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.
The collected edition of Avengers: The Children's Crusade has been banned from a Brazilian book festival for featuring a kiss between two male characters.
In an unexpected move, Rio de Janeiro mayor Marcelo Crivella has announced that the translated edition of the Marvel comic book series Avengers: The Children's Crusade would be removed from the literary festival Riocentro Bienal do Livro so as to
protect the city's children from what he described as sexual content for minors.
The so-called sexual content in question is an on-panel kiss between two fully clothed male characters, Wiccan and Hulkling, who are in committed relationship.
Officials at the festival initially refused to comply with the order, although the matter was complicated by the fact that the majority of outlets didn't have the material in stock in the first place, with the one storefront that did reporting
that copies had already sold out two days earlier.
A Catholic school in Nashville, Tennessee has banned the Harry Potter series because a reverend at the school claims the books include both good and evil magic, as well as spells, which, if read by a human can conjure evil spirits, according
to the Tennessean.
The publication obtained an email from Rev. Dan Reehil, a pastor at Saint Edwards Catholic School parish, which was sent to parents. In the email, Reehil explains in the email that he has consulted several exorcists in the U.S. and Rome, and it
was recommended that the school remove the books, the Tennessean reports.
Campaign is a trade magazine for the advertising industry that has an international reach but is based in the UK.
The latest issue has a photo of Farage on the cover, trailing a profile interview with him inside the magazine. The profile was fairly sympathetic. Campaign acknowledged that, like the best marketing gurus, Farage knows how to get a simple
message across with maximum effect. Clearly, Campaign believes that a successful politician, one whose party used social media and political messaging to good effect in the EU elections in May, is an apt subject matter for a magazine that deals
in the issue of changing minds and making a splash.
But this simple observation did not impress some of the magazines high profile readers. A group of major media and internet companies got together to give Campaign a good roasting for not giving Farage a harder time. A group called Media for
Campaign's cover story offering lessons from Nigel Farage felt like an insult to the advertising community and what it tries to do every day. The decision to publish a lengthy profile interview without a contribution from the many groups that
Farage's politics demonise is also hard to understand, given Campaign's long support for equality and diversity in our industry.
No-one is disputing Nigel Farage's political successes or his right to voice his opinions on prominent platforms.
However, the playbook he and his political allies have employed to achieve success is about hate and it is simple: identify people who look different, mobilise anger against them and hold them up as the people everyone else should blame.
The only lesson our industry should draw from this playbook is not to have any part in it.
Campaign's failure to understand that is why the feature provoked such dismay. Media for All welcomes your response and we would like to be part of the future debate. Like you, we believe that media is a brilliant industry and should be
welcoming to all.
The media industry is making many positive steps towards being a more representative and diverse place. But this cover story was a step in the wrong direction.
Media for All
Bhavit Chandrani, sponsorship controller, ITV
Akama Ediomi Davies, director of global solutions, Xaxis; co-founder, We Are Stripes
Sarah Jenkins, chief marketing officer, Grey London
Desiree Lopez, chief executive, Flamingo Group
Priya Matadeen, general manager commercial, Dazed Media
Dora Michail, managing director for commercial growth, Telegraph Media Group
Liam Mullins, managing partner, the7stars
Dino Myers-Lamptey, former managing director, Mullenlowe Mediahub
Dara Nasr, managing director, Twitter
Naren Patel, chief executive, Primesight
Rak Patel, head of sales, Spotify
Jay Rajdev, EMEA vice-president of brand solutions, Videology
Nishma Robb, marketing director, Google
Mimi Turner, brand strategist, Mimi Turner Associates
Offsite Comment: Silicon Valley thinks journalists shouldn't talk to Nigel Farage
A list of banned books is over 118,000 titles long and it's constantly growing, according to a professor from the University of British Collumbia.
Professor Florian Gassner is the co-leader of a project to compile a digital list of censored books that is publicly available and searchable.
The project is called Die Kasseler Liste and it was inspired by an art installation in Germany that recreated the Parthenon using banned books.
Gassner says the first hurdle he and his team of students team had to overcome was deciding what constitutes censorship. They decided to include titles banned by governments as well as books that were taken off the shelves of public institutions
-- like schools and libraries -- after public pressure.
Gassner says government censorship is still a reality in countries like China, Russia, and Nigeria. He doesn't mention the current trend for banning books in the west on grounds of political correctness.
Gassner also wants people to understand that censorship goes beyond book-banning; it limits what can be written in the first place.