160 Journalists, Academics Rebuke Harper’s Letter on Cancel Culture: ‘They Miss the Point’

The Harper’s letter signers fail to address systemic silencing of minority voices and some contribute to it, response says

Harper's Letter Response
Photo credit: The Objective

More than 160 journalists and academics on Friday rebuked an open letter published in Harper’s this week about the “intolerance of opposing views” for failing to recognize those who have been “silenced for generations” and said the critics of cancel culture “miss the point.”

“They miss the point: the irony of the piece is that nowhere in it do the signatories mention how marginalized voices have been silenced for generations in journalism, academia, and publishing,” the response, published in the newsletter The Objective, said.

“The signatories, many of them white, wealthy, and endowed with massive platforms, argue that they are afraid of being silenced, that so-called cancel culture is out of control, and that they fear for their jobs and free exchange of ideas, even as they speak from one of the most prestigious magazines in the country.”

Those who signed Friday’s response included former Vox video journalist Carlos Maza, Washington Post op-ed editor Karen Attiah, Intercept reporter Akela Lacy, Slate writer Ashley Feinberg, writer Lyz Lenz and BuzzFeed reporter Ryan Mac; historian Kerri Greenidge (who originally signed the Harper’s letter but later retracted her name) and other unnamed individuals from the New York Times, NPR and NBC News who said they had NDAs.

The response acknowledged that some of the incidents the original letter appeared to refer to — such as a researcher who was fired after he shared a study on Twitter about rioting and protest tactics — were indeed “real and concerning,” but that they weren’t “trends — at least not in the way that the signatories suggest.”

“In reality, their argument alludes to but does not clearly lay out specific examples, and undermines the very cause they have appointed themselves to uphold. In truth, Black, brown, and LGBTQ+ people — particularly Black and trans people — can now critique elites publicly and hold them accountable socially; this seems to be the letter’s greatest concern. What’s perhaps even more grating to many of the signatories is that a critique of their long held views is persuasive,” the response said.

The Objective response called out some of those views as being problematic, specifically “Harry Potter” scribe Rowling for spouting “transphobic and transmisogynist rhetoric” to her 14 million followers and journalist Jesse Singal for “advancing his career by writing derogatorily about trans issues.”

“Under the guise of free speech and free exchange of ideas, the letter appears to be asking for unrestricted freedom to espouse their points of view free from consequence or criticism,” it continued. “There are only so many outlets, and while these individuals have the ability to write in them, they have no intention of sharing that space or acknowledging their role in perpetuating a culture of fear and silence among writers who, for the most part, do not look like the majority of the signatories. When they demand debates, it is on their terms, on their turf.”

Thomas Chatterton Williams, who spearheaded the Harper’s letter, responded Friday specifically to the criticisms that his signers were not diverse. Williams, who is Black, tweeted the names of the signers who are people of color, adding, “Starting to think if these critics don’t know a name they think it’s white.”

Read the full response here and see the 163 signers below:

Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, NBC News

Brooke Binkowski, Journalism

Jonathan Dresner, Ph.D., Academia, Pittsburg State University, Kansas

Aída Chávez, Journalism, The Intercept

Joseph Hernandez, Journalism, Bon Appétit

Ev Crunden, Journalism

Stacia Ryder, Academia

Holly Piepenburg, Journalism

Shannon Clark, Academia, American University

Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, NBC News

Alan Henry, Journalism

Michael Waters, Journalism, Freelance

Dawn Rhodes, Journalism, Block Club Chicago

Sydette Harry, Research/Freelance, USC

Arionne Nettles, Academia, Northwestern University

Andrea González-Ramírez, Journalism, GEN

Solomon Gustavo, Journalism, MinnPost

Tommy Christopher, Journalism, Mediaite

Aaricka Washington, Journalism

Alex Zaragoza, Journalism, VICE Media

Adriana Heldiz, Journalism, Voice of San Diego

Wil Williams, Journalism, Podcast Problems LLC

Rosalie Chan, Journalism

Janelle Salanga, Journalism

Gabe Schneider, Journalism, MinnPost

Joseph Hankins, Academia, University of California, San Diego

Unsigned/NDA, Journalism

Jasmine Snow, Journalism, Minnesota Daily

Karen Attiah, Journalism

Shoshana Wodinsky, Journalism, Gizmodo

Joan Summers, Journalism, Jezebel

Marina Fang, Journalism, HuffPost

Tauhid Chappell, Journalism, Free Press

Mel Plaut, Author

Nicholas Trevino, Government Oversight

Naoko Shibusawa, Academia, Brown University

Jack Herrera, Journalism, Freelance Reporter

Carlos Maza, Journalism, Freelance

Azucena Rasilla, Journalism

Malaika Jabali, Journalism

Marzena Zukowska, Nonprofit, Radical Communicators Network / freelance writer

Mutale Nkonde, Journalism

Melissa Martin, Filmmaker/Academic, Freelance/Carnegie Mellon University

Mahsa Alimardani, Academia

Chia-Yi Hou, Journalism, The Hill

Joshua Eaton, Journalism, Freelance Investigative Reporter

Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, E.W. Scripps

Sarah Weinman, Author

Jessica Schulberg, Journalism, HuffPost

Sarah J. Jackson, Academia, University of Pennsylvania

Tim Barribeau, Journalism, Wirecutter

Vasuki Nesiah, Academia, NYU

Kimber Streams, Journalism

Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, Public radio

Sarah Jones, Journalism, New York Magazine

Alyza Enriquez, Journalism, VICE

Unsigned, Journalism, The Hill

Siobhán McGuirk, Journalism, Red Pepper magazine (UK)

Elon Green, Journalism, Freelance

Razzan Nakhlawi, Journalism

Brandy N. Carie, Theatre & Film, Freelance Writer & Director

Pravin Wilkins, Playwright, City Books Writer-in-Residence

Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, Wirecutter

Laura Wagner, Journalism, VICE

Joseph Hefner, Writer/Filmmaker/Stage Director, Freelance

Chelsea Cirruzzo, Journalism

Janet Towle, Author

Cassius Adair, Academia and Journalism, NYU Media Culture and Communication + Freelance

Kimu Elolia, Publishing, Spotify

Princess Ojiaku, Journalism / Civic Tech

Unsigned/NDA, NPR

Nick Guy, Journalism

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Academia, University of New Hampshire

Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, New York Times

Sasha Costanza-Chock, Academia, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Wendy Lu, Journalism, HuffPost

Unsigned, Academia, NYU

Ryan Mac, Journalism

Lucy Diavolo, Journalism, Teen Vogue

Lyz Lenz, Author, The Cedar Rapids Gazette

Unsigned/NDA, Colorado Public Radio News

Lisa Nakamura, Academia

Lizz Huerta, Author

Smitha Khorana, Publishing

Miho Watabe, Archivism

Ben Schaefer, Academia, University of Illinois at Chicago

Callie Wright, Journalism

Tris Mamone, Journalism, Freelance Writer

Dawn Ennis, Journalism, Outsports

Akela Lacy, Journalism, The Intercept

Alexander Lee, Publishing, W.W. Norton & Company

Maya Cade, Screenwriter

Angela Misri, Journalism

Minnah Zaheer, Journalism

Cordelia Yu, Civic tech, Corgi & Bun

Maya Srikrishnan, Journalism, Voice of San Diego

Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, The New York Times

Kameron Burns, Journalism, WIRED

Adrienne Shih, Journalism

Carrie Gillon, Alt-ac, Freelance

Daniel Varghese, Journalism, GQ

Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani, Journalism

Shelby Weldon, Journalism, Outsports

Sarah Ruiz-Grossman, Journalism, HuffPost

Gaby Del Valle, Journalism, Freelance Writer

Kristine White, Journalism, Freelance Writer

Marlee Baldridge, Academia, University of Missouri

Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, Slate Magazine

Michael Izquierdo, Journalism, Freelancer

Izz LaMagdeleine, Journalism, Freelance

Ella Chen, Journalism , The Triton/UCSD

Talia Lavin, Journalism, Freelancer

Ethan Edward Coston, Journalism

Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, POLITICO

Kelsey D. Atherton, Journalism, Freelance writer

Unsigned, Journalism, Public Media

Amal Ahmed, Journalism, Texas Observer

Siri Chilukuri, Journalism, Block Club Chicago

Dylan Miettinen, Journalism, The Minnesota Daily

Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, The New York Times

Ashley Feinberg, Journalism

Julia Llinas Goodman, Journalism

Jacob Sutherland, Journalism, Catalyst.cm

Lilly Irani, Academia, UC San Diego

NDA, Journalism, The Hill

Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, McClatchy

Paula Chakravartty, Academia, NYU

Robert Mejia, Academia, North Dakota State University

Unassigned/NDA, Journalism, Wirecutter

Thom Dunn, Journalism, BoingBoing

Anna Merlan, Journalism

Hunter Boone, Journalism, Wirecutter/NYT

Tanvi Misra, Journalism

Zachary Clein, Entertainment (Theatre/Film/TV), Freelance writer

Maxwell Strachan, Journalism

Julie Owono, NGO

Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, NPR

Marie Cruz Soto, Academia, NYU

Unsigned/NDA, Journalism, NPR

Ariana Wilson, Journalism, Freelance

Myra Washington, Academia, University of Utah

Sameena Mustafa, Journalism, Hand Her the Mic LLC

Edward Ongweso JR, Journalism Motherboard, VICE Media

Nicole Cooke, Academia, University of South Carolina

Kerri Greenidge, Academia

Noah Berlatsky, Journalism, Freelance writer

Peter Odell Campbell, Academia, University of Pittsburgh

Thomas Wilburn, Journalism, NPR

Minh-Ha T. Pham, Academia, Graduate Program in Media Studies, Pratt Institute

Ritty Lukose, Academia, New York University

Unsigned, Journalism, Condé Nast

P. Claire Dodson, Journalism, Teen Vogue

Khemani Gibson, Academia, New York University

Bridget Read, Journalism, New York Magazine

Shamira Ibrahim, Journalism, Freelance Writer

Tiffany Bui, Journalism, The Minnesota Daily

Aria Velasquez, Journalism

Unsigned, Academia, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Naseem Jamnia, Academia/Freelance Writer, University of Nevada

Anjali Vats, Academia, Boston College

Jordan Coley, Journalism

Joshua Lyon, Author

Kerry Jo Green, Academia, Brandeis University