Letter dismissing 'cancel culture' concerns mocked for anonymous signers apparently 'fearful of retaliation'

Journalists from The New York Times, NBC News, and NPR are among those who chose to remain unnamed

The counter letter dismissing concerns of "cancel culture" is being mocked for the two dozen signers who chose to remain anonymous since they were "fearful of professional retaliation."

An open letter penned in Harper's Magazine by prominent liberal writers, professors and activists in defense of "open debate" was met with a sharp response from progressive journalists and academics.

"The signatories, many of them white, wealthy, and endowed with massive platforms, argue that they are afraid of being silenced, that so-called cancel culture is out of control, and that they fear for their jobs and free exchange of ideas, even as they speak from one of the most prestigious magazines in the country," the letter published in The Objective on Friday stated. "Some of the problems they bring up are real and concerning... In reality, their argument alludes to but does not clearly lay out specific examples, and undermines the very cause they have appointed themselves to uphold. In truth, Black, brown, and LGBTQ+ people — particularly Black and trans people — can now critique elites publicly and hold them accountable socially; this seems to be the letter’s greatest concern."

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It later stated, "It’s ironic that the letter gives highly sought-out space to some of the most well-paid and visible people in media, academia, and publishing. These are the same people who possess the money and prestige to have their ideas shared in just about any elite publication, outlet, or journal. There will always be a place for them to have their voices heard."

The letter also refutes the examples cited in the Harper's Magazine letter of "cancel culture" in action, offering justifications for those who were punished over apparent offenses.

Among those who signed Friday's letter include Washington Post Global Opinions editor Karen Attiah, Mediaite editor Tommy Christopher and historian Kerri Greenidge, who notably retracted her signature from the Harper's Magazine letter.

However, among the over 160 listed are roughly 24 unnamed signatories, many of them who are apparently bound by nondisclosure agreements.

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"Many signatories on our list noted their institutional affiliation but not their name, fearful of professional retaliation. It is a sad fact, and in part why we wrote the letter," the signatories noted.

Among those unnamed, three of them work for The New York Times, three work for NPR, two work for NBC News, and others work for The Hill, Politico, and Condé Nast, according to the letter.

Critics mocked the list, suggesting that remaining anonymous due to concerns of their employment contradicts their dismissal of "cancel culture."

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"You’ve got to respect the powerful stand being taken by the 15+ signers of the 'cancel culture isn’t real”' response letter who refused to put their name on the letter because they didn’t want to violate an NDA with their employer," Fourth Watch media critic Steve Krakauer reacted.

"Wow, some of [the] most powerful names in journalism & academia signed on to this," podcast host Jamie Weinstein wrote before listing the unnamed signatories' employers.

Washington Examiner reporter Jerry Dunleavy shared a screenshot of the top of the signatures with the first one saying "Unsigned/NDA," calling it "art."

"Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling, New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss, and political activist Noam Chomsky are among the roughly 150 names attached to the piece titled "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate." The letter promotes the sharing ideas without punishing or silencing dissent.

"Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial," the letter begins. "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, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts."

"But this needed reckoning has also 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. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second."

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While the letter calls President Trump a "real threat to democracy," it also warns that the resistance should not "harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion," insisting that an "intolerant climate" has plagued both sides of the aisle.

"The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted," the letter explains. "While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty. We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought."

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"We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences," the letter says. "If we won’t defend the very thing on which our work depends, we shouldn’t expect the public or the state to defend it for us."

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Other signatures attached to the letter include New York Times columnists David Brooks, The Atlantic writer David Frum, "The Handmaid's Tale" author Margaret Atwood, novelist and professor Salman Rushdie, and feminist icon Gloria Steinem.

Fox News' Sam Dorman contributed to this report. 

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