Publishing is Pravda

I’m in the middle of adding old issues of UJ to the web site, and putting finishing touches on the new Paperback edition of UJ 29, and I find myself being told something I already suspected:

Yup, it’s that bad. Just as Hollywood is incapable of making a major-budget film that isn’t an existing IP, so the Big Three Publishers run books through the Sensitivity Commissars to sieve for Problematics.

A quarter of a century later, publishing had moved on. 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”. At the same time, one of the sensitivity reads Picador had commissioned was advising that Some Kids “exemplifies why publishing is so unwelcoming to marginalised people”. The Readers were explicit that this was not to do with any actual words on the page, but because they could tell that I personally had not done “the self-reflection and self-education that is necessary to understand the underlying reason that so many people felt harmed by [my] work”. They recommended the book should not be republished.

Kate Clanchy, “How Sensitivity Readers Corrupt Literature“,

No overt offense, you just smell counter-revolutionary, tovarisch. Submit or be cancelled. And of course, this is fine because it’s Not Real Punishment, just a private company making a private decision. No law requires the Sensitivity Readers, they just exist and are extensively used, because the Liberals who used to love free speech when it stood agains the right have no capacity to defend its leftward flank. If the Newly Academized say it’s Problematic, it’s Problematic, Boomer. You don’t want to be Problematic, do you?

We’re fully immersed in the age of Soviet Capitalism, of Cultural Revolution sold by the byte. And people wonder why I don’t bother blogging about elections anymore.

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