“Privileged Solipsistic Elites” Defend Their Opposition to Free Speech

(p. A17) Three days after an open letter signed by more than 150 cultural luminaires darkly warning of a growing “intolerant climate” stirred intense response on the internet, another group issued a counterblast on Friday [July 10, 2020] accusing them of elitism, hypocrisy and complicity in the bullying they decry.

The first letter, titled “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate,” was posted online on Tuesday [July 7, 2020] by Harper’s Magazine. Signed by prominent figures in the arts, media and academia, including Margaret Atwood, Wynton Marsalis and J.K. Rowling, it warned of a growing tide of illiberalism and a weakening of “our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity.”

. . .

On Friday, after the response letter was posted, the writer Thomas Chatterton Williams, who spearheaded the Harper’s letter, highlighted the more than two dozen Black and other nonwhite intellectuals who signed his letter.

“You know, just a bunch of privileged solipsistic elites worrying about problems that don’t exist,” Mr. Williams, who is Black, tweeted. “So far, haven’t seen any of the formerly imprisoned signatories or the ones who have experienced fatwas cave to the social media backlash, though,” he added.

His dig was a reference to the fact that criticism of the Harper’s letter centered as much on who signed it as its content.

For the full story, see:

Jennifer Schuessler. “Response Aims At Signatories Of Open Letter On ‘Intolerance’.” The New York Times (Saturday, July 11, 2020): A17.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed dates, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 10, 2020, and has the title “An Open Letter on Free Expression Draws a Counterblast.”)

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