The Harper’s Letter

The link below is to a letter Harper’s posted online last week (the “Letter”) that has stirred what I find an inexplicably vehement response in some progressive quarters given the benign (a Harper’s Vice President called them “anodyne”) — to me, also commendable – statements expressed within it.  Apparently, the Letter has stirred such acrimony in part because some number of its signatories are claimed to hold anti-transgender views (I have no idea whether or not such is true; the document does not address gender issues) and because it warns against the possibility that resistance to right-wing demagoguery “might harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion.”

I am – this will come as no surprise to anyone that reads these pages – in my own bubble.  I only recognize the names of about ten of the 150 or so signatories.  There are two, New York Times Columnist David Brooks and The Righteous Mind author Jonathan Haidt, whose work I hold in high regard.  One might suggest that the very fact that the seemingly even-handed sentiments expressed in this Letter have stirred such outrage is some evidence that progressives do, indeed, need to guard against “censoriousness” and their “own brand of dogma.”  I, but a humble amateur ;), would have readily signed this Letter if asked; arguably, by including it within these pages, I have.

One thought on “The Harper’s Letter

  1. I was not aware of the Letter on Justice and Open Debate prior to your blog post and while I would not vehemently react to the letter, I guess I am part of the “progressive quarters” that doesn’t find the letter all that “benign”.

    I am for robust honest public speech and debate. But I disagree with the idea that anything can be said with no reprisals. Their statement that begins …”Whatever the arguments around each particular incident…” implies that regardless of how valid the objections are to a particular statement or action there should be no reprisal against the speaker (or writer) regardless of the content and consequences of the statement. But I say speakers shouldn’t be able to yell fire in a crowded theater for false or nefarious reasons without reprisal. They shouldn’t be able to perjure themselves and get others condemned to prison, beaten or lynched without consequences. I also find the statement.. “ We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion …” disheartening. Men and women have died defending our right to speak. The writers and signers of the letter purport to defend that right but only if it doesn’t require courage or cost or accountably. How sad. How much discomfort or risk is acceptable to speak the truth or your thoughts? Throughout history, today and tomorrow, each person must make that decision daily.


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