J.K. Rowling and The Handmaid’s Tale scribe Margaret Atwood are among 150 writers, academics and activists to sign an open letter published by Harper’s bemoaning the “restriction of debate” in modern culture.
Rowling, who has been at the center of a rancorous online debate about transgender rights in recent weeks, put her name to the letter, which said: “The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.”
It added: “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.”
The missive, titled “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate,” said that this creeping cancel culture will harm the most “vital causes of our time” by silencing “good-faith” disagreement.
“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,” it continued.
Salman Rushdie, Malcolm Gladwell and Noam Chomsky were also among those who signed the letter, which can be read in full here.
Rowling issued a personal essay last month in an attempt to explain her beliefs on transgender rights. She asserted that certain demands by transgender activists were dangerous to women. The essay was widely criticized by LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, who termed it transphobic.