I ran into Roy Liuzza at the Kalamazoo Congress, and he told me that the Old English Newsletter had some difficult editorial decisions to make regarding my article "Beowulf: Prince of the Geats, Nazis, and Odinists."
The problem they grappled with was how to deal with the various racial epithets in the article. Should the OEN give them voice? Should the OEN bowdlerize them? I myself had given various public presentations of the material, some of which carefully removed offensive material, and others of which smacked the audience in the face with it -- in my mind, it all depends on the audience.
In the end, OEN decided to split the difference. The online version essentially "bleeps out" the terms with asterisks, so you find things like: "beowulf_a filthy N****R???" The paper version of the same article, which I got in the mail yesterday, leaves everything intact.
It seems to me a good compromise. An online publication is the sum of its links, and to include racial epithets in the online version might have affected the electronic profile of the OEN, at least as far as search engines are concerned. The changes are not misleading; I'm guessing any native speaker of English with an elementary school education can figure out what the original said.
As scholars, though, we take the truth to where it leads, even when those places are dark and drear. I'm glad for the paper version, because it takes us to those places without relief. As someone who spent many, many hours trudging through Nazi and Odinist e-mails and websites, I can promise you the article offers only a small taste of what is out there.
So, for those of you who were shocked to get your Old English Newsletter in the mail and find that content, I'm the one who put it there, and for that I offer no apology.