Someone needs to start up “Insensitive Publishing” to publish unbowdlerised literature.
i find it extraordinarily offensive that a publisher should subject their author to the inane commentary of snivelling semi-illiterates bent on destructive ideological criticism. I shall certainly avoid anything published by Picador as I will assume it is bowdlerised rubbish having been subjected to sensitivity readers. The editor should hang his head in shame but is no doubt too stupid and crass to do so.
“the inane commentary of snivelling semi-illiterates”
The ignorance of e.e.cummings was revelatory in this respect.
I must confess I didn’t know who he was. Had to look him up, spelling included.
That’s understandable in your case, but you would have thought that somebody working in publishing would at least have heard of e.e.cummings.
Yes, this. Personally I came across e.e. cummings in an English lesson aged about 14. What this ignorance betrays is that the “reader” here is a political commissar and censor, not a person of letters, and hence likely to be entirely ignorant of and unattuned to any nuances the writer might effect.
It is exactly this level of ignorant literal-mindedness that lies behind the frequent shrieks that Boris is a racist because once used the word “piccaninnies”. He actually did so in a paragraph in which he twitted Blair’s patronising neo-colonial attitudes, a literary form of words totally lost on people exactly like these “readers”.
Exactly. Well said.
Well said Jon, Can you direct me to any piece on the ‘picanninnies ‘ comment that elucidates it further ? He was clearly using irony but it would help to have more information.Likewise the ‘letterbox’ joke was apparently not original to Boris- it was first used by a muslim woman journalist, so I’ve read, but again have no reference for it.
PS- Philip Larkin loathed ee. cummings’ work, which tells you all you need to know about him..
I wrote the following in September in response to a piece entitled How Labour became the nasty party
How Labour became the nasty party - UnHerd
The ever fragrant and emollient Angela Rayner knows her “Tories are Scum” comments will barely cause a ripple among Labour supporters. On the whole they’ll be warmly received. Over at the Guardian – both above and below the line – it is taken as a simple matter of fact that we have a Racist, Homophobic and, likely as not, Fascist PM.
If you ever question such assertions, you will be treated to a well-worn rehashing of various quotes, taken wholly out of context, as proof of things that bear little truth on examination.
The quote that always gets dragged up to “prove” Boris Johnson’s racism is the (admittedly misjudged) comment about Blair’s foreign travels “What a relief it must be for Blair to get out of England. It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies…”
Johnson was mocking Blair for his colonialist attitude towards touring the developing world. Enjoying travelling there to receive adulation and to escape whatever domestic political problems he was facing in the UK. Boris was being rude about Blair rather than black people. As I say, it was probably not a well-judged comment (from a man hoping to become PM one day) because in employing such racist epithets – even as a way to mock that colonialist attitude – he opened himself up to criticism. He was writing in his usual florid and provocative style rather than using those expressions himself. But was he being intentionally racist? No. Context matters.
Looking at the PM’s voting record through his career, looking at his writing, it is plain that Boris is actually at the very liberal end of the Tory party, yet is painted as a racist and fascist routinely.
Any attempt to push back against the BBC/Guardian narrative is met with variations on the “If it walks like a duck, ….” argument.
You then have to try and point up the obvious ….. So, Boris presides over an “openly racist” govt that has the most ethnically diverse cabinet in history?
Leads an “openly homophobic” Govt whose leading lights all supported Gay Marriage legislation?
Whose Govt is “Extreme right wing” – even though the PM, if you took the time to go through his voting record, has always been at the very liberal wing of his party (indeed his voting record has been further left than, say, Jo Swinson’s)?
Rather than the “Duck Test”, their argument sounds more like the “Witch Test” from Monty Python’s Holy Grail. They’ve decided Boris is a racist and fascist and so everything they conjure up proves that he is. Even though the merest glance at his career would demonstrate he is absolutely nothing of the sort.
Most of the “offensive” things Boris has been accused of saying were in the context of his writing – he is an amusing and provocative writer. I would rather read an entertaining writer, who isn’t afraid to sometimes sail close to the wind, than a dull, sterile writer who tiptoes unscathed through the minefield laid by the professional offence-takers by never saying anything even vaguely interesting or amusing.
Take the whole Burqa row – There was zero condemnation for Denmark on the pages of the Guardian when the Danish parliament introduced their Burqa ban. No, instead of arguing against such an illiberal law, in blessed Denmark of all places, the ire of columnists was directed at someone who had penned an article actually defending peoples’ right to wear it, but gently lampooning it as a strange garb. Boris described burqas as making the wearer look like a letterbox. Shock. Horror. Immediately he was accused of being a monster, a racist, and an Islamophobe.
Why is it that when Denmark passes a law specifically aimed at Muslim women that is okay, yet when a Tory pens an article defending Muslim women’s right to wear a Burqa – whilst making fun of it – he is accused of every “-ism” that comes to mind? It’s just not a consistent position.
The prize, though, goes to the increasingly ludicrous Matthew D’Ancona who insisted that “Johnson’s burqa row is more important and dangerous than Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech”. Seriously? D’Ancona’s deep and obvious antipathy towards the PM may have something to do with their respective success and popularity over their tenure as editor of the Spectator.
A quick experiment – I referred to the Boris article about the Burqa, I thought it was pretty tame stuff. Boris made an amusing comparison about it – WHILST ALSO DEFENDING the right to wear it. So, read this and tell me if you think this is okay, that this passes the smell-test for woke, progressive journalism as regards a (religious) form of dress:
“Something horrible flits across the background in scenes from Afghanistan, scuttling out of sight. There it is, a brief blue or black flash, a grotesque Scream 1, 2 and 3 personified – a woman. The top-to-toe burka, with its sinister, airless little grille, is more than an instrument of persecution, it is a public tarring and feathering of female sexuality.”
Ooooh, actually, reading that again I can see a few problems with it. Maybe it should have been criticised, maybe it was a bit racist, I mean, I guess we should expect such horribly unwoke attitudes from a creature like Boris, the pantomime villain in the eyes of the left-liberal media.
Oh no, wait a minute, that wasn’t from the Boris article. That was published, in the Guardian itself, and written by none other than the irreproachable St Polly of Toynbee.
In fact, even the Boris “letterbox” jibe wasn’t original. Exactly the same joke had been cracked before – again in the Guardian – BY ONE OF ITS OWN WRITERS – Remona Aly.
Deemed perfectly fine when done by one of their own, yet denounced as “Dog whistle Islamophobia” when done by Boris. More incendiary than “Rivers of Blood”? Give me strength!
Line up those who have become truly demented by Boris being PM – Angela Rayner, Matthew D’Ancona, Polly Tonybee, the entire Guardian writing staff, the BBC, Matthew Parris, practically every Labour, Lib Dem or SNP MP, the entire run of liberal placemen running every institution and quango in the country ..( not to mention the bien pensants littering the corridors of Brussels) and you have to smile.
If it is true that you can judge a man more by his enemies than his friends, then, for all his faults, Boris must be doing something right – he annoys all the right people.
Thanks Paddy, very illuminating. Do you happen to know why Mathew D’Ancona left his post as editor of the Spectator ? It was very sudden, and there must have been a back story which we weren’t told….sounds like you might know !
I don’t know the details, though I’m mightily glad he’s no longer there.
Oddly I did a piece of research for the Spectator, just after Fraser Nelson took over as editor. 50 deep-dive interviews (60 minutes plus) with long time subscribers and those who had cancelled a long-held sub in the preceding couple of years.
Some fascinating and rather amusing conversations, as you might imagine but, almost to a man, those who read the Spectator for Political insight were quick to state that D’Ancona was the worst Speccy Editor they could remember. His attempts to turn the magazine into a limp lib-dem lifestyle journal could have killed it off. Luckily the quality of the writing saved it and it goes from strength to strength without him.
Nice piece – but it’s a shame to learn that I should no longer like Matthew Parris.
Really? I’ve found him to be an unbearable copy writer for the Islington swamp for about 27 years.
I agree, but even on those increasingly rare occasions when I find myself agreeing with something he writes, I’d hesitate to do so publicly as it might associate me with that self-congratulatory smugness that he and like-minded bien-pensants adopt.
It’s such a shame because he still writes beautifully.
I do love being a smug bien pensant too. It’s one of the few pleasures left in life.
Brilliant observations, neatly written, thank you.
I once had great hope for BoJo. His ineptitude through the COVID era, surrender to his latest wife’s green tinged communism and resignation to lead against the Brussels 5th column that is the British civil service leaves me wishing he’d stayed a journalist.
I’ve not seen any specific rebuttal of the accusation along those lines, but if you look at the actual Telegraph piece, it is very clear who was being mocked.
Headlined “If Blair’s so good at running the Congo, let him stay there”, Boris’ piece shreds the patronising arrogance of Blair by stating what he must obviously believe to behave as he does:
The doors of the prime ministerial plane have been opened, and he has at last been seen at the top of the gangway. Our leader is returned to his benighted children; the pater patriae is home, and how lost his ministers have seemed without him.For ages, it seems, Supertone has been orbiting in his taxpayer-funded jet, descending to bring his particular brand of humbug to the trouble spots of the world. He did the namaste in Bangalore, and lo, the warring faiths of the Indian subcontinent immediately rescheduled World War Three. For a full 120 minutes, he and Cherie shone the light of their countenances upon the people of Afghanistan, and, who knows, perhaps the place is now rife with feminism, habeas corpus and multi-party democracy.
The doors of the prime ministerial plane have been opened, and he has at last been seen at the top of the gangway. Our leader is returned to his benighted children; the pater patriae is home, and how lost his ministers have seemed without him.
For ages, it seems, Supertone has been orbiting in his taxpayer-funded jet, descending to bring his particular brand of humbug to the trouble spots of the world. He did the namaste in Bangalore, and lo, the warring faiths of the Indian subcontinent immediately rescheduled World War Three. For a full 120 minutes, he and Cherie shone the light of their countenances upon the people of Afghanistan, and, who knows, perhaps the place is now rife with feminism, habeas corpus and multi-party democracy.
Supertone clearly enjoys these visits for the same reason the Queen must:
the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies; and one can imagine that Blair, twice victor abroad but enmired at home, is similarly seduced by foreign politeness.
So as a result this Islington lawyer flits from trouble spot to trouble spot imagining that all it takes to pacify these gormless savages is his presence:
…he is shortly off to the Congo. No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.
So if the reference to “watermelon smiles” is literally what Boris himself personally thinks, then logically he must also have genuinely believed that the arrival of Supertone would have caused an instant cessation of tribal murder. Because he said that too (“the AK47s will fall silent”), so he must believe it, right?
At the end, he returns to this and observes that
Blair continues to swank around the stratosphere, and ignore the problems at home
Because that is what Blair was doing: swanking around beaming beatifically on people he saw as savages so benighted they would benefit from the advice even of such as himself.
The issue Boris haters with this piece is simply that he skewers them perfectly by showing that their attitudes to people in Pakistan and Africa are profoundly racist. The expression is different, but the underlying belief that these people are foolish and easily-influenced by themselves, because they’re white liberals, is absolutely spot-on. The entire grievance industry is based on the supposition that minorities are savages too stupid or morally incompetent to make choices or speak up, and who need white liberals to do it for them.
I laughed out loud at that piece, and found it the funniest take down of Blair until Hague’s fabulous lampooning of his EU Presidential ambitions. “The creation of that job [UK PM] took many years, and the Prime Minister probably feels that it took almost as long to get round to his turn to hold it….when he [TB] goes off to a major political conference of a centre-right party and simultaneously refers to himself as “a socialist”, he is on manoeuvres….the awful moment when the motorcade of the President of Europe sweeps into Downing Street…the Prime Minister emerging from his door with a smile of intolerable anguish; the choking sensation as the words “Mr President” are forced from his lips; and then…the melodrama of “When will you hand over to me?” all over again…”
Vintage Hague, what a shame he blew it.
Andrea, I idly wonder at times whether you are a woman or a man – now I am thinking man! Here is an ee cummings poem, almost an anthem by now, that I am guessing would appeal more to women than men…just guessing I might be wrong.
You think . If that’s his best poem then I’m with Philip Larkin
Quite, but then the sensitive reader would just want to censor him were they to educate themselves enough to be aware of his existence.
“a pretty girl who naked is
is worth a million statues”
Cancel! Cancel! Objectifying women.
It is, particularly as a key driver behind sensitivity reading appears to be to demonstrate the cleverness and special knowledge of the reader. Having committed to the ‘correction’, it would be too late to cancel cummings for his references to blue eyed boys, or his political views.
How offensive can you get? Like men only study meaningful subjects. Don’t think so. Maybe in the future phrase your answers so they do not reflect your own misogyny
Bravo! Well played. Most missed your humor.
Yes, I think the humour was missed by many. Perhaps a sign that there are too many needing “more obvious signposting” on the right too.
How offensive? Galeti is pretty mellow. Being offended is part of being human. If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.
Would you have been equally critical if Galeti had cited a “nephew” instead ?
I suspect he automatically just chose the statistically most likely biological sex of a publishing Reader.
A “hate crime” for which he should presumably now be “cancelled” ….
Your response suggests misandry on your part …
That was my exact first thought as well, including the same title “Insensitive Publishing”!
Yes, I’m insensitive so do not want my prospective reading material censored by sensitivity readers (or anyone else)
The niece is a TERF! She needs to be sent to be educated in trans and gender fluid media studies.
I have an excellent idea… can publishers indicate on the cover if a book has been through the hands of sensitivity readers. I can then avoid those books and the delicate flowers who don’t live in a real world can read these offerings while sitting in their sensitivity bubbles.
It seems like time for more and more independent publishers.
Yes, an excellent idea indeed! I found this article both very valuable and very, very worrying. The fact that these ignorant, illiterate and stupid ideologues are acting as censors of what we read is utterly appalling. This is the equivalent of Nazi book-burning. We should mount a campaign to demand that all publishers reveal if they are employing ‘sensitivity readers’ and then boycott all such publishers. How would most of the greatest works in the literary canon have fared if such idiots had been employed to bowdlerise and ruin their work?
Hopefully, self-publishing will continue to flourish.
The advantage of choosing to read something published by a respected Publishing House used to be that they would with luck have filtered out the dross and offered up stuff of a reasonable quality.
If they now want to outsource their reviewing function to mere ideologists perhaps they could extend the service to readers who don’t want to waste their time reading stuff that offends their sensibilities as a result of the author’s excessively woke spin on things.
Alternatively, perhaps they could publish two versions of an author’s work, one designed for robust readers ready to face the rigours of the author’s work and another for sensitive readers who fear exposure to mental challenge. They could be rated “A” for adult readers and “S” for sensitive or simpleton readers so the reader could make an informed choice.
I’m thinking the book world is going to go the way of MSM vs Podcasts. We know who is winning this race. Publishers and large book retailers have long been the mafia and we have had enough.
A bit like movie ratings… PG-13, R, XXX, etc.
Yes, very good point. Books now should be packaged in exactly the same way as foods – with all the additives (and removals) listed. That way we know whether we’re getting something ‘whole’ or a piece of processed crap
A sticker on the cover could read “does not include adult content”.
‘Philip Gwyn Jones, the new holder of Peter Straus’s position, tweeted: “I now understand I must use my privileged position as a white middle-class gatekeeper with more awareness to promote diversity, equity, inclusivity, as all UK publishing strives to put right decades of structural inequality”.’
… no, Philip, your job is to publish the very best literature that you can, harnessing and enabling the talent of your authors and putting no limits on the diversity of opinion they should represent. In short, do the job you’re paid to do. You should not be using your position to force the worldview of you and your mates on everyone else whilst suppressing anything you deem “problematic”. And if you have such a problem being “privileged” and “middle class”, I suggest you step down from your lofty position and get a poorly paid job in the care sector – they’re crying out for staff – or go stack shelves in Asda That’ll knock the “privilege” out of you and might soothe your terrible guilt, instead of inflicting it on others. You can’t do anything about being white, though, I’m afraid you’ll just have to live with that burden.
What is the value of a work, if not people of all skin colors and sufferings are included? Whereas humans were agents of order, we are now agents of entropy. Everything must include everything, and all must be the same.
Kate’s story has shaken me.
I used to enjoy escaping into a book, where no matter what barriers the outside world erected, you were free in the thoughts and scenes of the author.
Can it ever be the same again?
What shook me was the alteration – back in the 1990s – of her poems. Surely in poetry the words and punctuation are especially sacrosanct?
The sooner ‘sensitivity readers’, or should we call them charlatans, are cancelled the better. They are patently mischief makers enabling evermore ludicrous ways to make money. Sadly at the rate these people are being churned out of universities, it doesn’t look likely.
Back in the day it was called censorship, but at least everyone had a clearer idea of what ‘heinous’ words or ideas were kind of forbidden and could fight back against it.
In one of Trollope’s novels Lady Glencora calls such people as the “looker outers of evil” and noted that they’ll always find it.
If you look for anything hard enough you will find it. Whether it exists or not.
Indeed some people make a living finding non-existent outrage in the strangest places. Where is their benefit in not finding it?
I’m afraid you’ve fallen foul of a global movement that seeks to stifle Euro-centric voices out of some misplaced sense of historical retribution. I’m sorry this happened to you. Unfortunately, you’re not the only one to whom this is happening. Western history, literature, and film are all undergoing this process of erasure and distortion. We’re being colonized and don’t even know it.
Excellent insight! Brilliant!
A great article. This sums it all up: “ My Readers though, have not been hired as literary people. They are there to help create a book that would play better on Twitter, not one that is better written.”
The other aspect of this is that people in these roles (sensitivity readers etc) have to generate ever more problems or they are out of work. They have a financial interest not in good literature, but in censorship and conformity. That’s leaving aside the issue of whether they actually speak for anyone other than themselves (and they don’t).
Social media is more about conformity and bullying than it is about dialogue. Above all, it’s obsessively political. And when politics invades literature, the result is either kitsch or propaganda.
” My Ántonia is an old novel” wtf. Yes it is an old novel, but a brilliant one, I think I’ll take it from my shelf and re-read it. So, no reading of Kate Chopin either, or Dickens or the Brontes or Thackery or Austin or (one of my favourite writers) Faulkner et. al.
I actually felt physically sick reading this, it’s like a night-mare scenario from a dystopian science-fiction novel. Writers are meant to use literary devices and heightened language; they are meant to challenge the reader even as they oft times entertain them. These illiterati need to be dismissed, they serve no useful purpose, all that is needed is an editor to help the author improve the book and to ensure that no law is broken (e.g. it doesn’t libel someone). To tell her what she cannot say, to change the language used is unacceptably and I’m glad to see that Ms Clanchy has not accepted it.
Just wait. Next they will start trying to do this to history books. “Can you tone down The Rape of Nanking? I find the content rather offensive and the pictures too graphic.”
History books are already being changed to become acceptable to a noisy group who don’t like the history of the past, by which I mean history written in the past. Their argument is that interpretations of past events are always subject to change, which is true – new facts come to light, a different interpretation can be put on the same events, but this is not the same as interpreting the events to fit one’s own political agenda.
Or even worse and completely falsify the historical record as both Simon Jenkins and Margaret Mac Milan did recently ( on separate occasions)over the execution of Erskine Childers.
(* formerly of English Heritage & The Times.)
(** former Reith Lecturer etc.)
This not something of which I’m aware, so I’ll look it up.
MacMillan has acknowledged her error, and changed it in her book.
Jenkins remains in ‘denial’ as far as I can recall.
This is particularly harmful to history as an academic discipline. University history degrees used to be about, in effect, the history of history. So you would ask, how did we get from thinking this about the Holy Roman Empire in 1800 to thinking that about it in 1875 to thinking this about it today?
Neo-Marxism knowingly destroys this process because there can be only one acceptable destination for historical inquiry. Everything that came before is merely wrong, wicked, and to be silenced.
The late Professor John Mann once described History as “Lies about Crimes”. He wasn’t far wrong.
(* Incidentally the HRE packed up in 1806, thanks to the homicidal Corsican pygmy.)
The EU is surely at least informed by folk memory of the HRE.
It seems natural to Germans, just as it is natural to the French to have a sun-king and to the Chinese to have their emperor under heaven.
As evidence: Olaf Scholz, by the grace of God, Holy Roman Emperor, forever August, King of Germany, King of Italy, King of all Spains, of Castile, Aragon, León, of Hungary, of Dalmatia, of Croatia, Navarra, Grenada, Toledo, Valencia, Galicia, Majorca, Sevilla, Cordova, Murcia, Jaén, Algarves, Algeciras, Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, King of Two Sicilies, of Sardinia, Corsica, King of Jerusalem, King of the Western and Eastern Indies, of the Islands and Mainland of the Ocean Sea, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Brabant, Lorraine, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, Limburg, Luxembourg, Gelderland, Neopatria, Württemberg, Landgrave of Alsace, Prince of Swabia, Asturia and Catalonia, Count of Flanders, Habsburg, Tyrol, Gorizia, Barcelona, Artois, Burgundy Palatine, Hainaut, Holland, Seeland, Ferrette, Kyburg, Namur, Roussillon, Cerdagne, Drenthe, Zutphen, Margrave of the Holy Roman Empire, Burgau, Oristano and Gociano, Lord of Frisia, the Wendish March, Pordenone, Biscay, Molin, Salins, Tripoli and Mechelen.
What is not to like?
“Neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire”, as that French rascal said.
Well, what Napoleon didn’t like was that it was 300-odd principalities full mostly of Germans (it was the HRE of the German Nation, inter alia), and what he wanted was a Europe under French control facilitated by an appearance of independence. So he scrapped the HRE and replaced it with the Confederation of the Rhine, inventing new “countries” such as Westphalia, to whose crowns he then appointed his family and lieutenants.
So the idea of a Europe run from somewhere in France and consisting of regions kidded they are independent countries but in reality ruled by appointees – modern Italy, for example – and obliged to pay tribute to the central authority, is very far from new. The EU is just the latest stab at it.
The Corsican gangster found he couldn’t get the nationalist genie back in the bottle by about 1813, with the result that most of these fake nations ended up fighting against him, but you can’t fault his instincts towards an acquis militaire. With a few tweaks it’s still playing out today.
The point of history degrees, though, is to wonder how we got from thinking X about the HRE in 1800 to Y about in 1900 and something else again today. The drift of current university “thinking” seems to be to agree that all of history was bad and that’s all you need to know.
My apologies, I misinterpreted your original post about the HRE!
Yes, history is being reinterpreted and redesignated as we speak. Such is the aversion to all things historical, even down to the dating convention of BC being reassigned so that Christianophobes may not be subjected to Jesus Christ as an historical figure rather than their preference as a cuss word. It starts with the seemingly inconsequential to inculcate the less discerning, who will receive the culture they desire.
With respect, sir, you are a horrible person who has likely triggered some readers.
The correct title–duh, thought we all knew–is
The Failure to Gain Informed Consent at Every Point of Nanking
Done and dusted.
This is a quite extraordinary essay.
Who are these “sensitivity readers” and what qualifies them?
I’m lost for words as I thought publishers would read a book and take a punt on it hoping it would sell.
They’re low IQ fools that are used as an excuse not to publish a book.
We used to mock and despise these kinds of people, the finger-wagger and serial complainer. Then all of a sudden they became the commissars of our treasured institutions. Our lives are being governed by over-zealous prefects and the type of person who used to write letters of complaint to the BBC. I have absolutely no idea how it happened, but the concept of a political commissar taking a red pen to literature to ensure it’s politically sound is about as revolting as it gets. Especially (as in the Soviet Union) these censors have all the wit and literary skill of a potato.
And all the ‘sensitivity’ of a robot. Perhaps they were just that – programmed machines. It’s what the mechanical knee-jerk character of their comments suggests. (If they are human they are, as others have observed, illliterate.) This spells the end of original, creative work — ‘art made tongue-tied by authority’ to quote the bard who is himself in line for cancellation by the self appointed ‘progressives’. In times past the censorship was from the conservative wing (remember Mary Whitehouse), now it is from these mind numbingly uncritical social justice warriors like Philip Gwyn Jones who mechanically spouts the ‘proper’ line. No irony, no subtlety, no humour — oh brave new world.
Poor old Mary was a figure of fun for many years but it seems her spirit lives on in progressive clothing. I’d argue the new censors are far more insidious though, because they control the zeitgeist and many of the levers of power. Whitehouse was an outsider and a punchline.
I’ll stick with my Flashman, thank you very much, although, that said, it would be fascinating to to read an ‘edited’ version, just to see how Orwellian and detestable these ‘right on’ people have become. What is truly frightening, is to see ‘presumably’ educated people displaying such dystopian behaviour without, it seems, the slightest self awareness. Maybe these ‘clever’ ‘educated’ ‘self aggrandising’ publishers missed the ‘history’ section altogether when they were at university. It wasn’t the uneducated, unwashed, masses who drove Nazi ideology, but the middle class Sudo-intellectuals, who gave it all a veneer of plausible, intellectual respectability.
Good effort! George MacDonald Fraser was a true gem. I particularly love the meticulous historical research with which he underpinned his stories: marvellous stuff. And I really would have loved to read his take on this sort of nonsense.
That Kate was so let down by her publisher makes one despair. And Picador at that! Sic transit, I suppose.
My Flashman books are covered in praise by the Guardian. They were published in 2005. I wonder what the G would say about them now?
Hey, just saw this! I’m re-reading him now, currently on “Flashman and the Angel of the Lord”. The story centers on John Brown at Harper’s Ferry and the start of the American Civil War. A “sensitivity” editor would emotionally liquify after the first two pages.
The audio books are excellent. Try them while you still can.
This is why I never “buy” content on Amazon Prime. If they decide to censor it, they can alter what you “own”. They can’t do that with physical media.
There are methods by which this can be avoided. But you have to locate a site which provides you with tools which allow you to strip DRM from the books. Consider Apprentice Alf.
But I have to say that while I make extensive use of digital media, anything really worth having is worth having in print.
I was thinking more of things like Fawlty Towers and Dad’s Army, where episodes have been censored because some humourless and dim commissar objects to the content. If you “bought” these on Prime, you haven’t bought anything, really. You don’t own anything you can download, burn to physical media and then watch on a Blu-Ray player. All you have bought is the ability to view the current version of it, without paying more money. This may be different from the one you originally bought.
‘What is truly frightening, is to see ‘presumably’ educated people displaying such dystopian behaviour without, it seems, the slightest self awareness.’
Case in point, Northampton University putting a trigger warning on….wait for it………1984!! You seriously could not make it up!
The point about Nineteen Eighty-Four of course is that the kind of people who want to censor that book are actually in it.
Kate many thanks, what a charming but unnerving essay. Will order a copy of your book this morning.
Wtf is the deal with the downvotes?
If you hit it by mistake you can always correct yourself.
(I have given the comment an upvote to make the down vote disappear)
I grew up reading fantastic books as a boy – fantastic ones, such as existed back then, before they were removed. Rider Haggard was a perticular favorite, ‘King Solomon’s Mines’, an amazing Victorian book ….
During the great annual Witch Hunt 40,000 soldiers are paraded into a nighttime formation for the witch finders to go amongst them, smelling out the evil ones, to a summary execution:
“”It is so, my lords. Alas! the land cries out because of his cruelties. To-night ye shall see. It is the great witch-hunt, and many will be smelt out as wizards and slain. No man’s life is safe. If the king covets a man’s cattle, or a man’s wife, or if he fears a man that he should excite a rebellion against him, then Gagool, whom ye saw, or some of the witch-finding women whom she has taught, will smell that man out as a wizard, and he will be killed.”
“The king seated himself upon the centre stool, Gagool crouched at his feet, and the others stood behind him.
“Greeting, white lords,” Twala cried, as we came up; “be seated, waste not precious time–the night is all too short for the deeds that must be done. Ye come in a good hour, and shall see a glorious show. Look round, white lords; look round,” and he rolled his one wicked eye from regiment to regiment. “Can the Stars show you such a sight as this? See how they shake in their wickedness, all those who have evil in their hearts and fear the judgment of ‘Heaven above.'”
“/Begin! begin!/” piped Gagool, in her thin piercing voice; “the hyaenas are hungry, they howl for food. /Begin! begin!/”
Then for a moment there was intense stillness, made horrible by a presage of what was to come.”
“The king lifted his spear, and suddenly twenty thousand feet were raised, as though they belonged to one man, and brought down with a stamp upon the earth. This was repeated three times, causing the solid ground to shake and tremble. Then from a far point of the circle a solitary voice began a wailing song, of which the refrain ran something as follows:–
“/What is the lot of man born of woman?/”
Back came the answer rolling out from every throat in that vast company–
“Again silence fell upon the place, and again it was broken by the king lifting his hand. Instantly we heard a pattering of feet, and from out of the masses of warriors strange and awful figures appeared running towards us. As they drew near we saw that these were women, most of them aged, for their white hair, ornamented with small bladders taken from fish, streamed out behind them. Their faces were painted in stripes of white and yellow; down their backs hung snake-skins, and round their waists rattled circlets of human bones, while each held a small forked wand in her shrivelled hand. In all there were ten of them. When they arrived in front of us they halted, and one of them, pointing with her wand towards the crouching figure of Gagool, cried out–
“Mother, old mother, we are here.”
“/Good! good! good!/” answered that aged Iniquity. “Are your eyes keen, /Isanusis/ [witch doctresses], ye seers in dark places?”
“Mother, they are keen.”
“/Good! good! good!/ Are your ears open, /Isanusis/, ye who hear words that come not from the tongue?”
“Mother, they are open.”
“/Good! good! good!/ Are your senses awake, /Isanusis/–can ye smell blood, can ye purge the land of the wicked ones who compass evil against the king and against their neighbours? Are ye ready to do the justice of ‘Heaven above,’ ye whom I have taught, who have eaten of the bread of my wisdom, and drunk of the water of my magic?”
“Mother, we can.”
“Then go! Tarry not, ye vultures; see, the slayers”–pointing to the ominous group of executioners behind–“make sharp their spears; the white men from afar are hungry to see. /Go!/”
With a wild yell Gagool’s horrid ministers broke away in every direction, like fragments from a shell, the dry bones round their waists rattling as they ran, and headed for various points of the dense human circle. We could not watch them all, so we fixed our eyes upon the /Isanusi/ nearest to us. When she came to within a few paces of the warriors she halted and began to dance wildly, turning round and round with an almost incredible rapidity, and shrieking out sentences such as “I smell him, the evil-doer!” “He is near, he who poisoned his mother!” “I hear the thoughts of him who thought evil of the king!”
Quicker and quicker she danced, till she lashed herself into such a frenzy of excitement that the foam flew in specks from her gnashing jaws,”
“/Isanusi/ was before them. Then she halted and pointed, and again crept on a pace or two.
Suddenly the end came. With a shriek she sprang in and touched a tall warrior with her forked wand. Instantly two of his comrades, those standing immediately next to him, seized the doomed man, each by one arm, and advanced with him towards the king.
He did not resist, but we saw that he dragged his limbs as though they were paralysed, and that his fingers, from which the spear had fallen, were limp like those of a man newly dead.
As he came, two of the villainous executioners stepped forward to meet him. Presently they met, and the executioners turned round, looking towards the king as though for orders
Almost before the words were uttered the horrible dead was done. One man had driven his spear into the victim’s heart, and to make assurance double sure, the other had dashed out his brains with a great club.”
“/Kill!/” said the king.
“/Kill!/” squeaked Gagool.”
You do not get writing like that anymore, even though the witch hunts continue……
A truly shocking tale. Good on Kate for having the courage to expose this and to tell Picador where to go. What’s really striking about this is the sheer ignorance, arrogance and lack of self-awareness displayed by these sensitivity readers. They really are utterly beyond parody. And this is in an industry that’s hardly awash with money, where most authors are paid poorly for their work, and yet money is wasted on this useless and pointless exercise.
An interesting and frightening piece. I noted:
“There are good reasons for regulating children’s reading: it is foundational and formational and may be enforced by school choice or being read aloud to. It is genuinely important, there, to avoid oppressive stereotypes.”
So went Enid Blyton? And now it’s Ms Clancy’s turn?
As a child, I used to read unsuitable books from the adult section of the local library, and look how I turned out 🙂 . I would have to question whether there are “good reasons for regulating children’s reading” (based on a sample of 1)
That was my thought as well. Poor Ms Clancy believes in regulation – can she truly complain if she is so regulated?
Good point! Although it was the only thing I questioned.
I think I would leave it up to parents and guardians to decide if they need to regulate children’s reading
I regulated all five of my sons’ readings. I made sure they could read what they damn well pleased. I would take them to the book store & buy them any book they wanted. Four of them turned out to be men who continue to read, and to steadily improve as readers. I can’t figure out what went wrong with the other one.
I will buy the book to register my “vote.” I suspect the publishing industry will count “votes” in the usual commercial way. A small thing but the only one available to me. Hopefully, one day, shareholders will wake up.
Interestingly the Amazon reviews contain a one star review, on woke grounds, which is so full of grammatical and spelling errors as to be almost unreadable.
Since education is probably the core battlefield of the culture wars, I probably should try to educate myself more on what’s really going on anyway. That said, I strongly suspect the book itself will be full of unconscious wokeism, because, well, teachers
Good point. The usual cultural downward spiral through ‘Surely you’re joking?’ To ‘Well, at least it’s not x/y/z..’. But what a horrifying example of spite and illiteracy from these insensitive ‘readers’.
Note, neither 1* review is from a “verified purchase”.
And it would seem, neither from English speakers. Freeze peach for heaven’s sake!
I saw that one and thought it was written by a robot. Or was the writer trying to be funny in some way? After all the whole concept of Free Speech is funny to the point of ludicrousness to the “woke”.
I went over to read these reviews and I don’t think I’ve ever read such vitriol in a review before, and I’ve read many scathing revies in the past. The review was full of ad hominem “arguments”, I started to wonder wether these two reviewers were both Ms Clanchy’s “Sensitivity Readers”.
‘I thought carefully about all the notes I had been given and, in the end, adopted none of the suggestions proffered by the Readers.’
Good for you, Kate. I can imagine how horribly stressful this whole charade must have been for you; but for the wider world at least, this is a silver lining. Picador behaved appallingly to you, and they should be ashamed of themselves. It is long overdue that this rampant politicisation disguised as ‘sensitivity’ was challenged head-on by writers. The alternative is a future of dire Maoist literature, all following the party line.
(Or is that the present?)
The good news is that there are publishers out there prepared to stand up against the commissars. I suspect more will pop up as this deepens. In the meantime, my two pennorth is that no writer should ever allow a ‘sensitivity reader’ anywhere near their work.
As an American, I truly stand in awe at how well Kate and most of the commenters deftly use the English language. I can also say this “sensitivity” push is a ruse like everything else we do here in the states. It’s nothing but a marketing ploy to feign concern in certain areas so as to deflect attention from other, more serious, matters, such as the huge wealth disparity.
It would be easy to take issues with the ‘Readers’ of Kate’s book, but pointless.
(I know the designation ‘Reader’ is one given by Picador, and what an Orwellian reversal of meaning – in so reductive a context – it is.)
People like that have always existed, and the fact they can now read and write could be seen – charitably – as one of the unforeseen consequences of wider education. Sorry – that’s wrong: not wider education, obviously, rather wider access to education. They probably have the paperwork too, and its worth precisely what Sam Goldwyn, in another context, opined.
I’m grateful that these censorious interventions have been published – could you imagine Picador doing it? And Picador is the real guilty party here – Picador and all the other publishers so frightened of Twitter rent-a-mobs that they self-censor.
What about all the rest of us who can think for ourselves – don’t you want us to buy your books? How do you think this will look in a few years, when these self-aggrandising idiots have run out of pejoratives? How do we look upon books once on the Catholic Index now – the very idea of the Index itself?
Kate Clanchy is is the firing line and she has done an admirable job of laying out these egregious ‘edits’ in an even-handed way. How wonderful it would be to read Swift, or Pope on this!
I assume this Woke editing of stories is a contributory factor to a trend towards dialogue blandness and poor casting in most TV shows and movies made since 2020? I’ve started noting the production date of shows offered to me on Netflix and favouring those made before ~2020.
Things started going downhill with the advent of the talkies…
The comments from these sensitivity readers sound as if they thought Monty Python was an instruction manual. If I didn’t know otherwise I would assume that this was a sort of literary Candid Camera exercise. I am baffled that publishers hire people with no appreciation of literature. It’s like hiring a tone-deaf person as a music critic.
I just got your original book out of the library (not to burn, but to read…). Look forward to that even more now.
What I fail to understand is why you republished a revised version of your book like a 21st century Enid Blyton. You must use your original work (bar the typos) because anything less would make your detractors were right (and scores of your older readers stupid).
Also, you say “Picador and I agreed to split”. If I correctly remember you were “made to split”. To say that it was an “agreement” sounds to me like the euphemism of the year.
How about something really controversial, letting the reader and buyer of the book decide without censorship, if its a good read it will sell if its not it won’t, I can be offended or not , I can throw in the bin halfway through or not , I want to be challenged , I want to see another view , I want the other side of the argument put offensive or not , as a fully functioning adult which you have to be to even pick up a book I can make my own mind up , this is through the looking glass now ,
When I was 13 I read a book by Dennis Wheatley called The Satanist. (Pub 1960) I thought it was so degenerate I tore it page from page and threw it in the bin, deliberately among the potato peelings so nobody else could read and be defiled by it. If I could chooose not to read something at 13 I seriously wonder why adults in 2022 can’t dump a book they disapprove of? In short – don’t like it, don’t read it.
Just call it out for what it is: white women gatekeeping other white women by using race grifter minorities as a tool.
Do we know that they’re women, do we even know that they’re white? Ms Clanchy was careful to keep them anonymouis.
You are right, of course, but that’s not the way to bet.
The failure to recognise e.e.cummings tells us something about the calibre of these sensitivity readers.
I didn’t know who he was, so I can see if I can become a sensitivity reader too.
And it’s absolutely fine for people not to know who e.e.cummings was, but if you are being asked to comment on a book and come across the name, you’d think some care would be taken to check the name and spelling.
If a famous writer had written a story 60 years ago and invented ‘sensitivity readers’, it might well have become a classic dystopian story (or it might well have been dismissed by the publisher of the time as too ridiculous – ‘come off it, George, you’ve gone too far this time’.) Sadly, what Kate describes is real, it’s happening. God help us.
Jeez. Gawd. I knew we were being corralled into wokeness but I didn’t realise it is this extreme. This is awful.
Irony, for me, is more than satire, and far more than sarcasm. It is a way of saying that two things can be true at once, of holding comedy and tragedy, romanticism and practicality, grand emotion and self-deprecation, together in a paragraph.
Which is precisely the sort of thing that relatively stupid people will struggle with. And that is basically the problem. Your so called “readers” are both stupid and unread. They think the truth is simple, and they think they possess it. And unfortunately we are putting such dopes into positions where they can dictate to the rest of us.
Thank God there was no such thing as Sensitivity Readers when George MacDonald Fraser was writing his Flashman series or I wouldn’t be re-reading them now. I’m tremendously sorry this author has been subjected to such lunacy, and I hope she’ll defy it at every turn. In the meantime, there are countless books written before this madness took hold. Get ‘em before Fahrenheit 451 is fully implemented; the robot dogs are already here.
What a wonderful read. Ms Clanchy, I shall treat myself to a copy of your book. It sounds great. And as for your tormentors, what meagre little lives they must lead. Unlike your former pupils, one supposes.
Oh, and with specific reference to “Liam”, I was lucky to have sympathetic teachers when I was coming out as a teenager. Need I tell you that your empathy and concern were absolutely spot-on?
It’s time that publishers and academics realised that these pathetic trolls are not a representative sample of the population at large and should be ignored.
And I went into the process willingly
With all due respect, this is where the problem starts.
Hi Kate Just to say I really enjoyed the original Some Kids… warts and all. I did not agree with all of your conclusions but I loved walking with you through your journey, the story was so well told. Delighted you have a new publisher.
The grifters really do have their sticky fingers in everything. Bewildering that this is so commonplace and people are either so pathetic, or assumed to be, that they need this “service”.
What a nightmare.
Sensitivity Readers must be the profession where Gender Studies and Feminist Dance Theory graduates end up.
Useless people trying to make a living performing useless tasks.
I don’t know if any permissions would need to be obtained, but it would be fascinating to publish the annotated version, with all the notes included.
I’m reminded of the recent New Yorker cartoon where the newsreader announces “… and now the conservative weather.”
I read this article with growing anger and, by the end, all I could think about was whether there remain any publishers who are not infected by this mind virus and, if not, whether it is possible to start one. I was delighted to find that Kate had found a new publisher in Swift Press and have pre-ordered my copy.
I’m tempted to wonder whether the Readers working for Picador are drawn from the very highest echelons of society. Are they former laureates from the literary world? Are they people who have excelled so far in their chosen field that they have been selected as gatekeepers for the works of lesser mortals? Or are they merely bitter and cantankerous as a result of their own inability to publish successful works of literature?
In the past few years, I have noticed jarring paragraphs inserted into several of the novels I read. These insertions were usually some out of place “woke” comment that took me out of the story and undermined the book.
Now I suspect these paragraphs were inserted by “sensitivity readers”.
The wildest example was an otherwise brilliant novel in which a psychopathic serial killer muses about how unfair it is that he’s one of only a few white men on Death Row.
Hey, at least the serial killer was “woke”.
Yes, that must have been of huge consolation to his victims. Curious too that a psychopath was so concerned about racial injustice.
That is a truly disturbing observation.
This is horrifying. Things are even worse than I thought.
As always, one can only hope that the market will take care of this issue. It’s no secret that the recent works of Hollywood and comic book writers has become widely unpopular due to its soul-less quest for all-encompassing equality, that tries to make everything into the same, bland mass, like entropy threatens to do to the universe.
Books could be published in two versions:- 1. unexpurgated, for normal people. 2. sensitised, for those delicate persons who are likely to suffer PTSD if they read anything that challenges their view of the world. There would be the added advantage that the print runs for the second version would be small enough to resurrect the skill of hand press printing.
Next, how about some sensitivity in the world of wine? The famous “black wine” of Cahors lacks racial inclusivity and at a hefty 15% could be deemed offensive to alcoholophobes. It should be banned along with all white wines (because the latter are not white at all and even if they were should certainly not be described in such inflammatory language). Of course pink wines run the risk of seeming homonormative so to be on the safe side they should all be cancelled too. I’d be happy to act as sensitivity taster if any wine merchant would care to employ me …
I would if I was!
Fascinating and there I was thinking you let writers write and teach children to read so that they grew up into adults who could understand anything they read.
Phenomenal article. I’m actually a bit speechless. Will be ordering your book without hesitation.
I think that to call one’s publishing house Picador offends the sensibilities of those of us who find bullfighting cruel. For shame!
I found the gay club story just plain disturbing. You don’t need a 2020s sensibility to see the sheer inappropriateness of a teacher’s taking a clearly vulnerable kid just out of school to a gay club at the height of AIDS.
This is why I have no issues pirating books. The publishers despise everything I love.
I used to spend approx. £2,500 a year on books.
Kate. A fascinating and disturbing article. I will be buying your book
I suppose sensitivity readers have to find things they disagree with: if they don’t, they aren’t doing their so-called job?
Evelyn Waugh, where are you now that we really need you?
It’s astonishing enough that Picador would send works to be edited by such illiterate idiots at all, but to several???
It’s not really astonishing when you read the creepy self apologia of the Picador publisher Philip Gwyn Jones.
This is just plain horrendous. Couched in the passive aggressive ‘you may want to reconsider’……..Far worse than the German Student Union and Goebbels in that the lesson of history is deliberately ignored.
“There are good reasons for regulating children’s reading… It is genuinely important, there, to avoid oppressive stereotypes.”
And she was doing so well until then. So the author fully embraces “sensitivity readers”, just not for her genre.
Great art isn’t made by committee. If you want a pointless, committee-written book, read Nancy Drew. If you want meaningless art, find a Pollock-clone. If you want music without meaning, listen to any pop song. Great art means having something worthwhile to say and the talent and skill to say it in a beautiful and/or thought-provoking way.
Sensitivity readers dilute both the message and the method. They don’t belong in any artistic endeavor.
“Of course I cared. I’m horrified that people found prejudice and cruelty in my book.”
A writer is either a forthright teller of truth or a shaper of “narrative” to suit. There is no middle ground.
Now i know why I had to self publish (-;
You were woke. Now you find yourself outflanked by people who are even more woke than you. No sympathy from me.
The author fails to realise who the “enemy” really is.
I am totally against the promotion of trans ideology, but trans people are a tiny minority, deserving generally of our sympathy and appropriate treatment.
The rest of the alphabet people on the other hand, punch well above their weight with the assistance of a disreputable media and craven politians.
The position of LGB on women’s rights is interesting, as it appears to be based on a fear that their social prominence and acceptance may be affected by association with the more obviously insane trans doctrine.
The whole ideological mess does great harm to freedom of speech and conscience, and if left unchecked will result in totalitarianism in short order.
There is just so much wrong with this that it is difficultbto know where to begin! First, she goes into the process ‘willingly’ – of course she did, because she did not doubt for a moment that they would praise her work to the skies. How dare they find something to criticise! She has reacted exactly as a woman does who says “Does my bum look big in this?” and gets the answer “Bloody huge, actually.”
And of course it’s not just a book : it’s a ‘memoir’ and a criticism of it is not just a criticism, it’s a “criticism of literature’.
Get a life, love, and hope to develop a sense of perspective.
If as an author you tell a story it has to be how the author imagines it in context of the time it occurs. If the period was pre 1975 the whole vocabulary around LGBT or people of colour would be very different and extremely offensive today. Changing vocabulary and sanitising the story would be a form of censorship which seeks to distort historical fact.
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“Most likely one of the sensitivity readers is the Editor’s niece with a degree in ‘Women’s Media Studies’.” Could be; in any case, another instance of “full sheepskin, half-education.” (Missing the half that includes art for art’s sake . . .) “My Readers though, have not been hired as literary people. They are there to help create a book that would play better on Twitter . . . ” Sensitivity Reading comes off as a weird amalgam of Logical Positivism and Evangelicalism: as if expression must be purified of all emotion or point-of-view, while at the same time becoming entirely didactic. (Twitter is merely Evangelical.)
I would like to say that they don’t put up statues to sensitivity readers, but probably they will
This is what it must be like attending a Chinese Communist Party ideological reeducation course. A future we can all look forward to.
Gees, sounds like 1800s Russia, I am truly shocked to read this article, I knew they tried to cancel JK Rowling but I had no idea this kind of thing went on inside publishing houses with ordinary writers submissions. I thought they just corrected typos and gave advice like ‘too long make it shorter’. Oh well, think yourself lucky you didn’t get sent off to the Gulag I suppose! I’m going off to buy your book now, cheerio.
On reading your first paragraph I get an involuntary image of Galileo Galilei scratching his head and thinking to himself “eppur si muove”.
Ms. Clanchy – thanks for a powerful piece.
Mobilising the stupid and nasty for a game of Simon Says: armed with a few simple and indisputable Categories (I only need to specialise in one) I can disembowel anything of value. The diligence of these Functionaries Of The Terror, going through the book word by word looking for something to object to, squinting to see how they can wrench something into an Error – frightening and wearying at the same time.
I am an adult how the hell did we end up in a world where some sensitivity snowflake would decide what I as a reader could be exposed to? Who exactly is this for? I can cope with difficult subjects I’m not bothered by offensive language I am bothered by 1984 Newspeak style sensorship of literature
Kate Clanchy–as woke as they come–is a vile, evil, disgusting woman. Consider the following:
“And I went into the process willingly: I’ve always enjoyed and benefited from editing and saw this as an extension. I did an initial rewrite — there were many things I was eager to change — in the autumn of 2021 and sent it off full of interest and optimism.”
I went through the process willingly? Really? Why? Because KC is extremely woke, wanted to renounce her “white privilege,” and was only to eager to learn from and be berated by COWs (Citizens of Wakanda).
It’s only the extreme result she objects to, not the process.
This is sickening, and her writing, especially here, is utter tosh.
Not every woke person who gets cancelled is a fine human being, in need of being defended. UnHerd commentators absolutely gushed over Glenn Loury yesterday–yes, he’s a bit more reasonable than most, but his entire life was “made” based on his skin color (talk about privileged, which he admitted), and he was and is a staunch advocate of racial discrimination against whites and Asians, just not as much as the extreme, extreme left prefers.
Not every woke person who gets cancelled is a fine human being, in need of being defended.
Yes they are in need of being defended. Because we’re opposed to cancellation on principle. It is not contingent on whether or not we like them or find their work agreeable.
Fair play. I’m not sure I agree–will think about it more. I suppose it depends in part on who is doing the cancelling. I’m not cancelling this vile woman, I’m happy to ignore her and her woke tosh. But I’m not celebrating her either.
KC is the enemy–a word I choose carefully. So are the people–arguably even worse–who are attempting to cancel her. What to do? As Kissinger once said about the Iran-Iraq war–it’s a shame they both can’t lose.
Where do you draw the line between defending her work and celebrating her work?
JJ you keep using that comment ‘fair play’ whenever someone points out the extremity of your comments. I recall you referring to your previous experience in law, which I would have thought required controlled and measured language. Is this some kind of reaction to that career – just a venting of your spleen? Or have you got Tourette’s in the written form?
Cheeky! Do you have a better opening line than “fair play?” I thought it was an appropriate British expression.
To your point, a commentator used the word “enemies” here yesterday and then emphasized that he had chosen the word deliberately, fully aware of the “extremity” of the word. Well played.
If I were writing a legal brief, perhaps I would use more measured legal language. UnHerd comments are not legal briefs, nor are they intended to be written in “legalese.” Isn’t it important to know your audience?
I don’t think I have Tourette’s, in written form or otherwise, but if you think I do, vote me down, have a go at me, I can take it. I’m trying to defend Western Civilization, and if you view my comments as a bit extreme, it’s a small price to pay. I believe that we are involved in an actual war–perhaps a hybrid war for now as “our” institutions are taken over by extremists (even GL is, in my view, an extremist; he only looks a bit less extreme in the proximity of nutter, certainly this lady is “the enemy,” with her extreme distaste for the Western Canon).
I also believe that the US is heading for an actual Civil War, which I’m against (I’d like a peaceful division) but I see this as inevitable. In this context, do you really think that the venting of spleen is that bad? I like to add a bit of Yankee spice (the NY kind the spiciest), if you will, and certainly believe that it is fair to attack “the enemy” with colorful words and plain speaking, though I’d also like readers to focus on my arguments. Perhaps I’m not your cup of tea.
No civil war. Just a continuing disintegration into an increasingly lawless society.
The thing about free speech is that it means that others might not agree with you.
Sensitivity readers disagreed with KC about bits of her book. And that’s ok. KC doesn’t have to make changes to suit them. She can find another publisher or self-publish if the publisher makes any changes a condition of publication. As someone with experience of academic publishing I can say that publishers often require changes to be made to text as a condition of publication. It’s nothing new or controversial.
I would also suggest that it’s not particularly surprising that Picador suggested that KC in particular might need some fresh eyes on her work’s “sensitivity” given that she herself accepted that the book in its original form contained a number of racist, anti-semitic and disablist features which have been widely reported on. It seems totally disingenuous for her to have accepted that she crossed the line into racism on numerous occasions and than also to complain that her work is being scrutinised for racism etc.
Similarly the poet and scholar of poetry who KC falsely accused of trying to “cancel poetry” in her last article on unherd was perfectly entitled to make an academic criticism of KC’s work.
KC seems to be confusing her right to say what she wants (a right she absolutely has) with a right to control others’ reaction to what she says (a right she does not have).
Mostly that just comes across as rather peevish (a whole article giving snarky responses to anonymous readers is just cringeworthy in my view). But the last article on the Liverpool academic crossed a line imho. Predictably since the academic is non-white and since KC approved a “culture war”-friendly subheading about the person wanting to “cancel poetry”, the comments on unherd were largely extremely racist. Given that such comments are not uncommon on unherd it’s hard to escape the view that she was trying to weaponise the racist abuse that she must have known commenters would come out with to punish the writer for reviewing her poorly.
There is surely a difference, though, between the normal editorial process undertaken by knowledgeable professionals whose principal aim to improve the author’s work, and so-called sensitivity readers whose aim seems to be to fundamentally change the author’s work to bring it into line with a narrow orthodoxy and to remove, as far as possible, anything which may conflict with that orthodoxy? The former has always been a valuable part of the publishing process. The latter is a new development and one which seems to have become widespread practice across mainstream publishing. You say the author has a choice, but that choice appears to be becoming increasingly limited (my way or the highway? – that kind of choice?), and I do wonder to what extent they may be able to reject the readers’ advice.
By the way, can you point to any actual examples of “racist abuse” in the comments section? Because I haven’t noticed any.
Excellent points. The problem is that these “sensitivity readers” exist at all. Same with the DIE industry–they’re blackmailers–all of them.
Excellent retort in the last ¶. What racist abuse? Specifics please…..
I have highlighted numerous articles of the racist abuse on the article in question (ie the article attacking the Liverpool academic not this one). Eg -Why on earth do we succour such people who so obviously hate us? Both should be returned to the subcontinent
In this case, KC did reject the readers’ advice and published elsewhere.
You want to get a job at Picador – your views would be highly suited to their censorious approach.
Ehh well Clanchy has obviously found her culture war echo chamber here. But I would suggest that:
(1) Not every book gets three ‘sensitivity readers’ to go through it with a fine toothed come. THIS book did because (a) it contained numerous passages that were, as Clanchy herself accepted and as is obvious to anyone who reads them, really offensive and (b) Clanchy had initially denied the existence of these passages when they were pointed out by reviewers and suggested she was the victim of a misinformation campaign – suggesting at the very least that she has a blind spot when considering he own works and making clear why the publisher thought that she probably shouldn’t be left alone to do the rewrite that again *she herself accepted was necessary*.
(2) Every writer has received “notes” that they don’t agree with. It’s totally fine to ignore them as Clanchy did. Launching a snarky attack on the reviewers with bits of their reviews cherry-picked and decontextualised to make them look dumb in circumstances where they have no right of reply (unless they forego their anonymity and open themselves up to online abuse) is however not in any way admirable behaviour in my eyes. Nor is showing off about complaining to a copy editor’s boss about a mistake in a way that was career-limiting for him.
(3) The sensitivity readers that this article mocks are junior employees or freelancers who do not have the same platform as Clanchy. And let’s be honest – they are also obviously themselves members of the minority groups whose views on certain parts of Clanchy’s text they have been asked to predict. This last point in my opinion means that even if Clanchy does not agree with them, she should treat their views with respect – something this article totally fails to do. Ultimately what she has is a person of colour commenting on parts of the text that – in that person’s opinion – can be read as offensive to persons of colour. She has a gay person commenting on parts of the text that – in that person’s opinion – can be read as offensive to gay people. Clanchy is entitled to consider those opinions and reject them on the basis that she considers that the reviewers have not given sufficient weight to irony or literary effect or whatever it is. However, I do think that it is disrespectful, unpleasant and just plain unkind for her to basically mock the reviewers for giving their own reactions to the text. This is particularly so because the opinions they are being asked to give are in a way personal (their brief is effectively “how does this passage about persons of colour make you feel as a person of colour?”) rather than professional or, as Clanchy points out, literary.
(4) Clanchy has in no way been silenced. She has apparently found a niche publishing a steady stream of culture war articles and she literally ends this article with a plea that readers buy her book, in unedited form, from a mainstream publisher.
I think you’ve missed a central point about the term culture war. It’s a war.
Your sensitivity readers are just foot soldiers for a movement that is relentlessly offensive to what is still the majority in the west. Their leaders are consciously trying to impose a fundamentally Marxist ideology via stealth as it always fails at the ballot box. The use of virtue is a cloak.
Wars must be fought. It’s not about being nice to these people, it’s about reducing their influence to peddle their victim ideology.
Thank you for going to the trouble of making the case for the other side. I do not agree with you, however, my objections being as follows: 1. The system of having books vetted by sensitivity readers who are black or brown or gay or whatever rests on the assumption that their response will be representative of all other readers who are black or brown or gay or whatever. But why should that be the case? Isn’t it actually quite racist to think that all black people think alike? That all gay people are essentially the same? How about regarding readers as intelligent individuals rather than as members of one particular group? And if you’re going to put us all in boxes, then maybe you should hire sensitivity readers who are white, over 50, devout Christians etc. Or are such people considered incapable of taking offense? Their sensitivities not worth taking seriously?
2. Had I been engaged as a sensitivity reader for, say, the book titled “Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race” I probably would’ve suggested running with a less aggressive, less reproachful title. But that was the author’s point, wasn’t it? She wanted to be stridently anti-white. And shouldn’t she be free to do just that? Just as I am free to find the title of her book objectionable and so not buy it?
Indeed, Clancy’s mistake was to accept to edit her book. Once you do that there is no way back.
That was her second mistake.
The first was to write it.