An Open Letter on Free Expression Draws a Counterblast


“But the fact is there are a lot of people, particularly Black and trans, expressing very valid concerns about the climate right now,” she said. “Letting this very lofty position go unanswered didn’t feel like it was benefiting anyone.”

The prominence of the Harper’s signers has been a flash point in the conversation, with some deriding that letter as the whining of “assorted rich fools,” as a writer for The Daily Beast put it. The response letter characterized it as a defense of “the intellectual freedom of cis white intellectuals,” which “has never been under threat en masse.”

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. And within hours of its publication, some who had signed distanced themselves from it, saying they would not have joined if they had been aware of some of the other signers. The inclusion of J.K. Rowling, who has drawn condemnation for a series of recent comments widely seen as anti-transgender, drew particular ire.

The new letter included one person, the historian Kerri Greenidge, who had signed the Harper’s letter, according to emails reviewed by The New York Times, but then asked that her name be removed, saying on Twitter, “I do not endorse this @Harpers letter.”





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