Prestigious List of Fragile Assholes

Some celebs from different avenues of the arts and the intelligentsia just signed on a letter in Harper’s whining about cancel culture. Many people on the list you’ll be familiar with, as famous racists, transphobes, and general shitbirds. (List the crimes of the ones you know about in the comments!) Some will have you scratching your temples. Like where and why did they dig up Wynton Marsalis for this?

Among them I notice Salman Rushdie, had the threat of violence and state censorship involved in his rise to fame. I don’t know why he thought people saying we should stop promoting some poorly written overrated kids books because the author is a transphobe would be remotely equivalent, but sure, dude. And we already knew he had shit taste in friends.

I also love the whine about cancel culture costing people their livelihoods. I’m sorry, every last one of these fuckers should lose their prestige lifestyle for at least a year, so they can have half a clue of what it’s like for the rest of us. Even if that did happen, the fact it would be over in a year would offer them hope that I WILL NEVER FUCKING EXPERIENCE. Motherfuck the rich, from here to eternity.

Anyway, every last one of these people is, to some extent, a thoughtless hyper-privileged asshat. Yeah, you too, Noam Chomsky:

Elliot Ackerman
Saladin Ambar, Rutgers University
Martin Amis
Anne Applebaum
Marie Arana, author
Margaret Atwood
John Banville
Mia Bay, historian
Louis Begley, writer
Roger Berkowitz, Bard College
Paul Berman, writer
Sheri Berman, Barnard College
Reginald Dwayne Betts, poet
Neil Blair, agent
David W. Blight, Yale University
Jennifer Finney Boylan, author
David Bromwich
David Brooks, columnist
Ian Buruma, Bard College
Lea Carpenter
Noam Chomsky, MIT (emeritus)
Nicholas A. Christakis, Yale University
Roger Cohen, writer
Ambassador Frances D. Cook, ret.
Drucilla Cornell, Founder, uBuntu Project
Kamel Daoud
Meghan Daum, writer
Gerald Early, Washington University-St. Louis
Jeffrey Eugenides, writer
Dexter Filkins
Federico Finchelstein, The New School
Caitlin Flanagan
Richard T. Ford, Stanford Law School
Kmele Foster
David Frum, journalist
Francis Fukuyama, Stanford University
Atul Gawande, Harvard University
Todd Gitlin, Columbia University
Kim Ghattas
Malcolm Gladwell
Michelle Goldberg, columnist
Rebecca Goldstein, writer
Anthony Grafton, Princeton University
David Greenberg, Rutgers University
Linda Greenhouse
Rinne B. Groff, playwright
Sarah Haider, activist
Jonathan Haidt, NYU-Stern
Roya Hakakian, writer
Shadi Hamid, Brookings Institution
Jeet Heer, The Nation
Katie Herzog, podcast host
Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth College
Adam Hochschild, author
Arlie Russell Hochschild, author
Eva Hoffman, writer
Coleman Hughes, writer/Manhattan Institute
Hussein Ibish, Arab Gulf States Institute
Michael Ignatieff
Zaid Jilani, journalist
Bill T. Jones, New York Live Arts
Wendy Kaminer, writer
Matthew Karp, Princeton University
Garry Kasparov, Renew Democracy Initiative
Daniel Kehlmann, writer
Randall Kennedy
Khaled Khalifa, writer
Parag Khanna, author
Laura Kipnis, Northwestern University
Frances Kissling, Center for Health, Ethics, Social Policy
Enrique Krauze, historian
Anthony Kronman, Yale University
Joy Ladin, Yeshiva University
Nicholas Lemann, Columbia University
Mark Lilla, Columbia University
Susie Linfield, New York University
Damon Linker, writer
Dahlia Lithwick, Slate
Steven Lukes, New York University
John R. MacArthur, publisher, writer
Susan Madrak, writer
Phoebe Maltz Bovy, writer
Greil Marcus
Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center
Kati Marton, author
Debra Maschek, scholar
Deirdre McCloskey, University of Illinois at Chicago
John McWhorter, Columbia University
Uday Mehta, City University of New York
Andrew Moravcsik, Princeton University
Yascha Mounk, Persuasion
Samuel Moyn, Yale University
Meera Nanda, writer and teacher
Cary Nelson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Olivia Nuzzi, New York Magazine
Mark Oppenheimer, Yale University
Dael Orlandersmith, writer/performer
George Packer
Nell Irvin Painter, Princeton University (emerita)
Greg Pardlo, Rutgers University – Camden
Orlando Patterson, Harvard University
Steven Pinker, Harvard University
Letty Cottin Pogrebin
Katha Pollitt, writer
Claire Bond Potter, The New School
Taufiq Rahim, New America Foundation
Zia Haider Rahman, writer
Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, University of Wisconsin
Jonathan Rauch, Brookings Institution/The Atlantic
Neil Roberts, political theorist
Melvin Rogers, Brown University
Kat Rosenfield, writer
Loretta J. Ross, Smith College
J.K. Rowling
Salman Rushdie, New York University
Karim Sadjadpour, Carnegie Endowment
Daryl Michael Scott, Howard University
Diana Senechal, teacher and writer
Jennifer Senior, columnist
Judith Shulevitz, writer
Jesse Singal, journalist
Anne-Marie Slaughter
Andrew Solomon, writer
Deborah Solomon, critic and biographer
Allison Stanger, Middlebury College
Paul Starr, American Prospect/Princeton University
Wendell Steavenson, writer
Gloria Steinem, writer and activist
Nadine Strossen, New York Law School
Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., Harvard Law School
Kian Tajbakhsh, Columbia University
Zephyr Teachout, Fordham University
Cynthia Tucker, University of South Alabama
Adaner Usmani, Harvard University
Chloe Valdary
Lucía Martínez Valdivia, Reed College
Helen Vendler, Harvard University
Judy B. Walzer
Michael Walzer
Eric K. Washington, historian
Caroline Weber, historian
Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers
Bari Weiss
Sean Wilentz, Princeton University
Garry Wills
Thomas Chatterton Williams, writer
Robert F. Worth, journalist and author
Molly Worthen, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Matthew Yglesias
Emily Yoffe, journalist
Cathy Young, journalist
Fareed Zakaria


  1. says

    Probably what set me off more than anything was class rage. Whining about how criticism might cost you money when you’re already class privileged enough to have this kind of influence in the first place? All I hear is “The status quo has been good to me, so don’t rock the boat too hard kids. Also ignore that picture of me smiling with Epstein.”

  2. says

    How much does the ex-muslim scene has in common with cuban refugees and other latinx anticommunists? Googling some random pricks from the list. Seems like they’ve all decided the left is untrustworthy bc we don’t want middle eastern people stabbed in our streets, so they link arms with crustholes like the American Enterprise Institute. I’m sure they’d line up to repeat Bay of Pigs in Iran, if orange man got the notion.

  3. brucegee1962 says

    In any kind of debate like this, the very first thing you should do is take your own self-interest off the table so you can look at the arguments disinterestedly. This is especially true in free-speech issues.
    The question you should ask shouldn’t be “What kind of retribution should be allowed for speech I like,” but rather “What consequences should be to punish the speech I loathe?” Just think off the top of your head who there is out there who infuriates you the most, and what you’d like to see done to them. Then remind yourself that there is someone out there that you probably make just as angry.
    Over the years I’ve tried to train myself to flip the script reflexively — if a politician I loathe does something, I try to automatically imagine a politician I admire doing the same thing, so I can decide whether it’s the act I dislike, or just the person doing it. If more pundits would just get in this habit, we wouldn’t have absurdities like conservatives who got angry about Michelle putting her feet on the couch.

  4. says

    “look at the arguments disinterestedly”

    Is that really a good thing? I can see that, in the sense that in a society as polarized as we’ve become, everyone needs to eat some pretty bitter shit just to keep a given situation from exploding into open violence. Yes, we have to figure out a way to protect speech, and that will protect some horrid bastards, whatever that looks like. But the very first thing post-modern (actual meaning, not antisemitic dogwhistle) fascist will do is ask you to see both sides on an issue where caring about people should be a fuckton more important than “rational discussion.” Never lose your interest in an important issue for a hypothetical. If you absolutely need to, keep it in your heart, whatever rhetorical flips you’re having to do.

    “imagine a politician I admire doing the same thing, so I can decide whether it’s the act I dislike, or just the person doing it”

    The act I dislike is these weasels hectoring radicals, calling for “agreeing to disagree” and softer consequences for shit behavior, and the person doing it is very much relevant to how bad of an act it is. If someone I like – say, AOC – said the same thing, I’d consider it misguided but be inclined to extend her some of that good faith they call for. Because she earned it, by doing good things. Lots of people on this list have done almost nothing worth defending. Potter was shit from the word muggle. The various liberal and libertarian talking heads on the list might give to the ACLU, but I’m done with those motherfuckers too.

    Free speech in its current form was clearly a mistake. That’s a debate I’d be more inclined to “agree to disagree” about, much like the death penalty, because I see some value in people advocating dogmatically for a positive position. Death penalty abolitionists are acting as our society’s better angels, even if I don’t care whether or not a serial killer is killed by the state.

    Free speech absolutists like the ACLU and the dweebs in question here may fight against tyranny in various ways – might do some good – even if I’m well aware runaway fascist speech is completely fucking immune to “disinfecting sunlight” and is directly to blame for our current situation.

    So some people on this list – those who have done enough good to earn good faith – I will extend that tiny twig of an olive branch to. And you, brucegee, I’ll extend a bigger branch to. I am OK with you disagreeing with me in a measured tone. But a lot of these tools? Hell no. I’m aware that my concept of good and evil is precisely opposite that of most trumpians on most issues, but what is the point of giving any quarter, any consideration, to your opposite – at this point in history? People are getting poisoned in concentration camps on US soil.

    In the past I’ve been inclined to see liberals as a necessary evil, a balancing bit of social glue keeping us from civil war. But right this minute, with the number of times I’ve seen them treating this culture war like it’s a fun little game? Nyeeh.

    Put simply – If cancel culture comes for me, fuck it, I’m cancelled. I’ll find something more pleasant to do with my time than blogging for zero recompense. These are rich people afraid of being less rich.

  5. says

    As WMDkitty says, it’s holding people accountable, not “cancelling.”

    Another way to put it is, “Dear Ms Rowling: I hold your words in so much respect that I take them quite seriously indeed. Thank you for speaking freely and demonstrating how loathesome you are.

  6. says

    These are rich people afraid of being less rich.

    No. Many of them are so rich that they’d be in the lap of luxury for the rest of their lives. They have no financial worries at all – they just want their bleatings to take precedence over others’ bleatings because their bleatings are so fucking important.

    [I noticed Ricky Gervais and John Cleese are not signatories; they have also done the “deplatforming is fascism” maneuver. It’s not much of a substitute for being a funny comedian, though.]

  7. says

    I don’t think it’s necessary to take your interests off of the table, though I acknowledge that works for you.
    It also works to keep your interests explicitly in mind so you know how they are influencing you, and that awareness let’s you keep them out of other things. I don’t think that disinterest is possible or even makes sense in anything that we’re considering. It’s more like what kind of interest I’m using to be attached to the situation.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    Apparently, signatory Thomas Chatterton Williams initiated this whole project.

    I can’t remember having heard of him before I read his recent Guardian piece, We often accuse the right of distorting science. But the left changed the coronavirus narrative overnight, which persuaded me to remember his name so as not to waste time reading more of his dishonest drivel.

    To save everybody the wasted minutes of plowing through it, he has here yet another “Those silly liberals don’t really care about the c-virus because they go out to protest police murders!!1!” piece:

    Yet even as the coronavirus lockdown threw 40 million Americans out of work – including Floyd himself – many progressives accepted this calamity, sometimes with stunning blitheness, as the necessary cost of guarding against Covid-19. … Public health experts – as well as many mainstream commentators, plenty of whom in the beginning of the pandemic were already incoherent about the importance of face masks and stay-at-home orders – have hemorrhaged credibility and authority.

    He disregards all the safety measures encouraged at, sfaik, all the George Floyd-related protests. He disregards all the campaigns to provide monetary relief to those losing jobs because of the virus. He disregards elementary journalistic ethics.

    So sad to see he’s roped more respectable names into echoing his sanctimonious snot. At least one early signatory, historian Kerri Greenidge, has already backtracked; I hope many others follow her lead.

  9. says

    Millionaires and billionaires are whining about “loss of income”.

    Because they can’t attack people who have been denied a living wage through centuries of systematic and systemic discrimination through no fault of their own (e.g. Black people, People of Colour, LGBTQIA, the disabled, women, etc.).

    Makes perfect sense.

  10. says

    From what I’ve seen on Twitter, quite some of the signees were seriously misled as to the context of the letter. Of course, once they retracted their support they were bombarded with hate accusing them to “absolutely prove the letter to be correct”.
    Because a hallmark of free inquiry is to never change your mind in light of new evidence.


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