Guardian columnist excoriates Hachette for canceling publication Woody Allen’s memoirs

March 11, 2020 • 11:45 am

As I reported the other day (to my chagrin), Grand Central Publishing, one of the imprints of the Hachette publishing group, decided to cancel publication of Woody Allen’s memoirs, Apropos of Nothing, after Hachette employees walked off the job in protest. Two days earlier, Allen’s son Ronan Farrow (possibly the biological son of Frank Sinatra), and author of the bestselling #MeToo book Catch and Kill, published by a different division of Hachette, broke ties with the publisher because he’s accused Allen of having sexually molested his stepsister and Woody’s adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow. Allen has consistently denied those allegations, which were investigated twice and dropped for lack of evidence. Further, Allen’s adopted son Moses Farrow (who was in the house during the supposed molestation), says it never happened—Dylan was said to have been coached by Mia Farrow. (You can read Moses’s testimony here.)

Initially the CEO of Hachette defended the publication of the memoirs, but then, in the face of social-media pressure, the publisher reneged on its agreement with Allen and dropped publication. It’s not clear yet whether another publisher will touch this book.

What Hachette did is unfair on several grounds:

1.) There is no convincing evidence that Allen was guilty of sexually molesting Dylan Farrow. There were two investigations, both of which cleared him, and Moses’s testimony (he’s now a family therapist), is clear and straightforward.  Allen is not guilty of any crime and, unlike Harvey Weinstein, the accusations center around a single incident with conflicting testimony. To presume he’s guilty and walk off your publishing job because of that is, to say the least, unreflective and premature. But today’s ideological climate often conflates an accusation with guilt—a harmful trend that damages not just individuals but the justice system itself.

2.) In light of any evidence of guilt, it’s unethical to withdraw the memoirs, no matter how much nastiness there was on Twitter or Facebook. They had an agreement with Allen, and no good reason to “unpublish” his book. Remember, a good publisher will publish good books, as a good publisher is dedicated to freedom of speech, and unless the author proves to have done something nefarious that the publishers didn’t know about, there’s no “morals clause” that mandates unpublication.

3.) Hachette has prevented Allen from telling his side of the story in public—even if he’s done so in court. What kind of publisher will publish books by Ronan Farrow but prevent somebody he’s accused from defending himself?

If the evidence against Allen were more convincing, perhaps I wouldn’t be as upset. But it isn’t, and I feel sorry for those who automatically think that accusations are tantamount to guilt.

Two days ago, the Guardian—of all places—published a defense of Allen’s right to publish. You can access the article, written by Hadley Freeman, by clicking on the screenshot below.

There’s no much here that I haven’t said previously, but this is the Guardian and I have a little-fish website. So it’s good that there’s this opinion out in the mainstream media. A few quotes from Freeman:

One [Hachette} staff member said: “We feel strongly about everyone’s right to tell their own story, but we don’t agree with giving Woody Allen a platform with which to tell it that includes distribution, marketing, publicity.” So everyone is allowed to speak, but only under certain conditions. Hachette ran scared and dropped the book.

It would have been one thing if Hachette had never agreed to publish Allen’s memoir in the first place. Fair enough; that’s a publisher’s prerogative. But for it to sign him, edit him and then fearfully drop him because some people object is a terrible precedent for a publisher to set. As for the Hachette employees who walked out, it is quite something for people who work in publishing to be against the publication of books. After all, if they really are so convinced of Allen’s guilt, they ought to let him speak. When I wrote about the bewildering support in the movie industry for Roman Polanski, despite being a convicted sex offender, I quoted extensively from his memoir, Roman by Polanski. Those passages, in which he described his attack on 13-year-old Samantha Geimer, were probably the most incriminating details in the piece.

. . .But it is absurd to talk about Allen in the same breath as Polanski, let alone Simpson. Too many people now airily refer to Allen as if he were a serial sex offender, but he was not only never convicted, he was – despite being investigated – never even charged. Moreover, unlike Polanski – and Bill Cosby, and Harvey Weinstein, and R Kelly, and Michael Jackson – there has never been more than one accusation. One is one too many, but this one allegation was investigated twice and no charges brought. To talk about Allen as though he is a predatory monster who must be shunned from society goes against even the smallest idea of due process.

You can argue that Allen is a beneficiary of a system that favours the rich and powerful. But you should still want him to publish his memoir because suppressing words, ideas and even people never works in the long run. Let the guilty damn themselves, if guilty they be, and trust the public to see the truth for themselves. Arguing for silence will only work to your disadvantage, because one day the one who will be silenced is you.

I wonder if some day, when my mortal remains are in the clay, people will look back on these times of wokeness as a time of mob hysteria, when those on the Left, once the guardians of free speech, devoted a lot of the time to deciding who would not be allowed to speak.

25 thoughts on “Guardian columnist excoriates Hachette for canceling publication Woody Allen’s memoirs

  1. Yes, I feel sorry for the way Woody Allen has been mentioned in the same breath as people like Polanski and Weinstein.

    Btw, Hadley Freeman has just published a book, House of Glass about how her Polish Jewish grandmother escaped the Nazis.

  2. I wish people would let the criminal justice system determine guilt or innocence and stop trying to deliver “justice” through slamming people via tweets or deplatforming.

    I can see several possible motivations behind the efforts to deliver justice outside the system:

    – They think the system is not delivering the correct verdicts or sentences.

    – They are attempting to punish people for “crimes” that the system doesn’t think are crimes.

    – They are flouting their own virtuosity by attempting to lower that of others.

    I’m not sure which is the most responsible for this behavior (or perhaps something else I’ve forgotten) but I wish it would stop.

      1. I am sure you’re right. I was mostly talking about the regular folk who are clamoring for Woody Allen’s head. I suspect the publisher simply made a calm business decision.

    1. “– They think the system is not delivering the correct verdicts or sentences.”

      Most of the Woke are of the opinion that sexual assault of all types has a woefully low conviction rate (they might even be right).

      This is what “believe victims” is all about, they think that false accusations of sexual assault more or less never happen.

        1. Given that claims of rape versus consensual sex often and necessarily come down to one person’s word against another’s, how can one fix the system? (Serious question by the way.)

          So long as we stick to “beyond reasonable doubt” for criminal guilt, convictions for rape are always going to be much lower than occurrences.

  3. I wish people would stop bowing to social media pressure of all things. Twitter and Facebook are little (if any) better than tabloids themselves…possibly less, given that there are no barriers to entry for those who wish to mouth off there. The noisy people on these social media are a self-selected bunch; there’s no evidence that they are representative of any significant segment of the population.

    It’s simply a fact that a**holes often make a lot of noise…but it’s not worth paying them too much attention.

  4. … Allen’s son Ronan Farrow (possibly the biological son of Frank Sinatra) …

    Why, Frankie, you old devil, you. There is a certain frisson to sex-with-an-ex — though no need to explain that to Mr. Sinatra, who counted Ava among his ex-es.

          1. You have no idea how exotic and wonderful having a father in the Royal Shakespeare company sounds to someone who grew up a working-class kid in Cleveland, OH, like me.

            My dad worked in a factory. He insisted that we kids keep our class consciousness, but (extraordinarily for our neighborhood) he always strove to raise us kids — especially my brother and me — with the manners and tastes of English country squires (in the very vague, through-a-glass-darkly way in which he understood such manners and tastes to exist). 🙂

    1. The rumour was started by Mia in Vanity Fair, doubtless to annoy Woody with whom she was still mad (in several senses of the word) after all those years.

      Well, he had run off with a younger woman (and her adpted daughter to boot). Of course, a few years previously Mia’s younger self had run off with Dory Previn’s husband, Andre.

      Dory had a breakdown and was institutionalized. Being a singer/songwriter, this was her comeback, Beware of Young Girls:

      1. I have lost all my Dory Previn CDs. It’s a great tragedy in my life. Moved house too many times, or loaned them to friends I have forgotten about. (Take that, Bierce!)

        “Beware of young girls who come to your door,
        Wistful and pale, of twenty-and-four,
        Delivering daisies with delicate hands.”

  5. I can’t really get upset about the publisher’s action. They’re a private firm, Allen got to keep the advance, and he got the right to his memoirs back so he’s able to shop it around to another publisher.

    Additionally, Allen got offered $3 million in 2003 by Penguin to publish his story; he turned them down because he thought the offer was too low. So the industry has certainly given him his chance.

    Do I think he should be prevented from telling his story because of the accusations? No. But if private publishers decide the return on investment isn’t good because of his reputation, that’s not a 1st amendment issue. Particularly not for someone like Allen; if he wants his story out there, he has more than enough resources to successfully self-publish it. If he’s unwilling to take that risk because he thinks he won’t make enough money off of it, well, not-publishing is his prerogative too.

  6. “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” –A J Liebling

    Sometimes that’s a terrible thing. I don’t see this as one of those times. I do believe that Dylan Farrow is highly credible, and that does affect my opinion.

    1. Have you read her brother Moses’ account of growing up with Mia? He makes a pretty convincing case that the whole Farrow family was pretty disordered.

      “[Mia’s father] John Farrow, was a notorious drinker and serial philanderer…Mia told me that she was the victim of attempted molestation within her own family. Her brother, my uncle John…is currently in prison on a conviction of multiple child molestation charges…My uncle Patrick…would commit suicide in 2009.”

      And the adopted children (10 of them!) fared little better. By Moses’ account two committed suicide and his sisister, Lark, “struggled with addiction, and eventually died in poverty from AIDS-related causes in 2008 at age 35”.

  7. I had never before read Moses’ account. It was surprisingly articulate and eloquent. Very credible, in my opinion, as a rebuttal to Mia’s version.

  8. Dad left school at 14 and spent seven years working at the local coal mine (most of them underground) before getting in to drama school. He was lucky that film and television was starting to produce “gritty working-class” dramas around that time. Fun fact: if y Google his name (Wilfred Grove) you get an image of him as a killer nun in the 1960s British TV series The Avengers!

    1. He was lucky that film and television was starting to produce “gritty working-class” dramas around that time.

      The salad days of “kitchen sink realism”?

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