Professor James Flynn of the University of Otago in New Zealand claims that his upcoming book on free speech was “banned” by its publisher due to its content.
According to a column published by Flynn on Quillette this week, Emerald Press has decided against publishing Flynn’s upcoming book, In Defense of Free Speech: The University as Censor, which makes the case that institutions of higher learning freely censor political expression.
In June, Emerald Press sent Flynn a letter to notify him that they would not be publishing the book. In the letter, the publishing house said that they would not publish content that addresses the “sensitive topics of race, religion, and gender.”
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.
The letter goes on to make the case that the book could incite “racial hatred” and “religious hatred” in the United Kingdom. Emerald Press admits that Flynn has “no intention” of inciting hatred but that intent doesn’t matter anymore. The letter goes on to suggest that the book could potentially violate the United Kingdom’s speech laws.
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.
Flynn’s article includes his own synopsis of the book, which ends with a quote from George Orwell:
Discussing why free speech should extend to questions of race and gender necessarily involves presenting views (such as those of Jensen, Murray, and Lynn), if only for purposes of rebuttal, which upset those who believe that racial and sexual equality is self-evident. If upsetting students or staff or the public is a reason for banning speech, all such discussion is at an end. I end the book by quoting from George Orwell’s original preface to Animal Farm, which was itself rejected by Faber and Faber for being too critical of Stalin: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
Flynn claims that he is reaching out to other publishers that might be interested in publishing the book. For now, due to leftist sensitivities and draconian speech laws, Flynn’s book on free speech is without a publisher and an audience.