“Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling drew outrage on Twitter, in a story on June 6, 2020. (File photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Writers including Rowling, Atwood pen open letter against threat to free speech

The letter is causing quite a stir online

Dozens of artists, writers and academics have signed an open letter decrying the weakening of public debate and warning that the free exchange of information and ideas is in jeopardy amid a rise in what they call “illiberalism.”

J.K. Rowling, Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood are among dozens of writers, artists and academics to argue against ideological conformity in an open letter in Harper’s Magazine. The letter comes amid a debate over so-called cancel culture — where prominent people face attack for sharing controversial opinions.

“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,’’ the letter said. “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.’’

Rowling, for example, has attracted criticism over her views on transgender issues, which have angered many activists. In a series of tweets, Rowling said she supported transgender rights but did not believe in “erasing” the concept of biological sex.

The comments prompted Daniel Radcliffe and other cast members of the Potter films to publicly disagree with her. Rowling was unmoved, but was attacked for weeks online.

The letter criticized the state of public debate and the “swift and severe retribution” dealt out to any perceived wrongs. It decried 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 way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away,” the letter said. “We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other.

Other signatories included Noam Chomsky, Gloria Steinem and Malcolm Gladwell.

Danica Kirka, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Entertainment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

SLIDESHOW: Chilliwack firefighters battle large blaze at Rosedale chicken barn Friday

Birds were saved but the buildings on Castleman Road were destroyed by fire

Plainclothes Abbotsford police officer deletes cellphone video after drawing gun on innocent man

‘They never asked me what I was doing there, strictly came out with guns, threatening to shoot me’

Chilliwack Fair kicks off tonight with local talent

Todd Richard and Appaloosa to hit the stage for drive-in concert at fairgrounds

VIDEO: Chilliwack chicken barn destroyed by fire

Chickens saved from blaze as firefighters work to control large fire

50-year-old time capsule unsealed at Abbotsford International Airport

Capsule sealed by former PM Pierre E. Trudeau in 1970, when event became ‘Canada’s National Airshow’

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

FURTHER UPDATE: Body removed from Maple Ridge hotel after large police presence

A large contingent of Mounties were at the Art Infiniti Hotel Friday afternoon and evening

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

PHOTOS: Moving day for 110-year-old Fraser Valley heritage house

Chilliwack heritage house makes 1.7-kilometre journey to new location

CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for Aug. 7

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Most Read