Open Letter On Justice & Debate Got Cancel Culture Wrong



I’ve written about ‘cancel culture’ a lot in the past, as a Social Media Editor it’s at the forefront of my mind frequently. I see it every day, in this job – last week the focus was (rightly) on the comic Chris D’Elia, and this week we’re all talking about J.K. Rowling. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: cancel culture should simply be called consequence culture.

Yesterday, 150 authors and academics wrote an open letter ‘on Justice and Open Debate’. Names that signed the bottom included the likes of Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Rebecca Goldstein, and, of course, J.K. Rowling herself.

The letter, which was published in Harpers, felt like a direct response to an open letter that activists wrote addressing J.K Rowling on the 11th of June, which GLAMOUR exclusively published. 120+ activists, myself included, signed the letter penned by Gabby Edlin (the founder of Bloody Good Period). The letter stated: “We write this, not to incite trolling, but to invite you in to an open-minded, justice-focused feminist space. We write this with the simple intention of promoting accountability and for the growth of you as an individual to do better by trans and non binary people as well as the betterment of the Menstrual Equity and Intersectional feminist movements.”

So, how did the Harry Potter author respond? By conflating ‘cancel culture’ as the restricting of free speech, not the fact that the public can now hold public figures to account due to the power of social media. The Harper’s open letter writes “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.”

There are going to be people who disagree with you, as a writer that’s part of the bargain, if you put your opinions out there you have to expect people to also put their’s out there too – people disagreeing with you is not the same as censorship or cancellation. You cannot exist in an echo-chamber.

In the case of this letter, and J.K. Rowling, it’s not ‘cancel culture’ that has led to people withdrawing their support for you – what has caused this is us hearing your transphobic opinions – the internet has just made it harder for celebrities to stick their heads in the sand. In actual fact, most people aren’t even canceling her body of work (Harry Potter), but simply deciding to not listen or platform her as much as before.

The letter concludes by saying “we need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences.” Of course, sometimes the internet jumps the gun and call-out culture can go too far, too quickly. But this situation isn’t the case. Being a celebrity doesn’t shield you from criticism, and when that specific criticism is due to an emerging consensus around certain issues, to call it a restriction on free speech is entirely missing the point. People are simply trying to denounce racism, homophobia, and transphobia – sorry J.K Rowling, but wanting to spout hatred without consequences isn’t the same as free speech. Freedom of speech means the government cannot persecute you for what you say, it does not mean that the general public are obliged to listen to you.



Source link