How I responded to being censored by The Writers’ Union of Canada

Posted by on Mar 15, 2021 in Books, Brian's Blog, Cultural appropriation, Press freedom | Comments Off on How I responded to being censored by The Writers’ Union of Canada

The new editor of The Writers’ Union of Canada’s magazine, WRITE, commissioned me to write an article about the participation of Canada’s authors in a major literary festival in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (SMA). I’d been a member of the Union since 2000 and had written dozens of articles for the magazine before being commissioned to do this piece.

I travelled to SMA, did ten interviews, attended several keynote presentations and panel sessions, and filed the story. The editor rejected it. Why? Because, said the editor, “I would hate for you to receive negative feedback - and we both know that there’s plenty of it - on social media.”

Why would I receive negative feedback? The editor never really explained. She made a vague reference to the furious social media backlash that ensued when her predecessor wrote a controversial editorial in WRITE defending the right of white authors to create characters from other cultures.

O.K. But my article wasn’t about “cultural appropriation” as countenanced in the tone-deaf WRITE editorial that caused the shitstorm and the resignation of the editor’s predecessor. My piece was about Canadian authors getting together with their Mexican and American counterparts at an international literary festival where they talked about cross-cultural exchanges. This happens all the time at international festivals. Writers compare notes on how exposure to different cultures influences their work.

The WRITE editor didn’t succeed in silencing me. Nor did she prevent hundreds of TWUC members from reading my piece because another publication picked it up. I was thrilled when the respected journalistic boutique Facts & Opinions, which doesn’t believe in censorship, agreed to publish the article. You can read it by clicking HERE. I love the fact that Facts & Opinions was able to include some lovely photographs with the article that – for limited space reasons – would never have appeared in the WRITE version.

As for the social media reaction to my piece, none of it has been negative. I posted a link to the published piece on a Facebook page for TWUC members who live in Alberta, NWT and Nunavut. None of the members said TWUC was justified in killing the piece. One said, in fact, “TWUC had a problem with this piece? Oy vey!” I also posted a link to the piece on Twitter. No negative reaction there, either.

The official reaction from TWUC is that it stands behind the authority it gave the editor to make decisions about the magazine’s published content. My reaction is that I no longer want to be part of an organization that places a higher priority on the independence of its magazine editor than it does on the freedom of a member to write about certain subjects.

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Copyright 2018 Brian Brennan - Author