DC Comics got itself in political hot water over a drawing that's been linked in mainland China to Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests.
The image in question, which DC removed from its social media accounts, was created by artist Rafael Grampa for writer Frank Miller's graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child , to be released on Dec. 11. The drawing shows a
youthful superhero holding a Molotov cocktail. In the background are the words: The future is young.
However, Chinese social media users took offense at what they said was a clear reference to pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. This perceived support for the youth-led movement that has rocked the Chinese territory sparked a backlash against DC
that the company tried to quell by taking down the image without explanation or apology.
But the controversy was just getting started. The self-censorship only angered fans around the world, who questioned DC bowing to pressure and urged it to go in the opposite direction. The disputed image's removal inspired people to circulate it
widely, and to criticise the decision to withdraw it.
Turkey has ruled that the million-selling book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls will be age restricted and treated like pornography because it could have a detrimental influence on young people.
The book, which has been published in 47 languages, offers a series of inspiring stories about women from history for young children, from British nurse Florence Nightingale to French designer Coco Chanel to singer Beyonce.
But the Turkish government's censorship board for the protection of minors from obscene publications claimed:
Some of the writings in the book will have a detrimental influence on the minds of those under the age of 18. That means it can only be sold to over-18s and must be concealed from view in shops.
Speaking to AFP, one of the authors, Francesca Cavallo, said she was saddened by the decision. She sad:
Girls deserve to grow up surrounded by more female role models. They deserve to grow up thinking that they can be anything they want
When a government is scared by a children's book promoting equality, that means that promoting these messages through children's literature can have and is having an impact, and it makes me even more motivated to keep fighting every day.
I recently completed a book defending free speech. Emerald Press scheduled it for publication but then decided not to proceed. Here's what it said about the book in Emerald's September 2019 catalogue:
In Defense of Free Speech: The University as Censor Author James R. Flynn, University of Otago, New Zealand
Synopsis: The good university is one that teaches students the intellectual skills they need to be intelligently critical--of their own beliefs and of the narratives presented by politicians and the media. Freedom to debate is
essential to the development of critical thought, but on university campuses today free speech is restricted for fear of causing offence. In Defense of Free Speech surveys the underlying factors that circumscribe the ideas tolerated in our institutions
of learning. James Flynn critically examines the way universities censor their teaching, how student activism tends to censor the opposing side and how academics censor themselves, and suggests that few, if any, universities can truly be seen as good. In
an age marred by fake news and social and political polarization, In Defense of Free Speech makes an impassioned argument for a return to critical thought.
I was notified of Emerald's decision not to proceed byEmerald's publishing director, in an email on 10th June:
I am contacting you in regard to your manuscript In Defense of Free Speech: The University as Censor . Emerald believes that its publication, in particular in the United Kingdom, would raise serious concerns. By the nature of its
subject matter, the work addresses sensitive topics of race, religion, and gender. The challenging manner in which you handle these topics as author, particularly at the beginning of the work, whilst no doubt editorially powerful, increase the
sensitivity and the risk of reaction and legal challenge. As a result, we have taken external legal advice on the contents of the manuscript and summarize our concerns below.
There are two main causes of concern for Emerald. Firstly, the work could be seen to incite racial hatred and stir up religious hatred under United Kingdom law. Clearly you have no intention of promoting racism but intent can be
irrelevant. For example, one test is merely whether it is likely that racial hatred could be stirred up as a result of the work. This is a particular difficulty given modern means of digital media expression. The potential for circulation of the more
controversial passages of the manuscript online, without the wider intellectual context of the work as a whole and to a very broad audience--in a manner beyond our control--represents a material legal risk for Emerald.
Secondly, there are many instances in the manuscript where the actions, conversations and behavior of identifiable individuals at specific named colleges are discussed in detail and at length in relation to controversial events. Given
the sensitivity of the issues involved, there is both the potential for serious harm to Emerald's reputation and the significant possibility of legal action. Substantial changes to the content and nature of the manuscript would need to be made, or
Emerald would need to accept a high level of risk both reputational and legal. The practical costs and difficulty of managing any reputational or legal problems that did arise are of further concern to Emerald.