We have been discussing the rising support for censorship on the left in the last few years. Silencing opposing views has become an article of faith for many on the left, including leading Democratic leaders from President Joe Biden to former President Barack Obama. What is most distressing is how many journalists and writers have joined the call for censorship. However, even with this growing movement, the letter of hundreds of “literary figures” this week to Penguin Random House is chilling. The editors and writers call on the company to rescind a book deal with Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett because they disagree with her judicial philosophy. After all, why burn books when you can effectivelyban them?
The public letter entitled “We Dissent” makes the usual absurd protestation that, just because we are seeking to ban books of those with opposing views, we still “care deeply about freedom of speech.” They simply justify their anti-free speech position by insisting that any harm “in the form of censorship” is less than “the form of assault on inalienable human rights” in opposing abortion or other constitutional rights.
Yet, the letter is not simply dangerous. It is perfectly delusional. While calling for the book to be blocked, the writers bizarrely insist “we are not calling for censorship.”
While the letter has been described as signed by “literary figures,” it actually contains many who are loosely connected to the “broader literary community” like “Philip Tuley, Imam” and “Barbara Hirsch, Avid reader.” It also includes many who are simply identified by initials or first names like “Leslie” without any stated connection.
Nevertheless, there are many editors and publishing figures who list their companies (including HarperCollins, Random House and other companies) and university presses (including Cambridge, Harvard, Michigan Northwestern, Oxford) with their titles in calling for censorship. The list speaks loudly to why dissenting or conservative authors find it more difficult to publish today. These are editors who are publicly calling for banning the publication of those who hold opposing views from their own.
It also includes academics like Ignacio Leopoldo Götz Römer, Stessin Distinguished Professor Emeritus, New College of Hofstra University and Carole DeSanti, Elizabeth Drew Professor of English Language and Literature, Smith College (and former VP and Exec Ed, PenguinRandomHouse).