January 24, 2005

Al Qaeda Reader causes some to read riot act to Doubleday . . .


“An English translation of interviews with Osama bin Laden and writings by his second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri, will be published by Doubleday,” read a late-breaking Associated Press wire report on Thursday. “The book, tentatively titled The al-Qaeda Reader, is scheduled to come out next year.” The publishers initial release seemed cautious. “It’s important to know what our enemy is thinking,” says a Doubleday spokeswoman, Suzanne Herz. “It gives us a beeline into their thoughts, ideas and teachings.” It was not enough. On Friday, a Crain’s report announced “Doubleday says it will donate all its profits from a book of Osama bin Laden’s writings to a number of charities.” It was not enough. The publisher has been under steady fire ever since. A Saturday New York Post editorial said the publication plans were “reprehensible,” and called for an investigation by New York State attorney general Eliot Spitzer. By Sunday, the story had gone international, as a Sunday Telegraph article highlights. Doubleday had become subject to a “fierce controversy among families of the victims of the September 11 terror attacks by commissioning an anthology of writing by al-Qa’eda terrorist leaders,” it reported. Jack Lynch, whose firefighter son died in the WTC attacks, tells the paper, “People who promote terrorism are an evil and a cancer in our society. Anything that promotes their agenda shouldn’t be distributed in this country.” Meanwhile, another man whose son was a firefighter who died in the attack, Lee Ielpi, says, “Anything the general public can read to emphasise how severe these terrorists are in their threats to destroy us would be beneficial,” he said. “We are becoming complacent as it is.”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives