A double bladed threat to democracy

1,477Views 1Comments Posted 02/08/2020

The following letter signed by dozens of university professors political commentators, authors, and journalists published   in Harper’s Magazine will carry responses in the October edition.

Among those who have signed are Margaret Atwood, Noam Chomsky, David Frum Michael Ignatieff Salman Rushdie Gloria Steinem and Fareed Zakaria. We invite your comments.

Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second. The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.

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.

We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms.

 Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes. Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.

This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away.

 We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other. As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes. We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences. If we won’t defend the very thing on which our work depends, we shouldn’t expect the public or the state to defend it for us.

Comments 1

George Klk

Panama | Political Freedom: Case by case nation interaction domino effects. To understand democracy - international relationships, must maintain a certain set of goals to strengthen their economy and welfare of its citizens. 1. United States must not compromise their intellectual property rights to...China!~ 2. U.S. must not allow forced technology transfers. 3. U.S. must not transfer jobs overseas to...China. 4. U.S. must maintain their steel industry in the face of national security. 5. U.S. must not sell corporations to China with sensitive high tech components! 6. U.S. must not allow research of dangerous diseases to be in the hands of... China and financially supported by the United States. 7. U.S. must understand the aggressive demands for power and control of... China and its entire goal of complete global dominance. 8. U.S. must not allow political figures of high esteem to capitalize ownership of foreign businesses and oil for inevitable conflicts of interests. 9. U.S. must not allow foreign donations to U.S. political candidates or in high office to make foreign favorable decisions contrary to the national security interest of its citizens. 10. U.S. must not allow...Black Americans to incapacitate the police department monetarily and prohibit the use of force in life and death situations. 11. U.S. Black Americans must not take advantage of the police by mass gatherings of rioters and intimidations. 12. U.S. must not give in to China demands by allowing them economic trade leverages. 13. U.S. must not allow China to send their students into U.S. universities for highly classified sensitive materials of a national security interest. 14. U.S. must not allow China and its allies in the U.S. for any accessible data and information that may compromise the national security of its citizens. 15. U.S. must not allow China to send their workers to take jobs from U.S. citizens. 16. U.S. must not allow China to impose their technology on a free society for their espionage military operations. 17. U.S. must not allow any its political members to arrange nuclear enrichment on the basis of their preferred religious affiliations with other nations for use of missile proliferations... FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT passes this responsibility to the Secretary of State. 18. U.S. must vet presidential candidate for possible affiliations with extremist religions...Muslims, etc. 19. U.S. must vet based on prior activities presidential candidates use of foundations and determine fair share of its intended use. 20. U.S. presidential candidates must be vetted for family international business affiliations and eliminated from possible public office. Panama must not let previous presidents and a current president make way for underground operations to take away transparencies, freedom of speech, journalism and obstructing justice for a united body of corrupt legislatures...National Assembly. Requesting...[A Letter of Justice and Open Debate]...by and through signatures against an openly hidden and hostile underground operation from the political elites, business front men and financial institutions not appropriately addressed as the source of the international schemes will have little effect when ...$$$...become the norm for all activities and favors. Money...bribes, kickbacks and money laundering are some of the underground activities that continues to be deployed at any given opportunity. Politically...that is the source of grave depravity for any and all...FREEDOM! Police department and bonuses with potential inmates possession of war weapons and... presidential pardons for release is rock bottom...GREY AND BLACK LISTS OF ANY NATION. Former president Martinelli is emblematic of a sheik in dark clothing the... God Father figure who will make his way for a total and complete powerful political party with his family clan of sons. Money is unstoppable and the underground has touched every fabric of society domestically and internationally. Laws must be reformed in...ALL...of global societies or allow the Chinese the capacity and Panama underground operations to vastly effect a domino spiral out of control for absolute chaos. The United States has been financially clipped at it wings (Eagle). China knows exactly the weak points of the United States as was demonstrated with the Coronavirus. China knows the weak points of Europe and Germany as its financial leader. Russia knows China is closer to fulfilling a global plot once the world is deprived of its wealth and power. Signatures are good but does little to address a short sighted global crises based on news reporting of...conspiracy theories as nonsense. The world has witnessed the pandemic...biological warfare in its raw form!!! China has recovered of course...leveled the playing field...a fact! legal tender for...ALL...legal and illegal operations.

1 month ago
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