Former New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss and Harper’s Magazine columnist Thomas Chatterton Williams appeared on “Real Time with Bill Maher” on Friday to explain the open letter they wrote to “cancel the culture”.
Earlier this month, Chatterton headed a letter signed by leading liberals, including Harry Potter author JK Rowling, political activist Noam Chomsky and feminist Gloria Steinem, all defending the open debate without fear of repercussions for expressing a point of view .
As Bill Maher noted, the letter faced strong criticism from the left.
“What impresses me is the reaction of the liberals and almost everyone who signs this letter … is a liberal!” Maher exclaimed. “Bari, the fact that you – they call you centrist or right-wing! I mean, if a bisexual Jewish, millennial and millennial girl who lives in San Francisco is not liberal … who are you today?”
Weiss called the open letter a “warning cry from within the institutions” and linked the culture of cancellation to “social murder”.
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“What we are trying to say with the letter – and what Thomas did in forming it – was to say what is happening now with this growing culture of illiberalism is different from criticism,” explained Weiss. “Thomas and I, you, Bill, are used to criticizing. Criticism is kosher in the work we do. Criticism is great. What it means to cancel culture is not critical. It’s about punishment. It’s about making a person radioactive. to take your job “.
“Canceling the culture … it’s about punishment. It’s about making a person radioactive. It’s about taking a job.”
– Bari Weiss, journalist
“It’s not just about punishing the sinner, it’s not about punishing the person for being insufficiently pure. It’s about this kind of secondary boycott of people who would deign to talk to him or appear on a platform with that person. And we see quite obviously, where that kind of policy takes us. If conversation with people with whom we disagree becomes impossible, how do we resolve the conflict? … it is violence “.
“If conversation with people with whom we disagree becomes impossible, how do we resolve conflicts? … it is violence.”
– Bari Weiss, journalist
Weiss went on to say that politics has become a “religious identity” for many Americans, pointing to the “cult” of those who support President Trump and how on the left “to be something less than ‘Defund the police’ … you something like a heretic. “
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“This is a huge problem, because what is meant is the collapse of the moderates. It means the collapse of the center and the retribalization of this country and the whole agreement with that country, the reason why it is exceptional in all its failures is because we start from history, “Weiss told Maher. “We say that lack of clarity, tribalism, that we can overcome this, that there is something greater than lineage or relatives or the political tribe to which we belong. And I think what we are seeing now, and it is a very scary moment, is a means that going back to the middle of history. And I think it’s up to us to defend the ideas that made this country unique and a departure from history “.
Chatterton emphasized that “cancellation” is not about “bringing the elites back to earth”, but what he describes as a “spectator effect” that stifles open discussion.
He ended the so-called anti-racism books by Robin DiAngelo and Ibram X Kendi, which he suggested would only increase the racial divide.
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“We are at risk of really reinvesting in the idea that race is real and that it cannot be escaped, that it is a fundamental category that defines us, that whites are essentially different from blacks,” said Chatterton. “And we run the risk of making people who live today – we are creating a world in which everyone who lives today is representative of the thoughts, bad deeds and circumstances of their ancestors. And this is not a world that I want to create.”
Weiss later praised Trader Joe’s, which recently responded to a petition calling for the renaming of products deemed offensive because it categorically rejected the demands, calling the company’s response a “brave profile”.
“You are right. This is what we need most,” agreed Maher. “Being able to speak freely is the lifeblood not only of democracy, but also of our way of life.”