Rowling, Atwood, Rushdie & 150 other public figures issue warning over free speech attacks

BBC:

“The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted,” suggests the letter.

Some 150 writers, academics and activists – including authors JK Rowling, Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood – have signed an open letter denouncing the “restriction of debate”.

They say they applaud a recent “needed reckoning” on racial justice, but argue it has fuelled 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.

A diverse cross-section of figures from across the globe put their names to the letter which was published on Tuesday in Harper’s Magazine.

It includes US intellectual Noam Chomsky, eminent feminist Gloria Steinem, Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov and author Malcolm Gladwell.

Several have had works banned in some countries, including British novelist Salman Rushdie, who lived in hiding after receiving death threats for his 1988 book Satanic Verses.

Other signatories are prominent historians of race and slavery, including Nell Irvin Painter, who wrote The History of White People and David Blight, who heads Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition.

Many have been in public life for decades, while others are younger including 29-year-old activist Sarah Haider, whose organisation Ex-Muslims of North America aims to normalise religious dissent.

What does the letter say?

“The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted,” suggests the letter.

It also says: “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.”

The letter condemns “disproportionate punishments” meted out to targets of public shaming by institutional leaders conducting “panicked damage control”.

Read more at The BBC

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