Hachette cancels publication of Woody Allen’s memoirs after Ronan Farrow objects and the publisher’s employees walk out

March 7, 2020 • 10:30 am

This is really infuriating: a publisher has caved in to mob mentality to cancel the scheduled publication of Woody Allen’s new memoirs.

You all know about the accusations of pedophilia against Woody Allen, which have been investigated several times, with no good evidence found that he molested his seven-year-old daughter Dylan. In fact, there’s just as much evidence that Mia Farrow coached Dylan to confect the accusation as there is that Woody Allen was guilty (see the convoluted timeline of this story here). In this era, however, accusations are, for many, as good as guilty verdicts. In some cases, like that of Harvey Weinstein, accusations were sufficiently numerous and consistent to make me conclude that he was guilty,—a suspicion borne out by the verdict in New York.

About Woody Allen, though, who knows? Although several actors have stopped working with him, others defend him, and my own view is that I have no idea what happened.

But I am infuriated at what the publisher Hachette did this week, canceling Allen’s accepted and scheduled-for-publication memoir, Apropos of Nothing, after their employees walked out. Why did they walk out? Because another Hachette author, Ronan Farrow (Dylan’s brother), published the book Catch and Kill, a well known account of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual predation and attempts to cover it up.

Realizing that his own publisher was scheduled to publish Allen’s memoir, and absolutely convinced that Allen molested Dylan, Ronan Farrow broke ties with Hachette, releasing email exchanges with Hachette in which they defended the independence of different divisions of their company to decide what to publish (the two books were handled by different Hachette imprints).

Two days after Ronan Farrow’s announcement, some employees of Grand Central Publishing, the imprint of Hachette scheduled to publish Allen’s memoirs, staged a walkout, saying “We stand in solidarity with Ronan Farrow, Dylan Farrow, and survivors of sexual assault.” Apparently they somehow knew that Dylan Farrow was a “survivor”—in other words, that Woody Allen was guilty. The article below, from Publisher’s Weekly (click on it), gives the details.

Apparently the protestors demanded that Hachette not only cancel the book, but that Hachette’s CEO Michael Pietsch apologize.  Pietsch stood by the publishing group’s decision, saying “there’s a large audience that wants to hear the story of Woody Allen’s life as told by Woody Allen himself. That’s what they’ve [Grand Central Publishing] chosen to publish.”

But never underestimate the power of the mob.

Yes, the book was canceled by Hachette the day after the walkout. Here’s the announcement.

Two accounts of the debacle are given below, from the NYT and from wfuv.org.  Pietsch attempted to hold a town hall meeting with his employees, but they walked out. At that point they gave in to the mob and canceled the memoirs.

This is a reprehensible act of cowardice by Hachette. It conflates accusations with guilt itself, and if you’re going to go that route, then look at all the publishers who have published Hitler’s Mein Kampf without protest (Houghton Mifflin) and books by Henry Kissinger without protest (various publishers). If Allen had been convicted, that would be another matter, but there’s no convincing evidence of his guilt and I, for one, would have wanted to read what he had to say. Now that likely won’t happen.

Beyond the sheer craziness of the mob in this case, unable to distinguish an accusation (and only one accusation) from a conviction, ask yourself What has been accomplished by these protests and by the book’s cancelation? Do the protestors think that canceling the book will deter sexual predators? That’s about as ridiculous a notion as I can imagine. All they’ve accomplished is kept Woody Allen’s voice—and I don’t know if he was even going to discuss the accusations—from being heard.  This kind of response simply silences those whom the protestors don’t like, and gives them an excuse to flaunt their virtue.  I suppose you could say that it keeps Woody Allen from profiting from his writings, but Allen doesn’t need the money and, remember, there is no credible evidence that he’s a criminal.

Somehow we’ve got to stop people from taking single accusations as firm evidence of guilt, and punishing the accused without any legal or civil convictions. This kind of stuff is plaguing colleges and universities all over the U.S., as colleges and universities get sued because they didn’t give the accused in sexual misconduct cases a fair hearing. In other words, adhering to Title IX procedures, they equated a claim with an act.

I have no hopes, given today’s climate of easy outrage, that people will stop conflating accusations with convictions in court.

73 thoughts on “Hachette cancels publication of Woody Allen’s memoirs after Ronan Farrow objects and the publisher’s employees walk out

  1. Thank you Jerry! I felt the same way reading about this mob action!

    We have a hugely influential figure whose memoirs many of his fans might want to read for his take on things.

    This mob takes the case of someone thoroughly investigated and not found guilty, and declare themselves the judge and jury: “WE think he’s guilty and because WE feel triggered or can not abide a book by this man WE will make the decision that NO ONE ELSE can read what he writes!”

    I’m no rabid Allen fan and wasn’t personally planning on reading the book, but on principle this is outrageous.

  2. Kissinger’s books I can see taking an issue with but there is no Hitler estate that is profiting off reprinting his book and since 2015 it’s in the public domain.

    It’s gonna be difficult for anyone to publicly stand against Ronan Farrow on topics of high level sexual misconduct however given his hero status for standing up to NBC’s repeated attempts to bury his Weinstein coverage and fighting to get the story out elsewhere.

    1. I wonder if Ronan Farrow thinks his influence, status will prevail against another publisher, and, if other publishers will pause a bit when contemplating publishing future books by him.

      1. I suspect that some publishers will be afraid to publish but some won’t care. Besides, as someone else already pointed out, Allen can easily self-publish. Unlike in the old days where distribution was important to get into book stores, I suspect anyone can get their book on Amazon without much trouble. I’m sure Allen can hire someone to do PR and advertising, if he wants.

  3. My personal feeling is that Allen is mostly likely guilty as charged (I’m a fan of his, by the way), but I don’t see how that negates his right to write his memoirs or Hachette’s right to publish them. On the other hand, Hachette is perfectly within its rights to cancel publication if they think it would be bad for business. As Paul T. notes above, Allen can almost certainly get the book published elsewhere.

      1. Thanks for the link, Jeff. I never followed the case very closely, but I never did feel Woody Allen was the monster he was made out to be.

      2. Seems very believable. But so do Dylan and Ronan. I suppose we’ll never know, but if I have to guess I would say Woody is innocent of abusing Dylan.

    1. Me too. And you know what, I loved Bill Cosby’s sense of humor and insights into the human condition. In the 60s I listened to his albums at great length.

      I don’t know diddly about whether or not either is guilty of what they are accused of, and even if either of them were or are, that does not detract from the validity of other things they said.

      We are in the grip of a moral panic. I’ll be glad when it runs it course.

  4. It is very common these days to hear someone seethe in outrage when they find out that “X is being allowed to Y after being accused of Z”.

    I would like to tell myself that many of them are honest people who would themselves never falsely accuse someone of such a thing, and just don’t understand the sorts of things people will do for power or revenge, or other base motivations.
    But that is a very generous view.
    I am sure that many people just join in with the mob because they are afraid that it will turn on them, should they appear to be insufficiently enthusiastic.
    I also expect that there is a core cadre of people who really get off on the idea that they can destroy people with no more than a word.

  5. The currently fashionable view that an accusation of sexual misbehavior is the same as conviction reveals a mentality like that of the Red-scare in the 1950s and the earlier Salem witch trials, not “the Inquisition”. It is not generally appreciated that the Catholic Church’s Congregation of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, established in 1542, followed very detailed judicial processes, with every attempt to evaluate the evidence, as then understood. Therefore, our contemporary cases of de-platforming and mob rejection are far more arbitrary and mindless than was “the Inquisition”.

    1. Finally, the book is also still advertised elsewhere for publication on April 7th, and the publisher is Grand Central Publishing.

      1. Grand Central Publishing is a division of Hachette, the publishing company that has just canceled Allen’s book. I think they call GCP an “imprint” of Hachette.

  6. The publisher, in this case, seems cowardly.

    As I understand the original issue, Allen was accused by one person of bad behavior, with no other complaints. If true, it suggests smoke and mirrors, but no fire. All the high profile cases I know of, the accused is found to be abusing multiple, if not dozens of victims. A pattern of misbehavior is certainly suggestive that the violations happened. If the Woodster has only the one accusation over 80 years, I think you have to give him the benefit of the doubt. I have not followed the case, so I may be wrnog.

    1. Well, the person making the accusation is his adoptive daughter Dylan, who continues to maintain her accusation. Also, Allen did have sex with and then later marry his step-adoptive daughter Soon-Yi Previn, who is 35 years his junior. Add to this that Mia Farrow claims that Allen is actually not Ronan’s biological father, Frank Sinatra is. None of this means Allen is guilty but it does suggest Mia and Woody were weird sexually. Who knows the truth?

      (None of this justifies Hachette’s actions.)

      1. Soon-yi Previn is the (adopted) daughter of Mia Farrow and Andre Previn. She neither is his step daughter nor did he adopt her or have any parental role.

          1. I would add he slept with a consenting adult.
            They have been living together for over 25 years, she will be 50 this year, and are raising their 2 children.

      2. According to Wikipedia:

        Previn has stated that Woody Allen “was never any kind of father figure [to her],” and added that she “never had any dealings with him” during her childhood.

        Seeing as how she and Allen have been married for over 20 years now, I’m not sure their relationship is all that relevant.

      3. Apparently, Allen had no role in parenting Soon-Yi Previn.

        She was not his adoptive daughter either.

        So calling her that is a quite a stretch, that adds flavor to a particular narrative.

        1. I did not say she was his adoptive daughter. I said step adoptive. The adopter was Mia Farrow. I said step because Woody was in a long term relationship with Mia at the time and adopted two of her other children, so woody was in the position of a step father, even if not legally so, whether he undertook the role or not.

          1. Soon-Yi Previn had a father in her life: André Previn, who she saw. Allen was not a parent to her.
            Her mother Mia had reason to feel betrayed by her daughter and her boyfriend falling in love.
            She had rescued her as an orphan from abject poverty.

  7. Twitter is raucous with righteous moralists shouting that, in this case involving Woody Allen, extremism in the face of pedophilia is the highest virtue.

    I can’t but wonder how many of them are practicing Catholics or remain silent on the issue with their Catholic friends and family.

  8. The people at the publishing house would have happily published Woody Allens work, but then Ronan Farrow got wind of it, and he threw the Golden Apple, asking them to be either with him, or with Allen. The employees then took a side, and the publisher was forced to join in.

    None of the people could have done otherwise, but also in the more colloquial sense. As far as I can tell, the Allen-Farrow family is blasted apart. I am amazed to read that Ronan is Woody Allens own son. It’s apparently a deeply personal matter to him and it would be unrealistic to expect him to act on some court verdict or what other people say. He sees it as he sees it.

    Now he threw the Golden Apple and the publisher had to take sides, which is again a matter of publicity and symbolism, as well as being on good terms with employees.

    I cannot see what it has to do with legal guilt.

  9. If Allen had been convicted, that would be another matter …

    Not for me it wouldn’t. A conviction might be a grounds to deny a writer the monetary profits from his or her writing
    under so-called Son-of-Sam statutes. But nothing — not a damn thing — should ever prohibit the written word from seeing print, so long as there’s a publisher anywhere willing to put it to press.

    Were is otherwise, we wouldn’t have the writings of the Marquis de Sade or Rimbaud or Céline or Jean Genet or even “Old Bull Lee” Bill Burroughs (who, after all, croaked his own wife while pulling a William Tell stunt in Mexico City) or, hell, any number of other worthies of the written word.

    I understand he’s got a personal, familial connection to this matter (which will invariably cloud one’s judgment), but I’m disappointed to see Ronan Farrow go this route. I’ve been impressed by his writing in The New Yorker and, in the interviews I’ve seen of him, he comes off as a fine fellow — even if, to a straight guy, he is a bit uncomfortably pretty (lookin’ like the spittin’ image of his momma, Mia, when she cut her hair in Rosemary’s Baby, around the time she was hitched to Sinatra).

    1. The Argument from Soon-Yi is less than compelling to some. The whole things is a tangled mess from a seemingly very dysfunctional family. Some believe it happened, some don’t.

  10. One might say that the entire Farrow-Allen-Sinatra menagerie is one of those families
    that put the “fun” in “dysfunctional”.

    1. Not sure how ol’ Blue Eyes bears any of the blame on this one, Jon. He and Mia bore forth no issue (as far as I know, anyway). And the entirety of their connubial relationship lasted less time than it takes to play “It Was a Very Good Year.” 🙂

      1. And the version which caused Frank to pull off the road to listen to and resolve to himself record.

        1. Thanks for that, Filippo.

          Weird thing is, last weekend I got together with a group of guys who’ve been my very best friends since junior high. One of the guys was born on leap-year day so, technically, last Saturday, February 29th, was his 17th birthday (which was the reason we picked last weekend to get together).

          All weekend long, the rest of us kept singing him the first verse, “When I was 17, it was a very good year …”

  11. Woody wronged Mia when he decided to start a relationship with Soon-Yi. He knew how much suffering he was going to cause, and he didn’t care. That, I think, is the reason he should have been ostracized since 1992. I don’t think he abused Dylan.

    1. That, I think, is the reason he should have been ostracized since 1992.

      “Ostracized” how? By being denied his regular table at “Elaine’s” (which, okay, is no longer in business, but still had a couple good decades ahead of it in 1992).

      Or “ostracized” by not having his books published or movies produced?

      Seems to me, there’s a world of difference between those two.

      1. Ostracized by not accepting to work with him. Would you work with a guy that in his fifties decided to groom for years a vulnerable girl three times younger, who was the adopted daughter of his “girlfriend”?

        1. If I were an actor, I certainly wouldn’t let a controversy in Woody Allen’s personal life interfere with my own professional life. The idea of shunning him professionally for something that has no bearing on that profession sounds like the kind of thing we blame the Authoritarian Left for doing.

          1. It seems to me that having no bearing on filmmaking is what is irrelevant. What is relevant is if Woody Allen was doing his best not to hurt the feelings of Mia Farrow and not to traumatize her children.

            ‘Soon-Yi characterizes their affair as “a moral dilemma.” While she says it was clear that things were over between Woody and Mia, it was still “a huge betrayal on both our parts, a terrible thing to do, a terrible shock to inflict on her.” from New York Magazine

            And, don’t guys in their fifties grooming teenagers make you uncomfortable?

            1. Sure, if it’s true. If I’m not a witness to something and he hasn’t been judged guilty in a court of law, then I feel that it is improper for me to stand in judgement of him. And, as I said, if my interaction with Mr. Allen doesn’t involve anything having to do with such relationships, I have nothing to say on the matter.

  12. In this era, however, accusations are, for many, as good as guilty verdicts. In some cases, like that of Harvey Weinstein, accusations were sufficiently numerous and consistent to make me conclude that he was guilty,—a suspicion borne out by the verdict in New York.

    I fear that this is the start of the slippery slope. You could reasonably argue that the number of accusations made it reasonable to investigate Harvey Weinsrein and even to expect that he would be found guilty, but finding him ‘guilty in advance’ was just as unfounded as the full on witch hunt. For the purposes of clarity I thought too that Harvey Weinstein would be found guilty… but I was unwilling to call him guilty before the trial had ended.

  13. This is a cowardly and disgraceful move by Hachette. The employees involved don’t deserve jobs in book publishing because they fundamentally don’t understand what it’s about.

  14. If one requires substantial corroboration and what we Canadians call similar fact evidence, as Jerry suggests ought to be required for him to be satisfied of guilt, then very few sexual assault cases would result in convictions. Even less than already exist.

    I don’t know the details of the case but I haven’t seen anything written here that proves innocence, nor anything to cause me to believe that the victim would make a false allegation of this sort. Some people here have come to the conclusion that Allen is innocent. Either they have more information than me or they are rushing to judgment.

    This isn’t a criminal case and Allen will be fine. Jerry is applying the wrong standard.

    1. First of all, the standard for conviction of any crime in the U.S. is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That is more than just “substantial corroboration.”

      Did you in fact read the link to the testimony of Moses Farrow, who was there at the time? Here it is: https://mosesfarrow.blogspot.com/2018/05/a-son-speaks-out-by-moses-farrow.html

      That, by the way, explains why there might be a false allegation.

      One gets the impression that you know NOTHING about this case, and in fact you admit that. And what do you mean, “Allen will be fine.” He can’t get his movies produced, few actors want to work with him, and he’s been widely tarred with the allegation of being a pedophile. Fine, indeed.

  15. AIUI, Ronin Farrow made his public statement several days ago and the publisher at that time released a statement that they would release the memoir anyway.

    So I think in this case it was really the walkout that did it. Yeah, the statement might have spurred the walkout, but it seems the publisher would’ve ignored the statement if it hadn’t lead to the walkout.

  16. As someone who’s been a fan of Woody Allen’s since I was a teenager (ca 1980) and who followed the Soon Yi and Dylan affairs as they were happening, it drives me bonkers how often people who (often by their own admission) know absolutely nothing about the history will chime in with their opinion every time Woody Allen get dragged into the media spotlight again.

    I’m not worried about Woody Allen – I’m sure he doesn’t need the money, and he can find another publisher for his book, or self-publish – but the tendency for people to form opinions on the basis of little or no facts is disturbing.

  17. I think Woody should be able to write his story, that Hachette or any other publisher should be able to publish it, and anyone who wants to read it should be able to buy it. I have no idea if he did what he was accused of but, if he did, I hate the notion of child abuse of any form, sexual or otherwise. But, based on what I read, the percentage of abused children is very high therefore the percentage of abusers are very high. You may have family who is an abuser, or may be friends with one.(Can’t find the article right now.)

    But, here are two references to child abuse that came to my attention today that I hope people will pay attention to and do whatever can be done to stop it:

    1. Netflix documentary – The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez”

    2. BBC – My Search for the Boy in a Child Abuse Video” (March 8, 2020)

    There’s great deal more information available on this, but don’t accidentally read any of the child pornography as it is illegal and you can be charged.

  18. I don’t get it. Mein Kampf is published. In fact, you can go on amazon and get several versions.

    Mein Kampf is a dangerous book which sets forth the elements of a dangerous ideology that killed millions of people.

    Surely whatever harm Woody Allen’s book will do, it dwarfs Mein Kampf.

    Hitler was a brutal mass murderer. Even assuming the worst about Woody Allen, he is nothing in contrast to Hitler.

    What the hell is wrong with people today? Its true that ants like to smell each other’s butts and will kill off any ants that don’t smell identical to the hive. What is the point of having a good monkey brain if you are going to behave like a hive of ants?

  19. There’s no evidence he “groomed” Soon Yi. By all accounts, he ignored Mia’s older kids and (ironically) it was Mia who suggested he should take an interest in Soon Yi, at that time 20 years old.

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