Author Topic: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"  (Read 9227 times)

Pdine

  • Apparently I'm Jewish
"A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« on: July 08, 2020, 10:01:49 AM »
What do we think about this one then:

https://harpers.org/a-letter-on-justice-and-open-debate/

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A Letter on Justice and Open Debate
July 7, 2020

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 Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a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.

It's been signed by 150 public figures, including current targets of the kind of criticism this letter discusses like Rowling and Pinker. Chomsky has also signed it, and you can read the full list on the link above...

So is this reactionary whingeing from the usual suspects, or a much needed ref's whistle in a game where everyone is offside?

Cuellar

  • Taxes, they'll be lower...son
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2020, 10:10:49 AM »
Meh

Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2020, 10:14:51 AM »
Jodie cromer has been cancelled

Cuellar

  • Taxes, they'll be lower...son
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2020, 10:17:39 AM »
Anyway, I don't see any 'restriction of debate' these days, do you? Can't fucking move for 'debate'.

Thomas

  • please describe an encounter with a squirrel
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2020, 10:18:50 AM »
Quote
these days if you say you're english
- noam chomsky

chveik

  • I feel like swimmin' in rat piss
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2020, 10:19:10 AM »
reads like a SWP post

Sebastian Cobb

  • bad opinion haver
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2020, 10:21:23 AM »
Mentioned in the other thread that people are really cherry picking their baddies, e.g. Atwood being a prime example as she's come out as an ally.

Pdine

  • Apparently I'm Jewish
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2020, 10:21:46 AM »
Anyway, I don't see any 'restriction of debate' these days, do you? Can't fucking move for 'debate'.

I think they're talking about the tendency for people to push beyond debate quite quickly into activities like trying to get advertisers to pull support for monetised channels or getting people fired. It's not so much that there's less debate, it's that debate becomes a jumping off point for direct action almost immediately, and so it loses a lot of its power to resolve differences (arguably).

chveik

  • I feel like swimmin' in rat piss
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2020, 10:23:50 AM »
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The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion

this is such bollocks.

Thomas

  • please describe an encounter with a squirrel
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2020, 10:25:38 AM »
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More troubling still, institutional leaders Netflix execs, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments deleting scenes from Peep Show

Sin Agog

  • Dogs fucked the pope; no fault of mine
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2020, 10:27:29 AM »
Dunno why they're citing twitter as the main source of cancel culture, the Coronavirus was responsible for far more cancellations.

Funcrusher

  • Been shot up more times than Tom Mix
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2020, 10:38:05 AM »
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The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion

this is such bollocks.

Just wow, really. How else can one defeat bad ideas? If not enough people are persuaded to vote against Trump he'll win again.

chveik

  • I feel like swimmin' in rat piss
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2020, 10:42:03 AM »
Just wow, really. How else can one defeat bad ideas? If not enough people are persuaded to vote against Trump he'll win again.

the way to defeat Trump was to present a real alternative that actually cared about working class folks (ie Bernie)

makes me think of the kind of people who whine when students prevent a holocaust denier to give a talk at a uni. some ideas are so bad that they shouldn't be up for debate.

Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2020, 10:44:33 AM »
Just wow, really. How else can one defeat bad ideas? If not enough people are persuaded to vote against Trump he'll win again.

Social media platforms have a financial incentive to encourage bad actors to stoke division because it drives traffic. You can't expose, argue with or persuade bad actors because they have countless tools at their disposal to keep gaming the algorithm.

The winning argument is no longer the correct one, it's the one that generates the most revenue.

Cuellar

  • Taxes, they'll be lower...son
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2020, 10:44:58 AM »
I think they're talking about the tendency for people to push beyond debate quite quickly into activities like trying to get advertisers to pull support for monetised channels or getting people fired. It's not so much that there's less debate, it's that debate becomes a jumping off point for direct action almost immediately, and so it loses a lot of its power to resolve differences (arguably).

I suppose, but I still don't really see that as restricting debate. It reminds me of the complaint from right-wingers about the Decolonise the Curriculum movement - saying they were trying to rewrite history and censor universities, whereas they were actually advocating for broadening, not narrowing, the field of study. What about things like the BDS movement - have we debated Palestinian statehood enough now, so direct action is allowed?

And anyway, so what if someone calls for someone to be fired, or for advertisers to boycott a certain thing? Doesn't mean it HAS to happen. Who is this letter aimed at? People on twitter who say 'x is trash and should be sacked from y' and then start a petition about it? Chief Executives who sack employees for saying something racist?

It's all very vague too - I mean, yes, in principle I'd agree with it. But when it talks about being free to say things 'without reprisal' - how is reprisal defined? Legal action? Having someone on twitter call you a cunt for being homophobic?

Sorry, I'm not really asking YOU all these rhetorical questions, just rambling.

Zetetic

  • Worrying the carcass of an old song.
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #15 on: July 08, 2020, 10:46:41 AM »
One important lesson - never give give your job title or institution when signing something like this, it makes you look like pondlife compared to the big hitters.

Pdine

  • Apparently I'm Jewish
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #16 on: July 08, 2020, 10:47:02 AM »
I think calling someone a cunt on Twitter would fall within debate...

Sebastian Cobb

  • bad opinion haver
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #17 on: July 08, 2020, 10:49:25 AM »
One important lesson - never give give your job title or institution when signing something like this, it makes you look like pondlife compared to the big hitters.

I've never understood why people volunteer this unless their whole account is for industry self-promotion (e.g. Programners, infosec etc).


Funcrusher

  • Been shot up more times than Tom Mix
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #18 on: July 08, 2020, 10:51:58 AM »
the way to defeat Trump was to present a real alternative that actually cared about working class folks (ie Bernie)


Yes, you present an alternative, Bernie, who effectively counters Trump's lies and nonsense about, for example, immigrants, and defeat Trump by persuading people with better arguments. Just calling Trump a deplorable doesn't work.

Cuellar

  • Taxes, they'll be lower...son
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #19 on: July 08, 2020, 10:55:03 AM »
Yes, you present an alternative, Bernie, who effectively counters Trump's lies and nonsense about, for example, immigrants, and defeat Trump by persuading people with better arguments. Just calling Trump a deplorable doesn't work.

Why didn't Bernie, with his superior ideas and policies, win the Democratic nomination then?

Thomas

  • please describe an encounter with a squirrel
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #20 on: July 08, 2020, 10:55:21 AM »
'Debate is being stifled' is an opinion you form when you have ten million Twitter followers and some of them disagree with you - or worse, unfollow you. It's a natural part of being a celebrity in the 21st century, like Botox or pretending to be pleased to see Jimmy Fallon.

As for ordinary people attacking advertisers - neoliberal capitalism is going to end the world. It's rendering species extinct; wiping out rainforests; plunging communities into poverty and despair and then wondering why they didn't vote for the sensible-corporate-Clinton option. If Duracell hire Tom from Kasabian,[1] I say fair enough if someone wants to start a petition. I, for one, am pleased to see an increased focus on economic forces in social discourse. Debate is widening and some people are wasting no time in going for the moneyed jugular.

A handful of people on The Nebulous Left can be overzealous, but that's been true of any cause or movement ever. Their occasional tweets do not necessarily represent a mass culture of descending censoriousness.
 1. this has not happened.

chveik

  • I feel like swimmin' in rat piss
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #21 on: July 08, 2020, 10:55:30 AM »
Yes, you present an alternative, Bernie, who effectively counters Trump's lies and nonsense about, for example, immigrants, and defeat Trump by persuading people with better arguments. Just calling Trump a deplorable doesn't work.

I don't really understand your argument, since this wasn't happening in the open debate liberal myth. social media hasn't changed the nature of discourse, it just has given very partially a voice to people that haven't had one previously. the letter is basically saying 'shut up shitmunchers and let the grown-ups talk'. I'm not going to be lectured about debate by fucking Francis Fukuyama.

Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #22 on: July 08, 2020, 10:56:15 AM »
this is such bollocks.

It is. There is so much misinformation out there and you really can't expect the average joe to be able to differentiate a good source from a bad source, or a good argument from a bad argument. It reminds me of my uncle in his 60s falsely believing that the photo of a kid in a hospital asleep on a pile of coats was misinformation based on a hoax, astroturfed comment by an alleged nurse, and then when the fraud was revealed, he'd dug his heels in by that time. And there would be many people who saw the initial lie but never saw the evidence that it was a lie.

I think education in critical thinking and rationality and approaching arguments with a cool head is required. But again, you're not gonna be able to teach these folk in their 60s to reenter education so they stop falling for Facebook hoaxes.

Polite debate and discussion has happened surrounding global warming for many aeons, yet Piers Morgan still uses 'you've got a television set, don't you' as an argument to support inaction on the issue. And he's convincing to a lot of people.

...

in regards to this letter, you don't HAVE to be on Twitter. And if you're not, you'll probably never even notice you got 'cancelled'. The rich and successful folk on this letter don't have to worry about being cancelled. It's the nobody who goes viral for a dumb tweet everyone misunderstood that needs to watch their back. Last person I remember who got properly cancelled for anything other than sex offences was Kramer.

Pdine

  • Apparently I'm Jewish
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #23 on: July 08, 2020, 10:56:29 AM »
makes me think of the kind of people who whine when students prevent a holocaust denier to give a talk at a uni. some ideas are so bad that they shouldn't be up for debate.

...although of course Chomsky also stood up for a Holocaust denier and got proto-cancelled for it over thirty years ago.

Zetetic

  • Worrying the carcass of an old song.
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #24 on: July 08, 2020, 10:56:53 AM »
Duracell hire Tom from Kasabian,[1]
 1. this has not happened.

Reported for even suggesting this.

You shouldn't make it up.

Thomas

  • please describe an encounter with a squirrel
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #25 on: July 08, 2020, 11:00:30 AM »
Is it too late for me to sign the Harper's letter?

Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #26 on: July 08, 2020, 11:01:02 AM »
And people don't give a shit about someone calmly dismantling their concerns about immigrants. Fact is, most of the time, it's not based on a reality-based concern for their not being enough school places, hospital beds, downward pressure on wages, etc. It's because they feel isolated, alienated, they see their area changing and they start to feel like a minority, they see half the people at work talking in a different language. Perhaps they are racist and latch on to the non-racist arguments to avoid admitting that some of their discomfort is based on racism. Perhaps reading The Sun and the Daily Mail for decades has made 'immigrants = bad' 'just common sense'.

The people concerned about immigrants have been concerned about immigrants for decades, for reasons they might not even want to admit themselves. Bernie Saunders saying "actually there are enough school places and immigrants are good for the economy" in some half-hour debate is never going to convince them.

What might be helpful is putting economic pressure on organisations that platform or promote racism / climate denialism / whatever. And this might be helpful in the medium- to long- term.

Pdine

  • Apparently I'm Jewish
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #27 on: July 08, 2020, 11:01:42 AM »
Last person I remember who got properly cancelled for anything other than sex offences was Kramer.

Starkey just got a fairly thorough doing, albeit also thoroughly deserved, without having touched anyone's privates...

Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #28 on: July 08, 2020, 11:01:57 AM »
Anyway, I don't see any 'restriction of debate' these days, do you? Can't fucking move for 'debate'.

True, but people are getting sacked for antisemitism, due to their retweeting of articles with references to Israel.

So I suppose maybe some things don't even get to a debate.

Cuellar

  • Taxes, they'll be lower...son
Re: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
« Reply #29 on: July 08, 2020, 11:02:38 AM »
Lots of people saying on twitter 'Yes, when you see the torrent of abuse JK Rowling receives for saying these things about trans people, I agree with this letter 100% We need to discuss these things like adults!!!'

Yes, there are people sending abuse (given the tone of Rowling's comments it might be justified), but there are ALSO lots and lots of people making calm, reasoned arguments to counter what she's saying. You rarely see these, however, because it's easier for people on twitter to retweet one tweet saying '@JKROWLING CUNT' than it is to retweet a 20 tweet thread citing papers, videos, articles, statistics etc.

It's not like the 'debate' (over the simple issue of whether children should be given access to potentially lifesaving treatment) isn't happening - it's just that people actually find the 'debate' bit boring, and would rather get outraged at other people getting outraged.

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