kehlmann, writer
Khaled Khalifa, writer
Parag Khanna, author
Laura Kipnis, Northwestern University
Frances Kissling, Center for Health, Ethics, Social Policy
Enrique Krauze, historian
Anthony Kronman, Yale University
Joy Ladin, Yeshiva University
Nicholas Lemann, Columbia University
Mark Lilla, Columbia University
Susie Linfield, New York University
Damon Linker, writer
Dahlia Lithwick, Slate
Steven Lukes, New York University
John R. MacArthur, publisher, writer
|Susan Madrak, writer|
Phoebe Maltz Bovy, writer
Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center
Kati Marton, author
Debra Mashek, scholar
Deirdre McCloskey, University of Illinois at Chicago
John McWhorter, Columbia University
Uday Mehta, City University of New York
Andrew Moravcsik, Princeton University
Yascha Mounk, Persuasion
Samuel Moyn, Yale University
Meera Nanda, writer and teacher
Cary Nelson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Olivia Nuzzi, New York Magazine
Mark Oppenheimer, Yale University
Dael Orlandersmith, writer/performer
Nell Irvin Painter, Princeton University (emerita)
Greg Pardlo, Rutgers University – Camden
Orlando Patterson, Harvard University
Steven Pinker, Harvard University
Letty Cottin Pogrebin
Katha Pollitt, writer
Claire Bond Potter, The New School
Taufiq Rahim, New America Foundation
Zia Haider Rahman, writer
Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, University of Wisconsin
Jonathan Rauch, Brookings Institution/The Atlantic
Neil Roberts, political theorist
Melvin Rogers, Brown University
Kat Rosenfield, writer
Loretta J. Ross, Smith College
Salman Rushdie, New York University
Karim Sadjadpour, Carnegie Endowment
Daryl Michael Scott, Howard University
Diana Senechal, teacher and writer
Jennifer Senior, columnist
Judith Shulevitz, writer
Jesse Singal, journalist
Andrew Solomon, writer
Deborah Solomon, critic and biographer
Allison Stanger, Middlebury College
Paul Starr, American Prospect/Princeton University
Wendell Steavenson, writer
Gloria Steinem, writer and activist
Nadine Strossen, New York Law School
Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., Harvard Law School
Kian Tajbakhsh, Columbia University
Zephyr Teachout, Fordham University
Cynthia Tucker, University of South Alabama
Adaner Usmani, Harvard University
Lucía Martínez Valdivia, Reed College
Helen Vendler, Harvard University
Judy B. Walzer
Eric K. Washington, historian
Caroline Weber, historian
Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers
Sean Wilentz, Princeton University
Thomas Chatterton Williams, writer
Robert F. Worth, journalist and author
Molly Worthen, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Emily Yoffe, journalist
Cathy Young, journalist