March 10, 2023

The Harper's Letter

By Mike Bellinger, Chief Blog Editor, The Wolf And The Shepherd

To read The Harper's Letter, visit this link.

The Harper's Letter, also known as the "Letter on Justice and Open Debate," is an open letter published in Harper's Magazine in July 2020. The list of signatories was diverse and included more than 150 individuals from a range of backgrounds and political beliefs. Some of the more well-known signatories include:

  • Noam Chomsky, linguist and philosopher
  • Salman Rushdie, novelist
  • Margaret Atwood, novelist
  • J.K. Rowling, novelist
  • Gloria Steinem, feminist activist and writer
  • Wynton Marsalis, jazz musician
  • David Brooks, political and cultural commentator
  • Malcolm Gladwell, writer and journalist
  • Steven Pinker, cognitive psychologist and writer
  • Francis Fukuyama, political scientist and writer
  • Matthew Yglesias, journalist and co-founder of Vox

The letter expresses concern over the current state of public discourse, particularly on social media and college campuses, and argues that a climate of intolerance and moral conformity is suppressing free speech and open debate. The signatories argue that "the free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted."

The letter specifically criticizes what it describes as "cancel culture" and "the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides," arguing that it is damaging to both individuals and society as a whole. The signatories call for a renewed commitment to free speech and open debate, and urge people to resist the urge to silence or punish those with whom they disagree.

The letter sparked controversy and debate, with some applauding the signatories for defending free speech and others criticizing the letter as being tone-deaf to the experiences of marginalized groups and as perpetuating a false equivalency between those who are marginalized and those in positions of power. Many others viewed the letter as an attack on Donald Trump and anyone who does not agree with those who signed the letter.

The Harper's Letter is part of a larger ongoing debate about free speech, cancel culture, and the boundaries of acceptable discourse in the public sphere.