That doesn't sound so bad. What's the big deal?
Well, in journalism there's this thing called professional ethics. A publication that requests an article or essay of a given writer is obligated to protect that writer. It's taught in even the most basic of college classes. So, in the event that say, a book review or movie review or some other opinion-based article, like an editorial, finds an unhappy customer complaining about content--what the newspaper or magazine or journal will typically do, to protect themselves and the writer, is to publish a small blurb explaining that what is written in their book reviews, movie reviews or editorial sections are opinions not necessarily shared by the publication. Sometimes, you'll see a magazine print a brief synopsis of a general complaint about an article--never one attacking a particular writer--and provide an answer to the quandry. This is far different from printing a full rebuttal attacking a particular writer. Why? Keep reading!
Part of those professional ethics aren't just about dealing with liability, it's about preventing censorship. When censorship is allowed to happen in these United States, well friends, we may as well close the door completely on democracy. Oh, it's happened many times throughout history--book-burning being one of the biggest offenders. But Watergate was right up there, too. Yeah, being compared to Nixon is every Editor's dream....
Censorship is just another form of bullying. It's bullying people into silence. It's telling other people who may want to speak out, that if they do, they'll be bullied, too. That's what printing a rebuttal means. It's equivalent to putting a piece of duct tape over the writer's mouth.
But what if the writer is allowed to answer the rebuttal? Okay, so even if a writer is willing to put themselves out there again, the fact that a rebuttal was printed lends a kind of credence to the complaint--it legitimizes it, puts a shadow of a doubt about the writer's professionalism in the minds of the audience. No matter what the writer might answer, that writer has already been villified. That's why professional ethics in writing is so important.
And so, when the book review editor of this particular journal saw the rebuttal, and saw how it might diminish the reviewer professionally--this book review editor pulled the rebuttal. Okay, great--problem solved. If only....
No, I'm afraid that the book review editor's boss saw the omission, and fired the book review editor. Isn't that incredible? In 2010, that kind of scape-goating is STILL happening??? Once again, all the truest things are the saddest things.
You may wonder why I called the firing "scape-goating"? Scape-goating is what happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany--somehow, some way, every single Jew both within and out of Germany's borders, were the reason for every problem in the world...especially Germany's problems. It wasn't that Germany had started WWI and was stripped of their military and monies by the other countries involved...no, couldn't be. The Jews were to blame! Those same Jews were less than 1% of the German population when Hitler came to power in 1933. Those same Jews fought bravely beside their German friends and neighbors in WWI. But they were the easy target, a minority target. That's why they could be bullied, censored...and what came next? Twelve-million deaths.
Look at Rosa Parks. Same thing. She wouldn't leave her seat on the bus. Why was she asked to? She was sitting in the "white" section. In 2010, that whole scenario seems totally absurd. Hate to tell you, it was absurd in 1955, too. A 40+ year old lady was arrested and jailed because she refused to leave her seat. That was nothing more than bullying. Arresting her, putting her in jail? Censorship. The same thing happened in 1946 with Irene Morgan and in 1944 with Jackie Robinson.
Unfortunately, this writer and the noble book review editor don't have Martin Luther King to organize a boycott.
That's why everyone--all of us--MUST speak out against the atrocity of censorship, of bullying, of scape-goating. We used to have this thing called Freedom of Speech. And you'd be right to think that a rebuttal is a part of that very same freedom. No one is suggesting rebuttals shouldn't be written, read, or taken seriously. But printed in the same publication...without the writer's consent? That's not about freedom, that's about quashing freedom. And any respectable editor should know better.
For shame, for shame....