JK Rowling, Noam Chomsky and Salman Rushdie signal an open letter calling for the safety of freedom of expression

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(Photo: Unsplash / Roman Kraft)

Around 200 writers, scientists and journalists have issued an open letter warning that an "intolerant climate" creates an "suffocating atmosphere" in which certain views are censored.

The letter published in Harper & # 39; s was signed by a number of high-profile personalities, including Harry Potter author JK Rowling, philosopher Noam Chomsky and writer Salman Rushdie.

It warns that "the free exchange of information and ideas, the elixir of life of a liberal society, is getting closer every day" as people face an increasing risk of retaliation if they express their opinions.

"While we expect this from the radical right, censorship continues to spread in our culture: an intolerance to opposing views, a fashion for public shame and exclusion, and the tendency to resolve complex political issues with dazzling moral certainty," she said write.

"We maintain the value of a robust and even caustic counter-speech from all sides. But it is all too common these days to hear calls for quick and severe retaliation in response to perceived violations of language and thinking."

They criticize institutional leaders for imposing "hasty and disproportionate" punishments in the spirit of panic damage control, "which in some cases has resulted in people losing their jobs.

"Editors are fired for controversial work; books are withdrawn because of alleged inauthenticity; journalists are not allowed to write on certain topics; professors are examined for citing literature in class; a researcher is dismissed for disseminating an academic study reviewed by experts; and Organizations leaders are pushed out because of sometimes clumsy mistakes, "they say.

"Whatever the arguments for each individual incident, the result has been to narrow the boundaries of what can be said without steadily tightening the threat of reprisals.

"We are already paying the price for greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihood if they deviate from the consensus or do not have enough enthusiasm to match."

They continue to demand the freedom to take risks and make mistakes without fear of retaliation or "bad professional consequences".

"This suffocating atmosphere will ultimately damage the most important causes of our time," they say.

"The restriction of the debate, be it by a repressive government or an intolerant society, hurts without exception those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is through exposure, reasoning and Conviction, not about trying to do so. " Silence or wish them away. "

Rowling was recently at the center of the controversy surrounding her defense of same-sex spaces and women's rights.

She was faced with a social media storm when she criticized an article referring to "menstruating" rather than the term "women" and later defending her views in a 4,000-word essay in which she said many women were "rightly scared" of transactivists.

"I know that because so many have contacted me to tell their stories. They are afraid of doxxing, losing their jobs or livelihood, and violence," said Rowling.

"But endlessly uncomfortable, as was my constant focus on me, I refuse to bow to a movement that I believe has been shown to do harm when it comes to & # 39; woman & # 39; as undermine political and biological class and offer protection to predators like only a few before. " .

"I stand next to the brave women and men, gay, heterosexual and transsexual, who work for freedom of speech and thought and for the rights and security of some of the most vulnerable in our society: young gay children, fragile teenagers and women who are dependent on their same-sex spaces and want to keep them. "

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