Grammy-winning jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, along with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, longtime New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell, and an array of other prominent figures, has signed a letter denouncing cancel culture.
The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood and political activist Noam Chomsky joined Wynton Marsalis in lending their names to the open letter, which is expected to appear in the October edition of Harper’s Magazine. (The monthly magazine’s editors didn’t provide a reason for the three-month-long delay in publishing the letter in print.) Marsalis seems to be the only musician on the list (whose 152 signers are predominantly writers and college professors), and it’s unclear at this time whether additional music industry voices will join him.
Approximately 530 words in length, the politically charged rebuke of cancel culture indicates that the ongoing protests have “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. … 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.”
From there, the document takes aim at cancel culture’s perceived impact on the ability of journalists, artists, and other public figures to freely voice opinions that don’t necessarily align with others’ positions.
“The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted,” the letter states. “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.”
At the time of this writing, Wynton Marsalis – who is active in the political and social justice spheres – hadn’t taken to social media to elaborate upon his signing the letter, only retweeting the Harper’s announcement of the message. J.K. Rowling, for her part, has been involved in controversial conversations about transgender persons as of late, and this controversy may well have prompted her to back the statement.
However, other social media users have responded to the text, and their opinions appear to be generally negative. A number of individuals took issue with the letter’s political remarks concerning the president, and others (seemingly from the opposite end of the political spectrum) found fault with the message’s substance.
“Is this just ‘we would like the freedom to say anything we want without fear of rightful criticism’? I ask because I can’t load the page but there’s a raging multi-millionaire transphobe on the list of signatories so,” penned a dissatisfied person.
“Social movements are meant to be uncomfortable. Put down your privilege for 5 minutes and read the room!” vented another Twitter user.