12 votes

A more specific letter on justice and open debate

8 comments

  1. [3]
    Deimos
    Link
    Mike Masnick of Techdirt has written a couple of good (and fairly long) posts about this letter as well: Original response: Harper's Gives Prestigious Platform To Famous Writers So They Can Whine...

    Mike Masnick of Techdirt has written a couple of good (and fairly long) posts about this letter as well:

    Original response: Harper's Gives Prestigious Platform To Famous Writers So They Can Whine About Being Silenced

    Follow-up today: What That Harper's Letter About Cancel Culture Could Have Said

    5 votes
    1. Death
      Link Parent
      I think the follow-up hits the nail on the head: part of the issue with these discussions is that people, knowingly or not, tend to amalgamate instances with wildly varying contexts as "cancel...

      I think the follow-up hits the nail on the head: part of the issue with these discussions is that people, knowingly or not, tend to amalgamate instances with wildly varying contexts as "cancel culture". There's actually a substantial difference between Mike Cernovich getting James Gunn fired for his old tweets and people criticizing Jesse Singal's writings. But for the sake of argument we're asked to assume these cases are interchangeable, and so if we dislike one it follows we really should dislike the other as well, right?

      Masnick also manages to put his finger on another issue the Harper Letter has: the fact that it seems to be co-signed by people who have, presumably, very different motives for wanting to steer the conversation this way. But once again we're asked to assume all of the signatories are on the same page and all believe in the same, vague principles outlined in the letter in the exact same way.

      6 votes
  2. [4]
    nacho
    Link
    Thank you for sharing this response letter! It shows a lot of what I feared would happen when I read the original. In my experience many large fora that are taking on the necessary and overdue...

    Thank you for sharing this response letter!

    It shows a lot of what I feared would happen when I read the original.


    In my experience many large fora that are taking on the necessary and overdue reckoning with bigotry, discrimination and systemic marginalization are alienating large swathes of people who support their cause for not wanting to go far enough quick enough.

    These injustices need to be rectified. Now. Decades ago that was also true. Those unfairly affected have every right to demand swift change. The question is what strategy can accomplish that most effectively.


    I don't believe that strategy is disregarding people speaking out because they aren't pure or progressive enough. That makes perfect the enemy of good. It hinders a broad and collective movement that can force change to happen faster.

    My great aunt, whose been a feminist and an egalitarian all her life from being one of the first women in her home country getting a masters' degree and being professionally equal to her husband, won't ever tell her church friends who've just listened through the female pastor's pride-month themed sermons to get behind this current movement because it's a nonstarter.

    She, and consequently anyone whose minds she could have changed in her generation, won't ever get onboard.

    Just one example: The chasm between her decades held, professional career work for and activism regarding conditions in prisons and getting away from the horrors of mass incarceration isn't good enough. Defunding the police is a bridge too far for her to consider although she shares every aim and has laid down thousands of hours to try to get to those aims.

    Personally, it's too common that I'm told my lived experiences are wrong or that I have no right to speak on issues because my identity is wrong.


    This response letter spends a lot of time on who's behind the letter, what's not in the letter and what should have been in the original letter.

    It starts with a jab at Harper's magazine for its poor history. Maybe the readers of such a magazine are just the people who need to hear the message the authors share? Maybe the people behind the letter are just the types to reach and change the minds of the powerful and privileged folks who read Harper's without the views simply being written off as fringe reactionaries?


    I really do think it's dangerous to antagonize and write off mainstream views and not to engage with those people in a constructive and respectful manner.

    There are forums, like huge communities on reddit, where you are not allowed to post mainstream or even majority views that stem from major world religions (to use just one examle). The US is a divided nation where differing ideology means people don't even agree on the most basic realities of society.

    That hinders and prevents real change from taking place.

    The primary issue the original letter identifies, that there is increasingly no room given, and no tolerance of other people holding other views to ones own, seriously hurts those who campaign for change.

    In the words of the authors:

    We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement [...]

    2 votes
    1. [3]
      spit-evil-olive-tips
      Link Parent
      Wow, I wasn't aware of this. Which subreddit(s) does this?

      There are forums, like huge communities on reddit, where you are not allowed to post mainstream or even majority views that stem from major world religions

      Wow, I wasn't aware of this. Which subreddit(s) does this?

      1. [2]
        nacho
        Link Parent
        Several country, state and city subreddits. Many subreddits relating to specific politics or political issues. Many large subreddits that have rules against "politics", many of the subreddits that...

        Several country, state and city subreddits. Many subreddits relating to specific politics or political issues. Many large subreddits that have rules against "politics", many of the subreddits that make a big deal out of being heavily moderated, many meta-subreddits about things that go on throughout reddit, several "safe-space" or stance-taking subreddits on issues, several entertainment/gaming subreddits, and many others.

        It depends on what issues and where you draw the lines on what views are mainstream or majority, what views are just discriminatory and non-legitimate exactly which communities would be part of the list.


        If I were to post traditional Christian, Muslim or Hindu views on many different topics, I'd get banned or have those comments removed in many subreddits.

        That part of cancelling culture is very real. People who have less-than-progressive views and don't hide them do encounter a shrinking arena where what they believe isn't just something that's in a small minority, but are views they aren't even able to share.

        (I don't hold those views personally, so I'd leave it to others who experience this to say something about what views and what subreddits are the ones that affect them the most. It's hard to gauge volume and scope because the content in question is removed)

        1 vote
        1. kfwyre
          Link Parent
          To further this point, I've witnessed this a lot with regards to Christianity. When someone mentions that they're Christian, a lot of people jump on them as a way of having them answer for the...

          To further this point, I've witnessed this a lot with regards to Christianity. When someone mentions that they're Christian, a lot of people jump on them as a way of having them answer for the worst elements of Christianity -- the Catholic Church's widespread sexual abuse of children, its homophobia, etc. These are certainly things that should be interrogated, but it is not on every individual Christian to answer for these, nor is every individual Christian even responsible for these things. I am a gay man who was extensively damaged by the Church, yet I still know and support many of the Christian people in my life because they themselves are not those worst elements, nor do they support them.

          It reminds me of when I would be put in the hot seat as a gay guy and had to speak for my entire community -- a community that, at the time, had all of its worst elements in the public focus, often under the thumb of Christianity itself. Having people accost me and frame me only through statistics about HIV spread, fears of gay "recruitment", accusations of pedophilia and rape, and graphic depictions of extreme sexual acts was both limiting and infuriating. They were taking those terrible aspects of an entire population and magnifying them so that they were the only identifiers I was allowed to live under, and I see this same sort of thing happening with Christianity, to the point that I outright know people who consider simply having a Christian faith to be an oppressive act in and of itself.

          I have a really hard time with this because I think it's a misdirection to hold individuals accountable for systemic injustices. Doing so feeds a desire for justice but ends up looking more like revenge than accountability. I also don't think we can use the existence of the systemic injustice to explain away (or in some cases commend) damage done in its name. Hating on Christians is wrong to me, and it is not made less wrong because Christianity has enjoyed a position of cultural dominance in my culture and has harmed many -- including myself -- because of it. If we simply replace Christianity with another dominant culture that continues to abuse others, we've done nothing to reduce harm -- we've simply changed its targets.

          What scares me is that there are many people I care about deeply and respect deeply who believe in a sort of "fair game" mantra for abuse, and if people as caring and principled as them can fall into that line of thinking, what does that say for people who are less thoughtful and scrupulous? This "fair game" concept is endemic in our culture, and it is not limited to any one particular viewpoint. As soon as someone is found to be "worthy" of abuse, the damage done to them is ignored (or celebrated) because we believe it to be deserved rather than unjust. I believe this is more a way of clearing our consciences than it is any sort of societal force for good. Abuse is not ever "justified". Ever. That's what makes it abuse.

          But unfortunately, the lines are so blurred that we can't even see what that means anymore. We're subject to a widespread gaslighting about what even constitutes "abuse" in the first place. For one, accusations of abuse are often used as a way of sidestepping accountability -- someone who is forcefully asserting a counter-opinion is not necessarily doing so abusively, but many will portray that as such as a way to garner sympathy for themselves or to try and paint their opponent in a bad light. Concurrently, abusive behaviors are also frequently downplayed, and mass mobs flinging hate at a single target in a social DDOS attack will be portrayed as simple "pushback" or "conversation" when it's clearly so much more and so much worse.

          We can't even adequately identify what abuse is, but I think the real issue is that many of us, myself included, don't have the fortitude to not turn a blind eye -- or even cheer it on -- when it's abuse that benefits "our side", wherever we stand.

          6 votes