July 14, 2016
Couple loses job after writing anti-Trump children’s book
by Liam O’Brien
It is with a heavy heart that I must announce that the jerks are at it again.
Amy Graff at SFGate reports that their latest target are married couple Brad and Amy Herzog, who were recently fired from their long-time positions as spokespeople for the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). The cause? The Herzogs announced they were writing a children’s book ridiculing Donald Trump. Which would have been fine, were it not for the actions of jerks.
On June 28, two hours after Amy and Brad posted a Kickstarter campaign to print D is for Dump Trump: An Anti-Hate Alphabet, RV Daily Report founder and editor Greg Gerber published an opinion piece calling for the RVIA to “disavow their affiliation with these authors.”
“For an organization that routinely walks the tightrope of political correctness, it seems rather odd that RVIA would turn a blind eye to such a divisive book in this politically-charged environment,” Gerber writes.
Twenty four hours later, the RVIA alerted the Herzogs their contract was being terminated.
The Herzogs, along with their now-former RV gig, are also the publishers of independent press Why Not Books. The editorial ethos behind D is for Dump Trump is described in their Kickstarter as follows:
Because you can’t stop a demagogue by rolling your eyes; you have to roll up your sleeves. Because a powerful way to spread the word and paint a full picture of the situation… is through words and pictures. Because comedy can be cathartic and poetry can be profound. Because there is strength in fearlessness. And because November 8 is looming.
They also plan to donate $1 from every sale to the Southern Poverty Law Center. This all seems fairly well-meaning and benign, albeit skewed toward one side of the political spectrum. However, such is the life of an indie press—you have the freedom to publish less broadly appealing work because you’re not trying to make billions for shareholders or a cabal of foreign investors. You’re just trying to publish interesting and important stuff about current events, like the Trump campaign.
And most importantly, none of this has jack shit to do with loving RVs, marketing RVs, or working for the RVIA, all three of which the Herzogs appear to have done without incident for seventeen years. And it’s not like this is the first left-leaning book Why Not has touched; they published one by a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress last year.
So what’s the problem? It’s tempting to place at least a portion of the blame on Gerber, a long-time blogger and RV lifestyle advocate, who manages to hit an astoundingly wide range of jerk points in his post. Not only does he complain that the Herzogs (or “these California liberals”) are fomenting political division with a children’s book, he admits to talking to their boss (“James Ashurst, RVIA’s vice president of communications and marketing, confirmed to me today that the Herzogs are under contract to promote the RV lifestyle via another road tour this summer”) and proceeds to create a fiction so ludicrous that you can almost see the spittle flecks between the letters:
Perhaps the book can be given away as a premium at spontaneous rallies — or experiential marketing opportunities — in every city along the tour route.
I can hear it now:
“Next up on ABC-15, Brad and Amy Herzog, authors of the wildly popular ‘D is for Dump Trump: An Anti-Hate Alphabet,’ who are in studio to talk about the benefits of RVing. Brad, do you think the economy under a Trump administration will allow people to buy and use an RV? Is the RV industry as a whole as ‘xenophobic’ as Donald Trump? On your book cover, why didn’t you show billionaire Donald Trump driving a motorhome off a cliff? Isn’t that the direction he wants to take the country and, some say, the world?”
He also concludes that, thanks to the existence of Kindle Direct Publishing, “there is absolutely no reason to employ a crowd-funding strategy to print and market a book in 2016.” Because independent publishers love Amazon so much they should use it print their books! Makes sense.
Gerber updated the post after news of the Herzogs’ firing hit the airwaves, apologizing profusely for being a thoughtless ideologue—ha ha, just kidding, he abdicates all responsibility and concludes that he is the true victim:
Despite a flurry of death threats and vile, obscene and sexually-charged comments directed toward our publication staff in email and social media posts, we are keeping this post live on our site with comments turned off. We are doing so to aid Brad and Amy Herzog in their effort to raise money for their book project, for which we pledged $100 ourselves.
RV Daily Report does not have the clout or credibility with the RV Industry Association to influence any decision by that organization, especially a decision to terminate a lucrative contract with 17-year veteran spokespeople for a miscalculation in judgment. We have it on good authority that others in the industry alerted RVIA of the existence of the Herzog’s Kickstarter campaign before we published our newsletter that day and that the couple would have lost their contract anyway.
However, keeping this opinion piece alive allows the Herzog’s to use it in raising money to support their project and kick-start a new chapter in their lives. Contrary to popular belief, RV Daily Report did not “get the couple fired.” The Herzogs – and Herzogs only – killed their golden goose.
Here’s the problem with this entire argument/dodge/non-apology: Gerber lost all pretension to the moral high ground when he contacted the RVIA. When you see someone doing something that you don’t like politically, but that has zero effect on you personally, you can rail about it on your blog (and you should! that’s what blogs are for!); then you’re a commentator. But when you go on to make a move that might fuck up their livelihood, you’re just a snitch.
A simple Google search shows that Gerber’s politics are no secret; he dislikes big government (“skyscrapers full of pencil-pushing bureaucrats” or “dope smoking idiots”), especially the Obama administration, and has no qualms about laying these and every other conservative talking point out on the internet during an election year. Even a review of his podcast points out that he gets needlessly political. As an RV advocate, that’s no surprise: an industry dependent on cheap abundant fossil fuels and lax government regulation is naturally going to attract a red-inflected crowd. Also, this America, man.
Gerber didn’t have the power to fire the Herzogs; only their bosses did. But whether or not “the couple would have lost their contract anyway” (convenient!), Gerber’s argument is nowhere near good faith. Claiming an act or a person to be “politically divisive” by calling out an unrelated business pursuit on your public blog as the malicious and irresponsible work of taker pinko sleeper agents, and then contacting their employer, is not an argument for political neutrality in an already conservative industry. It’s a smear campaign, pure and simple, and no condescending $100 dollar donation can change that.
The good news? The Herzogs’ Kickstarter is doing stupendously — it’s met more than triple its goal, with three weeks left to go.
Liam O’Brien is the Senior Sales & Marketing Manager at Melville House, and a former bookseller.