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“Justice and open debate” letter backing anti-racism protests by renowned intellectuals

More than 150 world renowned and very knowledgeable academics, writers, and artists signed a letter just published yesterday expressing their support for global anti-racism protests inspired after the murder of George Floyd, while lamenting an “intolerant climate that has set in on all sides”.

Noam Chomsky - American linguist and activist -, Gloria Steinem - veteran women’s rights campaigner -, authors J.K. Rowling and Salman Rushdie, and journalist Fareed Zakaria were among the prominent signatories.

The letter on “justice and open debate” was published by Harper’s Magazine and will appear in many leading global publications starting from the next few days.

A protestors holds up a sign during a Black Lives Matter march in London, Britain. Image credit REUTERS/Toby Melville

It supported ongoing demonstrations against police brutality and racial inequality that have spread from the United States across the rest of the world, following outrage over the brutal murder of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while detaining him in Minneapolis on May 25.

Yet, the letter also read that the sentiments unleashed have hardened a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments to the detriment of open debate, and allowed ideological conformity to erode tolerance of differences.

“As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second”, the letter said, adding that resistance should not be allowed to “harden” into a brand of “dogma or coercion”.

Protesters wearing protective face coverings hold placards as they march down Park Lane in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Image credit AFP

The letter warned that the free exchange of information and ideas are becoming more constricted on a daily basis.

It also emphasised how censoriousness was spreading widely across the culture through public shaming, a tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a “blinding moral certainty” and an intolerance of opposing views.

“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”, the letter denounced.


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