Some authors and publishers have started to hire “sensitivity readers” who will scan a manuscript and flag parts of it that might be deemed “offensive,” according to the Chicago Tribune. Material that might be considered “offensive” might include politically incorrect portrayals of “marginalized groups” such as transgendered, Muslims, or people with terminal illnesses. Some of the readers are flagging “cultural appropriation,” a new term that has been coined by some among the social justice warrior crowd defined as the depiction by a white author of characters and the culture of another ethnic group.

J.K. Rowling recently got into trouble for her depiction of Native American magic because she is a white, European woman.

Most authors employ beta readers. These include family and friends that they trust to give an honest opinion about the quality of writing. Some will consult with experts in various fields covered by the book. A historical novel set in Ming Dynasty China might be reviewed by a professor of Asian studies. A science fiction novel would be given the once over by an astrophysicist or an engineer at NASA.

The use of “sensitivity readers” is something new and pernicious. The object appears to be a form of Censorship to prevent characters and storylines from potential readers that the reader, whose expertise in these areas are self-described, deems to be offensive. If one proposes to write a thriller about Islamic terrorism, one had better pass muster with the portrayal of Muslim characters, for example.

Indeed, maybe it is best to make the terrorists white supremacists or Central European Neo-Nazis.

One wonders how such classics of literature like “Huckleberry Finn” or “Othello” would pass muster under this new system. One suspects that Mark Twain and William Shakespeare were lucky to have written their great works before the rise of the social justice left.

Censorship is usually a practice committed by totalitarian regimes.

The Soviet Union threw authors with whom it had a problem into the Gulag. Nazi Germany would make a spectacle of burning books that it deemed to be inappropriate. The social justice left does not have the power to jail authors, and book burnings still have an unpleasant odor about it. But we may be approaching a time that for an author to have freedom of expression, he or she will have to self-publish. Fortunately, methods of putting out one’s own work have become easier than ever before. Such works could even have the stamp “social justice free” as a selling point.

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