Last month, Ploughshares blogger Sean Bishop was removed from his post after several of his pieces were deemed too controversial by the journal’s editors (the full story is available at The New York Observer blog). What was his offense? Ploughshares felt that his posts were overly critical of other literary journals and presses (read the “controversial” posts here and here). When asked to comment on the situation, Ploughshares managing editor Andrea Martucci said, “Over the course of 2.5 years and over 25 guest bloggers we have always been supportive of our writers to pursue a free-range of topics and ideas as long as they’re respectful of the literary community.”
This story makes me all kinds of angry. Not only did Ploughshares attempt to censor one of their bloggers by removing his post (without providing him with any sort of notification or explanation), but the Martucci’s quote seems to suggest that criticism and respectfulness are opposing ideas, that the two are incapable of coexisting. Ploughshares certainly isn’t the only literary journal to hold this ideology. Many journals refuse to publish reviews or blog posts that are too critical in tone. And it’s a backwards practice. We should be building a community that encourages open dialogue and debate, but instead bloggers and reviewers are constantly walking on eggshells, all too aware of the potentially injurious effects of expressing their actual views on a particular book or journal or press.
What do you make of this situation? Do you find Bishop’s posts to be offensive or disrespectful?