This is a dangerous idea — to suggest that group affiliation is as important as ideas themselves sets up a system where uncomfortable or dissenting ideas are easily dismissed based on tribal affiliation rather than merit or truthfulness. How can we reliably make sense of the world if ideas can’t be evaluated based on their own merit rather than on who stated them or what ‘team’ they originated from?

If you disagree with the stifling of free speech when it comes from the top down (i.e. government silencing protesting voices), you have to hold true to that principle across the board. To embrace the act of disregarding ideas based on who stated them is to accept a tactic commonly wielded by tyrannical governments. It’s a clear double standard to promote this approach whilst calling out government for attempting to silence dissent. You may disagree with today’s government but if tomorrow’s government aligns with your ideas, will it then be ok to violently silence protest from opposition groups?

It’s an easy and unproductive tactic to dismiss the significance and importance of the message based on how ‘powerful’ the signatories are. Does a letter like this carry any weight if signed by people you’ve never heard of, who have no platform whatsoever? There are unfortunately an increasing number of relatively powerless people falling victim to what we’re calling ‘cancel culture’. See the stories of Emmanuel Cafferty and David Shor. We can’t simply accept those injustices as collateral damage on the road to progress, particularly when we have the better option to defend values that we all depend on.

“An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” Martin Luther King Jr

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. If we abandon ethical first principles in pursuit of our own ideals, we allow others to do the same. In that world, everything is reduced to power dynamics and those who are willing to go the furthest in pursuit of power will always win.