We were excited that some of our friends on the left appeared to have rejected the cancel culture and embraced free speech and civil discourse by signing a letter that appeared in Harper’s magazine.

We should have waited a few hours.

Now quite a few of the signatories are heading for the hills. Hot Air cleverly notes that the anti-cancel culture signers “begin to cancel themselves.”

The signers were ridiculed on social media. The New York Times reports:

And on social media, the reaction was swift, with some heaping ridicule on the letter’s signatories — who include cultural luminaries like Margaret Atwood, Bill T. Jones and Wynton Marsalis, along with journalists and academics — for thin-skinnedness, privilege and, as one person put it, fear of loss of “relevance.”

“Okay, I did not sign THE LETTER when I was asked 9 days ago,” Richard Kim, the enterprise director of HuffPost, said on Twitter, “because I could see in 90 seconds that it was fatuous, self-important drivel that would only troll the people it allegedly was trying to reach — and I said as much.”

The historian Kerri K. Greenidge, whose name does appear on the list, is insisting that she did not sign:

Amid the intense criticism, some signatories appeared to back away from the letter. On Tuesday evening, the historian Kerri K. Greenidge tweeted “I do not endorse this @Harpers letter,” and said she was in touch with the magazine about a retraction. (Giulia Melucci, a spokeswoman for Harper’s, said the magazine had fact-checked all signatures and that Dr. Greenidge had signed off. But she said the magazine is “respectfully removing her name.”)

Jennifer Finney Boylan, author and transgender activist who teaches at Barnard College of Columbia University, tweeted an apology for signing the letter. Her rationale seems to be that she signed because a lot of cool people were signing:

I did not know who else had signed that letter. I thought I was endorsing a well meaning, if vague, message against internet shaming. I did know Chomsky, Steinem, and Atwood were in, and I thought, good company. The consequences are mine to bear. I am so sorry.

Ms. Boylan doesn’t reveal whether she read the letter before signing.

We’re guessing that one name that might have offended Ms. Boylan was that of Harry Potter creator J. K. Rowling, who has been viciously attacked for speaking heresy on the trans issue.

Rowling caused controversy when she seized upon the wording in an article that referred to “people who menstruate.” Rowling wickedly tweeted:  

‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?

Emily vanDerwerff, describing herself as a “transwoman who very much values her position at Vox,” sent a copy of the letter to her editors with the complaint that Matt Iglesias of Vox had signed.

Ms. vanDerWerff graciously did not want Iglesias to “reprimanded, fired, or even asked to submit an apology” because any of these alternatives might make Iglesias feel like a martyr.

We will keep an eye on further defections.