Earlier we said that we did not share David French’s rosy view on the Harper’s letter on Justice and Open Debate. Our perspective was based on events at universities around the country. Douglas Murray at Unherd has a similar perspective to us based on the letter’s contents, the letter’s signatories, and the reaction to the letter. Of course you should read everything that Douglas writes.
We find Douglas convincing. The letter is so bland and obvious it hardly needs to be written. Then why is The Donald the only person or organization that is specifically mentioned? If you were creating a list of the enemies of free speech The Donald would be well down the list. Why is the political cutoff for signatories a millimeter to the right of the political center? As Douglas says, Victor Davis Hanson, among others, would be a great addition. Then Douglas covers the reactions to the letter and the reaction of the signatories to the challenges. Here is a great paragraph on the agonized reactions of the signatories:
It must be an awful thing to discover, that. You wake one morning believing that you have just signed the usual “well-meaning, if vague” letter alongside a genocide-denier and other reputable Left-wing authors, only to discover that a former speechwriter to a Republican president is on the same list of names as yours. What a lot of weight that must be to bear. Almost intolerable in its way.
At the very least, it is not clear that the letter has improved attitudes towards free speech. It is too soon to tell but it is entirely possible that the letter has failed and free speech is only a value of some on the right.
Still, David could be right. The letter, in Churchill’s phrase, could be the end of the beginning. Perhaps hate and cancellation will start to be more contested and include more folks from the left. This would be the process that eventually would turn the tide back towards free speech. We agree with David that it can’t be done without some help on the left. We, like Douglas, are unconvinced help is coming from the left but it is possible.