And Then They Came For the Left. And the Left Began to Eat Itself

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

What’s become known as “The Chomsky Letter” that was published in Harper’s and criticized those on the wacky, loony left for going cancel-crazy has generated a subculture of opposition that should mystify anyone with more than two brain cells in functioning order.


The Spectator columnist Cockburn marvels at the stupidity on display. He takes as an example Matthew Yglesias, a longtime liberal commentator, who signed on to the Chomsky letter.

The amusingly named Emily VanderDerWerff, a trans woman ‘critic’ at Vox, went furthest fastest. She penned a hilariously obnoxious letter to her editors, which she then generously excerpted on social media.

‘I don’t want Matt to be reprimanded or fired or even asked to submit an apology,’ she wrote. ‘Doing any of the above would only solidify, in his own mind, the idea that he is being martyred for his beliefs.’

As someone who is sometimes a woman, Cockburn would like to take their hat off to VanderDerWerff for her absolute masterclass in passive aggression. She should be promoted, perhaps given Yglesias’s job, if only to solidfy, in her own mind, what Vox stands for.

“Some acts require retribution; this is not one of them.” Such compassion for the man she just threw under the social media outrage bus!

Indeed, many liberals appear to be talking out of one side of their brain while the other side says something totally different. They’re not against free speech! Until they are.

The letter caused conniptions elsewhere. Among a certain sort of blue-check progressive, it became instantly fashionable to accuse the letter writers of being predictable and – drum roll – fragile! Karen Attiah at the Washington Post, for instance, ventured that ‘too many folks…are afraid of losing power. Exhibiting symptoms of status anxiety because too many have refused to keep up with the times. Coddling intellectual laziness and harmful rhetoric is no longer a moral virtue.’

Gee — remember those days when coddling intellectual laziness was a moral virtue? Feels like yesterday. Cockburn can only sympathise with the poor sap at the Post who has to edit Karen’s copy.


“Keep up with the times” — as if principles were a matter of style, not substance. If liberalism is truly a “riot of conceits” as R. Emmet Tyrell penned in his book The Liberal Crackup, and not a set of immutable beliefs, then in 20 years or so, today’s cancelers will, themselves, come under attack for being insufficiently woke — or whatever the equivalent will be then.

Too bad I probably won’t live to see it.

One of the signers of the letter, Jesse Singal of Reason, points out that those objecting to the sentiments in the letter are not liberals.

The leftist writer Freddie de Boer’s take nicely clarifies the obvious: The people furious at this letter largely have genuine ideological problems with liberal norms and laws regarding free speech. “Please, think for a minute and consider: what does it say when a completely generic endorsement of free speech and open debate is in and of itself immediately diagnosed as anti-progressive, as anti-left?” he wrote. (Emphasis his.) “There is literally no specific instance discussed in that open letter, no real-world incident about which there might be specific and tangible controversy.” He goes on to explain, accurately: “Of course Yelling Woke Twitter hates free speech! Of course social justice liberals would prevent expression they disagree with if they could! How could any honest person observe our political discourse for any length of time and come to any other conclusion?”


To the “fragile left,” this too, shall pass. It’s not even a blip on the monitor. But perhaps, if there be honest historians with access to forbidden texts in 100 years, I wonder what they will say?


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