“Credible Threats Of Personal Violence” Lead To Retraction of Colonialism Paper (updated)

The controversy over the decision of Third World Quarterly to publish “The Case for Colonialism” by Bruce Gilley (discussed here) has escalated. Now, “credible threats of personal violence” against the editor of the journal, Shahid Qadir, have led the journal’s publisher, Taylor & Francis, to withdraw the article.

A statement on the page on the journal’s website where the article formerly was says:

This Viewpoint essay has been withdrawn at the request of the academic journal editor, and in agreement with the author of the essay. Following a number of complaints, Taylor & Francis conducted a thorough investigation into the peer review process on this article. Whilst this clearly demonstrated the essay had undergone double-blind peer review, in line with the journal’s editorial policy, the journal editor has subsequently received serious and credible threats of personal violence. These threats are linked to the publication of this essay. As the publisher, we must take this seriously. Taylor & Francis has a strong and supportive duty of care to all our academic editorial teams, and this is why we are withdrawing this essay.

There is no information provided as to whether the publishers think the threat is from someone in academia.

I’ve never heard of an academic article prompting credible death threats against the editor of the journal in which it was published, let alone a journal withdrawing an article on the basis of such threats. Have others? This is a disturbing development, which I hope remains, if not unique, highly unusual.

I think it is important that academics very vocally resist such threats, and try very hard to not be moved by them. This is not to second-guess the decision of Taylor & Francis—I have no idea what informed their judgment that the threat was “credible.” But if we all stand up against this, well, they (whoever “they” are) can’t credibly threaten all of us. So, person/people who threatened this journal editor: fuck you. And fuck you for making me say this over such a shitty article.

UPDATE (10/11/17): Retraction Watch reports receiving the following statement from Taylor & Francis:

These threats were of a serious and credible nature, centred around physical violence and included posting highly personal details about the journal editor which would enable people to easily identify him. I hope you can appreciate that we do not want to be more specific than that for obvious reasons.

To withdraw an article for this reason is unprecedented for Taylor & Francis and is step we have taken only after incredibly serious consideration. As an organization, and for the team working on this, we are deeply shocked and saddened at what has happened in the last week. As you mention in your article, the editor has been in touch with the editorial board to propose a new editorial structure on the journal. As the publisher, we would now like to focus on supporting him as he begins this process.

We will also be working with the Committee on Publication Ethics to review this case and to better understand how to respond to cases such as this in the future.


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