January 13, 2017

Publishing during wartime, part III: Protest of S&S and “gaslighting” is growing


The protest of Simon and Schuster’s decision to publish Dangerous, a book by hate speech monger Milo Yiannopoulos, seems to be growing, as does protest over the way industry biggies are casting the protest as censorship.

Yesterday, more than 160 S&S children’s book authors and illustrators sent a letter to CEO Carolyn Reidy protesting the deal between the company’s Threshold Editions imprint and Yiannopoulos, according to a report in PW by John Maher.

The letter does not mince words:

Threshold has placed Simon & Schuster’s considerable reputation and weight behind one of the most prominent faces of the newly repackaged white supremacist/white nationalist movement and financially supported a man who routinely denigrates, verbally attacks, and directs dangerous internet doxxing and hate campaigns against women, minorities, LGBTQ individuals, Muslims, and anyone he chooses to target who supports equality and human decency. Irrespective of the content of this book, by extending a mainstream publication contract, Threshold has chosen to legitimize this reprehensible belief system, these behaviors, and white supremacy itself.

The letter also criticizes, in no uncertain terms, the misrepresentation of the protests by industry giants defending S&S:

This is not an issue of advocating or suppressing free speech, as Mr. Yiannopoulos has a broad internet broadcasting platform and the support of many extremist organizations and publications. His voice is certainly being heard, and it is a voice of hate that stirs its followers to emotional, verbal, and physical violence directed at anyone who disagrees or speaks to the contrary. Insinuating that people who protest this terrible decision wish to suppress free speech is gaslighting.

As Simon & Schuster authors and illustrators who are already published, with books in the release pipeline, with contracts in place, we do not have to quietly accept or assent to this “Gleichschaltung,” this getting in line with fascism and making it mainstream.

(For those unfamiliar with the term, by the way, Gleichschaltung “was the process of Nazification by which Nazi Germany successively established a system of totalitarian control and coordination over all aspects of society, from the economy and trade associations to the media, culture and education,” as detailed by Wikipedia.

Meanwhile, a day after San Francisco bookstore The Booksmith announced that it won’t carry any Threshold titles, will cut its budget for S&S titles in half, and donate all its profits to the ACLU — more prominent indies are following suit.

Subtext Books in St. Paul has cut its budget for S&S books by more than half, manager and buyer Matt Keliher said in a letter to us at Melville House.

Keliher said the store wanted “to send the message that we did not agree with the decision to offer this man a book deal,” and wanted S&S to “realize that taking such an action does have consequences.”

Still, Keliher said he was personally “quite torn” about taking such a drastic action, until store owner Sue Zumberge “reminded me that taking action against hatred and bigotry isn’t going against freedom of speech, it’s taking on hatred and bigotry.”

Meanwhile, according to another PW report, a growing number of indies, “even booksellers embedded in Trump country… are planning to carry Dangerous as a special-order item only,” meaning they won’t actually stock the book in the store, but rather will order it from a supplier for later delivery.

So far, S&S has not issued further statement of the swelling protest beyond saying of the children’s book author protest that it “appreciate[s] and respect[s] the feelings and opinions of our authors.”

Apparently, not enough to do anything about them, though. And meanwhile, industry biggies united behind the National Coalition Against Censorship effort to stifle the protests against S&S continue to brand protestors as censorious, and say they will have a “chilling effect” on publishing, as NCAC director Joan Bertin insists in this NPR report by Lynn Neary (which also quotes me).

Still, it’s an argument that doesn’t seem to be working. Look for the safety-in-numbers principle to start prompting more protestors to speak up over the coming days.
See part one, Publishing during wartime
See Publishing during wartime, part II
See part III, Protest of S&S and “gaslighting” is growing
See part IV, Learning from history
See part V, The violence begins
See part VI, The growing resistance
See part VII, Enter the Black Bloc, exit discernment
See part VIII, Enter the rainmaker?
See part IX, The flying monkeys multiply, but so does the opposition
See part X, Chickens, roosting

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