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Intolerance Warning

More than 150 writers, academics, lawyers and artists have signed an open letter warning that the spread of “censoriousness” is resulting in “an intolerance of opposing views” and “a vogue for public shaming and ostracism”.

Signatories include JK Rowling, Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood, Martin Amis, Noam Chomsky, Steven Pinker, Malcolm Gladwell and Gloria Steinem.

Rowling, the Harry Potter author, compared the today's environment to the McCarthy years, adding: “To quote the inimitable Lillian Hellman: ‘I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions’.”

Published in Harper’s Magazine, the letter acknowledges that “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”, and goes on to decry what it describes as “a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favour of ideological conformity”.

The letter also objects to how “editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a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 organisations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes”.

The letter concludes that “the way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away”.

Some have already described the letter as controversial.

If you would like to read the letter in full and view the signatories, please see Harper's Magazine: A Letter on Justice and Open Debate.

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