We Don’t Talk About Bruno

Behind the scenes, we do — but fear of reprisals shuts people up

We Don’t Talk About Bruno

Bruno Madrigal is a central character in Encanto, the hit Disney animated film. He’s misunderstood, with his abilities to see into the future, odd demeanor, and proclivity for rats making him appear to be a bogeyman when actually his deep love for his family is his defining characteristic.

I’ve been writing about the problems in scholarly publishing for a long time, and while I certainly don’t have the forecasting powers of Bruno, I’ve been able to make a few good calls along the way. Others have made important contributions over the years, as well, and a lot of people give serious thought to what we’ve done and where things are headed.

I’ve been writing about preprints for a long time now, and despite correctly predicting the harm they might do, how they might be misused by commercial entities, and the degradation they would create in the acceptance of authoritative information, I have somehow retained my upbeat nature.

However, like Bruno, people who bring up preprints or other topics that make others uncomfortable have somehow become anathema to many people who are in what seems to be an intolerant tribe of “open” believers. It’s a loud, domineering tribe, and one that owns most of the airtime these days for one simple reason — people who disagree have been shouted down, marginalized, and ostracized.

This is their version of “open” — your opinion matters as long as it agrees with ours.

And too many people with valid analyses, opinions, and concerns are being shut out and shouted down. Too many people who care have just given up.

And this is why “more speech” is not the solution to our free speech problems — “more speech” is too often exhausting, intimidating, and as effective as any censorship, with the added benefit of seeming well-intentioned when it’s not.