Prophylactic censorship

Let’s shut it down just in case.

Three female academics have complained about an attempt to censor an article that had been accepted for publication in an academic journal published by Edinburgh University Press (EUP).

The women say they were falsely accused of being transphobic as a way to silence their views and stifle academic freedom. In recent years several women academics have had talks cancelled, articles refused or speaking dates withdrawn after transgender activists accused them of transphobia.

PhD student Lucy Hunter Blackburn and research fellow Dr Kath Murray, both at Edinburgh University, together with independent policy analyst Lisa Mackenzie make their claim in a submission to the Scottish parliament.

They are giving evidence in a consultation on a hate crime bill, which would make it an offence to “stir up hatred” in relation to transgender people.

Ah yes “stir up hatred” – by saying for instance that only women have a cervix.

Blackburn, Murray and Mackenzie think the bill is a bad idea because such accusations are way too easy to make, and they cite their experience trying to publish an article that argues “that organisations ignored the effect on women when making policies to improve the treatment of transwomen in prisons and other places.” As in: make things nicer for trans women in prison by housing them with actual women, and never mind what the actual women think about that, let alone what will actually happen to them.

The article was peer-reviewed and accepted by the journal Scottish Affairs, published by EUP. Before it appeared in print the women say “an attempt was made from within [the]… publisher to prevent publication”.

They say “a member of EUP staff, who […] would not normally have any role in relation to journal content, wrote in an internal note that they had been passed the article and had concerns about it”. The note complained that the article “both expresses anti-trans sentiment and also uses terms that are discriminatory and insulting towards trans women (for example, the use of the word ‘women’ as specifically excluding trans women)”.

Which sounds as if some very young very clueless woke person read the article sniffing for Forbidden Words and found a couple – joy! A chance to shut down a woman – no, better than that, three women! Three women defending women’s rights! Ecstasy!

Senior staff at EUP contacted Professor Michael Rosie, the editor of Scottish Affairs, to highlight the concern, without telling the authors. The press also sent a copy of the article to the university’s legal team. The academics believe this was an attempt to see whether the article contravened policies on “dignity and respect”.

One wonders why. One wonders why senior staff didn’t just ignore the member of staff who would not normally have any role in relation to journal content. In fact one wonders why senior staff didn’t tell the member of staff to fuck all the way off.

Fortunately the lawyers in effect did it for them, declining to get involved and saying it was a question of academic freedom. But! Irrelevant member of staff still gets revenge.

The article was published after the board was consulted and backed publication. The journal has since commissioned a “formal critical response” to the women’s article, which will be published in Scottish Affairs in January.

Don’t bother, we know what it will say.

Hunter Blackburn said: “It was really shocking to discover that an internal email written by a member of staff at EUP had been shared outside the press without our knowledge.” She said the note “made horrible claims about our motivation, alleging transphobia. We are not transphobic. Of course, I understand that people will disagree about issues but we were simply trying to have a debate and put our point of view.”

Ah but the definition of “transphobic” is “anything I [random person of the moment] disagree with.” This means there’s no such thing as not being transphobic.

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